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.

 

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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

Sex and Gender Diversity is Growing Across the US

By Georgiann Davis

Cross-posted with Permission from The Conversation 

Across the United States, more people of all ages are identifying as something other than male or female.

According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, which studies sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, the percentage of trans adults — an umbrella term used to describe those whose gender does not match with the sex they were assigned at birth — has doubled in the last 10 years from 0.3 percent to 0.6 percent.

In 2006, a survey discovered that 1.2 percent of Boston high school students identified as trans.

And in a recent issue of the journal Pediatrics, researchers showed that 2.7 percent of Minnesota’s youth identify as trans and gender-nonconforming. Similar to trans, gender-nonconforming describes those who reject gender expectations that assume only females can do femininity while only males can do masculinity.

I’m a sociologist and for more than 10 years, I have been studying sex- and gender-diverse people in the United States. I’ve witnessed researchers analyze everything from brain differences to the hormones a fetus is exposed to during gestation to explain the growth of sex and gender diversity.

Looking to human anatomy and physiology alone is inadequate in explaining the demographic sex and gender changes that are rapidly occurring throughout our society. Does culture also play a role?

Evolution? Not so fast

Historical accounts of sex- and gender-diverse people date as far back as the 18th and 19th centuries in the U.S. and elsewhere.

But why is it that we are now witnessing a growth in the percentage of people publicly identifying as sex- and gender-diverse? Did human anatomy and physiology change overnight? Or is it that people are now more comfortable rejecting the simplicity of “We’re all just male or female”?

What the rising statistics likely reveal is that thanks to activists and their allies across various movements, more people, especially millennials, are now aware that people are more complex than male or female. And they are embracing this complexity by not only choosing sex- and gender-diversity for themselves, but by also sharing their life experiences in stories across print media and on television.

New York’s annual gay and lesbian pride parade, 1989. AP/Sergio Florez

Activists are organizing in the streets and fighting in the courtroom for rights. This is not recent news: For example, earlier generations of activists demonstrated against police brutality in the 1960s in what is now known as the Stonewall Riots. But the activism has accelerated and spread.

Pride celebrations seem to be everywhere these days. And in the courtroom, transgender teenager Gavin Grimm is currently in the middle of a lawsuit against his Virginia high school that wouldn’t allow him to use the boy’s bathroom. That suit has raised Grimm’s profile and put him at the “center of the national debate,” according to The Washington Post.

This activism lets the public know there is life beyond male or female.

People now have customizable sex and genders to choose from on everything from Facebook to the dating site OkCupid. On OkCupid, one can identify as male, female, transgender, nonbinary, genderfluid or genderqueer, or choose up to five categories from many other options.

Which gender best describes you?

It is not a coincidence that sex and gender diversity is also flourishing in the media. There is “Transparent,” the popular award-winning dramedy series about a family patriarch who gender transitions from man to woman. And then there is the critically acclaimed film “Tangerine,”where we see a transgender woman navigate relationship turmoil.

Trans issues are at the center of these scripts, but the filmmakers also skillfully give us more. The main characters are trans, but the trans aspect of the characters are only one part of the storyline. This is a shift in popular culture.

There is no question that the internet’s expansion has also fueled the transgender movement and other similar sex- and gender-diverse movements.

The internet makes it easier for people to identify as something other than what they were assigned at birth. A teenager in the rural Midwest can use the internet to connect with similar people around the world. And they can learn strategies about how to navigate medical care, school, and even disclosing to their family if they choose to change their sex and/or gender identity.

The parents of sex- and gender-diverse youth who support their child are also able to find community and resources on the internet from home. New sociological research published by Ann Travers with New York University Press as well as by Tey Meadow with the University of California Press shows supportive parents do exist. They affirm their child’s gender identity by, for example, using their child’s chosen pronouns and new name if applicable, enlisting gender-affirming medical care and more.

This is not to say that those who identify as something other than a typical male or female person will have an easy road ahead of them.

Navigating oppression

It is possible the number of sex- and gender-diverse people in the population is underestimated. Not all will feel it is safe to identify as something other than male or female. Many sex- and gender-diverse people are emotionally harmed by societal rejection. And, as sociologists Lisa R. Miller and Eric Anthony Grollman documented, there are “social costs of gender nonconformity.”

