Teaching Module: Contraception

Today we share a third module of the Gender and Society Pedagogy Project.  These modules are aids for teaching, bringing  creative ideas for instructors to use in the classroom.  This module is for teaching about gendered embodiment based on an article about contraceptive use.   

Image from Unsplash

The author is  Jane Pryma, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Pryma was a member of the 2020 Gender and Society’s Junior Scholar Advisory Board.  The module based on a 2013 article by Krystale Littlejon incorporates  readings and media to assist teachers in the college classroom.

Every teaching module we publish has been peer-reviewed by one of the  authors of a highlighted article  and a Gender & Society editorial board member. This teaching module highlights  the  2013 article  ‘It’s Those Pills That Are Ruining Me’: Gender and the Social Meanings of Hormonal Contraceptive Side Effects in Gender & Society by Krystale E. Littlejohn. 

Dr. Pryma provides suggestions for additional readings and other media  expand student’s knowledge:

  • How gender identity shapes medical decision-making for hormonal contraception use
  • How beliefs about sex and gender inform our understanding of medical technologies
  • How race, ethnicity, and class, in addition to gender, affect decision-making related to contraception

You can find this module about contraception here.

Teaching Modules also exist about Digital Media,  and  Men & Masculinities.

Dr. Jane Pryma is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. Her research explores the intersection of medical expertise, politics, and gender with a focus on pain management and the opioid crisis. Her work appears in Social Science & Medicine and Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy.

Who Knows? Theorizing Violence through Activism

In the 1970s and 80s, feminist anti-violence activists founded hundreds of domestic violence shelters, hotlines, and drop-in centers across the United States. Their aims were radical: to dismantle the oppressive systems that allowed domestic violence to occur and to undo the cultural mythologies that blamed victims for abuse. They marched, they demanded funds, they protested against the police, they heckled psychiatrists, they published the names of suspected rapists in underground papers, they hid battered women in their homes. Activists were diverse and they served diverse communities: early documents from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reveal that many of the first shelters served queer and trans women and that the shelter movement was “born in [the] gay bars” of cities across the country. One of the first shelters in the country (in Cambridge, Massachusetts) was started by two queer mothers on welfare who opened their apartments to women fleeing their homes.

The Research

Many of you likely already know that feminists protested against rape and domestic violence in the 1970s. But what I explore in my Gender & Society paper is how those activists also produced new theories of abuse while they were organizing. Protest movements are knowledge production movements: they pursue new ways of knowing about inequality. When feminists constructed shelters, they constructed surveys. When they organized hotlines, they organized studies. In consciousness-raising groups, they sketched out novel theories of power. Activists created powerful new frameworks to explain abuse and they revolutionized how we understand violence in the home. Their theories weren’t perfect – in fact, they were often exclusionary – but they were rooted in the experiential knowledge of survivors and activists.

Feminists didn’t do this knowledge production work without adversaries. What’s known as “family violence” research had more power than feminist research at the time, since it emerged from sociology and psychology departments complete with National Institute of Mental Health funds. Family violence researchers conceived of abuse as a set of incidents of physical violence found within the home – punching, slapping, kicking, strangling – an incident that anyone could perpetrate against anyone else.

Feminists challenged this popular model of abuse – they opposed the idea that violence in the home could be separated from gender inequality outside the home. Abuse isn’t just an incident. “Private” abuse is connected to how women are excluded in workplaces, ignored in school, sexually harassed in public, stereotyped by bureaucrats, shoved outside of leadership positions. As they developed programs for abused women, activists also called for an end to the family violence research paradigm.

In a 1980 speech, activist Susan Schechter bemoaned the fact that existing research only gave “excuses for why individual men beat up individual women.” She called for research to be “redone” by “formerly battered women, women of color, and working-class women.” In 1982 newsletter, organizers demanded their own research programs, since existing questionnaires were “biased” and relied on the “unnatural constraints of the scientific model.” Activist Barbara Hart wrote about her efforts to get “feisty women” on the boards of academic journals in order to demand studies rooted in women’s experiences (1985).

Based on archival data such as these, I show that feminists produced theories of abuse that went against the grain of “family violence” theories. Family violence researchers depicted violence as thing-like. Feminist activists, on the other hand, used women’s experiences to theorize abuse as a system or structure, exposing inequality across “public” and “private” spheres – challenging the idea that “separate spheres” existed at all. Feminists were able to “see” this because they relied on women’s stories as the foundation of their theories, rather than on researcher-gendered categories. Feminists were standpoint theorists: they placed direct experiences of violence and marginalization at the center. Since survivors experienced abuse, they should know best.

