Taking Time to be a Manly Dad: Gender Inequality and the Politics of Fatherhood

By Jennifer Randles

Randles    Randles_2


In 2008, the Advertising Council launched a media campaign featuring fathers with their children. Several United States government agencies were partners in the campaign, including the Administration for Children and Families, the Office of Family Assistance, and the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. Superimposed over images of racially diverse fathers reading to, playing with, and holding their children were the taglines “The smallest moments can have the biggest impact on a child’s life” and “Take time to be a dad today.” Given that most mothers spend hours per day cleaning, cooking, and caring for their children, a similar ad with an image of a woman playing with her children that read “Take time to be a mom today” would not resonate in the same way. In a society where women still do most childcare, what are the gender implications of publicly encouraging fathers to “take time” to be dads?

            Understood in context, the ads make more sense and raise more questions. They are part of a larger policy effort to address a perceived crisis of fathering in the U.S. In the past decade, the federal government has funded hundreds of “responsible fatherhood” (RF) programs to increase fathers’ economic stability and involvement with children. RF programs provide disadvantaged fathers with opportunities to finish school, train for work, and take parenting classes. What do fathers learn in these programs? Do they similarly teach men that good fathering is about “moments” and “taking time” to be a playful parent?

            To find out, I studied an RF program I call “DADS” that served low-income men of color. DADS taught that men uniquely benefit children as masculine role models and that fathers should be more expressive and nurturing—just like the fathers in the ads. On the surface, this seemed like a progressive revisioning of fatherhood, one with the potential to promote egalitarian parenting. The program enabled the 64 participants I studied to claim identities as good fathers and defy race and class stereotypes that they were “dead beat” dads just because they did not have a lot of money to offer children. Though they struggled to be good financial providers, DADS taught them that they were specially equipped as men to provide the affection and attention children also need.

Might responsible fatherhood programming be an innovative policy strategy for addressing the gender, race, and class inequalities that can undermine strong father-child relationships among poor families of color? In the almost two years I spent studying DADS, I learned that responsible fatherhood programming teaches fathers to “man up” as good dads who understand their masculinity as a core component of good parenting. Not only did the program teach participants that they are valuable as parents because they are men, it taught them that they are valuable as men because they are good parents. “Manning up” in this way entailed challenging gender stereotypes that manly men are domineering and stoic. Tanner, a 37-year-old, multiracial father of two, told me that he learned from the program how, “Anyone can be a dad, but it takes a real man to be a father. In this class, that means learning how to communicate, how to be in touch with your feelings, learning that a real man cries.” In a distinct departure from how U.S. welfare policies have targeted men in the past, DADS uniquely addressed men as loving, emotionally expressive caregivers and co-parents, not just as workers and potential husbands.

            The problem with this strategy is how it encouraged fathers to care for children in “manly” ways without urging them to take an equal role in childcare or household labor. Some men interpreted program messages to mean that gender did not preclude them from performing carework. David, a 22-year-old, Black father of one, explained, “To be the man of the household [means] … just help out around the house as much as I can, whether it be cooking or cleaning, or bills, or fixing things … Stepping up means not assuming something isn’t my job because I’m a man.” However, casting men as masculine playmates and helpers reinforces gender inequality in families by obscuring that women still do the majority of household labor. Tomas, a 33-year-old, Latino father of three, also used the language of “helping” to describe what he learned: “Being a man is going to work, come home, have your self time … If you have a wife, help make dinner, help do chores. Don’t just come home and think you’re king of the castle and say, ‘I work hard, and I want this done in a certain way.’ Help out with the household, with homework. A lot of guys don’t. I admit I didn’t … Now I know that is wrong … Even the minutest thing, like folding laundry, fix a bike tire.” In line with program messages, it is telling that all the images in the “Take Time” campaign are of fathers having fun with their children.

            In the end, what do government-sponsored ads reminding men to be involved with their children say about the gendered politics of fatherhood? They certainly indicate that fathers are important in children’s lives. But they also suggest, as did DADS, that “involved” fathering is about making caregiving seem masculine without making carework central to social and political ideas of responsible fathering. We must address the gendered division of family labor and financial definitions of good fathering that exclude marginalized men. To do this, we need fewer ads urging fathers to spend time with their children and more policies that promote truly egalitarian parenting, such as those focused on quality education, fair wages, and teaching about caregiving as a gender-neutral activity that takes more than a moment.

Jennifer Randles is an associate professor of sociology at California State University, Fresno. Her research focuses on family inequalities and policies. This blog post is based on her recent article published in Gender & Society. She is also the author of Proposing Prosperity: Marriage Education Policy and Inequality in America (Columbia University Press).