One study specifically reported that 41 percent of sex and gender diverse adults have attempted suicide compared to 1.6 percent of the general population. Similarly, a 2016 study published in the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, found that 30.3 percent of transgender youth between the ages of 12 and 22 years had attempted suicide, with nearly 42 percent reporting they had tried hurting themselves, such as deliberately cutting their skin.

Sex- and gender-diverse people are at the battleground of political and legal debates across the country. Their access to public bathrooms has been challenged from North Carolina to Texas. It is not easy, or in many cases even legally possible, for sex- and gender-diverse people to obtain driver’s licenses, birth certificates or passports that match their sex and gender identities.

Despite the challenges sex- and gender-diverse people face navigating their lives, I believe their numbers will keep growing.

This will happen as sex- and gender-diverse movements get stronger. More people will gain access to the internet and connect with other marginalized sex- and gender-diverse people. And with such demographic shifts, there will likely continue to be a growing representation of sex and gender diversity in popular culture.

There is no way to predict how large the sex- and gender-diverse population will get. But there is evidence that society is changing from the simplicity of male or female.

DEALING WITH MOTHERHOOD

By Heidi Grundetjern

Mothers who use and deal illegal drugs find themselves in particularly complex gendered situations. For these mothers, by being involved in crime and being perceived as failing to live up to normative gender expectations, they are stigmatized two-fold in society. In addition, they operate in a gender-stratified drug market supported by masculine “rules of the game.” Men often exclude women from accessing lucrative positions because of presumed dedication to caregiving.

Maternal Identities among Women in the Illegal Drug Economy

In my research, I examine motherhood among women who are part of the hard drug economy in Norway. Although such mothers have in common having little access to normative motherhood, I found vast variation in maternal identities among the mothers in this study. I identified four maternal identities, patterned by their gender performances and work situations: grieving mothers, detached mothers, motherly dealers, and working mothers. Timing of pregnancy, time spent with children, control over drug use, and place in the drug market hierarchy contributed in explaining their maternal identities.

Grieving Mothers

For the grieving mothers, motherhood was vital to their identities despite having lost custody of their children and having limited contact with them. Their strong embodiment of femininity suggested that motherhood fit neatly with their identities. The lost opportunity to engage in mothering on a daily basis brought them seemingly endless grief, which had pushed them into heavier drug use. In the drug economy, they held lower positions in the hierarchy. Holding on to motherhood as pivotal to their identities continuously fueled their grief, yet their sadness was important for negotiation of the stigma they faced.

Detached Mothers

Like the grieving mothers, the detached mothers had lost custody of and had limited contact with their children. Yet, their identities stood in stark contrast, as they did not attempt to present themselves close to normative motherhood expectations. They were young and still adjusting to their adult identities when they had children, all of whom were unplanned. After losing custody they (re)turned to embracing their masculine identities as “one of the guys,” an identification that had emerged as an adaptation to the male-dominated context they were in. This enabled them to partly mitigate some of the emotional stress of losing a child and navigate the drug economy more successfully than did the grieving mothers.

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Motherly Dealers

The motherly dealers had significantly more contact with their children. They constructed uniform identities that accommodated being both mothers and dealers. These mothers were relatively successful dealers, had their children prior to entering the drug economy, and had previously lived conventional family lives. They drew on maternal responsibilities when accounting for their involvement in the drug economy, and emphasized care and sociability as business strategies. Although they could not escape the stigma of failing to living up to normative motherhood expectations, they created leeway for themselves by widening such ideals.

Working Mothers

The working mothers took sole care of their children despite being active dealers. They differed from the others by not only combining mothering and paid work (i.e., drug dealing) but also by separating the two. By coming close to the normative mothering ideals, they reduced the stigma of being mothers and users/dealers. Still, other challenges surfaced as they faced the paradox of performing according to expectations of two highly different domains. For these mothers, such expectations were likely heightened, as the gap between work and home domains were more substantial than what occurs in most legitimate occupations.

 The Constraint of Motherhood Ideologies

Scholars have argued that mothers cannot escape the presence of normative motherhood in their constructions of maternal identities. The detached mothers were the exception that confirms this rule. Rejecting dominant motherhood norms seemingly also required rejecting femininity. Their experiences, as with the experiences of the rest of the mothers in this study, are a powerful reminder of the omnipotence of motherhood ideologies, and how those ideologies constrain mothers whose social positions make them unattainable.

