By Michelle Gomez Parra and Dr. Lorena Garcia

Many of us in higher education have taken notice of the shifts in student demographics, including the rising number of Latinas enrolled in 4-year institutions. For students from poor and working-class backgrounds, college is a vital route to obtain socio-economical mobility. In addition to that central reason why Latinas attend college, other social forces also shape their desire to do this—and, more particularly, their decision to move outside of their families’ homes to pursue higher education.

We explore this in our recent article in Gender & Society. Our research indicates that while economically marginalized Latinas perceive college as an opportunity to achieve upward mobility, they also see it as a way to secure gender and sexual freedom. For example, many of the Latinas we interviewed listed various household responsibilities assigned to them, such as cooking, cleaning, and helping take care of younger siblings when they are at home. They viewed going away to college as an opportunity to free themselves of the responsibility expected of them for this kind of labor in their family households.

The Latinas we spoke with also reported having little discretion over their social lives and spatial mobility when living at home. Their parents often limited where they could go outside the home and who they could socialize with. Our respondents were frustrated with what they saw as unfair treatment because of their gender. They approached moving out of their parents’ home to attend college as a strategy to gain discretion over their social lives and to have freedom over their whereabouts. They talked in depth about the new pleasures they experienced as college students living away from their parents’ home, such as having an opportunity to move beyond the gendered parental rules as well having less gendered family responsibilities. Our research, thus, shows that Latinas’ desire for gender and sexual freedom are factors motivating Latinas’ desire to move away from their parents’ homes to attend college.

Latinas were also well aware of the “teen mom” stereotype which frames Latinas as highly susceptible to becoming young mothers. This stereotype also portrays early motherhood as detrimental to Latinas’ ability to obtain upward mobility. Therefore, the women in our research viewed going to college and obtaining their degrees as a way to refute negative stereotypes about Latinas’ sexualities.

In addition to having discretion over their time and social lives, including where they went, we find that college facilitated gender and sexual freedom for Latinas in another important way. Once in college, Latinas encountered sex-positive discourses that challenged their previously held ideas of sex as dangerous and always leading to unplanned teenage pregnancy. Moreover, they also deepened their understanding of gender inequality and how this impacted their lives as girls and young women. Their exposure to new ideas about gender and sexuality, often through  coursework, informed their life choices around gender and sexuality. They desired not only to  end their socioeconomic marginalization but also to have autonomy over their social activities and spatial mobility and be free from inegalitarian gender and sexual ideologies.

Overall, our research shows that constraints based on gender and sexuality lead Latinas to seek both upward and spatial mobility via college. Once in college, they are exposed to new ideas that continue to shape their gender and sexual choices. Our study encourages researchers and educators to consider how the intersections of gender, sexual, and racial inequalities shape the educational aspirations of girls and women. Our work also encourages educators to consider how educational curricula have implications for students’ gender and sexual ideologies. We show that  access to sex-positive discourses and feminist critiques of gender inequality is liberating for Latinas, as they use this information to advocate for their gender and sexual pleasures, and overall livelihoods.

Michelle Gomez Parra is a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department at UC Santa Cruz with a designated emphasis in Latin American and Latinx Studies. She utilizes feminist theories of color, such as intersectionality and transnational feminism, to examine how mobility experiences of higher education and migration intersect with heteronormativity to impact Latinas’ negotiations of gender and sexuality.

Lorena Garcia is an associate professor of sociology and Latin American and Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she also has a courtesy appointment in gender and women’s studies. Her research interests include the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and class, U.S. Latinas, and youth. She is currently working on her second book project which focuses on newly middle-class Latina/x/os’ parenting perspectives and practices.


(photo by Avishai Teicher, Sculpture of Mother and a Child, in the Gan Ha’Em “Mother’s Garden” in Haifa, Israel).

By Michelle J. Budig, Vered Kraus, and Asaf Levanon

Across developed countries, women are more educated, more frequently employed, and receive higher wages than at any point in history. Yet, combining work and family responsibilities remains challenging for most women. Mothers are more likely to work part-time or not at all, relative to childless women and men. Moreover, a wage gap widens for mothers with each child they have, holding all else constant. Some countries reduce work-family conflict through supportive work-family policies such as generous parental leave, subsidized childcare, and family allowances. Despite this, in most developed countries, many women feel forced to choose between work and family priorities, which, in addition to reduced employment and wages, contribute to high and rising rates of childlessness, delayed fertility, and smaller than desired family sizes.

In our recent Gender & Society article, we examine employment and pay outcomes for mothers in a country where, at the aggregate level, women “have it all.” Israel presents a unique context for studying motherhood’s impacts on employment and earnings: it is characterized both by high fertility and marriage rates and by high rates of women’s education and employment. Compellingly, past research finds small motherhood penalties in Israel. Yet, Israel is also marked by strong disparities among ethnic and religious groups, and differences in motherhood penalties among groups have been unexplored. Ours is the first study that uses longitudinal data to examine motherhoods’ employment and wage penalties among different groups within Israel. Given substantial social and economic inequality between Israeli Jews and Israeli-Palestinians, we explore whether the overall finding of few motherhood penalties among all women in Israel remains true when we examine Jewish, Muslim, and Christian women separately. Importantly, we examine whether motherhood penalties are reduced in the public sector, with its stronger anti-discrimination policy and work-family policy enforcement. Further, we consider whether differences across the public and private sector employment shapes differences in motherhood penalties across ethnic and religious groups.