This image from a feminist march theorizes violence as something that is experienced multiply, connecting physical harm in the home to legal discrimination in public settings. Feminists built models of abuse that refused a separation between intimate violence in the home and gendered exclusion in institutions. Domestic violence could never be imagined as a set of discrete incidents in the home because this would have belied the reality of abuse, which survivors insisted operates across boundaries of public/private.

Photo by Betty Layne. Courtesy of Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

I argue in this paper that this historical story questions for sociologists about how we produce knowledge and about whose accounts we privilege.

Paige L. Sweet is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan. Her work focuses on gender/sexuality, gender-based violence, and the politics of health. Her book The Politics of Surviving: Domestic Violence in Traumatic Times is forthcoming with the University of California Press. 

Everyday Gendered Nationalism, The inclusion and exclusion of migrants in South Korea

Cooking class for marriage migrants at a Multicultural Family Support Center 
Image from Gyeongju City

Nationalism is on the rise around the world, often accompanied by strong anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia toward “those who don’t belong”. Recent examples of this include the increasing level of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies in the USA, the anti-immigrant public conversation surrounding Brexit, the European migrant crisis, and apparent strengthening of various nationalist movements during the COVID pandemic. Given this globally prevalent apprehension, it is not surprising that migrants are consistently subject to laws and policies that limit their rights and marginalize them within the nation-states that they now call home.  

Despite this xenophobic trend, migration into South Korea might be considered an exception to the efforts of nation states to minimize the presence of foreigners living within their boundaries.

In Korea, marriage migrants – mostly foreign women from countries like China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand – who have come to Korea to marry Korean husbands, have been welcomed.  For the last two decades, they have also been targeted as a key group requiring of integration into the national collective.

In 2008, the Korean government created the ‘Multicultural Families Support Policy’ to support marriage migrants’ settlement and successful integration into the country. The outcome of this policy was the establishment of more than 200 ‘multicultural’ Centers, which offer free programs such as Korea language classes, family counseling, children’s education, and events to promote diversity.

In Korea, this disproportionate ‘positive’ attention given to marriage migrants (in comparison to the far more numerous population of labor migrants) is driven by the public belief that marriage migrants are a potential solution to country’s fertility crises and the aging of the population. Privileging marriage migrants as the solution to this national crisis is paradoxical given that the Korean national culture promotes the country’s monoethnic ‘pure blood’ imagery. Given the concern for ‘pure’ Korean blood, why is the state openly embracing these new arrivals?

My research asks how Koreans and migrants explain and experience these cultural integration centers  “from the ground up”? 

To answer this question, I both conducted observations and interviews at two such Centers which link state policy to the daily experiences and interactions of Korean staff and marriage migrants. I illuminate specific examples of how gender relations are directly linked to everyday nationalism, and discuss the implications for social hierarchies in South Korea.  

FINDINGS 

I found that the Korean staff generally welcomed migrants as new members of the nation. This approval, however, was conditioned upon the migrants’ fulfillment of their role as gendered laborers and caregivers for Korean families.  They defended the social support given to migrants for their childbearing, domestic work, caring, and the upkeep of traditional family practices, all of which were seen as the migrants’ invaluable contribution to the nation’s well-being.

Yet, this perspective was based on the Korean staff’s double standard of gender expectations toward Koreans and migrants: the staff believed that Korean women were entitled to a greater level of gender egalitarianism in marriage and independence. Ironically, migrant wives were more likely to engage in wage-earning than their married Korean women, and so more financially independent of families. Nor were Korean women exempt from the familial burdens of the national patriarchy.  

While the Korean staff believed the migrants willingly followed the traditional gendered hierarchies within the Korean family, the migrants I interviewed told me that traditional gendered expectations were the primary source of their problems in Korea.

My fieldwork confirmed that the idealized migrant woman who spends her time happily caring for her parents-in-law, cooking, educating children, and doing domestic chores, would be unlikely to have the time or freedom to even attend the Centers programs.

