Gender Inequality and the Two-Body Problem

By Jaclyn S. Wong 

When an opposite-sex couple decides whether to move for a job opportunity, their outcome often depends on the gender of the person who was offered that opportunity. When men are offered career opportunities requiring relocation, couples usually accept them and women move for men. However, when women are given job opportunities in another location, couples usually forgo them and women stay for men.  In both scenarios, couples’ behaviors result in adverse consequences for women, including interrupted work histories and lower pay over their life course. How do couples keep reproducing gender-unequal outcomes even when they favor egalitarianism – gender equality in work and family?

I answer this question by interviewing both partners of 21 heterosexual couples considering relocation for job opportunities following graduation from graduate or professional school. Studying this particular group of people allowed me to identify how gender shapes couples’ decision-making. Partners in graduate or professional school were similar to one another in their educational background and qualifications, so there was no clear career leader among men or women in these couples. Further, these contemporary young adults endorsed egalitarian attitudes toward work and family, meaning they did not assume men would take primary responsibility for working while women would take the lead in family affairs.Wong_2.8.17

I interviewed each person three times over the course of nearly two years to document how couples navigate their job applications and transition into their first careers. This over-time study allows me to capture peoples’ desired work-family arrangements as they prepare to launch careers at Time 1, their negotiations over actual work-family roles at Time 2, and their evaluations of their outcomes at Time 3.

Gendered Decision-Making Pathways

I document three gendered decision-making pathways. On one negotiation trajectory, eight couples maintain their egalitarian desires over time. At Time 1, couples make plans to achieve an egalitarian outcome.  At Time 2, when realities confront ideals, both partners, and especially the men, challenge cultural norms around gender, work, and family, and work within their constrained situations to devise contingency plans that enable couples to maintain their egalitarian desires.  Men actively help maintain their partners’ career by altering their job search to accommodate their partners, and by choosing jobs in locations with the most opportunities for their partners. By Time 3, most couples move together, and both partners find work in their respective fields.

On another pathway, seven couples changed their desires over time to justify a neotraditional arrangement in which both partners work, but men’s careers are prioritized.  At Time 1, these couples also planned to have an egalitarian arrangement.  However, at Time 2, when reality fell short of ideals, these couples, and the women in particular, did emotion work – managed their emotions – to change their desires to make life livable for the couple.  Persistent cultural norms linking paid labor with masculinity and family to femininity made it difficult for professional men to forgo careers and adopt primary caregiving roles when they couldn’t “have it all.” Men emphasized their desire to work, so women did emotional labor to justify compromising their careers to prioritize their partners’ careers.  By Time 3, couples on this pathway moved or stayed for men’s jobs; five of the seven women became unemployed.

On the last pathway, six couples deferred to one partner’s desires: one partner, in all cases the men, withdrew from decision-making to give the other, in principle, freedom to make an individual choice. However, this logic unintentionally left women the emotional and practical work of coordinating two careers and the couple’s life. At Time 1, these men said they supported whatever their partners wanted to do, but at Time 2, they did not actively engage in decision-making.  In accounting for this lack of action, they expressed a feeling that it was not their place to make choices for their partners.  By Time 3, most women were able to maintain both partners’ careers and their relationship despite having hands-off partners; women negotiated their careers in ways that complimented men’s careers, with some choosing long-distance relationships to “have it all.”

Men’s Power in the Workplace and Women’s Responsibility to Balance Careers and Family

My research shows how egalitarian young adults challenge and reproduce gender-unequal work-family arrangements. The workplace continues to favor men, so men have relatively more power than women in couples’ early career negotiations, despite their equal educational credentials. How men used their relative power shaped how couples distributed responsibility for achieving work-family balance across partners during their negotiation. The maintain desires pathway illustrates how some men leveraged their workplace power to maintain the couple’s egalitarian desires. On this trajectory, responsibility for achieving balance was equally distributed across men and women, which challenges gender-unequal work and family roles. The change desires pathway shows that some men’s relative workplace power incited women to change their desires to accommodate the couple. The defer to one partner’s desires trajectory illustrates how some men’s power allowed them to shirk responsibility for maintaining balance in the couple. On these two pathways, responsibility for achieving work-family balance for couple fell to women.  These processes reproduced gendered work-family outcomes, despite couples’ initial desires for egalitarian arrangements.