The Unfinished Gender Revolution: Lessons from Russia

By Sarah Ashwin

Revolutions tend to stop at the threshold of the private household, doing little to liberate women from domestic inequality. Even the “gender revolution” of women’s increased access to employment, education and birth control in countries such as the US since the 1960s is generally viewed by scholars as “stalled” (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0891243210361475). Along with continued inequality in employment, a key item of unfinished business is domestic inequity, with women continuing to perform the lion’s share of domestic and caring labor despite their mass entry into paid work (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/000312240406900601). How does such stalling occur? Here I examine the iconic case of the Russian revolution of 1917 and its aftermath.

Women’s liberation from what the Russian revolutionary leader, Vladimir Lenin, called their “state of household slavery” (https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/sep/23a.htm) was a declared aim of the new Soviet state. But women’s emancipation was not viewed as a goal in itself. It had an economic and political purpose – to draw women into the labor force so they could contribute to the industrialization drive, and to induct them into Soviet public life, turning them from “kitchen slaves” into Soviet citizens.  What Lenin called “exceptionally petty” domestic labor such as cooking was to be socialized in public institutions (https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/sep/23a.htm). This ambition is perfectly illustrated by the 1931 Soviet poster “Down with Kitchen Slavery!  Yes to a new way of life!”


The “enslaved” woman of the past is pictured in a cramped, dark private kitchen, forced to wash clothes by hand and use a tiny stove. A woman worker opens a door to a vision of the socialist future featuring a bright, airy factory, canteen, nursery and club. In the “new way of life” women would be able to participate in employment and public life, with domestic and caring labor performed by state institutions. Women did indeed join the labor force in successive waves so that by 1970 nearly 90 per cent of working age Soviet women were in full-time work or study.  But the ideal of socialized household labor never became a reality except in the sphere of childcare. Since the state made no effort to encourage men to perform “exceptionally petty” labor in the household – men were expected to devote themselves to what was perceived as more productive, industrial labor – women were left with a notorious “double burden” of full-time work and domestic labor which persisted until the end of the Soviet era and beyond.

My article with Olga Isupova focuses on how this legacy has impacted gender ideology; that is, women and men’s beliefs about how domestic and paid work should be configured. Despite high women’s employment during the Soviet era, three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1994, an international survey found nearly two thirds of Russian women and 70 per cent of men supported the statement “a man’s job is to earn money; a woman’s job is to look after the home and family” (International Social Survey Programme http://w.issp.org/menu-top/home/). We use data from 115 interviews with 23 young women who we followed between 1999 and 2010 to understand how such beliefs are sustained and how and when they are challenged.

We link gender ideology to the macro-environment of a society in relation to gender – what researchers call its “gender order” – and to the micro-level of interaction between men and women in which gender researchers argue individuals are constrained to “do gender” – that is, to demonstrate their masculinity or femininity through their behaviour (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0891243287001002002). The Soviet gender order influenced gender ideologies in two important ways.  First, although the state promoted women’s employment it did not challenge traditional conceptions regarding gender and domestic labor. For example, a modified version of the male breadwinner norm persisted, with Soviet economic writings taking it for granted that wives should earn two-thirds of their husband’s wages (https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Women_in_Soviet_Society.html?id=rtWfengNqQ8C&redir_esc=y). This reinforced the idea that domestic labor was women’s responsibility (even when Lenin was agitating for the socialization of domestic labor, he assumed women would staff the new institutions (https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/sep/23a.htm). Second, the Soviet Union had comprehensive censorship and all forms of independent organization, including feminism, were banned. This made it hard for women to analyze their situation and question men’s domestic privilege. The difficulty is brilliantly captured in Natalya Baranskaya’s 1969 novella A Week Like Any Other (https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=JXZvMAEACAAJ&dq=Baranskaya+a+week+like+any+other&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwitm4vk8pzbAhXjCcAKHQyyBfsQ6AEIJzAA), which depicted the struggles of a full-time Soviet working mother who performed all the housework even though she and her husband were both scientists. The heroine is portrayed as exhausted, unhappy and perplexed, but rather than critiquing the gender inequity that leaves her so burdened, she blames herself asking, “What is the matter with me?” Attempts to live up to the ideal of the Soviet superwoman perfectly balancing work, motherhood and household management left many women asking the same question.

Artist: Mariya Samokhina 

In the post-Soviet era, the relaxation of censorship and increased freedom to organize has made it easier for women to access alternative ideas and question traditional gender relations. Nevertheless, nearly a decade after the Soviet collapse, some young women in our study were unable to imagine egalitarian gender relations despite being fiercely critical of the “kitchen slavery” faced by their mothers. It should also be noted that freedom of association and information are again under threat in Russia today under Vladimir Putin, though the impact of this on the gender division of domestic labor is still unclear.