Yet, although the migrants were critical about the patriarchal family norm imposed on women in Korea, they appreciated the Centers’ programs such as cooking classes, despite they were designed to reinforce their requirements to be as gendered caregivers.  The migrants reported that learning Korean cultural mores was a  “survival strategy” to navigate their relationships with their husbands’ family. They also actively endorsed helping their children become fluent in Korean language through Centers’ various language development programs. They accepted the primacy afforded to them as the bearers of new Korean citizens and highlighted their value as mothers to “Korean” children. This childrearing labor helped to defend their entitlement to state benefits and justify their position over other migrants. Therefore, instead of resisting the governmental and public conception of their gendered expectations, migrants strategically embraced the logic of “gendered nationalism” to justify their presence in Korea.  

THE TAKEAWAY 

My analysis offers two important points about the relationship between gendered immigration and nationalism in Korea.

First, gendered expectations for marriage migrants illustrate how newcomers can be both ‘us’ and ‘them’.  These women are integrated into the state to fulfill roles that Korean women are presumed to have left behind, and yet they are never truly considered Koreans.

Second, the attention given to marriage migrants, but not labor migrants, shows how state policy reproduces gender and social inequality. At least in the case of Korea, I argue that these intersectional forms of inequality sustain both ethnic hierarchies and patriarchal division of labor nationwide.  

Sojin Yu is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the University of Maryland –College Park, where she is part of the team “Woman’s Empowerment Data for Gender Equality”. Her primary research interests include gender, migration, family, and nationalism. She uses both qualitative and quantitative research methods to understand the social formations of inequality and power.  

Teaching Modules: Men & Masculinities

Are you prepping to teach a new class or a Spring course? Do you want to incorporate a section about men & masculinities, but aren’t sure what you want to integrate for readings and activities?

This week Gender & Society is highlighting a teaching module about men and masculinities from our new Pedagogy Project. This module was co-authored by three members of the G&S Junior Scholar Advisory Board – Melissa Kinsella, Jihmmy Sanchez, and Yuchen Yang.

This lesson plan introduces a variety of ways to teach concepts introduced by Tristan Bridges, Raewyn Connell, and James Messerschmidt.

When these teaching materials are incorporated into the classroom, students will gain a deeper understanding of concepts such as hegemonic masculinity, hybrid masculinity and sexual aesthetics. This module includes articles published in Gender & Society as well additional readings, digital media, and activities for students in the classroom.

To see the lesson plan in this module, click here.

Melissa Kinsella is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Loyola University Chicago. Her research focuses on gender, masculinities, sexual violence, and sexual consent.

Jihmmy Sanchez is a third year PhD student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research interests center around the performance of masculinity. In particular, what role status plays in the construction and policing of masculine identity.

Yuchen Yang is a PhD Candidate in sociology at the University of Chicago. His research interests include gender and sexuality, men and masculinities, childhood studies, social theory, and East Asia.

Working Mothers and the COVID 19 Pandemic in the US

photo from Splash

Working mothers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. Recent studies show that mothers are more likely to be managing their children’s remote schooling, are interrupted more when working from home, and have reduced their paid work hours or quit jobs to cope with their additional responsibilities (Carlson, Petts, and Pepin 2020; Collins, Landivar, Ruppanner, and Scarborough 2020). An analysis by the National Women’s Law Center shows that over 800,000 women left the work force between August and September 2020, compared to 216,000 men.

As qualitative sociologists, we wanted to investigate the gender, family, and work dynamics that were shaping this situation. In June and July 2020, with a Quick Response Grant from the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, we conducted in-depth virtual interviews with 33 parents (23 women, 10 men) in the Boulder/Denver area. The interviewees were mostly highly educated, married, heterosexual professionals with children under 18.  We coupled the interviews with a national online survey that received 300 responses.

The working mothers we interviewed felt overwhelmed by remote schooling and lack of childcare, and voiced frustration, anger, stress, and sadness. Many were concerned about their careers and some discussed tensions in their marriages. Yet nearly a third of the working mothers reported that their families were managing the additional labor more equitably. The interviews revealed that that the differences between working mothers who reported being substantially more burdened and those whose households seemed to be managing more equitably hinged on parents’ job flexibility, particularly for men in heterosexual households.