Jaclyn S. Wong is a sociology PhD candidate at the University of Chicago. She uses qualitative and quantitative methods to study romantic relationships and the gendered patterns of work and family over the life course. Jaclyn’s article, Competing desires: How Young Adult Couples Negotiate Moving for Career Opportunities, is in the Vol 31 No. 2, April, 2017 issue of Gender & Society

Aggressive and Loving Men: Gender Hegemony in Christian Hardcore Punk

By Amy D. McDowell

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Christian Hardcore band, photograph by Amy McDowell

During the 2017 presidential campaign, James Dobson, the evangelist and founder of Focus on the Family, urged Christians to vote for Donald Trump because the leadership of Hillary Rodham Clinton scared him “to death.” After writing that Hillary “haunts” his nights and days, Dobson asked other Christians to “pray for our nation in this time of crisis” (emphasis added). In conservative white evangelical communities, a nation in “crisis” is one in which men and women are confused about gender and sexuality and do not fulfill Biblically defined gender roles.  This fixation on a crisis in gender relations has far-reaching effects; it shapes evangelical anti-LGBTQ politics, anti-abortion campaigns, and the very practice of evangelism.

In my Gender & Society article, I use ethnographic observation and interview data to show how young white evangelical Christian Hardcore men respond to a perceived crisis in gender relations as they attempt to minister to secular men in hardcore punk, a male dominated music scene rooted in anti-establishment attitudes and rituals. Christian Hardcore men, like other conservative Protestant evangelical leaders and practitioners, want the U.S. to be a Christian nation. They reason that God calls them to hardcore music, as one interviewee put it, because “He” wants them “to save the nation from the underground up.” From their perspective, the underground is full of young men who have lost sight of God, church, and family. In an attempt to pull these “lost” men into evangelical Christianity, they create Christian infused hardcore music that they can use to make contact with secular men at live shows. Continue reading “Aggressive and Loving Men: Gender Hegemony in Christian Hardcore Punk”

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS Special Issue of Gender & Society: Gender, Disability, and Intersectionality

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

Special Issue of Gender & Society: Gender, Disability, and Intersectionality

Guest Editors:  Nancy A. Naples (University of Connecticut), Laura Mauldin (University of Connecticut) and Heather Dillaway (Wayne State University)

In the last three decades, disability scholarship in feminist studies appeared with increasing frequency, developing from a nascent intervention in intersectional analyses to a field with special sections in several professional associations.  In a 2013 essay for American Quarterly, pioneer feminist disability studies scholar Rosemarie Garland-Thomson argues that disability studies is a field that is no longer emerging, but has indeed already emerged. This is evidenced by various special issues focused on disability scholarship appearing in women’s and queer studies journals, such as Hypatia, Feminist Formations (formerly NWSA Journal) and Gay and Lesbian Studies Quarterly. In 2011, the Disability and Society Section of the American Sociological Association was also formally established. While progress within the discipline of sociology has been made in accounting for disability, it is often not included alongside race, gender, and class in feminist sociological scholarship. Thus, while interdisciplinary feminist scholars have been at the forefront of the new field of disabilities studies, disability remains under-theorized and underrepresented in gender scholarship and sociological scholarship more broadly.  The aim of this special issue is to begin to fill this gap in sociology and advance the conversation between sociology and gender scholars who have been at the forefront of feminist disability studies. Thus, this special issue will provide a forum for feminist scholars working within the sociology of gender to consider disability from an intersectional framework. Informed by black feminist analysis of black women’s lives, the conceptualization of intersectionality enables a complex understanding of the ways in which race, gender, class and sexuality among other dimensions of social, cultural, political and economic processes intersect to shape everyday experiences and social institutions. The special issue will offer a unique opportunity for feminist disability studies scholars to demonstrate the ways in which intersectional feminist scholarship is central to the field of disability studies and how analyses attentive to disability advance the intersectional feminist project in sociology.

With the focus on Gender, Disability, and Intersectionality, topics to be considered include, but are not limited to biomedicine, sexuality studies, education, discrimination, human rights, and comparative and international studies.

All papers must make both a theoretical and empirical contribution.         

Completed manuscripts, due October 1, 2017, should be submitted online to http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/gendsoc and should specify in the cover letter that the paper is to be considered for the special issue.

For additional information, please contact any of the guest editors for this issue:

Nancy A. Naples (University of Connecticut) nancy.naples@uconn.edu

Laura Mauldin (University of Connecticut) laura.mauldin@uconn.edu

Heather Dillaway (Wayne State University) dillaway@wayne.edu

 

 


 

 

 

Defining “Woman” at Women’s Colleges

By Megan Nanney and David L. Brunsma

Who can attend a women’s college? While it may seem like the answer is obvious—women can go to a college for women—these institutions of higher learning continually face the challenge of defining who qualifies as a woman. Is a woman defined by her sex? Gender identity? Legal status? Must a woman’s sex/gender/legal status align or can they differ?