First, a bit of context: The Israeli population is diverse with sharp socioeconomic cleavages. It is comprised of Jews (75 percent), Muslims (20 percent), Christians (2 percent) and other minorities. Of these, Jews are the most socioeconomically privileged group and Muslims are the least privileged. High levels of ethno-religious segregation in where people live, where they work, and the occupations they hold contribute to significant inequalities in educational attainment, employment rates, earnings, and economic opportunity. Residential segregation shapes disparities in the-quality of schooling and educational attainment across communities. Access to social services, public transportation, and public and private sector work are all more constrained in ethnic and religious minority communities. In addition, family formation patterns differ among these groups, with later marriage and age at first birth among Jews, compared to Muslims and Christians, although Jewish and Muslim women have similarly high completed family sizes. Together, these conditions underpin dramatic differences in educational attainment and employment among ethnic and religious groups, with Jewish women being highly educated, highly engaged in the labor force and commanding the highest pay, followed by Christians and, quite distantly, Muslims on all measures.

Using newly available panel data we find that motherhood deters employment more strongly among Israeli-Palestinians than among Jews. Following a birth, Jewish women return to employment at higher rates and more quickly, with almost 70 percent being employed within 9 months of giving birth. This is robust among all Jewish women, regardless of educational attainment. Christian and Muslim women with post-secondary education are employed at similar rates to Jewish women following a birth. However, Christians, and especially Muslims with moderate and low educational attainment have longer periods of non-employment following a birth, and among the least educated, one-third of Muslim mothers remain non-employed at 2.5 years post-birth. These patterns reflect the impact of both structural and cultural factors: Muslims are more likely to live in remote communities with fewer job opportunities, poor public transportation, and little accessible childcare. These challenges are amplified by cultural norms encouraging direct care of mothers for children, which is more common for women with lower educational attainment.

Considering the motherhood wage penalty, we find penalties for each child among the least educated women in all groups. Among the least educated, the length of labor market absence following a birth and job experience are strong contributors to motherhood penalties, variously accounting for 24 to 53 percent of baseline penalties among groups. These penalties decline as education increases. At the medium level of education, we observe motherhood wage penalties for Jewish and Christian women, but not among Muslims. For all groups, highly-educated women incur smaller motherhood wage penalties, and in some cases receive motherhood wage premiums. Particularly among Muslims, children are associated with wage premiums among the highly educated. We explore this surprising finding by examining the characteristics of their labor force participation.

Muslim women who meet all three criteria – highly educated, employed, and mothers – are relatively rare, compared to Jewish women. To illustrate, employment rates of mothers at 18 months post-birth are, 47 percent for Muslims, compared to 84 percent of Jews. Of the employed, 36 percent of Muslims have a college degree, compared to 51 percent of Jews. This select group of employed, highly educated Muslim mothers are strongly segregated: fully 88 percent of highly educated Muslim mothers are in the public sector, compared with 49 percent of their Jewish counterparts. The majority of Muslim mothers in this category are teachers (63 percent) compared to Jewish mothers (26 percent). In Israel, teachers are covered by a strong collective bargaining agreement that offers higher pay to women with children. This enhancement of maternal earnings may contribute to the findings of wage bonuses for motherhood for highly educated Muslim mothers. In addition, the Israeli public sector is characterized by stronger enforcement of anti-discrimination and work-family policies. It is not surprising, then that public-sector employment, particularly for Muslims, is associated with higher post birth employment, lower motherhood penalties, and motherhood premiums among the highly educated. Our findings suggest that increasing educational attainment and public sector employment among Israeli-Palestinians may reduce inequality across religious and ethnic groups in terms of motherhood’s impact on employment and earnings.

Our findings are highly relevant to policy addressing gender and ethnic inequality. Because vulnerable workers – minorities and the least educated – incur the highest economic costs for childbearing, efforts to increase educational attainment are crucial in reducing mothers’ employment inequalities, particularly for Muslims and Christians. In addition, our study underscores the importance of public-sector employment in supporting Israeli-Palestinian mothers’ employment and pay, with its stronger employment protections and support for combining work and family.

Michelle J. Budig is a professor of sociology and senior vice provost at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her research has focused on labor market inequalities, wage penalties for paid and unpaid caregiving, work–family policy, and nonstandard employment. Her research has appeared in American Sociological Review, Social Forces, Social Problems, Journal of Marriage and the Family, and numerous other professional journals.

Vered Kraus was an Emerita professor of sociology at the University of Haifa, Israel. Her work focused on social stratification and inequality, especially gender and ethnic inequality in the labor market. She published several books and articles, including Facing Barriers: Palestinian Women in a Jewish-Dominated Labor Market, Promises in the Promised Land: Mobility and Inequality in Israel, and Secondary Breadwinners: Israeli Women in the Labor Market.

Asaf Levanon is a senior lecturer in the department of sociology and the head of the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Poverty and Social Exclusion at the University of Haifa. Building on social stratification research and life course scholarship, his work examines how institutions affect life-course outcomes. His work has appeared in American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Sociological Methods and Research, Social Science Research, and other professional journals.