Heidi Grundetjern is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Her research focuses on the role of gender in illegal drug markets, with a specific emphasis on the experiences of women who deal drugs.

New methods and consequences of Right-Wing Attacks on Professors

 

By Abby Ferber

*This article will be open access on the website for the rest of 2018

“I never thought such brutality could come out of the classroom.” These are the words of a University faculty member who was secretly recorded by a student intern for the “College Fix.” One sentence was taken out of context and turned into the focus of an “article.” The reality was twisted into a story designed to be picked up by other right wing websites disguised as “news” and to trigger readers and trolls. The professor awoke to over 700 abusive and harassing emails. Mission accomplished. The student plant dropped the class.

These occurrences are becoming more common on right-wing social media sites like the College Fix, Campus Reform, Professor Watch, and others that engage in similarly unethical methods. They target higher education Faculty who teach subjects like race, privilege, climate change and other subjects deemed threatening to right wing politics. People of color and white women are especially vulnerable. More than 100 cases occurred over the past year. I was one of

My own experience over the past five years is consistent with the patterns I have found in talking to others who have been targeted. Most cases follow a pattern as they are ushered through the “outrage The new alt-right sites have been strategically set up and very well-funded by foundations with familiar names like Koch, Coors and Devos. Money is funneled through alt-right (white Nationalist) organizations like Turning Point USA and The Leadership Institute. They are frequently picked up by other more mainstream sites including Breitbart, The Blaze, National Review, aggregators like the Drudge Report and eventually Fox news, in addition to overt extremist sites like The Daily Stormer. At the same time, Armies of trolls are called to attention and begin their work, utilizing email, Facebook, Youtube, and other social media tools to harass, scare, and silence their targets and exert control over the curriculum.

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Charlottesville confronts Unite The Right 27

Social media has been weaponized to advance an extreme political agenda on campuses across the country.  Campus administrators and public relations offices are frequently unprepared to respond. These attacks are highly organized and strategic; to develop an equally strategic response, it is essential that we understand why these attacks have so quickly proliferated and will

Various contextual factors make faculty and institutions particularly vulnerable at this moment. Shrinking state financial support for public colleges and universities has forced administrations to seek new sources of money, turning to donations from wealthy individuals, corporations, and foundations. These funds often come with strings attached. For instance, the Koch brothers have poured millions of dollars into higher education institutions across the country to create positions and programs that advance their agenda. George Mason University has received a lot of attention, but this is only one example.

Along with the monetary carrot comes the stick. In addition to attacking faculty and their curriculum, extreme white nationalist organizations, including those self-labeled “alt-right,” leaflet and blanket campuses with racist, hate filled flyers. Alt right speakers are funded by external right wing organizations and foundations to speak on campuses and promote hate. The concept of free speech has been manipulated to curtail academic freedom and open civil dialogue on campus. These multi-pronged attacks are given free reign and encouraged by the cultural climate established by the Trump administration.

The direct attacks on Faculty are not a new phenomenon, but the tools of attack and the level of sophisticated coordination have changed. In 1934, Elizabeth Dilling published The Red Network-A Who’s Who and Handbook of Radicalism for Patriots, a list of 460 individuals and organizations including faculty and higher education administrators. The Anti-communist blacklisting of the McCarthy era, and more have dotted our history. Many of these movements led to threats of violence against faculty.

A lack of trust in higher education has primed segments of today’s population to believe the alt-right’s lies. Books like D’Souza’s Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus, Shapiro’s Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth, and Horowitz’s The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America are just a few. 

Social media is a crucial tool that differentiates the wave of harassment we are experiencing today. Social media serves as a means of manufacturing crises, spreading and legitimizing these stories with each retelling in combination with the strategic use of search engine algorithms so that these stories are easily found even years later.

The attacks aimed at faculty take the form of harassment, abuse, and outright threats. Examples include “Traitor; Communist Jew pig; Fat cunt; N—–; You deserve to be raped; I have seen your children; I know where you will be and I will be there.“ Under the guise of protecting free speech, these messages are clearly meant to silence.

