The Modern Masculine Life Style

ABSTRACT - This paper examines the life styles of males preferring traditional sex-role orientations with those preferring a more "modern," or egalitarian, orientation. Interesting differences appear which have implications for future consumer research.


Melvin R. Crask, Dianne Lanier, and Fred Trawick (1977) ,"The Modern Masculine Life Style", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 04, eds. William D. Perreault, Jr., Atlanta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 242-246.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, 1977   Pages 242-246


Melvin R. Crask, University of Georgia

Dianne Lanier (student), University of Georgia

Fred Trawick (student), University of Georgia

Charles Woodliff (student), University of Georgia

Fred D. Reynolds, University of Georgia


This paper examines the life styles of males preferring traditional sex-role orientations with those preferring a more "modern," or egalitarian, orientation. Interesting differences appear which have implications for future consumer research.

Occasionally, substantial social change and its consequences occur in a society within a relatively short period of time. For instance, the dramatic increase in the number of working women has altered shopping habits and family decision-making (Hoffman, 1963). Likewise, it is documented that many women have opted for more egalitarian sex roles that stress similar behavior patterns for men and women and allow actualization of the potentials of both sexes (Reynolds, Crask and Wells, 1977).

But, what about men? Are the changing roles of women accompanied by a transition in male sex-role orientations? Are some men more likely than others to accept the egalitarian marriage style implied by the modern feminine movement? Although the consumer literature is relatively silent on this point, it seems reasonable to answer these statements affirmatively. However, to ignore these men is to assume they are no different in their behavior or life style than those who maintain traditional roles. Such an assumption may severely limit the effectiveness of some aspects of consumer research.

This paper presents a broad examination of the "modern" male: It explores traditional and modern sex-role orientations and compares the life styles of modern and traditional males. The paper compares the modern male orientation with that of the modern feminine orientation and concludes with some implications for consumer research.


Data to examine life style differences between men who prefer the traditional male orientation and men who prefer a modern orientation were obtained in a nationwide survey conducted in Spring 1975 by Needham, Harper, and Steers Advertising, Inc. A questionnaire was mailed to the panel members (female) of Market Facts' Consumer Mail Panel, with instructions to have the husband complete the questionnaire. Useable questionnaires were returned by 1491 male respondents, 75 percent of the initial sample. The mail-out sample had been balanced on major demographic variables; a demographic check of the returns showed the responding group was a reasonable cross-section of male household heads.

The instrument included sections on interests and opinions, activities, product use, and media use. Of particular interest is the filter question used as the sex-role grouping variable for this study. Respondents were asked which one of these ways of life would be the best way of life for them:

1. A traditional marriage with the husband assuming the responsibility for providing for the family and the wife running the house and taking care of the children.

2. A marriage where husband and wife share responsibilities more - both work, both share homemaking and child responsibilities.

3. Some other arrangement, such as staying single, living with a group of other persons, etc.

Approximately 54 percent of the respondents indicated that they prefer a traditional arrangement, 46 percent a sharing or modern choice, and less than one percent the third choice. The following analysis is based on the first two groups.

The traditional and modern groups were compared on 171 agree-disagree interest and opinion statements, 88 frequency-of-participation activity statements, 41 personal product use statements, 73 media-exposure questions, and several demographics. The Chi-square statistic was used to determine statistical significance of the response differences between the groups.


Data in Table 1 suggest it is the younger, better educated, urban males with smaller families who have opted for the modern sex-role orientation. This generalization, however, obscures the identity of many men who opt for the modern orientation. Modern men are well represented in all age, education, household size and location groups. It is the sex-role orientation that differentiates the two groups more than the demographics.



Conservative Philosophy

As expected, men with a traditional orientation tend to possess a higher degree of regard for traditional American norms and values than do modern males. As shown in Table 2, traditional males consistently expressed a greater degree of support for statements concerning strict law enforcement and purchase of American made products end more concern for subjects which could be viewed as a threat to the American way of life (Communism) or as a possible initiator of radical change {hippies). Also, traditional males are more apt to favor owning a gun, and profess {to a greater degree than egalitarian males) that young people have too many privileges. However, it is important to note that, in absolute terms, the modern male's philosophy also tends toward the conservative.