By Dr. Shaneda Destine

Tyree Nichols was stopped, beaten, and killed by Memphis police officers on January 7th– 2023, 6 hours from my home. However, Tyree Nichols is more than just a headline and a police victim, he was a father, a son, an aspiring photographer with a big smile. He was 100 yards from his mother’s house when he lost his life. Though Tyree’s death is as horrific as any other death by police officers, Memphis police department swiftly indicted the Black officers involved. This indictment is a reminder of the glaring difference in justice Black men killed by white police officers receive, and the invisibility of Black women and queer victims, who barely get any popular media coverage of the police violence they face. Tyree’s brutal attack by police was publicized by all national news outlets, but there is less popular media coverage of Black women and queer people’s experiences with police violence. My research looks at the experiences of Black women and queer people in the Movement for Black Lives to uncover how their work and struggles fighting against police violence are often overlooked and undermined.

In my recent Gender & Society article, I studied activists in the Black Lives Matter movement as they developed into many grassroots collaborations across America. I studied more than 21 organizations for this research. All are either formally or informally part of the Movement for Black Lives mobilization. My study focuses on Black women and queer people as organizers of this movement. I suspected they might offer an intersectional analysis of the movement as a way to decenter patriarchy, homophobia, and transphobia in the protest calls for abolition and in the halls of our justice system. My study showed that to understand how strong a movement is we should look at how—how leaders struggle to keep marginalized people’s needs central to the demands of the movement.

In this research, I interviewed 48 Black women and queer people in Maryland, Georgia, Tennessee and other places  from 2016 through 2019. This is a millennial movement that illustrates what Ruth Milkman calls a “a new political generation.” While some organizations affiliated with the Movement for Black lives in this study do center Black queer and disabled lives, others still have work to do in making sure these liberation strategies central are clear to all members of the organizations.

My study research identifies many local Black Lives Matter social movement organizations as places where women and queer people still contend with patriarchy, homophobia, and classism. While Black women and queer leaders struggle to remain inclusivity in their local organizations, they are met with challenges within and outside local organizations.

The Movement for Black Lives reaches its 10th year in 2023— and this generations rallying call for Trayvon’s Martin’s killer to be brought to justice has only increased its commitment to abolition, Black Futures, and inclusivity of all the voices in the Black community. This commitment was shown worldwide with the 2020 uprisings—in response to George Floyd’s public suffocation under the knee of Derek Chauvin, a police officer. However, Tyree Nichols death and the increasing amount of police killings since 2020 prove that the challenges are ever present, and liberation is even more necessary. This study points to a need for local organizations, scholars, movement participants and those concerned with justice to be in conversation about how to make our movements mirror the world’s we want. My work shows that Black queer leaders and organizers contribute helping our movements mirror the justice we need. Through world building, analysis and struggle we should get to the world we want, while in movements that model that world.

Dr. Shaneda Destine’s research focus is race, gender, sexuality, and contemporary social movements. She is most interested in how state violence effects the livelihood of marginalized people. She investigates forms of resistance of Black women and Black Queer people, as they create spaces of Black Joy and Respite, while struggling for liberation. Her research highlights the unique ways Black women and femmes are affected by state violence and the ways in which they strategize and negotiate organizing, leading, and caring for themselves and movement participants, as part of their political practice.


By Dragana Stojmenovska

Women are significantly underrepresented in positions of workplace authority and power across the globe. Improving women’s representation in authority jobs has become an important goal for many organizations and governments striving toward gender equality in the workplace. Firms are increasingly adopting policies to increase diversity at all levels of management and some governments have introduced legislation requiring a set quota of representation of women in corporate boards. Although undoubtedly an important direction, my recent research in Gender & Society shows that women’s entry into authority positions alone is not sufficient for achieving gender equality.

In my research I ask a straightforward yet underexplored question: how do the jobs and experiences of women and men compare once they have positions with authority? Using data from a large survey of more than 100,000 women and men working in Dutch organizations, I analyzed differences in reported levels of job benefits such as earnings and autonomy and negative job experiences such as workplace harassment and burnout between women and men in positions of workplace authority. To take account of the fact that women and men are concentrated in different industries that potentially involve different work experiences, I compared women and men with similar qualifications who work in similar industries and sectors.

I find that women in authority report fewer resources than men with similar jobs, and are more likely to report experiences of work-related strains. Crucially, women with authority jobs are the most likely of all groups to report experiencing sexual harassment, bullying, and intimidation at the workplace. They have the highest probability of reporting job burnout symptoms. Men in positions of workplace authority, on the other hand, are the least likely of all groups to experience job burnout.

Widespread gender stereotypes are a likely explanation for these patterns. There is rich empirical evidence indicating that women are seen as less suitable for workplace authority than men, and that these beliefs shape social relations and evaluations of women and men at work. One way such beliefs can have consequences in the workplace is that colleagues and clients harass women in authority in attempts to penalize their violation of gender norms.

My analyses show that the highest incidence of experiencing workplace harassment among women with authority jobs leads to their experiences of job burnout, a psychological response to chronic stressful work conditions.

While my research is based on data from the Netherlands, my findings are likely to apply to other contexts as widely shared cultural beliefs about women’s incompatibility with authority have been documented across countries. One U.S.–based study, for example, also finds that women with workplace authority are the most likely to experience sexual harassment.

The concentration of women in lower-level authority positions does not explain their lower levels of resources and higher probabilities of experiencing job strains. Men have more  resources and are less likely than women in authority to experience job strains for all types of jobs with different levels of authority. For example, men earn substantively more than women both at the bottom of the authority ladder, in positions with little authority, and at the top of the authority hierarchy, in decision-making positions entailing the authority to make final decisions about organizational policies.