The interviews that I discuss in my article for Gender and Society reveal that these attacks evoke great anger and fear but these emotions are often outweighed by the conviction that we must have “really hit a chord, or people wouldn’t bother.” For myself and indeed most faculty, this has served as motivation to continue the work we are doing, with more passion and commitment than ever.

Abby L. Ferber is the co-founder and Director of The Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion, and a Professor of Sociology, and Women’s and Ethnic Studies. She has published numerous books and teaches about race, gender, sexuality, intersectionality, privilege, oppression, and the far right. She serves on the national organizing team of the annual White Privilege Conference and co-facilitates the Knapsack Institute: Transforming Teaching and Learning. She is the editor of Understanding and Dismantling Privilege, an on-line international journal.

Redoing Gender, Redoing Religion

By: Helana Darwin

One night while I was watching Transparent, a particular scene caught my attention. The young female rabbi is explaining how difficult it is to be in a masculinized profession without losing her sense of femininity and sexiness. To demonstrate her point, she takes off her kippah (a small skullcap that is traditionally worn by Jewish men, otherwise known as a yarmulke) and proclaims “Sexy!” Then she places the garment back on her head and makes a face, announcing “Not sexy.” The other character smilingly assents to her point.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this scene. My thoughts drifted to all of the women pursuing rabbinic ordination at the seminary where I had just earned my Master’s degree in Jewish Studies. Most of them wore kippot (plural of kippah), like the rabbi in Transparent. Did they similarly struggle with feeling like their kippah cancelled out their femininity or sexiness? Could this possibly explain why more women do not wear kippot , despite the transnational Jewish feminist push to embrace masculinized Jewish practices? Since the 1970s, Jewish women have boldly fought for their right to full inclusion within Judaism, and yet the sight of a woman in a kippah remains rare. Why?

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I couldn’t find an answer within academic databases. The vast majority of feminist head-covering research focuses on whether or not the hijab is oppressive or empowering to Muslim women who wear it. The general consensus among feminist scholars today seems to be that this is a false dichotomy; in reality, the hijab has different meanings to different women, depending on a number of factors including their nationality, parentage, local culture, and age. While this academic debate has been fruitful, it has rarely extended beyond the gender-normative case study of the hijab. This trend within the literature struck me as regrettably limited.

How, I wondered, do women who wear kippot reconcile their seemingly contradictory religious and gender scripts? Given my connections within the Jewish community, I realized that I was well-positioned to conduct this research. Indeed, within 24 hours of sending out my survey link, I had already received more than 400 responses. Additionally, I was also flooded by effusive emails, from respondents who wished to thank me for giving them a chance to clarify the meanings of their practice. In total, I collected responses from 576 Jewish women across the globe who wear kippot. I have derived two articles from this data so far. The first article focuses on the religious meanings of women’s kippah practice. It is called “Jewish Women’s Kippot: Meanings and Motives” and it is published in the journal Contemporary Jewry. The second article is significantly more theoretical and focuses on the extra-religious meanings associated with the practice. It is called “Redoing Gender, Redoing Religion,” and is in the current issue of Gender & Society.

“Redoing Gender, Redoing Religion” illuminates a new angle of the gender/religion nexus through this open-ended survey data, demonstrating how these two axes of accountability are intertwined. Jewish women have historically been exempt from the majority of Jewish ritual practices due to an anachronistic assumption that they are too busy with child-rearing and other domestic tasks. As a result, practices and customs such as wearing the kippah have become masculinized. When women assume such a historically masculinized practice, they render themselves vulnerable to gender-policing and a parallel process that I call “Jewish-policing.” According to those who hold themselves (and others) accountable to the patriarchal tradition, these women are neither “doing femininity” properly, “doing Jewish properly,” nor “doing Jewish womanhood” properly. Although some Jewish cultural fields embrace a shift towards egalitarianism, the women remain accountable to their more traditional coreligionists beyond the confines of these progressive spaces.

            The women in this study utilize a range of strategies to internally reconcile the tensions between the traditional script of gendered Judaism and their egalitarian values: some feminize the kippah so as to affirm their gender-normativity while doing Judaism differently; others utilize the kippah’s masculine-encoding to do Jewish womanhood differently. However, regardless of the women’s efforts to internally legitimize their practice, they remain externally accountable to their traditional coreligionists, who perceive their practice as a politically motivated statement. In response, some women go to great lengths to discursively distance themselves from feminism, insisting that they desire inclusion within tradition rather than an end to Jewish tradition itself. Others embrace their association with feminism, using their hypervisibility to begin conversations with coreligionists about gender equality within Judaism.