As well as being institutionalized within the gender order, traditional or egalitarian ideas are enforced (or not) in the everyday interactions of men and women. Women themselves can reinforce traditionalism when they expect men to perform as breadwinners. We found that the ideal of the male breadwinner was an important prop to traditionalism, with traditional women using men’s superior wages to explain why housework was a woman’s responsibility even when both partners worked full time. But some women in our study also became more egalitarian, and we found that this was easier after they met supportive men with whom they could imagine an egalitarian relationship. Individuals’ gender ideologies are therefore shaped both by dominant ideas within the gender order and by interaction, with the two influencing each other.

We saw quite significant change during the 10 years of our study, with some women moving towards egalitarianism and others, though self-identified as heterosexual, giving up on men and embracing what we called an “ideology of independence”. Although the second position gave women facing difficult challenges a sense of agency and dignity, it left men unchanged and free from domestic and caring responsibilities, a dynamic which is sensitively analyzed in Jennifer Utrata’s book on Russia’s lone mothers (http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100573890). The ideology of independence is the necessary shadow of male breadwinner ideal, and has provided a safety valve for gender traditionalism.

The struggle between gender traditionalism and egalitarianism continues globally. We think situating gender ideology in the context of particular gender orders and relating this to the everyday micro-interactions of men and women aids our understanding of how this dynamic unfolds in different contexts.

Sarah Ashwin is a professor of industrial relations in the Department of Management at the London School of Economics. Her recent publications develop different aspects of gender theory by interrogating Russia’s stalled gender revolution.

Gender & Society in the Classroom’s Guide for Syllabi on Masculinities

The following Gender & Society articles are the journal’s most recently published pieces that focus on the growing scholarship on masculinities.  As this body of scholarly literature continues to grow, as will this list of articles that may be used as supplements to other readings in the classroom.

Wasserman, Varda, Illan Dayan and Eyal Ben-Ari. 2018. Upgraded Masculinity: A Gendered Analysis of the Debriefing in the Israeli Air Force. Gender & Society 32 (2): 228-251. 

This article examines the importation of new gender ideals into a highly masculine organization through top-down and bottom-up processes. We analyze how a dominant group of men undo and redo gender to reproduce their supremacy and create a new, “improved” form of masculinity. Based on qualitative research on the practice of debriefing in the Israel Air Force, we explore how new practices of masculinity are incorporated into a hegemonic masculinity by introducing so-called “soft” organizational practices and thus constructing a new form of “upgraded” masculinity. We show that pilots are involved in two continual and dialectical processes of performing masculinity. The first includes top-down practices neutralizing opportunities to execute exaggerated masculine performances, including new technologies allowing recording and documenting of all flights, a safety discourse emphasizing the protection of human life, and organizational learning based on self- and group critiques aimed at improved performance. The second, a bottom-up process enacted by pilots, is aimed at restoring and mobilizing masculinity and includes rationalized professionalism, competitiveness, and patronizing. Taken together, these constitute a hybrid, “upgraded” masculinity where “soft” characteristics are appropriated by men to reinforce a privileged status and reproduce their dominance within and outside the military. Our case study focuses on the debriefing, a process in which air teams formally reflect on their performance after a particular task/event to improve it.

Carlson, Jennifer. 2018. Legally Armed but Presumed Dangerous: An Intersectional Analysis of Gun Carry Licensing as a Racial/Gender Degradation Ceremony. Gender & Society 32 (2): 204-247.

This article analyzes gun carry licensing as a disciplinary mechanism that places African American men in a liminal zone where they are legally armed but presumed dangerous, even as African Americans now experience broadened access to concealed pistol licenses (CPLs) amid contemporary U.S. gun laws. Using observational data from now-defunct public gun boards in Metropolitan Detroit, this article systematically explores how CPLs are mobilized by administrators to reflect and reinforce racial/gender hierarchies. This article broadens scholarly understandings of how tropes of criminality shape racialized men’s encounters with the state beyond nonvoluntary, coercive settings and unpacks how race and gender interlock to shape these encounters. I extend insights from intersectionality scholarship to examine gun board meetings as degradation ceremonies whereby African American men are held accountable to controlling images of Black masculinity in exchange for a CPL. This article sharpens the conceptual apparatus that accounts for marginalized men’s subordination vis-à-vis the state by focusing on the provision of legitimate violence and revealing the persistent, if paradoxical, mobilization of legitimate violence in the reproduction of racial/gender hierarchies.

Ide, Michael Enku, Blair Harrington, Yolanda Wiggins, Tanya Rouleau Whitworth and Naomi Gerstel. 2018. Emerging Adult Sons and Their Fathers: Race and the Construction of Masculinity. Gender & Society 32 (1): 5-33.