A 2022 report on women in the workplace found that women in managerial positions are leaving their companies at the highest rate ever, and that the gap between women and men in senior positions quitting their jobs is larger today than ever before. Workplace harassment and job burnout have often been associated with job absenteeism and higher turnover, and lower job satisfaction and productivity among those who stay on the job. While many women may leave their authority jobs for better authority jobs, it is highly plausible that experiences of workplace harassment and job burnout lead to some women (eventually) dropping out of jobs that carry authority, which leads to even more underrepresentation of women in these jobs.

My research shows that dismantling gender inequality necessitates deep cultural and institutional change.

Dragana Stojmenovska (@dstojmenovska) is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Sociology at the New York University. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Amsterdam. Her research focuses on gender inequality in the workplace. Her work has been published in the American Sociological Review, Gender, Work & Organization, and Social Forces, among other journals.

Are We Living in an Era Without Gender Bias in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Hiring?

By Enav Friedman and Dorit Efrat-Treister

Even though many organizations are striving toward equity in their hiring decisions, our recent research in Gender & Society has clearly shown we are not yet living in an era free of gender bias in STEM hiring.

We studied bias in the employment criteria, uncouncoius prejudice in favor men usually in a way considered to be unfair to women.

We asked STEM managers to tell us the most important hiring criteria. We then used that criteria in an experiment to compare how managers evaluated male versus female candidates’ CVs. We created identical resume’s except for the gender of the applicant. We also varied the STEM fields including biopharma and biorobotics. Every manager received resume’s to evaluate: a woman’s biopharma resume and a man’s biorobotics resume or vice versa. Each resume contained equivalent academic background and equivalent achievements with some interpersonal management and experience included. We asked the managers to evaluate the candidates on a variety of criteria, including the candidates’ ability to work long hours, problem-solving ability, and their evaluation of the candidates hiring probability.

We expected that managers would not explicitly prefer men but instead would show their bias towards female candidates found by emphasizing a criterion that women managers are less likely to succeed at. We guessed that the working 24/7 STEM norm combined with the perception that women cannot work as long hours as men would  lead to men managers’ to favor men.

We also expected women managers to evaluate other criterion than long hours of work, because they would be more aware that women may be less likely to be willing to work long hours. This would give women a fairer chance of entering STEM. 

As expected, we found that “the ability to work long hours” was a more important criterion for men STEM managers than for women managers for the hiring decisions of a female candidate. While for women managers, “the ability to solve problems” was a more important criterion than men managers when considering a female candidate.

These findings demonstrate that men managers’ gender favoritism has shifted to an implicit bias with the subtle use of hiring criteria to favor male applicants.

We wanted to find a way to fix this problem and so we completed another experiment where we added a personal note to the CVs stating that the candidate hired a full-time nanny and she/he is committed to a career. This personal note reduced the importance that men managers attributed to the “ability to work long hours” criterion in the hiring decision of a female candidate, but elevated the importance women managers assigned to this criterion. As men are the dominant decision-makers in STEM hiring, the personal note might be an effective strategy to reduce implicit gender bias.

We suggest that organizations might reduce implicit gender bias by supporting employees with extra pay to reimburse to cover child care expenses, similar to travel expenses. Such support to both mothers and fathers will convey that the women are not considered solely responsible for the children and the home. Another recommendation, more radical, is to change the organizational culture that reinforces the belief that the ability to work 24/7 is needed to be an ideal worker.  

Until organizations directly address the existence of this type of implicit bias, we advise women to add a personal note to their resume in which they explain their child care arrangement and assure the employer they are fully committed to their careers. Of course, adding this personal note is not the best strategy for social change. What is far more important is reducing implicit bias by showing employers who creates gender inequality. We mention women are in the trap? In an ideal world – we would not offer suggestions for women on how to deal with the problem themselves but suggest that organizations managed by men will deal with the root of the social problem, and change the organizational culture that will help to recruit more women in the STEM fields.

Enav Friedmann is an assistant professor at the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management at Ben Gurion University (BGU) in Israel, and the head of the BGU marketing lab. She holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration from BGU and was a visiting scholar at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, Italy. Her current research includes brand preferences and purchasing choices, tailoring to heterogeneous consumer strata, specifically, gender-related marketing, and social marketing.

Dorit Efrat-Treister is a Senior Lecturer at the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She received her PhD in Organizational Behavior at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, and continued as a post-doctoral fellow at the Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia.

Walmart….Empowering Women?

By Eileen Otis

Walmart’s Women’s Empowerment Program was celebrated in the press as “tremendously consequential,” with the potential to be “… the biggest feminist triumphs that private industry has ever spurred.” The program made headlines across the mainstream press whilethe American Chamber of Commerce recognized it as the “Best Empowerment Program.” The World Bank Group’s Gender Strategy platform upheld the program as a model for other corporations to emulate.

Perhaps success was measured in the distance traveled from Walmart’s disempowerment of its women workers, who protested the discrimination they faced from male managers by filing the largest class action lawsuit in history against the firm. However, a closer look at the program reveals a set of actions that are at best insignificant to women working for Walmart, at worst detrimental to women’s status in the workplace. It is an example of what we call a gender fix in our recent article in Gender & Society. It uses women’s status as caregivers to repair corporate imagery. Walmart outsources this work to women business owners in its supply chain.