Most working mothers in our sample said their husbands were very involved in childcare and housework, yet when schools closed, these mothers found themselves handling more of these tasks. This seemed to happen for two reasons. First, in this emergency, couples often prioritized the higher paying job, and this is typically the man’s job. Husbands’ jobs were also usually perceived as more demanding in the sense of needing to work for longer periods of time without interruption. Second, some working mothers prior to the pandemic were working less than their husbands, often 25-30 hours per week. This was often because mothers wanted to spend more time with their children as well as because of the high cost of childcare. We found few working fathers who had made such a choice. In fact, several of the eight heterosexual men we interviewed called their jobs “more than full time.”  They described a pre-pandemic division of labor in which their wives handled most child-related tasks, and thus, not much changed during the pandemic except for the addition of remote schooling.

For a minority of working mothers, the household division of labor seemed more equitable. They reported greater satisfaction with how childcare and school related tasks were being shared (or in a few cases, done primarily by husbands or partners). These households tended to share one or more of several characteristics: the working mothers were more likely to be breadwinners or have jobs that they and their partners considered more demanding; husbands were unemployed; children were older and more self-sufficient; husbands’ workplaces were sympathetic to childcare needs; and in some cases, there was an existing commitment to gender equity in the household. Nevertheless, many of the working mothers who felt that their division of labor was more equitable said that they still did more of the emotional labor and school related tasks, both before and during the pandemic.

Conclusion

Before the pandemic, working mothers in the US were already disadvantaged by lack of family friendly workplace policies, the gender wage gap, and expensive childcare. The pandemic took away school and childcare, exposing the arrangements within households that childcare had previously alleviated.

In most of our interviewees’ households, the amount of unpaid labor has increased, but the gendered division of labor has not shifted greatly. The pandemic has amplified the inequities that already existed, including mothers doing more childcare. The scholarship on disasters and epidemics shows that such events tend to magnify pre-existing inequalities, and this seems to be the case with the current pandemic as well.

Research shows (Gerson 2011) that without structural changes, individual commitments to equity cannot necessarily be carried out. Many working mothers in our study were aware of the dynamics in their households but felt unable to resolve inequalities related to husbands earning higher wages and having less flexible jobs. As one interviewee said: “It’s not that he is not used to doing that type of work or he thinks that he is above that…I truly think that he thinks that he is participating and making that effort…I don’t believe that he is thinking that [its] my role…  but that’s how it plays out.”

Rachel Rinaldo is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research interests include gender, culture, religion, development and globalization, and qualitative methods, with a focus on Southeast Asia. 

Ian M. Whalen is a 4th year Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado Boulder. His research interests include Gender, Men and Masculinities, and Virtual Methodologies.

The unholy trinity of ultra-orthodox women in the high-tech industry

Ultra orthodox women work on their computers at the Malam Group IT company in Beitar Illit. 2009. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90

How do ultra-orthodox women who face many community restrictions integrate into  professional employment? How do different aspects of religiosity — the monitoring of women’s sexuality and the strong social ties — affect the ability to negotiate work-family policies that fit their ultra-religious  lifestyle?

Our research published in Gender & Society is based on many years of observations and interviews with ultra-orthodox women and their managers in the Israeli high-tech industry. We conducted observations at work and interviews with ultra-orthodox women and their managers, as well as state officials who are responsible for formatting labor policy. We examine how three patriarchal institutions — the state, the ultra-orthodox community and the labor market  compromise to allow ultra-religious women to enter the labor force.  These women must meet contradictory demands of the state, their religious community and the employer. However, their affiliation to an organized religious organization does enhance the religious community leader’s power to negotiate vis-à-vis the employers.

The systems by which these women are allowed employment are complicated and contradictory. The Israeli state seeks to reduce the funds given to underprivileged groups in the welfare state, including their ultra-orthodox community. To this end the state promotes the employment of ultra-Orthodox women in a field with a shortage of workers. 

The women’s employment provides relatively high wages to them and their families. But to ensure the entry of ultra-orthodox women into the labor market, the state must cooperate with the ultra-orthodox authorities which enjoy considerable political power in Israel and which strictly control these women’s  daily lives.

Employers who need cheap workers participate in this agreement to provide unique working conditions for ultra-orthodox women, and in return  receive state financial support that makes the employment of ultra-Orthodox women economically worthwhile.

From the point of view of all three of these patriarchal institutions, it is important that women enter paid employment, but this has nothing to do with ensuring gender equality or improved working conditions.

How do the ultra-orthodox women manage to conduct themselves at work?