Institutions such as women’s colleges depend on the use of gender categories in order to define their very existence—they need to be able to somehow determine who a “woman” is in order to be a college for women. As gender is increasingly understood to be fluid and socially constructed rather than a stable biological fact, however, being able to define who a woman is becomes increasingly more difficult. Consequently, with new ideas of who a woman is, these colleges now must find new ways to define the “woman” in the “women’s college.”

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Figure 1. Barnard College, 1913. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Continue reading “Defining “Woman” at Women’s Colleges”

Satire as Protest in the Women’s March

By Kristen Barber

As we walked down Market Street to the St. Louis Gateway Arch, I saw an orange, oversized paper mâché head pass by. With light rings painted around the eyes and a large swath of yellow felt for hair, it was unmistakably a representation of the now-President, Donald Trump. A ball gag was strapped tight across his mouth and a sign below his tiny black business suit read, “Putin’s Little Bitch.” The artist-activist of this sculpture drew attention to public worries about Trump’s amicable—although long denied—relationship with Russia. For a march organized around the rejection of an elected head of state, these images of bondage and submissiveness and the use of misogynistic language questioned Trump’s presidency—and his masculinity.

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Rendering of Trump on display at the St. Louis Women’s March. Photo by: Kristen Barber.

This paper mâché Trump received a lot of attention on the morning of January 21st, as thousands of people came together downtown for the Women’s March. Many were there objecting to Trump’s proposals around limiting women’s access to abortion and birth control, as well as his “hot mic” remarks about grabbing women “by the pussy.” Protesters criticized how this language reflects men’s entitlement to women’s bodies and questioned whether a man who marginalizes sexual assault rhetoric as “locker room talk” can actually work in the interest of women. Three days later, Trump, surrounded by a group of white men in the oval office, signed an executive gag order to keep international health organizations from counseling women on abortions—an order that will likely increase global maternal mortality rates. Continue reading “Satire as Protest in the Women’s March”

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS Special Issue of Gender & Society: Gender, Disability, and Intersectionality

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

Special Issue of Gender & Society: Gender, Disability, and Intersectionality

Guest Editors:  Nancy A. Naples (University of Connecticut), Laura Mauldin (University of Connecticut) and Heather Dillaway (Wayne State University)

In the last three decades, disability scholarship in feminist studies appeared with increasing frequency, developing from a nascent intervention in intersectional analyses to a field with special sections in several professional associations.  In a 2013 essay for American Quarterly, pioneer feminist disability studies scholar Rosemarie Garland-Thomson argues that disability studies is a field that is no longer emerging, but has indeed already emerged. This is evidenced by various special issues focused on disability scholarship appearing in women’s and queer studies journals, such as Hypatia, Feminist Formations (formerly NWSA Journal) and Gay and Lesbian Studies Quarterly. In 2011, the Disability and Society Section of the American Sociological Association was also formally established. While progress within the discipline of sociology has been made in accounting for disability, it is often not included alongside race, gender, and class in feminist sociological scholarship. Thus, while interdisciplinary feminist scholars have been at the forefront of the new field of disabilities studies, disability remains under-theorized and underrepresented in gender scholarship and sociological scholarship more broadly.  The aim of this special issue is to begin to fill this gap in sociology and advance the conversation between sociology and gender scholars who have been at the forefront of feminist disability studies. Thus, this special issue will provide a forum for feminist scholars working within the sociology of gender to consider disability from an intersectional framework. Informed by black feminist analysis of black women’s lives, the conceptualization of intersectionality enables a complex understanding of the ways in which race, gender, class and sexuality among other dimensions of social, cultural, political and economic processes intersect to shape everyday experiences and social institutions. The special issue will offer a unique opportunity for feminist disability studies scholars to demonstrate the ways in which intersectional feminist scholarship is central to the field of disability studies and how analyses attentive to disability advance the intersectional feminist project in sociology.

With the focus on Gender, Disability, and Intersectionality, topics to be considered include, but are not limited to biomedicine, sexuality studies, education, discrimination, human rights, and comparative and international studies.

All papers must make both a theoretical and empirical contribution.         

Completed manuscripts, due October 1, 2017, should be submitted online to http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/gendsoc and should specify in the cover letter that the paper is to be considered for the special issue.