Walmart’s Empowerment Program sourced 20 billion dollars of products from women-owned businesses and recruited owners to testify to their empowerment by Walmart. We analyzed these testimonials, which were captured on video, and the materials on the Empowerment website hosting them. The site features slogans like, “Empowering women is the right and the smart thing to do “and “When women succeed everyone succeeds.” We find three themes in these testimonials: they celebrate women’s “rags to riches” stories of economic mobility, depict their relations with Walmart agents as harmonious, and represent women’s authority as caring and selfless. Walmart uses these themes to characterize its supply chain as feminist, deflecting a barrage of public criticism targeting Walmart for low wages paid to retail workers, for destroying family-owned retailers, and for squeezing suppliers who in turn squeeze workers. This empowerment campaign was a reaction to the bad press about Walmart that existed even before Walmart faced the class action lawsuit. Although the class action suit was not successful, the case caused reputational damage to a firm whose primary market constituency is women. Walmart’s empowerment program launched three months later, created a counternarrative to re-shape public perception of the firm.

The campaign uses the success of a few women business owners in Walmart’s supply chain as evidence that Walmart empowers women overall. This gender fix reflects a pattern in which firms use women as moral ambassadors to restore their brand virtue after inflicting social harm (towards women, workers, the environment, etc.).

But the gender fix tells us little about why firms select particular empowerment programs to repair their reputations. We argue Walmart’s gender fix strategy is based on its position in the global economy, specifically its power over am international chain of 6,000 suppliers. Walmart outsources the labor of representing “empowerment” to women who occupy a strategic structural position in their supply chain.

Walmart uses idealizations of gender and femininity to obscure class interests that otherwise divide women. In the videos and throughout its empowerment website, Walmart emphasizes the ways in which the women business owners exude norms of femininity, like empathy, care, nurture, and mothering ethics. This stereotype of female selflessness generates lofty expectations of care that burdens women by reinforcing a norm that they behave differently than men in the capitalist firm. This campaign is potentially exploitative as perpetuating feminine stereotypes raises the bar for women’s selfless labor. Meanwhile, how women business owners behave similarly to men is overlooked. In the end, Walmart’s control over the business owners its supply chain is turned from a reputational liability into a virtue, as women speak to the ways Walmart has supported their firms.

Like many corporate campaigns, the Women’s Empowerment campaign ran its course and was replaced with issues more relevant to today’s news cycle. Walmart has moved on to address racial equity with its public relation campaigns. In the wake of protests against police killings of Black men, the firm pledged $100 million to build a racial equity center, in what might be called a “race fix.” Walmart employs more Black Americans than any other company and these workers face exploitative conditions similar to other workers, compounded by race discrimination. We eagerly await studies of such corporate “race fixes.”

Eileen Otis is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Northeastern University. She is the author of the award-winning book Markets and Bodies: Women, Service Work, and the Making of Inequality in China. Her research has been published in the American Sociological Review, Politics and Society, and The American Behavioral Scientist, among other journals. She is currently working on a book about Walmart retail labor in China.

It’s Not Only About the Veil: Gender Beliefs in Six Muslim-Majority Countries

By Maria Charles, Roger Friedland, Janet Afary, and Rujun Yang

Western depictions of gender relations in Muslim-majority societies reflect two widespread assumptions, shared even by many academics. The first assumption is that the Muslim world is uniformly gender-traditional, meaning that opinions on gender issues are presumed not to vary much within or across Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian (MENASA) societies. A second, related, assumption is that gender ideology is a single dimension, meaning that if you know someone’s position on one issue, such as women’s veiling, you can easily predict their position on other issues, such as men’s control over their wives’ employment. This leads to the presumption that Muslim-majority societies are uniformly traditional about gender politics.

In our recent Gender & Society article, we test these ideas using data from a new Facebook survey of more than 6,000 Muslim men and women in six MENASA societies: Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, and Palestine. We didn’t only look at gender issues typically covered in Western surveys (e.g., household divisions of labor and women’s rights in education, employment, and politics), but instead explored two principles central to gender relations in Muslim-majority countries. The first gender principle we analyzed was women’s chastity. This is highly salient in societies where social control of women’s bodies can be a symbolic marker of Muslim cultural authenticity and where perceived impurity can be subject to severe social sanctions. The second gender principle we analyzed was marital patriarchy. This reflects issues of men’s primacy within marriage, specifically beliefs about the unequal status and rights of husbands and wives. We measure chastity beliefs using survey questions on whether women should wear the hijab, and whether women should be virgins at marriage. We measure marital patriarchy beliefs using questions on men’s rights to control their wives’ employment, and to resort to physical violence against their wives after exhausting “other methods of persuasion.”

The principles of marital patriarchy and women’s chastity differ in their explicit endorsement of gender inequality. Whereas men’s rights to beat their wives and control their wives’ employment rests upon an undeniable gender hierarchy within marriage, norms of feminine modesty may be more plausibly interpreted through a “different but equal” lens, legitimized by beliefs about men’s and women’s innately different bodies and sexual essences—for example, men’s natural sexual aggression. This distinction is important, we argue, because forms of gender inequality that openly violate liberal egalitarian ideals are often met with significant opposition, whereas inequalities based on perceived natural gender difference (“gender essentialism”) may exist quite comfortably alongside liberal ideals.