They achieve unique benefits that allow them a  balance  caring for their large families, meeting religious obligations, and work demands. For example, unlike their secular colleagues in the high-tech industry, they manage to limit their working hours with almost no overtime and no work from home on weekends as this is restricted by the religious authorities. They are not required to travel abroad, so they do not have to be away from home or neglect  maternal duties. They take frequent maternity leave according to the rabbis’ requirements for community expansion. In addition, employers must provide them segregated  women-only spaces, in order to reduce their interaction with men,  to meet the strict dictates of religious rules on modesty.

The Findings

Our findings show that the penetration of the male dominated religious community into the work space produces for these women a substitute for a strong and capable union for collective bargaining.  

The intersectionality of religion and gender can be both repressing and empowering. Thus, we must pay attention to the role of power relations and organized systems in negotiating work-family policies.

Michal Frenkel is an Associate Professor and the Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has published extensively on gender, race, nationality,and religiosity within and around organizations.

Varda Wasserman is Associate Professor at the Open University of Israel in the Department of Management and Economics. She is an organizational sociologist  interested in organization aesthetics, organizational control and resistance, embodiment and gender identities (femininities and masculinities). 

Teaching Module: Challenging Intersectional Inequality through Digital Media Images

Recently Gender & Society announced the roll out of new modules for our Pedagogy Project. The creator of this module is Dr. Lara Janson.

This lesson plan highlights work by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, Dr. Moya Bailey, and Izetta Autumn Mobley.

In this unit, students will gain a deeper understanding of two key concepts developed by the featured authors, Crenshaw’s (1991) concept of representational intersectionality and Bailey and Mobley’s (2019) Black feminist disability framework.

Image from Creative Commons

The Goals

The different sections of the teaching module consist of 3 parts:

Part I: Explain the Core Contributions of the Texts

Part II: Apply Concepts from the Texts to Digital Media to Build Visual Literacy

Part III: Create / Curate Mini-Art Exhibits to Challenge Representational Dimensions of Intersectional Inequality

You can find this module here.

Dr. Lara Janson is a sociologist specializing in gender, law, and qualitative methods, Lara is interested in researching and teaching about intersections of inequality. Her book manuscript, Neutralizing Title IX: Hyperlegal Consciousness on College Campuses in the Age of #MeToo, examines how college campuses adjudicate sexual assault complaints, with particular emphasis on the competing legal jurisdictions at play. Lara holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago, where she is currently a postdoctoral fellow teaching in sociology and the social sciences division.

BIAS AGAINST CAREGIVERS AT WORK

As Covid-19 cripples the institutional supports – daycares, schools, summer camps, and community centers – that families rely on, parents struggle to fulfill both the demands of their jobs and caring for their children and families.  While this struggle is exaggerated by the pandemic, it is not new. The clash between work and care, especially for women, existed long before Covid-19 shuttered daycares and classrooms. Indeed, reports of employment discrimination against caregivers were climbing in the decade before the pandemic and now show signs of an even steeper ascent.

The notion of the “ideal” worker – the (fictional) worker who can commit themselves fully to work, unfettered by family obligations – can lead employers to give preference to workers without caregiving responsibilities. Employers may hire, promote, and reward workers based on their real or presumed caregiving duties, or lack of them. Though discrimination against caregivers is damaging for all workers, women are hit especially hard as they still shoulder the lion’s share of caregiving in two-parent heterosexual households. 

In our new study published in Gender & Society, Christina Treleaven, Sylvia Fuller, and I show how work and caregiving clash through an analysis of caregiver discrimination claims, brought mostly by parents, to Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. In Canada, discrimination against workers because of their family responsibilities is unlawful. Workers can bring formal legal claims to Human Rights Tribunals, which are quasi-judicial bodies that hear cases and make legally binding decisions.

We analyzed case documents and tribunal decisions of all 164 caregiver discrimination cases resolved by Human Rights Tribunals between 1985 and 2016. We examined how gender affects who is seen as an “ideal” worker, who is assumed to be responsible for caregiving, and who is deemed deserving of workplace accommodations.

THE FINDINGS

We found gender differences in both the types of claims workers bring and how these claims are evaluated by tribunals. Women filed more claims (73%) as compared with men (27%).  This is unsurprising given women’s disproportionately large care burden.

