The Status of Canadian Men and Families Compared to the Former Plight of Afro-America
(c) 20161; Davd Martin, PhD
The “Moynihan report” was controversial from its publication. Cited as
Anonymous, 1965. The Negro2 Family: The Case for National Action. United States Government Printing Office.
..this centimetre-thick paperback book was written (as acknowledged by the US Department of Labor website, 2010) by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, previously co-author with respected American sociologists and later US Senator from New York.
The purpose of the ‘Moynihan report’ was to urge that:
“The policy of the United States is to bring the Negro American to full and equal sharing in the responsibilities and rewards of citizenship. To this end, the programs of the Federal government bearing on this objective shall be designed to have the effect, directly or indirectly, of enhancing the stability and resources of the Negro American family.”
The chief problem Moynihan saw in [we would now write Afro-American] families was a tendency toward fatherless, matriarchal household structure. That tendency has spread to society in general, arguably more-so in Canada than in the United States. Given the concerns the report expressed about the effect of family structure on individual accomplishment and societal well-being, we might ask if society in general is now worse off for the change.
However, Moynihan also included a “morally neutral social science disclaimer” typical of the 1960s, in the report, which disclaimer could be read to imply that the ill effects of a substantially matriarchal family structure which he described in 1965, would be remedied by making matriarchy common throughout “society”.
“There is, presumably, no special reason why a society in which males are dominant in family relationships is to be preferred to a matriarchal arrangement. However, it is clearly a disadvantage for a minority group to be operating on one principle, while the great majority of the population, and the one with the most advantages to begin with, is operating on another.” [ch IV, near the beginning]
“This is the present situation of the Negro. Ours is a society which presumes male leadership in private and public affairs. The arrangements of society facilitate such leadership and reward it. A subculture, such as that of the Negro American, in which this is not the pattern, is placed at a distinct disadvantage.“
We might also ask whether the spread of matriarchy has done net good rather than harm.
These two hypotheses, which cannot both be true, are implied by different parts of “the Moynihan report”, and perhaps time did indeed tell which of them be valid.
During the 50 years since the original “Moynihan report” was published on paper, the matriarchal tendencies it deplored have become much commoner among “non-Afro-American” families; and perhaps especially among the families of “subjects of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Windsor”: It seems that the dominance of women and girls in the most-Anglophone, most-British-in-ancestry, and most-Monarchist parts of the British Commonwealth, is greater than that in the United States and much of Continental Europe (though some anecdotal reports could be heard to indicate that in Sweden and Finland, women rule in as great a percentage of households as in Canada.)
The change was not necessarily away from patriarchy, though. Patriarchy may have prevailed in Moynihan’s social class but not in those below it.
From my own observations during the 1950s and 1960s, and reading during the 1960s, i would say that Moynihan exaggerated the extent of post-World-War II patriarchy in working class American households3, and that the median and modal distribution of power in American marriages was very close to equality. Though husbands did exercise some ritual headship, much of it was more courtly than real (for example, driving the car when they were in one together, and opening doors and waiting for their wives to pass through first.) In public affairs, and among those of highest status, male leadership was indeed the norm. Since 1965, the power of women both in public and in private has increased, and that of men has declined.
Today Canada is not “a society which presumes male leadership in private and public affairs” nor one in which “the arrangements of society facilitate such leadership and reward it;” rather the reverse. It is more advantageous to be born a girl in Canada today, than to be born a boy; and that has been the case for at least a generation. Much rhetoric between 1965 and the present extolled gender equality; but the actual social change has been from near-equality or modest female dominance in the home, and male dominance in the workplace, to[ward] female dominance in both spheres4.
Looking at changes in Canadian family law and family statistics since 1965, one might plausibly conclude that Feminists, reading “the Moynihan report”, chose a very different action plan than Moynihan, a high-status Irish-American man, proposed; and that rather than accepting Moynihan’s goal of making the men more prominent in Afro-American family life, they set out to make women more prominent, and men much less, in “non-Afro-American” family life.