For additional information, please contact any of the guest editors for this issue:

Nancy A. Naples (University of Connecticut) nancy.naples@uconn.edu

Laura Mauldin (University of Connecticut) laura.mauldin@uconn.edu

Heather Dillaway (Wayne State University) dillaway@wayne.edu

 

 


 

 

 

From Typical Dudes to Sensitive Men: Gender Dilemmas in a Therapeutic Boarding School

By Jessica Pfaffendorf

Nearly twenty years ago, a special report appeared in The New York Times focusing on a surge in specialized residential schools and therapeutic programs that exist within a new, multi-billion dollar industry for America’s troubled youth. These programs – commonly called therapeutic boarding schools or “emotional growth” schools – target a variety of issues among teens today: substance abuse, depression, anxiety, anorexia, and other behavioral and psychological problems. Through intensive counseling, rigorous structure, and even wilderness or animal-assisted therapy, the programs promise support for out-of-control teens. Though the schools vary in terms of the issues they treat, what they typically have in common is cost. The New York Times special report called these programs a “desperate measure” for parents because they are prohibitively expensive: thousands of dollars per month and hundreds of thousands for the full (usually year-long) duration. At these costs, treatment in one of these programs is only available to a few very wealthy families. As Bloomsberg Businessweek states, it is “rehab for the young and rich.” Despite provocative media coverage and their rapid rise over the past few decades (from only a handful in the 1990s to almost 300 today), there has been virtually no sociological research on therapeutic boarding schools or young men and women within them.

Drawing on in-depth interviews and ethnographic fieldwork inside a Western, all-male therapeutic boarding school for substance abuse, this article explores how privileged young men navigate the unique therapeutic environment, particularly with respect to conflicting notions of masculinity. Young men in the program participate in a variety of intensive therapies, but the 12-step program and equine therapy involving horseback riding and horse care are the most central. Other scholars have noted that these therapies that rely on acceptance of powerlessness, open expression of emotion, humility, and relationship building are more consistent with the emotional and relational nature of well-being among women. Indeed, one equine therapist writes that “the experience allows one to move from the masculine postmodern world of logic, control, and outcome production to the feminine stance of intuition, experience, and process” (Porter-Wenzlaff 2007, 531). Put this way, these therapies actually operate to strip away masculine characteristics replacing them with qualities more commonly associated with femininities and subordinate masculinities.

JessicaFor the young, mostly white, upper-class men I observed, this presents a significant “gender dilemma.” In other words, the behavioral and expressive qualities emphasized in the therapeutic environment clash with dominant notions of masculinity – particularly privileged masculinities associated with control, competition, and toughness that students embodied prior to enrollment in the program. My study outlines the ways that privileged young men navigate this dilemma by constructing “hybrid masculinities.” The term “hybrid masculinity” refers to a masculine gender form that incorporates identity elements associated with femininities or subordinate masculinities. However, these “unmasculine” elements tend to be incorporated strategically in ways that reproduce and obscure privilege and gender inequality. Outwardly, young men in later stages of the program seemed to have fully embraced the humble, sensitive, and service-oriented dispositions promoted in the program (despite extreme resistance in earlier stages). In my interviews and informal conversations with students, they spoke at length about their feelings, expressed their emotions openly, and freely admitted past wrongdoings and feelings of guilt.

However, they also mobilized these new emotional dispositions to subtly (re)assert dominance vis-à-vis various “others.” Most frequently, they compared themselves to “other guys” who they deemed, by contrast, immature, entitled, and selfish. By communicating emotion and responding maturely in difficult situations, students made claims of being “better” by distancing themselves from some of the negative cultural perceptions associated with young men (Kimmel, 2008). In several cases, young men in the program gave examples of how their “sensitive” masculine styles marked them as unique and more desirable, particularly in fields like dating. They also mobilized their transformations to assert leadership positions in families and in more typical therapeutic contexts (off-site support groups, for instance).

This article uses a previously unexamined case to explore how privileged young men navigate ruptures in hegemonic masculinity by constructing hybrid masculinities. In doing so, it extends the burgeoning line of research showing that masculine styles that appear out of sync with hegemonic masculinity may still reproduce systems of power and inequality in new, “softer” ways (Bridges and Pascoe 2014). Although young men in therapeutic boarding schools adopt “feminized” dispositions, these dispositions are mobilized in ways that help them to maintain privileges associated with being young, white, upper-class, and male.

Jessica Pfaffendorf is a PhD candidate in the School of Sociology at the University of Arizona. Her research interests include culture, social psychology, inequality and stratification, and gender. Her most recent article “Sensitive Cowboys: Privileged Young Men and the Mobilization of Hybrid Masculinities” can be found in the April 31 (2) 2017 issue of Gender & Society.