How are families faring during the Covid 19 pandemic? Cultural anthropologist (Ph.D. University of Chicago), author and renowned speaker Grant McCracken has studied American culture for 25 years and has made a name for himself speaking to the idea that culture directly impacts both our economy and our place within its evolution as humans invent and reinvent themselves.
He has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, was the founder and director of the Institute for Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum (where he did the first museum exhibit on youth cultures,) and was a member of the Convergence Culture Consortium at MIT. He has taught at the University of Cambridge and is affiliated with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Business School. He has consulted for organizations such as Timberland, New-York Historical Society, Diageo, IKEA, Sesame Street, Nike, the Ford Foundation, and the White House on the implications of where culture and commerce meet.
He knows his stuff.
Often the ignored concept of conversion of culture and commerce by academics, McCracken’s two books: Culture and Consumption I, and Culture and Consumption II reveal the impact that the cultural influence of society directly has on consumerism. Self-led human evolution and how it intersects with commerce are explored in two more books: Big Hair and Transformations: identity construction in contemporary culture.
Plenitude published in 1997 looked at the new explosive growth of the contemporary culture. In Flock and Flow, he shows how contemporary culture and commerce change and in Chief Culture Officer he argues that culture now creates so much opportunity and danger for the organization that needs senior managers who focus on it full time. He is hoping this will create a new occupational destination for graduates in the arts and humanities.
The age of COVID 19 has rather interestingly created a new opportunity for McCracken to apply his innovative theories. Devising a simple survey to determine how quarantine has affected Americans, he has found it is creating a stronger bond between families, specifically mothers, and daughters. This shows that families are sticking together and supporting one another during a time that many are finding quite difficult. Cultural anthropologist, Grant McCracken conducted a brief survey that shows the impact that quarantine had on the relationship with families.
Where was the bond between mothers and daughters before the Covid pandemic?
Distracted by the demands of running a household on the one hand and all those digital engagements on the other. Mothers and daughters may have been distant before the pandemic because there wasn’t a strong connection. The kids may have been busy because of school and the mothers would go to work daily.
What do you feel was the state of family connection before the pandemic if you’ve noticed that it is now getting stronger?
I think the family was “dispersive.” As one mom put it, “this household is like a train station, everyone coming and going.”
How did you come up with that information?
I did 50 ethnographic interviews. And a survey of 500 people.
What are the ways in which a stronger mother-daughter bond will affect the dynamics of our society in general?
In the US, generations tend to have big gaps between them. There are almost different cultures. With moms and daughters drawing together, this creates potent solidarity that will change the outlook, tastes, and preferences and buying habits of both groups, and this will help change the American family. Change the family and some parts of the rest of American culture must follow.
How is the focus on the mother and not the father? We are not assuming that the father isn’t important, but is it because the mother now holds a more empowered role in the family? Is it because there are more single mothers out there?` Is it because it is her role as a nurturer that connects to this being a health crisis? Did mother’s notice any change in their household during the pandemic?
Dads were present but less active. Moms were already the center of family life: the managers of the household, the keepers of family emotions, the person who could see how kids were. COVID effectively reinforces existing roles, making mom the more important center, putting dad a more distant orbit. So yes, I think Dads are less important than they used to be. Again, not inactive, but still less involved.
And yes, good question, part of it is that moms took the health crisis in hand: bought the masks, changed people’s schedules, watched to see who kids were spending time with, and the socially distancing that was or wasn’t happening there. Yes, moms say they saw their families get stronger. This is present in the survey data too. Notice only 5 % of respondents think the family is getting weaker. Given how bad things were in those early weeks “staying the same” was an accomplishment. And “getting stronger” was a triumph.
Zayna is an aspiring journalist and wellness advocate. She has been published in multiple magazines and respects the TPM approach to a more well rounded sense of Self. She is passionate about whole food nutrition, health, fitness and self care and is studying to be a holistic wellness coach.