Looking at the legal and ‘educational’ treatment of men today, at marital [in]stability and the proportions of single-parent [family?] households, one might conclude that Moynihan failed and the Feminists prevailed—and not only in the US, but even more in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, perhaps also the U.K. In Canada today, with women a strong majority among university students and entrants to the professions, with women advantaged by criminal and “family” law (Nathanson and Young, 2006, reviewed here; Brown, 2013; cf. Martin, 2011), it is more accurate to say, “Canada is a society which presumes female leadership in private and public affairs; the arrangements of society facilitate such leadership and reward it” .. than to say that male leadership is presumed and facilitated5.
(Might it be relevant that during the intervening years, and for more than a decade before 1965, the Head of State of all these “British Commonwealth” states, has been a woman who, by customary British Royal usage, is explicitly styled as superior to her husband?6 It does seem to be a truism that the arrangements of the elite are to some extent aped by the middle and even sometimes the lower classes; it has been the case that Canadian and “Commonwealth” ritual has treated Her Majesty Elizabeth II as somehow better than all other people; and what little reference to the Royal Family i myself have read, seems to indicate that Her Majesty’s son Charles, rather than being strengthened as Her heir, has been deprecated. One should probably not infer from this that Her Majesty is a principal influence; but one might well infer that being so deferential7 to a woman of regal bearing, for over half a century, and seeing the men of her family dominated by her, has had some effect.)
Today, i perceive Canadian family life to be more like the “Negro” family life Moynihan sought to change, than it is like “White” family life in 1965.8 Moynihan wrote, “Almost One-Fourth of Negro Families are Headed by Females”, what is the proportion today in Canada? Men are a decided minority among university students and entrants to the professions, and their rate of representation is falling. As it is advantageous today and has been advantageous all this 21st century, to be born a girl rather than a boy in the Nice countries… so it was advantageous in the first two thirds of the 20th Century, to be born “white” rather than “Negro”. Only in the treatment of Afro-Americans before Brown v. Board of Education, and possibly the Canadian “Residential School” scandal, can i find parallel within the common-law tradition before 1965, to the treatment of male Canadians today in criminal and “family” law9.
In the Afro-American case, false stereotypes of inequality were believed for generations: “Negroes” were believed to be inherently lazier, of lower intelligence, more violent and criminal; one main task of “the Moynihan report” was to show that differences which might be taken as proof of these stereotypes were better understood to result from discrimination, than to represent inherent differences between races. It is entirely plausible that, if legal gender discrimination is accepted for a generation, most Canadians born after 1990 would come to believe that men are inherently inferior to women in much the same ways as “Negroes” were once held inferior to “whites”: For instance, Clark and Clark (1947) found that Afro-American children downgraded their own race in conformity to prevailing cultural biases.
There appears to be a systematic effort to stereotype men along lines eerily similar to those followed by racist stereotypes of “Negroes” in the early 20th Century. As Jeremy Swanson (2009-2010; cf. Nathanson and Young, 2006, Martin, 2015) has detailed but not yet systematically tabulated, men are often treated as guilty until proved innocent by mass media and police, and sometimes by courts of law; while women are treated as innocent until proved guilty and often excused for homicides of husbands or “lovers” if they testify that the victim threatened them—even if that testimony is not corroborated by a neutral witness or strong physical evidence. Considering the temptation to perjury entailed in a risk of criminal conviction, this practice falls far short of the quality of logic normal to Canadian and Common Law; but it parallels rather well the treatment of “Negro Americans,” and especially of male “Negro Americans,” before 1954 (and for some years afterwards in parts of “the Old South”.)
Comparing the status of Canadian men with some past racial prejudices in a neighbouring country, we can readily see that conventional stereotypes about gender relations left over from the time of “the Moynihan report” are no longer valid and should be corrected. Specifically:
- gender equality in educational and legal treatment and outcomes, would require an improvement in the status of boys and men! (Where are the Affirmative-Action programs and Legal Reform programs for males?)