Challenging the public dichotomy characterizing fathers as “involved” or “absentee,” we investigate racial variation in college men’s perceptions of their paternal relationships and the gendered constructions these promote. The analysis draws on intensive interviews (n = 76) with Asian American, Black, and white sons from one university and survey data (n = 1,576) from 24 institutions. In both data sets, Asian Americans and Blacks describe greater paternal distance than do whites. This conceals variations in sons’ understanding of fathers. Asian Americans often criticize their fathers’ distance, disidentifying with the near-exclusive focus on breadwinning they describe among fathers. In contrast, Blacks and whites normalize and identify with their dads. Blacks emphasize the “laid-back,” “cool” masculinity their dads impart, while whites often emphasize the independent masculinity based on mentorship and friendship their dads offer. Recasting sociological theories, we argue these differences emanate from divergent structural contexts, but more importantly, cultural conceptions of fatherhood, race, and gender as well as public discussions that valorize white models of fatherhood.

Pande, Amrita. 2017.  Mobile Masculinities: Migrant Bangladesh Men in South Africa. Gender & Society 31 (2): 383-406.

In this ethnography of Bangladeshi men living and working in South Africa, I draw on the intersection of three sets of literatures—masculinities studies, mobility studies, and the emerging body of work on migrant masculinities— to argue that migrant mobility shapes and is shaped by relational performances of racialized masculinities. I analyze three particular moments of such “mobile masculinities.” The first is in the home country wherein migration is seen as a mandatory rite of passage into manhood. The second moment is in transit, where the relational masculinity of migrant men and “traffickers” (men who smuggle migrants across borders) is performed and (re)made. The final moment is in South Africa, wherein we observe two contrasting forms of masculinities: hyper masculinity (the idealization of violence and misogyny) and Ummah masculinity (the immersion in God and Islamic Ummah). Both kinds of masculinity in the final moment are attempts by the migrants to recuperate masculinity within a situation of extreme powerlessness. This article invokes the need for mobility research within gender studies, and an attention to a complex, processual construction of identities wherein gender, race, and other differences define the identities of migrants but also the discourses and narratives of masculinities.

McDowell, Amy. 2017. Aggressive and Loving: Religious Hybrid Masculinites in Christian Hardcore Punk. Gender & Society 31 (2): 223-244.

This research uses Christian Hardcore punk to show how evangelical Christian men respond to changes in gender relations that threaten hegemonic masculinity through a music subculture. Drawing on interviews and participant observations of live music shows, I find that Christian Hardcore ministry involves a hybrid mix of aggressive and loving performances of manhood. Christian Hardcore punk men fortify the idea that men and women are essentially opposites through discourse and the segregation of music spaces, even as they deviate from dominant ideas of what makes a man in their strategy of openly expressing the “loving” of secular men. The mechanism for this is the interactions in concert spaces. These findings offer a conceptual move away from studying “godly” masculinity as intrinsically distinct from secular masculinity and illustrate how religious masculinities can be both hegemonic and “soft.”

Pfaffendorf, Jessica. 2017. Sensitive Cowboys: Elite Young Men and the Mobilization of Hybrid Masculinities in a Therapeudic Boarding School. Gender & Society 31 (2): 197-222.

In the past few decades, a multi-billion-dollar “therapeutic boarding school” industry has emerged for America’s troubled upper-class youth. This article examines the therapeutic models prominent in these programs and the ways they conflict with dominant notions of masculinity. Using in-depth interviews and ethnographic fieldwork inside a Western therapeutic boarding school, I show how privileged young men navigate this masculinity dilemma by constructing hybrid masculinities that incorporate qualities associated with femininities and subordinate masculinities. However, these qualities are incorporated strategically and in ways that reproduce and obscure privileges associated with students’ positions as young, upper-class, white men. Using hybrid masculine styles that include humility, commitment to service, and open emotional expression, students re-assert dominant positions as leaders and as “better” men in contrast to various others.

Silva, Tony. 2017. Bud-Sex: Constructing Normative Masculinity Among Rural Straight Men That Have Sex With Men. Gender & Society 31 (1): 51-73.

This study draws on semistructured interviews with 19 white, rural, straight-identified men who have sex with men to understand how they perceive their gender and sexuality. It is among the first to use straight men’s own narratives, and helps address the underrepresentation of rural masculinities research. Through complex interpretive processes, participants reworked non-normative sexual practices—those usually antithetical to rural masculinities—to construct normative masculinity. Most chose other masculine, white, and straight or secretly bisexual men as partners for secretive sex without romantic involvement. By choosing these partners and having this type of sex, the participants normalized and authenticated their sexual encounters as straight and normatively masculine. The participants engaged in bud-sex, a specific type of male–male sex that reinforced their rural masculinity and heterosexuality. The married men framed sex with men as less threatening to marriage than extramarital sex with women, helping to preserve a part of their lives that they described as central to their straightness. The results highlight the flexibility of heterosexuality; the centrality of heterosexuality to normative rural masculinity; how similar sexual practices carry different meanings across contexts and populations; and the social construction of masculinities and sexualities by age, race, gender, time period, and place.


