Men and Dependency
Although the cultural stereotype has it that men are psychologically independent and women are dependent, from a structural standpoint this is hardly the case. The appearance of masculine autonomy outside the home is made possible by wives meeting men's dependency needs in the home, and other supportive females meeting their needs outside the home. Men's dependency needs are not readily apparent to outsiders because they are taken care of by women in the normal course of life. The key to how this operates rests on the males' dominance in relationships in which men are dependent on women.
Middle-class marriages are clearly structured in such a way that husbands' dependency needs are met by wives. Women as wives "take care of things" and continue to do so even when they have full-time jobs outside of the home. In fact, wives sometimes de-
scribe their husbands as "big babies"; the "bigger" in importance he is, the bigger the baby. Some men may be babies, but men do not present themselves as babies to their fellow males. Only in circumstances and roles in which they have a firm power base do men express dependency. Being the husband and male head of household provides such a power base.
Women may also play supportive roles to men at work. The clearest example here is the secretary—the office "wife." Often a boss will even admit to his dependency on a woman, but generally only in the context of his being in the superior position in the relationship. A boss might say of his secretary, "I do not know what I would do without Jenny here; I depend on her for everything." At the same time, in one way or another he will also make it clear that her ministrations to him ultimately testify to his superior judgment—he hired her, he pays her, she works for him under his direction, at his behest.
Whereas men's dependency needs are met by wives (and wife substitutes), wives' dependency needs often go unmet by husbands. Who soothes wives and binds up their psychological and physical wounds? Who takes care of things for wives? The poorer mental and physical health that characterizes married women compared to married men has been attributed to women's role as the mental and physical caretakers of husbands and children. Wives are the ones who cannot ever be dependent—to the detriment of their own physical and mental health. Yet women are called psychologically dependent. In reality, a sense of connectedness with others is different from and transcends both "taking care of" and "being taken care of." It involves a generalized stance that can be egalitarian and mutual. It can be shared by men and be a part of relationships between women and between women and men.