- demands for favouritism for girls or women cannot be supported by appeals to gender equality; and arguments along those lines have been false for all this young century.
- “Patriarchy” is either a foreign phenomenon, as exotic to the Nice Countries as foot-binding or worshipping carved wooden idols10; or else it is peculiar to the upper classes of some modern societies and to such pre-Industrial societal types as herding societies and draft-animal agriculture where soils are difficult to plow.
As the disadvantaged gender, men can benefit from less-defensive, more honest “strategy-and-tactics”:
- we should adopt gender equality as a criterion, but perhaps not as a goal11.
- we should refute and even scorn the misuse of gender equality by Feminists seeking to increase their privilege, years after they reached and passed equality in treatment12;
- we should look to the U. S. Civil Rights Movement for models we can adopt or adapt;
- we should also look at the Feminist actions of 1966-2006 for models we can adopt or adapt13;
([these two lists are not necessarily complete; additions are invited)
We might benefit if we adopt a label for ourselves other than merely “[e.g Canadian, Kiwi, American, …] men”; and a case could be made for ironically calling ourselves eunuchs—but many readers might miss the subtle point. More plainly and affirmatively, if one were to ask, what shall we men call ourselves in analogy to “Negro”? the symmetrical treatment would be a mirror image of translating Negro into Black: We could translate man into Spanish: Hombre. In Spanish speaking countries, the phrase “muy hombre” is a compliment. The rhetorical meaning of taking a foreign word would be somewhat comparable to Afro-American men discarding a foreign word for the plain English “Black”, and also implicitly claim the respect hombre connotes [and “negro” did not in 1965].
Functionally, adopting a [sobriquet] would:
- acknowledge that we are now subject to systematic and oppressive discrimination;
- imply that the discrimination is wrong and we do not accept it;
- show sympathy and solidarity with the Afro-American men who led the Civil Rights movement, but in a way different enough that we are not offending them by using a word they consider to be theirs to employ or not [as Nigger and Negro have become].
— and also show solidarity with Hispanic Americans, who are perhaps the nearest US ethnic analogue to the Canadian Métis.14
The “Moynihan Report”s portrayal of matriarchy seems well worth re-reading in context of today’s marriage laws and differential criminal law enforcement by gender—and of today’s female prevalence in education which, combined with pro-female-biased criminal and family law, leaves us the disadvantaged gender—and to an extent women haven’t been disadvantaged in more than a century, perhaps many centuries. That portrayal also invites a test of the merits of matriarchy, as implied above.
In his ‘morally neutral social science disclaimer’ that “There is, presumably, no special reason why a society in which males are dominant in family relationships is to be preferred to a matriarchal arrangement,” Moynihan presented an hypothesis to the effect that consistency of family structure across ethnic groups was important but the difference between patriarchy, matriarchy, and gender-equality was not15. In summarizing statistics on education, employment, income, and social disorganization generally, Moynihan presented an implicit hypothesis to the effect that matriarchal, fatherless families were cruelly disadvantaged. Both hypotheses cannot be true together. Canadian family changes since “the Moynihan report” appeared, if their consequences can be identified, may indicate which hypothesis is more true:
- Has shifting social leadership toward female predominance and family leadership toward matriarchy done overall societal good?
- Has it done overall societal harm?
- Or, has societal well-being remained effectively unchanged, with women now clearly better off than men?—that is, have women gained and men lost, in close-to-identical amounts?
Moynihan entitled his “report”: … The Case for National Action. The national action was not taken; instead, the matriarchal bias he deplored has become more general. How has social well-being changed over the same span of time, and how much of the change is best understood as the consequence of increasing matriarchy? This is a subject well worth the attention of sociologists, psychologists, and criminologists, and might well contain many good thesis topics for graduate students. (It is also a subject where research design must be especially wary of potential biases.)