Two main questions motivate our study. First, how do beliefs about marital patriarchy and women’s chastity vary across and within MENASA societies? And second, do these gender principles vary independently of one another – in particular, are beliefs about marital patriarchy and women’s chastity influenced in different ways by respondents’ religious beliefs and gender status? When considering religiosity, we include two different aspects: piety and absolutism. Piety refers to a rigorous adherence to religious practice and beliefs, and absolutism refers to belief in the complete moral authority of the Quran, and the enforcement of its prescriptions and proscriptions through national laws.

With respect to the first question about the variability of attitudes, we find a strong heterogeneity in gender beliefs that is difficult to reconcile with Western depictions of a monolithic Islamic patriarchy. Within countries, gender attitudes differ between women and men and among people with different religious beliefs. Across countries, agreement with marital patriarchy and women’s chastity varies strongly as well.

With respect to the second question, we find that support for women’s chastity is much more broad-based than support for marital patriarchy in all six societies. Indeed, survey results show that most MENASA men do not support husbands’ rights to be violent towards their wives – even in countries with the highest levels of religious absolutism and the strongest support for women’s chastity. This finding calls to mind the “different but equal” gender regimes found in the West, where inequalities grounded in blatant male primacy are perceived to be less legitimate than those attributed to essential differences between (fundamentally equal) men and women. Although social desirability bias is always a concern with culturally sensitive topics, we worry less about such bias because we are analyzing an anonymous online survey. Because views on domestic violence are not typically interrogated in Western surveys, we cannot say how attitudes of MENASA men compare to those of their North American and European counterparts.

Three distinct gender cultures appear to varying extents in the six MENASA countries. Gender reformists question both marital patriarchy and chastity norms and make up the largest group of respondents in Turkey. Gender-traditionalists endorse both women’s chastity and marital patriarchy. They are the largest group in Algeria, Egypt, and Pakistan. We also find a group of people who reject marital patriarchy but adhere to norms of gendered chastity. We call them the chastity group, and they are the largest group in Tunisia and among Palestinians.

The different overall approval levels we find for the two gender principles depends partly on stronger support for women’s chastity than marital patriarchy among women and among liberal Muslims. While women’s and men’s relative acceptance of bridal virginity norms and head covering norms depends on the local meanings and histories of these practices, we find a strong gender divide in attitudes toward an explicit marital hierarchy that places women below their husbands within marriage. Religious beliefs also show uneven effects on the two gender principles. Muslim piety is associated with support for women’s chastity but not for patriarchal control within marriage. Islamic absolutismis associated with stronger support for both principles.

Compulsory veiling, an explicitly hierarchical form of state patriarchy that is not directly measured in our survey, has indeed elicited fierce resistance in some contexts, including in Iran (not part of our study) at the time of this writing. But our findings suggest that the symbolic meanings and practical implications of veiling and other gendered modesty practices are complicated and contextually contingent. It is the forms of patriarchal oppression that are most overtly hierarchical that Muslim women appear to oppose most uniformly – and that are more likely to catalyze successful movements for change.

Maria Charles is Professor of Sociology at the University of California–Santa Barbara, where she is also Area Director for Sex and Gender Research at the Broom Demography Center, and faculty affiliate of the Feminist Studies Department. Her research explores how gender-related beliefs, inequalities, and processes vary across national societies and demographic groups.

Roger Friedland is Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies and Sociology at the University of California–Santa Barbara. His research explores the relation between gender, sexual practices, Islamic piety, and Islamism in Muslim majority countries and to various forms of religiosity among university students in the United States. Friedland also seeks to develop an institutional logics approach which draws on a non-theistic religious understanding of the non-phenomenal grounding of institutional practice.

Janet Afary holds the Mellichamp Chair in Global Religion & Modernity at the University of California–Santa Barbara, where she is a Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Iranian Studies Initiative. Her research explores courtship, sex and marriage in the Muslim world, and history and politics of gender and sexuality in the Middle East.

Rujun Yang is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology and a Graduate Associate at the Broom Demography Center at University of California–Santa Barbara. Her research explores varied aspects of gender beliefs, their causes, consequences, and variabilities within China and across societies.

What it’s Like when She Earns More: Does Race Matter?

By Wen Fan

Heterosexual marriages where the wife earns more than her husband are increasingly prevalent in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women out-earn their husbands in almost 30% of dual-earner couples in 2020, up from just 18% in the 1980s. This is despite the fact that traditional ideas endure and many men still feel strong pressure to be the family breadwinner.

Clearly, there is a misalignment between women’s increasing economic power and the still prevalent traditional or “neotraditional” male-breadwinner model, a model in which wives either are not working or are employed but earn considerably less than their husbands. Does such a disjuncture lead to stress? Google certainly thinks so. A quick search of “wife breadwinner” leads to autocompleted terms such as “resentment,” “divorce,” or “wants divorce.” This is in line with previous research showing heightened risk of marital dissatisfaction and marital dissolution when wives earn more.

What is less understood, however, is whether this pattern reflects largely white couples’ experiences. Compared with whites, families in which the wife is the sole or primary breadwinner are much more common among Blacks. This can be traced back to the distinct work history of Blacks. Black men, for example, do not enjoy a boost in wages (“daddy bonus”) as much as their white counterparts when they become a father. Co-provider parents who both work for pay has long been the norm for Black married couples. Indeed, a recent interview study shows that a key component of being a strong Black woman is to being able to provide financially for the family. Being an equal- or sole-breadwinner is not problematic for Black women.

