University of Louisville Journal of Family Law
Soft virtues, normally associated with women, have been deemed to have no legal, market or public value, and this has caused problems within American society. The devaluation of cooperative and nurturing virtues, coupled with the dangerous myth of independence and self-reliance, and general acceptance of consumption as a positive attribute, have had a profound effect on American society as a whole and, in particular, on general views on the care of children and other dependent members of our society. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the composition and character of the family were very different because the family was not a private, self-contained, inward-looking unit as it has become today.
Virtues previously exercised by both men and women became gender-specific. Personal, rather than communal, independence and the myth that people are individually self-reliant have taken deep root in our society. Soon after the rise of competitive capitalism, the public/business/political community began to shed its acceptance of the cooperative virtues, which therefore became acceptable only among women and the clergy. Concurrent with the increased privatization of the cooperative virtues, Americans moved toward narcissism and developed a cult of consumerism. When soft virtues were banished from the male persona, they were likewise banished from legal and public recognition; they became acceptable only in women, primarily in private. Many historians, sociologists, and legal scholars have called for a recognition of female virtues in the public arena.
Ana P. Novoa, The Removal Of Adam's Rib: The Creation And Polarization Of Male And Female Virtues, 35 U. Louisville J. Fam. L. 755 (1996-7).