The results i have noticed, refute Moynihan’s ‘morally neutral social science disclaimer’: The past 45 years have shown us some special reasons “why a society in which males are [equal or] dominant in family relationships16 is to be preferred to a matriarchal arrangement”—have they not? Children are less well off. Moral standards have declined, and the declines in honesty, respect and charity are in my humble opinion, comparably and perhaps more harmful than the declines in sexual restraint.17 Men have lost common-law rights whose value cannot be measured in mere money. Millions of foetuses who could have become healthy, happy children and then socially contributing adults have died for the convenience of adult women, many of whom may wish in old age that they had children to come by and help out.
The refutation is not absolute; there can be many kinds of egalitarian, many kinds of matriarchal, and many kinds of patriarchal family structures; our experience has compared one largely egalitarian and two significantly matriarchal examples. It does indicate that matriarchy wastes men and boys contributory potential more than an egalitarian system with a few patriarchal bits, wastes women’s.
Our family and moral declines have parallels, perhaps to some extent consequences, in the huge increases in the importance of and in respect for Islam since 1965. Mainstream Islam is not harshly patriarchal; it is patriarchal in some ways, and usually gently, as mainstream Christianity was when the world was more Christian than anything else.
We cannot go back and re-live the last 45 years, to see if forming a gently patriarchal or keeping a balanced gender-egalitarian Canadian [Australian, Kiwi, US, …] society might put us in better stead today than our present predicament; but we can and should compare today’s conditions with those of 1965. From what i have lately heard and read about crime and addiction rates among the young, from what Moynihan wrote and i knew from other sources by the time he wrote, about the effects of fatherlessness on school performance and social pathology; from the criminological truism that men who go to prison don’t have fathers they can honour…
… “It is putting it mildly” when i doubt that the changes we have seen, were optimal or even desirable; and conclude that the ‘morally neutral social science disclaimer’ was in error.
It is time “and past due”, for men to formulate a vision of the future that is better than matriarchy.
Anonymous, 1965. The Negro Family: The Case for National Action. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.
Bakke, Edward Wight, 1940 Citizens Without Work. New Haven: Yale University Press. Cited in the above.
“Consider the fact that relief investigators or case workers are normally women and deal with the housewife. Already suffering a loss in prestige and authority in the family because of his failure to be the chief bread winner, the male head of the family feels deeply this obvious transfer of planning for the family’s well being to two women, one of them an outsider. His role is reduced to that of errand boy to and from the relief office. 
“Having observed our families under conditions of unemployment with no public help, or with that help coming from direct [sic] and from work relief, we are convinced that after the exhaustion of self produced resources, work relief is the only type of assistance which can restore the strained bonds of family relationship in a way which promises the continued functioning of that family in meeting the responsibilities imposed upon it by our culture.” 
Brown, Grant A., 2013. Ideology And Dysfunction In Family Law: How Courts Disenfranchise Fathers. Calgary and Winnipeg: Canadian Constitution Foundation and Frontier Centre For Public Policy
CBC News, 2010. Reports of the State visit of Her Majesty Elizabeth II to Canada and New York City. June-July.
CBC News, 2010b [July 20]. Report of a decrease in the Canadian crime rate with discussion by a criminologist [whose last name began with S…] indicating that ageing was an important, probably the main cause of the decrease.
Clark, Kenneth B., and Mamie P. Clark, 1947 “Racial identification and preference in Negro children.” In T. M. Newcomb and E. L. Hartley, eds., Readings in Social Psychology. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston. [A classic for showing that black children preferred white dolls and downgraded their own race—in conformity to prevailing cultural biases. Probably would not be replicated today if repeated, due to social change.]
Glazer, Nathan 1964. “Negroes and Jews: The Challenge to Pluralism,” Commentary, December, pp. 29-34.