We also uncovered gender differences in the type of discrimination alleged. We identified two forms of caregiver bias. The first  is when  employers make decisions about hiring, firing, pay, promotion, scheduling, or other issues based on assumptions or stereotypes about how workers with caregiving duties will behave or perform on the job. For instance, research shows that employers assume mothers are less competent, less committed, and less reliable than non-mothers as they divide their attention between work and care. The second type of discrimination is where employers discriminate against caregivers based on their actual caregiving responsibilities and the need to accommodate them.  Employers may deny requests for flexibility or family-compatible accommodations or retaliate against workers who use them.

We found that claims over accommodations for care were split relatively equally, 61% for women and 39% for men.  But cases involving discrimination based on stereotypes of the “unreliable, uncommitted, or incompetent” worker were almost exclusively brought by women (94%). Thus, women caregivers are doubly disadvantaged – first in needing accommodations for actual care duties and second in being stereotyped as bad employees. Women were three times as likely as men to have their cases dismissed due to lack of what the tribunal considered “reliable” testimony and evidence.

In terms of case outcomes,  women more frequently received favorable outcomes (54 %) than men (42%). On the one hand, this is encouraging, as it shows that tribunals recognize the unique difficulties women face in balancing work and care.

But on the other hand, it shows that men struggle to assert their legal rights as caregivers. Men’s cases were dismissed twice as often as women’s for failing to meet the legal standard for discrimination. This happened when men, mostly fathers, failed to cite their kids as the reason for requesting accommodations. And when men did name their children as why they needed accommodations,  tribunals assumed that someone else (usually mom) should be available to care for the kids so dad could work. This is consistent with research as male caregivers are often reluctant to use family policies and instead choose to “care in secret,” quietly tending to children without outing themselves as caregivers.

THE TAKEAWAY

Bias against caregivers affects women and men, however there are gender differences in how workers experience discrimination and whether it is recognized under the law. Both women and men clash with employers when making accommodations to fulfill actual family obligations. But women caregivers also face stereotypes of being unreliable, uncommitted, and under-performing at work. In other words, women are stereotyped as a less than ideal worker by both employers and legal decision makers.   

Men often do not openly cite their care obligations as the reason for requesting accommodations but doing so is critical for legal arguments of bias. Men need to be transparent about their responsibility for caregiving to show employers and the courts that they too are responsible for daily care duties and that mom is not the default “carer in chief.”

Now, more than ever, employers, policy makers, and legal bodies can not ignore the dire situation workers face in managing fulltime work and fulltime care – and the uneven toll it takes on women. Stronger legal protections for caregivers and entitlements to family-compatible policies are desperately needed for all workers, not just women or parents. This will ensure that workers can assert their legal rights to care, negotiate accommodations, and keep their jobs, both during the pandemic and beyond.             

Elizabeth Hirsh is Associate Professor of Sociology and Canada Research Chair of Law and Inequality at the University of British Columbia. She studies employment discrimination, legal claims, and how law and policy can promote gender and racial equity at work.

Teaching Modules: In the classroom

Sociology of gender constantly changes, and the media we use to teach sociological concepts are in flux as well.   Most university classes now use incorporate  podcasts, YouTube videos, quiz websites, memes, as well and articles and books to teach sociology.   Such pedagogical tools show us that learning happens across a variety of digital forms.

The Gender & Society Pedagogy Project is taking a major leap into providing more holistic teaching modules. We now have a  Junior Scholar Advisory Board facilitated by the Managing Editors and their project is to bring creative ideas to instructors teaching about gender.    These teaching modules will be based around Gender & Society articles but incorporate a variety of active learning techniques and suggestions for other media that can be used to teach sociological concept. 

We are rolling out this exciting new project with modules on sexual assault, masculinities, contraception, and digital media. We will continue to add modules each semester, so before you finish your syllabus each semester, check in to see our new teaching materials.   Each teaching module has been peer reviewed by the author of the central article and a Gender & Society editorial board member. 

We are thrilled to offer these modules for the fall of 2020:

Challenging Intersectional Inequality through Digital Media Images by Lara Janson

Men and Masculinities by Yuchen Yang, Melissa Kinsella and Jihmmy Sanchez

Sexual Violence by Mary Ann Vega

Health & Medicine Module on Contraception by Jane Pryma

Local Gender Norms Across the United States

Image: Kara Muse via Pexels

Chicago is the city of big shoulders, New Orleans is known for its laid back vibes of the Big Easy, and Nashville for its southern charm and country music. Places throughout the United States have unique cultural reputations that are not only marketed for tourism, but are a source of pride for local residents. Alongside these popular cultural features, however, places are often associated with a set of gender norms. New York is popularly portrayed as a place of women’s independence in sitcoms such as Ally McBeal and Sex and the City. The Motor City of Detroit is home to men’s adoration of muscle and manufacturing (Home Improvement). Southern depictions of “southern belles” and “cowboys” are rather explicit gender norms associated with cities such as Dallas (conveyed in the soap opera named after the city).