            These results lend new insight into how gender and religion function as mutually constitutive categories: while men can simply “do Jewish” by wearing the kippah, women are not afforded such a gender-blind privilege. Rather, coreligionists perceive women who wear kippot as automatically doing something other than Judaism, something that is inherently gendered and political—such as “doing religious feminism.” It appears that these two systems of accountability (gender ideology and religious ideology) remain inextricably linked to one another, despite evidence of an egalitarian shift within certain Jewish fields. Future research about gender norms/ideologies should consider religious background along with the more commonly included variables, given this evidence.

Helana Darwin Sociology doctoral candidate at Stony Brook University who is on the market. Her research highlights the regulatory impact of the gender binary system through a wide range of case studies. Recent publications include “Doing Gender Beyond the Binary: a virtual ethnography,” published by Symbolic Interaction and “Omnivorous Masculinity: gender capital and cultural legitimacy in craft beer culture,” published by Social Currents. Learn more about Helana’s research at helanadarwin.com.

 

Young Men’s Involvement in Hormonal Contraception: Paradox or Possibility?

By Ann M. Fefferman and Ushma D. Upadhyay

It may seem like a no-brainer that women tend to take care of hormonal contraception.  They should have the right to choose a method, use that method, and manage side effects in a way that works best for them. Women have a wide range of methods to choose from, including the pill, patch, vaginal ring, implant, and intrauterine device. These methods allow people to ditch the condom and enjoy increased sexual pleasure and spontaneity with lower chances of having an unintended pregnancy.

But does the fact that these contraceptive methods affect women’s bodies mean that men don’t see a role for themselves in pregnancy prevention?   No. Some men do see themselves as partners in contraceptive use and management. Our research identifies how young men are involved in contraceptive management in helpful and supportive ways. Our research focuses on young low-income men and women of color and the ways they work together to manage contraception without restricting women’s choices. We show examples of men helping with contraception, such as coming to appointments with their partners, discussing risk of pregnancy with partners, helping to choose a method, and reminding partners to take pills or to remove the vaginal ring. We also note how men and women work together to prevent pregnancy despite the different circumstances constraining their choices, such as immigration laws, gang membership, neighborhood violence, and poverty. In this way, our research works against the stereotypes often applied to young low-income men of color when people talk about unintended pregnancy.

While our research shows these positive examples of how young men can work within or against difficult circumstances to support women with contraception, we also show how they aren’t as “feminist”, or “egalitarian”, as they might think. Even though the men in our study were really involved in choosing and using contraception, they still thought women were the ones responsible for contraception and its effective use. Men were just helpers, much like many men “help” in the kitchen or “help” with taking care of the kids. Men used language that seemed equitable, saying that they were not responsible for contraception because they did not want to undermine women’s ability to make choices about their own bodies. Even women we interviewed agreed with these ideas.

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The assumption here is that men cannot respect women’s bodies and choices while still taking responsibility for the possibility of an unintended pregnancy.  Following this logic, men then can use their secondary place in contraception as a justification for assigning blame or shame to women when contraception fails. We aim to show in our research that m en’s involvement in contraception and men’s accountability for unintended pregnancy are not mutually exclusive. Men can help with contraception and also share in contraceptive responsibly (including when contraception fails). Men and women can work together to change these norms and help sustain a positive, respectful place for men in contraceptive management.

Ann M. Fefferman, MA is a PhD candidate in Sociology at University of California, Irvine. Her research interest focus broadly on gender, masculinities, reproductive health, the family and inequalities.  Currently, she is working on her dissertation, which investigates and compares masculinities in different stages of reproduction, with a focus on contraceptive management, pregnancy intentions, and abortion decision-making. In particular she intends to further her studies in medical sociology.

Ushma D. Upadhyay, PhD, MPH is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco and Director of Research for the University of California Global Health Institute’s Center of Expertise in Women’s Health, Gender, and Empowerment. She holds a National Institutes of Health Career Development Award to study gender-based power among young men and women and its effect on contraceptive use. Her current research focuses on the development and validation of the Sexual Health and Reproductive Empowerment for Young Adults (SHREYA) Scale.