Given the racial variation in the meanings attached to breadwinning, in my recent Gender & Society article, I use the 19992017 Panel Study of Income Dynamics data to examine whether female breadwinning still causes stresses in marriage and whether that differs for Black and white families. I consider both psychological distress and heaving drinking as signs of stress among married, non-Hispanic white and Black men and women. In this blog, I focus on how breadwinning contributes differentially to white and Black men’s stress.

Given the stronger male-breadwinner expectation among whites, white men’s stress decreases as they move further away from being economically dependent. When their household earnings go from 0% to 50%, we see a serious decrease in both psychological distress and heavy drinking (see panel A of the figure for the result on drinking). But when they earn more than half the income, and that ratio increases, their heavy drinking increases as well. You can see that in the figure where stress is high with no income, lowest with shared breadwinning, and high again when men carry all the financial responsibility. Being a primary or sole breadwinner can be a stressful experience for white men given the pressure to maintain family financial well-being.

But a different picture emerges for Black men, for whom contributing more to couples’ earnings is associated with consistently increased odds of drinking heavily (see panel B of the figure). Unlike their white counterparts, moving from economic dependency to equal-breadwinning increases, as opposed to decreases, Black men’s heavy drinking. Given race- and gender-based occupational segregation, greater economic contribution may mean Black men spend more time in adverse working environments, perhaps racist ones. In addition, Black men may face confrontation and discrimination in the workplace and thus we see increases in stress with more co-breadwinning.

A. White Men

B. Black Men

Taken as a whole, breadwinning does not seem to consistently predict better or worse outcomes for all men. The (neo)traditional breadwinning model, based largely on white men’s and white women’s experiences, seem to be compounded by racial norms. White men and Black men struggle quite differently with the ongoing expectations that they provide economically for their families. White men do best when they are egalitarian co-providers, and still suffer stress when they earn far less than their wives. But they also suffer more stress when they alone are responsible for the economic well-being of their families. By comparison, the higher percentage of the family income that married Black men earn, the more stress they appear to suffer. Combined, gendered norms for marriage and racial-specific beliefs and practices define what makes a “good” man or a “good” woman, which in turn affect stress in different ways between and among men and women.

Wen Fan, Associate Professor of Sociology at Boston College, conducts research on how social change, work environments, and family dynamics intersect to shape health and well-being. Her current research focuses on new ways of working, including an NSF-funded project on remote and hybrid work in the time of COVID-19 and a project on a global four day workweek trial. She also studies the socioeconomic and mental health impacts of the pandemic in China.

Incels Identify as Victims to Justify Violence Against Women

By Michael Halpin

Involuntary celibates (or “incels”) are people who define themselves by their inability to establish romantic or sexual relationships with women. While the term “incel” was coined by a woman, the incel community is now populated by heterosexual men.

In my recent article in Gender & Society, I show that Incels avidly participate in misogyny. They harass, stalk, and assault women, and celebrate when women are the victims of interpersonal or systemic violence. On the discussion board that I analyze, incels celebrated both the Taliban victory in Afghanistan and the overruling of Roe v. Wade because they saw both events as hurting women.

Incels have also been tied to several mass murders, including Elliot Rodger’s killing of six people in California and Alek Minassian’s killing of ten people in Canada. In Canada, incels have faced terrorism charges, while the United States Secret Service has identified incels as growing terror threat.

Incels are often caricaturized as unkempt, basement dwelling white men. However, surveys conducted by incel websites suggest they are surprisingly diverse. 56% of incels identify as white and 44% identify as men of color, 50% have enrolled in or completed college, 59% identify as middle class, and that 64% are between 18 and 25 years of age.

Incels are a predominately online community. In my article, I analyze the largest English language incel discussion board. I argue that incels position themselves as victims and then weaponize their victim status to justify their violence against women.

As I demonstrate, incels argue that lookism – a form of bias in favor of attractive people – determines romantic outcomes. Incels argue that women prefer physically attractive partners and women in relationships are constantly looking to “trade up” to secure a more attractive partner. Incels argue that they are incels because of women’s preferences for attractive partners, and they see themselves as unfairly victimized by lookism. Incels further argue that feminism and new technology (e.g., Tinder) has made it easier for women to exclusively pursue attractive men.   

I am often asked what incels are doing to change their situation. Do they try and make themselves more physically attractive, work on their personalities, or improve their self-esteem? The answer to these questions, by and large, is “no.” Instead, incels believe they have no hope of establishing a relationship because women’s preference for physically attractive men is biologically fixed. Because physical attractiveness is all that matters, and incels see attractiveness as difficult or impossible to change, they argue self-improvement is pointless. Incels that do attempt to improve themselves, or encourage others to work on themselves, are mocked.

In my article, I describe how incels use lookism to position themselves as “failed men” and “genetic trash” who are unfairly doomed to being “forever alone.” Incels weaponize their perceived victimhood to justify interpersonal and systemic violence against women.

One way that incels participate in interpersonal violence against women is by “Chadfishing.” Incels refer to attractive white men as “Chads.” To Chadfish, incels create a fake dating profile using an attractive man’s photos. Incels then use these profiles to interact with women, engage in sexting, and solicit nude photos. They share these conversations and photos with other incels, while humiliating the women. Incels use Chadfishing as evidence of lookism and “proof” that women enjoy being degraded, if it is done by an attractive man.