Grant, George, 1969. Technology and Empire. Toronto: Anansi. “The weight of tradition carries on in an established university for several generations, with the result that the curriculum may reflect the ideas of a class which is no longer dominant outside its walls.” 
Griffin, John Howard, 1961. Black Like Me. Boston: Houghton Mifflin hardcover; NYC: Signet paperback.
London Daily Mail, June 25, 2010 “Student cleared rape emerges second man committed suicide falsely accused [by] woman” By Chris Brook. Circulated by Jeremy Swanson, FRA.
Lupri, Eugen, 2004. “Institutional Resistance to Acknowledging Intimate Male Abuse”, Paper presented at the Counter-Roundtable Conference on Domestic Violence, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, May 7
Mandela, Nelson, 1994. Long Walk to Freedom. New York and Boston: Little, Brown and Co.
Martin, Davd, 2011. “The ‘Status of Men in A Woman’s World’: Educational, Legal, and Demographic Realities vs. Social Inertia, 2011”. Everyman.ca website, published April.
Martin, Davd, 2015. “Men’s Rights Amputation: Essay review of Nathanson, and Young, 2006 cited below. Everyman.ca website,published January,
Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2006Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Pettigrew, Thomas F., 1964. A Profile of the Negro American. Princeton, New Jersey: Van Nostrand.
“The Negro wife in this situation can easily become disgusted with her financially dependent husband, and her rejection of him further alienates the male from family life. Embittered by their experiences with men, many Negro mothers often act to perpetuate the mother centered pattern by taking a greater interest in their daughters than their sons.” 
Rustin, Bayard 1965. “From Protest to Politics: The Future of the Civil Rights Movement,” Commentary, February.
Swanson, Jeremy, 2009-2010. E-mail anecdotes numbering in the hundreds, of cases of  differential law enforcement by gender;  differential reporting of criminal charges by gender;  differential treatment of divorcing spouses by gender.
United States Department of Labor website, accessed 2010.
United States Supreme Court, 1954. Brown. V. Board of Education, decision.
Yohannan, K P, 2001. Revolution in World Missions. Carrolton, TX: gfa books (the publishing part of Rev. Yohannan’s organization, Gospel for Asia. This book is cited not as a classic nor unusually authoritative reference, but as an ordinarily credible one from a disciplined and successful source—which book happened to be in my library.)
1. This essay was published originally on the Spearhead website in August 2011, when that site was very active. The language has remained “current as of 2011” for the most part, though several more recent citations and hyperlinks have been added.
2. As those who read Spanish or Portugese recognize already, “Negro” is simply “Black” in a different language. In the mid-20th Century it was deemed more polite to say “Negro” than “Black”; the custom has since changed at the initiative of Afro-American activists: They said they wanted “Black” in English, and we non-Afro folks, from Aboriginals to Euros to Asians, generally went along with that wish.
3. In the 1960s i resided in the United States and earned my Ph.D. There. In 1971 i moved to Canada and have lived here since, excepting one year in Finland. I noticed no significant difference between Canadian and US family power balance either on arrival or in anecdotes from people in both countries; but that might be affected by the specific places i lived.
4. In the professional end bureaucratic workplaces of 2010, there is female dominance among the young and male dominance among the old. Since the old inevitably retire and die and the young inevitably replace them, and since the schoolchildren of today seem to be continuing the girls-above-boys patterns that brought about female dominance among professional entrants today, the pattern is set toward a Canada [and a US, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe] where women dominate the non-manual work world as well as most households. (In mid-2016, most Canadian bureaucracies are staffed by two-thirds or more women, one-third or fewer men.)
5. Female and male dominance, like “matriarchy” and “patriarchy”, are matters of degree, not matters of “kind”. More formally, they are continuous variables, not dichotomies [nor trichotomies, etc.]—hence, “more accurate”.
6… and to a greater degree than her father the King was styled superior to her mother the Queen: Her husband is titled Prince Consort, not King; while the title of the wife of a British King, is Queen.