Gender & Society: Table of Contents 32 (4)

Read this issue here: http://journals.sagepub.com/toc/gasa/current.


Anatomy of a Stalled Revolution:
Processes of Reproduction and Change in Russian Women’s Gender Ideologies

Keeping It in “The Family:”
How Gender Norms Shape U.S. Marriage Migration Politics

Who Deserves to Work?
How Women Develop Expectations of Childcare Support in Korea

“Manning Up” to Be a Good Father:
Hybrid Fatherhood, Masculinity and U.S. Responsible Fatherhood Policy

Equality on His Terms:
Doing and Undoing Gender through Men’s Discussion Groups

Public Fathering, Private Mothering:
Gendered Transnational Parenting and Class Reproduction among Elite Korean Students

Book Reviews
The Zero Trimester:
Pre-Pregnancy Care and the Politics of Reproductive Risk
by Miranda R. Waggoner

Gender in the Twenty-First Century:
The Stalled Revolution and the Road to Equality
Edited by Shannon N. Davis, Sarah Winslow and David J. Maume

Gender, Crime, and Justice:
Exploring the Dynamics

by Andrew Wilczak

Addressing Violence against Women on College Campuses 
Edited by Catherine Kaukinen, Michelle Hughes Miller and Rachael A. Powers

Women against Abortion: 
Inside the Largest Moral Reform Movement of the Twentieth Century 
by Karissa Haugeberg

Pious Fashion:
How Muslim Women Dress 

by Elizabeth Bucar

Domestic Works of the World Unite!:
A Global Movement for Dignity and Human Rights

by Jennifer N. Fish

Cohabitation Nation:
Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships 

by Sharon Sassler and Amanda Jayne Miller

Unleashing Manhood in the Cage:
Masculinity and Mixed Martial Arts

by Christian A. Vaccaro and Melissa L. Swauger

Mothers and Moneymakers: How Gender Norms Shape U.S. Marriage Migration Politics

By Gina M. Longo

Sarasusan, a white divorcee and single mother of two from Virginia, and Hicham, an Arab factory worker living in the desert town of Tan-Tan, Morocco met on MySpace in December 2009, and immediately hit it off.  In June of 2010, Sarasusan traveled to Morocco to meet Hicham for the first time.  Over the course of three years, Hicham traveled to internet cafés daily to talk to his future wife and stepdaughters. In January 2013, she finally could afford to bring her daughters to Morocco to meet Hicham in person. Upon her return to the U.S., she filed for a K-1 (fiancé) visa petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

While they began dreaming of the day they could marry, they didn’t realize their nightmare had already begun. After a year and a half, the first petition and subsequent appeal were denied.  At his interview, the U.S. consulate officer in Morocco told Hicham that their relationship appeared fraudulent or strictly for immigration papers. He was given no further explanation.  In July 2015, Sarasusan married Hicham in Morocco, but her daughters, due to high airfare costs were unable to come. Upon returning home, Sarasusan saved money to start a new immigration petition for her husband. Sarasusan began seeking advice from other petitioners online, and crafted her evidence package based on much of this advice.  It was not until September 2016 that Sarasusan and her daughters were able to embrace Hicham on U.S. soil.

Foreign nationals who marry U.S. citizens have an expedited track to naturalization, so immigration officials worry that some will use fake marriages to obtain a green-card.  Early U.S. immigration and citizenship policies addressed these concern by blocking white women in racially mixed relationships. Native-born women citizens lost their citizenship status if they married foreign nationals, and could not initiate immigration petitions for foreign-born husbands. Consequently, this enabled a gendered and racialized citizenship model that defined white, native-born men as full citizens and women as second-class citizens.

Today, these policies have been replaced with preferential processing for immigrants with U.S. family ties.  So, U.S. immigration officials require that “green card” petitioning couples demonstrate that their relationships are “valid and subsisting” (i.e., for love) and not fraudulent (i.e., for immigration papers). Immigration officials warn U.S. citizens in such relationships to beware of red flags, or details about a couple’s relationship that raise suspicions of marriage fraud, such as large age differences, short courtships, or requests for money.  These requirements and red-flag warnings are supposedly gender- and racially-neutral, but migration itself is not.  Thus, like Sarasusan, men and women petitioners with foreign partners from different world regions often seek advice from experts and other petitioners about how to overcome potential obstacles to their petitions’ success.