While all women are targeted by incels, incels specifically degrade women of color. Incels refer to women of color with a racist variations of the word “whore,” such as calling Asian women “noodlewhores” and South Asian “currywhores.” Women of color are insulted during incel discussions of racism. Both incels that identify as white and those that identify as men of color debate whether white men have an easier time leaving inceldom. The basis of these arguments is that all women of color will pursue any white man, and that a man “just has to be white” to have a relationship with a woman of color. Incels dehumanize and degrade women of color, while incels who identify as men of color further label women of color as “race traitors” and blame them for their incel status. Incels position themselves as victims to justify both their misogyny and racism.

As discussed in the media, incels encourage and participate in acts of violence against women. For example, one incel describes his roommate having sex in their shared dormitory room. He describes feeling uncomfortable and humiliated, but at the end of his post he also states that “normies” – an incel term for regular people – “need to be shot and killed.” Other incels agree, stating “this is why mass shootings happen,” while others encourage him to assault or murder both the roommate and girlfriend. Incels see such violence as justified because they see themselves as victims responding to aggression from others.  

While incel violence is frequently discussed in the media, I examine incels’ suggestions for increased systemic violence against women. To “solve the incel problem,” incels propose that women should have all their rights removed, including divorce protections, reproductive autonomy, as well as the right to work and vote. Incels suggest that this will correct the harms done by feminism and reduce the number of incels by making women dependent upon men. Some incels advance more extreme solutions, suggesting that women should be treated as private property to be owned by men, or that governments should force women into monogamous relationships.

Incels endorse violence, participate in hate crimes against women, and have ties to mass murderers. Incels are also avid supporters of policies, policy makers, and public figures that harm women. Incels excuse these actions by seeing themselves as victims. Incels weaponize their perceived victim status against women to justify interpersonal violence and they hope for the elimination of women’s rights and agency.

Michael Halpin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Dalhousie University.

Are Most U.S. Women Intensive Mothers? Perhaps Not.

By Jane Lankes

Today when we think about mothers, we often think of moms as overworked, tired, and stretched thin—more so than their own mothers were, and far more so than their grandmothers were. Women today spend more time with their children than in previous generations, breastfeed for longer periods, spend more money on kids’ needs and wants, invest more physical and emotion energy into parenting, and are more likely to prioritize children over their own health and well-being. This is called intensive mothering, and it is based on the idea that good mothering requires all this effort. This belief is widespread in the United States and several other western countries, leading to stress, anxiety, and guilt for modern mothers.

With so much emphasis on how much more common intensive mothering is today than a few decades ago, it’s easy to imagine most women believe intensive mothering is necessary and are intensive in their own parenting. Indeed, it feels nearly impossible to talk or write about modern women’s parenting without presuming it involves this kind of high time and energy investments. But, are most mothers actually that intensive? Who isn’t an intensive mother?

We know from the work of other scholars that women who are working-class or non-white are less likely to be intensive, in some ways. For example, they are more likely to believe that mothers’ health and happiness is an important goal, in contrast with intensive mothering beliefs emphasizing that children should always come before parents. But are these the only women who take a less “intensive” approach? How different are these women from the majority?

In my recent Gender & Society article, I found the presumption that most American mothers follow these intensive mothering norms may not be accurate. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics Child Development Supplement (PSID-CDS), I explored how women adhere to, reject, and negotiate intensive mothering attitudes and behaviors. I found four types of mothers: Relaxed Mothers (33%), High Investors (25%), Essentialist Mothers (22%), and Strained Mothers (20%). Relaxed Mothers were relatively low on intensive mothering overall. High Investors displayed high intensity behaviors, but still retained some attitudes that were more relaxed. Essentialist Mothers were the only group that believed mothers were naturally better at caregiving then fathers. Finally, Strained Mothers were emotionally stressed, but were still fairly non-intensive in their parenting behaviors. In short, while women who do not mother intensively are often seen as  “deviating” from the norm, my research suggest they may be in the majority, or at least as prevalent, as the ones with high intensity.

Relaxed Mothers and Essentialist Mothers tended to be less educated, less wealthy, and younger than High Investors and Strained Mothers. They were also more likely to be Black or Hispanic and be a single mother, suggesting Relaxed and Essentialist Mothers are overall less socially advantaged than High Investors and Strained Mothers. Therefore, while the least intensive group (Relaxed) was less advantaged and the most intensive group (High) was more advantaged, there’s still a lot we don’t understand about how background characteristics are related to intensive mothering; Essentialist and Strained Mothers are both fairly moderate or mixed in their parenting intensity, but they looked very different in terms of education, income, age, race/ethnicity, and marital status. More research is needed in this area.

Employment status also had a complicated relationship with intensive mothering. Relaxed Mothers, the least intensive group, and Strained Mothers, the most emotionally strained group, both were likely to be employed. This suggests employment can result in varying parenting experiences for moms, with some showing high emotional strain and others appearing more relaxed. Moreover, monetary resources don’t appear to “protect” working moms from emotional distress, as Strained Mothers were far more wealthy than Relaxed Mothers.

My research shows far more variety in mothering styles exists than is often assumed, and these findings matter for social policy. We often assume that most mothers can and will be intensive parents, meaning, most kids are receiving the high levels of investment characteristic of intensive mothering. It’s important that we stop framing high intensity mothering as the norm, because this almost certainly hides important differences in children’s development across families.

Jane Lankes (@JaneLankes) holds a Ph.D. in sociology and demography from The Pennsylvania State University and is an incoming postdoctoral fellow at the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center. Her research examines family, gender, and well-being, with focuses on motherhood and marriage.