7. It is a criminal offence [cf felony in US usage] to startle the Queen, a New Brunswick lawyer told me.
8. I don’t have the data i would need to compare Aboriginal or Asian ethnic groups in the same way; and in 1965 Moynihan had similar difficulties. If any reader should have such data, i hope he’ll start writing them up.
9. Apartheid might be adduced. I do not know those old long-replaced laws as well as i know the US “segregation” and Canadian Residential School stories; and i am not sure if South Africa should be considered part of the common-law tradition in the way the United States is. It should perhaps be stressed that i refer not to the harshest days of “Jim Crow” in the Southern US, but to school segregation, and generally to discrimination as experienced in the northern and western US between 1945-1965, as analogous to men’s legal disadvantages in Canada today.
10. The ‘totem poles’ of the Northwest Coast of North America are not idols and they are not worshipped, I perceive them to be used analogously to Orthodox ikons, but am not informed fully enough of Wakesian practice to say for sure. Carved wooden idols are worshipped in parts of Asia (Yohannan, 2001: 58)
11. Why not a goal? I have seen indications, as yet not enough for me to form a conclusion [much less write-up formally], that women in power misuse that power and mistreat other women as well as men, to a greater extent than do men in power. It may be that in a decade to a generation from now, if these indications are confirmed, that a predominance of men in holding some forms of power, will prove to be the wisest political arrangement. That said, using gender equality as a criterion remains worth while: If men should return to dominance, it ought to be with good cause and good and documented reason. We have now seen in both race and gender relations, the baleful effects of selfish political oppression.
12. Gender equality “on balance”, with women advantaged in the domestic sphere and men in paid employment, may have existed in working-class Canada and “white America” well before 1965.
13. The difference between “look to” and “look at” is intentional. Afro-American men are our brothers in spirit [and for some, brothers or at least cousins in genealogy as well] while Feminist activists seeking still-more-preferential treatment while already advantaged, are our oppressors. We can learn from our oppressors, as for instance many believe the founders of the State of Israel learned from the Wehrmacht of World War II; but we should do so more warily than from our fellows—as the State of Israel has perhaps to some degree, failed to do, resulting in greater hostility from the Muslim world, than was needful.
14. As there are at least two Hispanic subcultures in the United States (e.g. Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban) so there are at least two Métis subcultures in Canada (e.g Prairie, Acadian, rural-Québecois). Métis in Spanish is, of course, mestizo.
15. Since such disclaimers were conventional in social science in the 1960s, one cannot tell if Moynihan believed what he wrote or simply “genuflected” to a custom of his time and line of work.
16. Oddly, “the Moynihan report” hardly mentions gender equality; yet my observations of dozens of marriages and households from 1955-1980 indicated to me that rough gender equality was commoner than matriarchal or patriarchal household organization—and thus, the median as well as the modal form in working and middle class Canada and USA. We should not despise nor avoid equality! We should neither mis-label arrangements that are to our disadvantage, as equal.
It might be worth mentioning, that declines in the crime rate and particularly the rates of some violent crimes, should not be “credited” to Gun Control nor to the degradation of men—but to ageing. It has long been a criminological truism that crime generally and violent crime especially is far commoner among the young than the old; and that the effect of long prison sentences in reducing recidivism is largely due to ageing. (At the extreme, of course, the recidivism rate among those who die in prison, is zero.) Canada’s population has grown noticeably older since 1965; and in accord with the ageing hypothesis, Canada’s crime rate has fallen (CBC News, 2010b).
17. That is not to minimize the declines in sexual restraint: When prostitutes become “sex trade workers”, real trades are denigrated through no fault of theirs; when sexually transmitted diseases become common, public health in general suffers. It is to say that privileging the least moral of women to lie and drive innocent men to suicide (London Daily Mail, June 25, 2010), and then protecting their identity so future victims cannot be forewarned, represents moral decline comparable to that which marked the last years of the Roman Empire.