We wanted to learn more about whether gender norms varied across cities in the U.S. and if so, and what this means for gender equality. Although we often revel and delight at places’ unique cultural flair, does this local culture also contain  elements that convey different expectations for women and men? Our analysis and results are published in a recent Gender & Society article. We highlight our key findings below.

MAPPING LOCAL GENDER NORMS ACROSS THE U.S.

We measured local gender norms by focusing on the way they’re reflected in personal attitudes about gender (e.g. beliefs that women are better caregivers than men and beliefs about women’s suitability for politics) as well as revealed preferences behavior (e.g. age of mothers’ first birth and the segregation of college majors). Focusing on differences in these indicators across commuting zones, we found that cities and their surrounding areas (commuting zones)  fall into four general categories of gender norms:

  • Liberal-egalitarian areas have norms that convey values of gender equality. In these locations, women and men are expected to contribute equally to caregiving and are viewed as having similar skills and leadership qualities. Places with these norms include Burlington, VT, Honolulu, HI, San Francisco, CA, and Washington, DC.
  • Egalitarian-essentialist places have local norms that support women’s labor force participation and leadership, but where people hold  gender essentialist beliefs that women and men are inherently suited for different types of work. Areas with egalitarian-essentialist norms include Charlotte, NC, Milwaukee, WI, and Orlando, FL.
  • Traditional-breadwinner norms exist in places where people hold  beliefs that the ideal family is one where men work and women tend the home. In these areas, women and men are not viewed as essentially different, but instead expected to hold different responsibilities. Places with these norms include Knoxville, TN and Tulsa, OK.
  • Traditional-essentialist locations are places where people believe in the essential difference between women and men with norms that women should focus primarily on family responsibilities. Places with these norms include Little Rock, AR, Charleston, WV, and Midland, TX.

By identifying four types of place based gender norms, we identify gendered aspects of local culture.  But where do these gender norms come from? How are they sustained?

WHAT SUSTAINS LOCAL GENDER NORMS?

In a time where internet, social media, and remote work make geographical location less consequential than ever, we found it is surprising to observe such variation in gender norms. To understand how these differences emerge, we studied  two possible contributing factors.

First, we wondered whether some places have certain gender norms because of the type of people who tend to live there. For example, since highly educated individuals tend to be more supportive of gender equality, it is possible that some places have egalitarian norms because more residents have a college degree. But we also wondered about a second possibility, whether the experience of living in an area with certain gender norms influences individuals’ attitudes and behaviors.

We found greater evidence that people are influenced by the gender norms where they reside rather than their personal characteristics, particularly if they live a city with traditional-breadwinner or traditional-essentialist norms. In those traditional places, even residents with a college degree, who tend to show more support for gender equality, were much more likely to oppose women’s leadership and feel that men should be earners and women caregivers than college graduates who lived in more egalitarian environments. Residing in a place with traditional norms appears to cause those who would otherwise support gender equality to, instead, endorse more conventional beliefs about women’s leadership and the gendered division of labor.

LOCAL GENDER NORMS AND PROGRESS TOWARD GENDER EQUALITY

When we travel across the U.S., we encounter diverse gender norms. In Burlington, VT women and men are expected to contribute equally in families and at work, but things are very different in Little Rock, AR where women are expected to focus primarily on families with little support for their careers.

Our research indicates that local gender norms can play a powerful role in shaping individuals’ beliefs and orientations toward gender equality. By raising awareness of the role of local norms, we can be more intentional about changing them in ways that advance gender equality more broadly.

William J. Scarborough is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of North Texas. His research examines the cultural and economic determinants of gender and race inequality across the U.S. His recent work appears in Social Science Research and Gender, Work & Organization. He is also co-editor of the Handbook of the Sociology of Gender.

Ray Sin is a Behavioral Scientist at Early Warning Services. His research focuses on financial decision-making, and more recently, on how money can be sent easier, safer, and faster to friends, family and trusted contacts. His recent work appears in Gender & Society and Journal of Financial Planning.