Cosmopolitan Attitude

Men professing a modern orientation, when compared to traditional men, are more apt to possess a cosmopolitan orientation and a greater desire to travel beyond the United States. Modern men also declare a greater interest in the cultures of other countries than do the traditional men. The egalitarian male perceives himself as more of a 'swinger' than do traditionalists and admits more admiration for the successful artist or writer than the successful businessman. Besides their desire to live in or near a big city and their broader interest and travel horizons, modern males seem to display less of an aversion to different or changing environments and places.

Male Chauvinistic Tendencies

The modern orientation group expresses a higher degree of support for the Women's Liberation movement and the principle of a woman being allowed to work if she so desires. The traditional orientation group expressed considerably less support for the Women's Liberation movement and more support for those statements which are more or less consistent with the traditional marriage concept. The traditional men apparently prefer that their wives concentrate upon and fulfill the homemaker role rather than working and providing an extra income source.

Attitude Toward Innovation

The modern orientation group displays less aversion to risk in the purchase of new products than does the traditional. As previously mentioned, the modern male appears more willing to accept social change such as more permissive sexual expression and newer social groups and movements. This particular value (or attitude) orientation appears to remain consistent for the egalitarian male's orientation towards new products. The modern men appear more apt to represent an innovator or early adopter attitude in regard to a new product's introduction and diffusion. Modern males display a higher degree of 'venturesomeness' and a greater willingness to experiment or try new products than do their traditional counterparts.

Attitude Toward Cleanliness

While men in the traditional orientation group expressed a higher affinity to support constructs emphasizing good personal grooming habits, modern men indicate they are more meticulous about home cleanliness.

Fashion Consciousness

Modern males display a greater degree of fashion consciousness as well as a greater desire to differentiate themselves through their dress than do traditional males. This concern for style and uniqueness can also be observed from the modern males' furniture preferences, but to a lesser degree. The modern man shows a greater overall concern for uniqueness and style than does his traditional counterpart.

Attitude Toward Cooking and Eating

Modern males are more involved in meal preparation and consider themselves as good cooks. They appear more willing to accept and utilize some of the 'little extras' such as spices and seasoning in the preparation of food. Perhaps, the sharing or a greater interest in the 'traditional homemaker role' of meal preparation among the modern masculines and their spouses has led to further development of the modern males' preferences in food preparation. A corollary to their culinary interest, however, is that they are more concerned about their weight than are the traditional males.

Wide Horizons

Egalitarian males are more mobile than their traditional counterparts and are also more optimistic and future-oriented. They are also more open to change, as evidenced by their increased willingness to leave their present lives and do something entirely different. While some would argue that this response implies dissatisfaction with life, it is hypothesized here that it is further evidence of a wider range of interests and openness to change on the part of egalitarian males as opposed to traditional males. In addition, egalitarian males are not as concerned with job security as traditional males are, further strengthening this argument. Overall, these attitudes are reflective of younger, better educated males, supporting the demographic profile discussed earlier.


The impact of family size and an urban orientation are evident on the differing views toward transportation. Modern man are more likely to consider purchasing a subcompact car and traditionals are more likely to perceive a need for a larger car. With fewer children, modern males can "afford" a greater preference for sports cars. Using the automobile less for business trips may also decrease the desire for some of the amenities a large car offers.

Information Seeking

Egalitarians appear to be the information seekers. They consult publications such as Consumer Reports and do not feel (relatively) that advertising insults their intelligence. This finding may represent an inverse relationship with education and media exposure, both of which are greater for egalitarians and the media is of a more sophisticated nature. The modern male does not consider himself an opinion leader to the extent that the traditional male does. This finding may be a function of his preference for big city living and its impersonal consequences or of his youth.

Attitudes Toward Family

On the whole, egalitarian males are only slightly less family-oriented than their traditional counterparts. They have somewhat weaker perceptions of their family as a close-knit unit. Fewer egalitarians believe that children should be the focal point of a marriage and that parents should assume a "servant" role when the children are ill. It may be hypothesized that modern men favor an upbringing that stresses independence and individual accomplishment and activity outside the family unit, rather than "parenting" on a constant, supervisory basis. That fewer egalitarians agree "a wife's first obligation is to her husband, not her children" is a logical extension of their more favorable attitudes towards women's lib. However, since the modern males have smaller families, these attitudes may temper somewhat as they begin to have children.

Media Differences

The modern male reports greater media exposure than does the traditional male (Table 3). Youthful attitudes toward music are prevalent as shown by purchase of records, attendance at pop concerts, and program format preferred on the radio. The modern male is a heavier listener to all types of music except country and western and is a heavier magazine reader than is the traditional male.