In my Gender & Society article, “Keeping it in ‘the Family’: How Gender Norms Shape U.S. Marriage Migration Politics,” I used an online ethnography and a text analysis of conversation threads on a large online immigration forum where U.S. petitioners exchange such advice.  I compared two of the sites’ sub-forums, the Middle East/North African forum (MENA), where members are predominately white U.S. women coupled with MENA-region men; and the Belarus/Russia/Ukraine forum (BRU), where white U.S. men pair with BRU-region women, and analyzed how forum-members define red-flag warnings and the requirements for a “valid and subsisting relationship” to label a relationship “real” or “fraudulent.”  These conversations reveal members’ own experiences with immigration officials and their understanding of genuine marriages for immigration purposes.

I found that petitioners connect generic relationship criteria and warnings in U.S. immigration policy with racialized and classed gender ideologies and expectations surrounding an idealized image of the white, Middle-class, “American family.” Women should be mothers and caretakers, and men should be breadwinners.  Both men and women petitioners use sexual and gendered double standards surrounding women’s sexual agency, fertility, and desirability to determine which red flags will concern immigration officials and for whom.  Women’s sexuality and gender differentially structure the process of negotiating red flags for men and women petitioners, and the right to confer citizenship onto a foreign partner. This provides privileges to men citizens, allowing them to pursue of foreign women abroad and to bestow their citizenship status more freely upon their chosen mates. However, women citizens with the same intentions are considered desperate fools, incapable of controlling their emotions or the border. Consequently, citizen-women’s relationships appear more suspect and in need of policing.


Why is this important? Although media coverage on U.S. immigration often centers on issues surrounding DREAMRs, refugees, and undocumented people, approximately 50 percent of the one million-plus immigrant visas issued in 2015 (i.e. “green-cards”) were for U.S. citizens’ immigrant spouses/fiancés (Department of Homeland Security 2015). These rates have remained consistent since 1908 (Lee 2013), making these beneficiaries the largest groups of visa-holders with a pathway to citizenship. These immigration cases largely shape the nation and conceptions of citizenship.  Through this online forum, members become unofficial border police before cases ever reach an immigration officer.  Although, discriminatory U.S. immigration and citizenship laws of old have been abolished, I find that when citizens use ideological understandings about gender and family themselves to give each other petitioning advice, explicitly discriminatory policies are not necessary to uphold and legitimize racialized and gendered citizenship hierarchies.  My findings highlight how conversational negotiations in virtual spaces are consequential for re-imagining intersectionally gendered citizenship and the policing of national identities and borders.

For an even further in-depth look at this research please also listen to the recent SAGE podcast on this article.

Gina Marie Longo is a PhD Candidate of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She specializes in the sociology of gender, race and ethnicity, immigration, and digital sociology.  Her current research focuses on how the U.S. spousal reunification system (re)constructs and polices citizenship and nation.

What studying dual career academics tells us about how gender matters at work

By Julie Kmec, Tori Byington, Sarah Morton and Hong Zhang

Cross-Posted with permission from Work in Progress

Gender shapes how women and men think about their career, especially vis-à-vis their families. In a set of recently published or forthcoming papers, we explore the interplay between gender, family, and career-related decisions and work outcomes.

In particular, we look at the way professional women and men rate their career relative to their partner’s career, time of hire behaviors (negotiations and risk-taking), and career outcomes.

We drew on a unique dataset of faculty members at seven institutions of higher education in the U.S. that allowed us to identify whether at the time of hire, an academic was part of a dual-career couple. Our data captured the way these couples relate to each other in terms of career importance andwhich member of the couple was the primary recruit versus the secondary hire or as the latter is sometimes called, the “trailing spouse.”

How do gender and relative career ranking shape decisions to initiate negotiations during the hiring process?

In an article in Sociological Perspectives, Sarah Morton examined how an academic’s gender and relative career importance were related to decisions to either initiate job negotiations on behalf of a partner or forgo these negotiations in the dual-career hiring process.

Much of what we know about gender and workplace negotiations was based on laboratory studies, which have found that men are more likely to initiate negotiations than are women, and that when women negotiate, they tend to face worse outcomes than men. So, Morton expected to find a gender difference in the decision to initiate negotiations. Because context matters for women’s negotiations, she also expected that how a dual-career academic ranks his or her career importance relative to that of her partner’s career to have a stronger impact on women’s decisions to negotiate than men’s.

Morton found that men were more likely to initiate negotiations than were women. However, relative career importance had a stronger impact on women’s negotiations than men’s. Women who considered their careers as primary or equal to that of their male partner’s career were as likely to initiate negotiations as men. Women who considered their career as secondary were 20-21% less likely than men to initiate negotiations.

In other words, taking into account one’s relative career importance reduced the gender gap in negotiation initiation.

How does one form of risk-taking—when one reveals being part of an academic dual-career couple—in the job search process impact later work experiences?

In another article published in the Journal of Risk Research, Sarah Morton and Julie Kmec explored how the timing of revealing one’s dual-career status, a topic over which there is disagreement, relates to later promotion outcomes, productivity, pay, mobility, and career-related goals.

