`It's love, not money, that binds men and women together'

Fukuyama's theories on the family have feminists fuming. But what do men think? asks Emma Cook
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Indy Lifestyle Online
According to Francis Fukuyama, author of The End Of Order, we are living through an age of the "Great Disruption": the decline of the nuclear family and the undermining of marriage. Since the War, he argues, advances such as birth control, abortion and more women in the workplace have given men carte blanche to follow their basic instincts and behave irresponsibly. The average male ego reasons thus, he assumes: "If women are doing it for themselves, I don't need to hang around and help them."

Fukuyama's inspired solution is cutting women's wages to increase their dependence on men and, hey presto, he assumes the traditional two-parent family would return intact. While most women may find his logic deeply flawed, even more men are unenchanted by such a theory. That's not because they're desperate to shirk their responsibilities, just reluctant to step backwards into traditional roles.

Jonathan, 32, a teacher, lives in Southampton with his girlfriend. He only has to look at his parents to realise that permanent financial dependence isn't the basis of a good relationship. Jonathan, who earns slightly less than his girlfriend, says, "I look at my parents and the way my father would give my mother a certain amount of money each week - it was a fiscal relationship. Yes, it held them together, but they were totally incompatible. When he died and she went out to get a job, she changed as a person - her self-esteem shot up. Suddenly, her life has more meaning. I think that's proof that being held financially responsible in a couple isn't healthy for the man or the woman."

And it's no guarantee that couples will stay together - a lot of men I spoke to felt that Fukuyama had got his argument the wrong way round; that men are more inclined to leave a relationship when they feel trapped financially. Rob, 32, an interior decorator, lives in London with his girlfriend and daughter. He explains, "I do agree that men find it difficult to face up to responsibility, but surely they're more likely to run away if they feel cornered. That's what makes a man run a mile in the first place. If you think a woman is independent and economically secure, she is a far more attractive proposition." He adds, "The biggest reason for marriage break-ups is money problems - if you only have one, small wage there will be more stress."

What's clear is how out of touch Fukuyama's theories are in terms of male and female working patterns in the Nineties. As Hugh, 34, a solicitor, says, "There's enough pressure on two partners to bring home a good enough joint salary - if all that was up to one partner, imagine how much more stressful things would be. There's so little job security around today, it would be madness just to rely on one partner - you've got to be flexible. Being financially responsible to someone wouldn't make me more likely to be committed - you're bound to people because you've chosen to be together."

Mark, 25, an unemployed student living in Manchester with his girlfriend, agrees. "You can't force men to look after women - the CSA didn't stop men running off - just as you can't force women to be looked after by men. Things have moved on, thank God - I can't imagine my girlfriend ever depending on me financially. If commitment depends on money then a relationship will never last - it will cause resentment on both sides."

It's only the older ones who tend to feel that there is more onus on men being sole breadwinners. Peter, 45, a lecturer, lives in Nottingham and is married with two sons. He explains, "I do feel responsible for my wife and family, financially and emotionally. You could say it's part of how I express my love for my family. The truth is it's still deeply ingrained in middle-class life for men to take responsibility. Whatever you think when you're single, children change everything. You do suddenly feel very responsible for looking after the mother of your children. I think a lot of mothers feel grateful for that".

As long as it's their choice and not enforced through a shift in employment law or welfare changes, as Fukuyama suggests. Paul, 35, an actor living in London with his wife and two children, says, "I've never heard of such insanity - if a man has to feel solely responsible for a woman's financial welfare, it's likely they'll both feel trapped. They'd be together for the wrong reasons. I do feel completely responsible for my wife and children at the moment but that's not because I'm a man - last year I looked after our children and my wife earned more than me." This sentiment is certainly echoed by the younger men. Stephen, 24, a television cameraman living in London with his girlfriend, says, "If we had children I'd look after her financially, but then I'd expect her to support me if I took time off - it works both ways."

Few men, it seems, are willing to exchange their flexibility for the rigidity of traditional set-ups. Terry Powell, 34, a graphic designer married with two young sons, says, "At the moment I am financially responsible for my partner while she looks after our children. That doesn't mean I feel more committed to her. It's just the way things have worked out at this point in time. I'd expect her to go back to work eventually, partly because I know she'd feel happier getting her independence back".

Some names have been changed