With respect to TV viewing, the egalitarian male has a greater preference for shows such as MASH, Tomorrow, and the Sunday Night Movie, shows which often feature provocative and anti-establishment topics. His preference for Rhoda (in comparison with that of the traditional male) is especially marked and is compatible with his opinion of woman's lib since the show concerns the trials and tribulations of a "career girl marriage," a topic not likely to draw raves from traditional males. Traditional males favor TV programs like the Waltons, which feature the family-oriented approach. Their media preferences, like that of the egalitarians, seem to be a function of their general view toward life and the family. Traditionals prefer contents which emphasize the male in roles of provider and defender of the home, while egalitarians favor new and different roles for both sexes.

Men who have opted for the modern male orientation differ from traditional man in a number of ways. They are relatively more liberal in their attitudes toward authority and differing life styles. They are more venturesome and cosmopolitan in their interests. They hold more "liberated" opinions toward women and women's roles. They are more prone to try new things, but remain pragmatic about major purchases such as automobiles. Modern men are more optimistic about the future, believing the best is yet to come. They are financially optimistic and tend to spend more for today.


The rise of the modern male orientation is evident and substantive. Men choosing this orientation are different from those who have stayed with the traditional ideas along a number of life style dimensions. But, how do modern man compare with modern women? The following summary from Reynolds, Crask and Wells (1977) suggest modern man are indeed very similar to modern women:

Women who have opted for the modern feminine orientation differ from traditional women in a number of ways. They are more liberal in their attitudes toward life, events and business; and more cosmopolitan in their interests. They are financially optimistic but careful spenders, concerned about current debt and pragmatic about major purchases such as automobiles. They are very interested in personal appearance. This interest appears to underlie a concern for physical conditioning and frequent participation in more strenuous leisure activities.

Although modern women appear to be less satisfied with their current situation in life than do the traditionalists, they are more optimistic about the future. And while modern, they are not radical -- their basic value structure is similar in kind, but not degree, to that of the traditionally-oriented segment of the female population.

The similarities of findings for men and women (taken from two independent samples conducted at the same time) provide cross-validation of the ways in which Americans who have opted for modern sex-roles have changed.


Occurring sex-role changes are apt to have several ramifications for consumer researchers. Researchers have previously focused upon the wife as the primary decision maker for certain products while the husband is often chosen for others. The blending together of the roles of each member in a more modern marriage may obscure such clearly defined purchase roles. Those purchase decisions (such as durable goods) where each member affects the outcome may be even more drastically altered so that the entire area of family decision making may need further examination.

For example, four family types might be identified. Those families where both spouses prefer a traditional role structure have received considerable attention from researchers and the decision role of each spouse has been suggested (Kenkel, 1961). Likewise, families where both spouses prefer a modern (egalitarian) marriage have recently been studied and decision allocations have been found to be different from traditional marriage types (Green and Cunningham, 1975). No published work exists, though, which examines the conflict resolution in families where the preferred role structure of each spouse differs. When the wife feels that she deserves a more active role in the decision process and attempts to exercise this role, what will be the result? Conversely, when the husband wishes his wife to become more active in the decision process but she feels that such decisions are his domain, what will be the outcome?

Perhaps we are "crying wolf" too early. Only further research will tell. Results may indicate that marketers can continue with present strategies; or, they may indicate that advertising themes, product positioning, ad placement, and other components should be redirected to better match the lifestyle of the modern male.


Robert T. Green and Isabella C. M. Cunningham, "Feminine Role Perception and Family Purchasing Decisions,'' Journal of Marketing Research, 12 (August 1975), 325-32.

L. W. Hoffman, "Parental Power Relations and The Division of Household Tasks," in F. I. Nye and L.W. Hoffman, eds., The Employed Mother In America, Chicago: Rand McNally, 1963, 215-230.

W. F. Kenkel, "Family Interaction in Decision Making on Spending," in N.N. Foots, ed., Household Decision Making, New York: University Press, 1961.

Fred D. Reynolds, Melvin R. Crask, and William D. Wells, "The Modern Feminine Lifestyle," Journal of Marketing, 1977, in press.



Melvin R. Crask, University of Georgia (student), University of Georgia (student), University of Georgia (student), University of Georgia
Dianne Lanier, University of Georgia
Fred Trawick


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 04 | 1977

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