We draw on elements of Ulrich Beck’s risk theory, risk-taking in the broader labor market, and the current context of the academic dual-career job search process to conceptualize risk-taking.

Overall, the current labor market has shifted risk onto individual job-seekers. This shift has compounded risk faced by academic dual-career job seekers who receive conflicting advice about the timing of reveal, the budgetary constraints of hiring institutions, the competitive nature of academic hiring (where a small number of PhDs compete for the best faculty positions), the lack of institutional policies on hiring dual-career couples, and the stigma associated with being an accommodated partner.

We expected academics who took the risk of revealing before the offer would face worse career outcomes, simply because of what we know about the “two–body problem.”

Prior research on gender, risk-taking, and negotiations led us to expect gender differences in these outcomes, especially in light of Lauren Rivera’s recent article finding that the “two-body” problem is really a “gender” problem—dual career status was far more damaging for women than for men.

We anticipated that women who revealed their dual-career status before the job offer would have worse outcomes than men who chose to take this risk.

Women and men who took the risk of revealing their dual-career status before they had a job offer reported significantly more positive career experiences related to promotion and productivity than those who did not reveal their dual-career status. Only those who revealed their dual-career status after a job offer reported significantly lower salary outcomes than those who chose not to reveal dual-career status.

Ultimately, we think that revealing one’s status as a dual-career academic before a job offer is related to positive career outcomes for men and women in the long run because earlier awareness of this status makes finding partner employment more feasible.

What influences whether a member of a dual-career couple considered declining a job offer or leaving a job had their partner not found appropriate employment?

 One may reasonably expect that academic dual-career couples’ similar educational training and higher than average liberal attitudes may lead them to act inconsistently with gender role expectations. However, they too struggle with the difficulties associated with gender role expectations and fall in line with traditional gendered norms that women should be altruistic and defines masculinity as synonymous with employment.

A forthcoming article in Review of Higher Education by Hong Zhang, Julie Kmec, and Tori Byington examines the career decisions dual-career academics considered making if their partner did not find appropriate employment at their time of hire.

Women are significantly more likely to have considered turning down a university job if their partner was not offered an attractive position compared to men whose female partners are not made an attractive offer regardless of how they rank their career relative to their male partner’s career.

Even among candidates first recruited by a university, female academics have higher odds of saying they considered both declining a job offer and leaving their current institutions than male academics, no matter how they rank their career relative to their male partner.

Among dual career couples, how does a career ranking not in line with traditional gender expectations shape the career consequences of being part of a dual career couple?

Our final article shifts focus away from point of hire to what happens as a result of the ranking an academic dual-career couple places on his or her career vis-à-vis the partner’s career. In particular, in an article published in Sociological Perspectives, Hong Zhang and Julie Kmec explored the career consequences of violating gender-normative work and family connections among heterosexual dual-career academics.

That is, when a dual-career academic’s actions were “gender deviant” (men who indicate that their career is secondary to that of his wife’s career or women who say their career is primary to that of her husband’s), “gender egalitarian” (those who view their career as equal to that of their spouse’s career), or “gender conformist” (men who indicate that their career is primary or women who say their career is secondary).

Madeline Heilman’s theory of prescriptive gender stereotypes suggests that women and men who violate gender norms may provoke societal disapproval and suffer negative consequences of normative discrimination. We consider how violation of these norms (in the work-family connection) relates to a male and female dual-career academic’s academic output (opportunities to co-author with one’s partner, research productivity), position (upward mobility, institutional prestige), career goal-setting, and university commitment.

Nearly all female and male academics who adopted gender-deviant roles reported more negative career consequences than male respondents who view their career as primary. Both female and male gender deviants have lower commitment to their university than either conformists or egalitarians.

Thus, violating gender norms in how one connects work and family has negative impacts for both male and female dual career academics and the institution itself.

Finally, male and female gender egalitarians experience the most positive outcomes for their institutions and have fewer negative career consequences than gender deviants, suggesting actions that make couples view their relationship on equal terms is important.

The takeaways

Our cumulative research suggests dual-hire policies that focus only on independent hires will not be as successful at gender diversifying the faculty as policies informed by the interrelated domains of gender relations within family. Institutions of higher education must consider how policies regarding family and work-life issues may privilege certain types of behaviors and reinforce the very gender roles they may want to disrupt.

Universities need to be aware that even when they attempt to increase female hires, women may be more likely than men to contemplate rejecting a job if their partner’s welfare and satisfaction is not met. Campus policies that offer job-seeking assistance to partners early on in the hiring stage or that create temporary funds to employ qualified partners, are a start.

Interventions to equalize relative career importance in the minds of women and men—equal pay, bias-free performance evaluation processes, formal and institutionalized partner accommodation policies—can potentially improve individual and institutional outcomes, at least related to promotions and productivity.

Universities should not assume women come as “trailing spouses” or that men never consider their female partner’s careers in decision-making. They need to give women the space to negotiate.

Women’s psychological struggle to contend with conflicting gendered expectations for their jobs, romantic relationships, and academic careers coupled with discrimination against female dual career academics mean that women feel may feel have lost before they even start the race. Gender diversification of the academy will be slow to happen, if it does at all, in the absence of action to reduce this struggle.


Gender & Society in The Classroom’s Guide for Syllabi on Transgender and Non-Binary Gender Identities

The following Gender & Society articles are the journal’s most recently published pieces that focus on the growing scholarship on transgender and non-binary gender identities.  As this body of scholarly literature continues to grow, as will this list of articles that may be used as supplements to other readings in the classroom.

Nisar, Muhammad Azfar. 2018. (Un)Becoming a Man: Legal Consciousness of the Third Gender Category in Pakistan. Gender & Society 32 (1): 59-81.

In the past decade, a few countries have created a third gender category to legally recognize gender-nonconforming individuals. However, we know relatively little about the response of the gender-nonconforming individuals toward the legal third gender category. To address this gap, this article analyzes the different social, religious, and institutional discourses that have emerged around the recently created third gender category in Pakistan and their influence on the legal consciousness of the Khawaja Sira community, a marginalized gender-nonconforming group. Even though the third gender category was created to address the unique gender identity of the Khawaja Sira community, most continue to legally register as men. My research indicates that the patriarchal stigma, high compliance costs, and limited material benefits associated with the legal third gender category dissuade the Khawaja Sira community from choosing to register. My findings point to the limitations of a legal third gender category within a patriarchal sociolegal order where important benefits associated with the masculine identity are forfeited by registering. In doing so, I caution against over emphasizing the symbolic value of legal recognition for gender-nonconforming groups.

Nanney, Megan and David L. Brunsma. 2017. Moving Beyond Cis-terhood: Determining Gender through Transgender Admittance Policies at U.S. Women’s Colleges. Gender & Society 31 (1): 145-170.

In 2013, controversy sparked student protests, campus debates, and national attention when Smith College denied admittance to Calliope Wong—a trans woman. Since then, eight women’s colleges have revised their admissions policies to include different gender identities such as trans women and genderqueer people. Given the recency of such policies, we interrogate the ways the category “woman” is determined through certain alignments of biology-, legal-, and identity-based criteria. Through an inductive analysis of administrative scripts appearing both in student newspapers and in trans admittance policies, we highlight two areas U.S. women’s colleges straddle while creating these policies: inclusion/exclusion scripts of self-identification and legal documentation, and tradition-/activism-speak. Through these tensions, women’s college admittance policies not only construct “womanhood” but also serve as regulatory norms that redo gender as a structuring agent within the gendered organization.

Davis, Georgiann, Jodie M. Dewey, and Erin L. Murphy. 2016. Giving sex: Deconstructing intersex and trans medicalization practices. Gender & Society 30 (3): 490-514.

Although medical providers rely on similar tools to “treat” intersex and trans individuals, their enactment of medicalization practices varies. To deconstruct these complexities, we employ a comparative analysis of providers who specialize in intersex and trans medicine. While both sets of providers tend to hold essentialist ideologies about sex, gender, and sexuality, we argue they medicalize intersex and trans embodiments in different ways. Providers for intersex people are inclined to approach intersex as an emergency that necessitates medical attention, whereas providers for trans people attempt to slow down their patients’ urgent requests for transitioning services. Building on conceptualizations of “giving gender,” we contend both sets of providers “give gender” by “giving sex.” In both cases too, providers shift their own responsibility for their medicalization practices onto others: parents in the case of intersex, or adult recipients of care in the case of trans. According to the accounts of most providers, successful medical interventions are achieved when a person adheres to heteronormative gender practices.

Jenness, V., & Fenstermaker, S. 2016. Forty Years after Brownmiller prisons for men, transgender inmates, and the rape of the feminine. Gender & Society 30 (1): 14-29.

In this essay, we draw on a growing body of research, including our own work recently published in this journal, to consider the social organization of prison rape as it relates to transgender women. Just as Brownmiller (1975) focused attention on rape as a male prerogative, a weapon of force against women, and an agent of fear, our central focus is on “the rape of the feminine” in the context of prisons for men and with an eye toward the intersection of the state and violence. In the next section, we inventory some alarming facts about the rape of transgender women in carceral environments built for men (and only men). Thereafter, we describe and theorize the unique space and social relations in which this type of rape emerges in relation to the social organization of gender in prison. We conclude with comments about the relationship between embodiment, gender, and the rape of the feminine in a carceral context.

 ILLUSTRATION BY Phoebe Helander