Gender and Society in the Classroom: Education
Organized by: Lakshmi Jayaram, Virginia Tech
Updated by: Seth A. Behrends, University of Illinois – Chicago
Gender and education is a broad category where several thematic strands of inquiry emerge: socialization in schools, the social experience of schooling, textbooks/books/curriculum, educational attainment, educators/education workers, higher education, and cross-cultural educational practices. Many of the articles in each of these sub-categories may also be cross-referenced across these thematic areas as well. An interesting trend in the scholarship is the movement from primarily gender studies in the early days of Gender & Society, to a greater intersectional contemporary focus as well as increased scholarship about sexuality and heterosexism in educational contexts. Within each of the categories below, the articles are listed in chronological order with the most recent article appearing first. The author-supplied abstract (with minor editing in some cases) is included with the reference.
Battle, Nishaun T. 2021. “Black Girls and the Beauty Salon: Fostering a Safe Space for Collective Self-Care.” Gender & Society 35 (4): 557-566.
Black girls regularly experience gendered, racial structural violence, not just from formal systems of law enforcement, but throughout their daily lives. School is one of the most central and potentially damaging sites for Black girls in this regard. In this paper, I draw attention to the role of the beauty salon as a space of renewal for Black women and girls as they navigate systems of oppression in their daily lives and report on the ways in which a specific beauty salon in Chesterfield County, Virginia, supported a group of Black high school girls. The study focuses on the exposure of Black girls to carceral measures in school settings and speaks to the role of African-American beauty salons as spaces where collective care from violence can manifest and strategies to interrupt racialized gendered violence against Black girls can emerge. As Co-Investigator of this study funded by the Department of Justice, I created the “scholar-artist-activist lab,” consisting of a small group of undergraduate and graduate students facilitating workshops with a mixed gender group of Black high-school students, to discuss, interact, and participate in social justice-centered exercises. I focus here on the experiences of the Black girls who participated in the study.
Bird, Sharon R., and Laura A. Rhoton. 2021. “Seeing Isn’t Always Believing: Gender, Academic STEM, and Women Scientists’ Perceptions of Career Opportunities.” Gender & Society 35 (3): 422-448.
Studies about women’s underrepresentation in the U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academic workforce have flourished in the past decade. Much of this research focuses on institutionalized gender barriers and implicit biases, consistent with theorizing about how work organizations disproportionately benefit men, white people, and other systemically advantaged groups. But to what extent do faculty most likely disadvantaged by systematic inequities actually perceive “barriers” to equity in the context of their own work lives? What might the repercussions associated with variation in perceptions about inequity be, especially within institutions of higher education actively pursuing equity agendas under such programs as the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program? Using interview data from 53 STEM women faculty working at a university that received a 5-year NSF ADVANCE IT award, we examine the range of views held among women scientists about the extent to which opportunity and success are a function of meritocratic versus nonmeritocratic processes. Findings show that almost a third of participants held the view that opportunities and advancement are primarily a function of meritocratic processes. We discuss implications of these findings for broader institutional efforts to reduce inequities in academic STEM.
Collins, Caitlyn, Leah Ruppanner, Liana Christin Landivar, and William J. Scarborough. 2021. “The Gendered Consequences of a Weak Infrastructure of Care: School Reopening Plans and Parents’ Employment During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Gender & Society 35 (2): 180-193.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended in-person public education across the United States, a critical infrastructure of care that parents—especially mothers—depend on to work. To understand the nature and magnitude of school closures across states, we collected detailed primary data—the Elementary School Operating Status database (ESOS)—to measure the percentage of school districts offering in-person, remote, and hybrid instruction models for elementary schools by state in September 2020. We link these data to the Current Population Survey to evaluate the association between school reopening and parents’ labor force participation rates, comparing 2020 labor force participation rates to those observed prepandemic in 2019. We find that, across states, the maternal labor force participation rate fell to a greater extent than that of fathers. In 2019, mothers’ rate of labor force participation was about 18 percentage points lower than fathers’. By 2020, this gap grew by 5 percentage points in states where schools offered primarily remote instruction. We show that schools are a vital source of care for young children, and that without in-person instruction, mothers have been sidelined from the labor force. The longer these conditions remain in place, the more difficult it may be for mothers to fully recover from prolonged spells of nonemployment, resulting in reduced occupational opportunities and lifetime earnings.
Laube, Heather. 2021. “Outsiders Within Transforming the Academy: The Unique Positionality of Feminist Sociologists.” Gender & Society 35 (3): 476-500.
Several initiatives recognize the importance of transforming institutions, not just changing individuals, to diversify STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields. Universities and colleges are distinctive gendered work organizations because workers (faculty) are highly educated and have authority in hiring, evaluation, and policy (shared governance). This article explores whether feminist sociologists are particularly well suited to guide institutional change to diversify the academy. Drawing on data from in-depth interviews with 24 feminist academic sociologists at the rank of associate or full professor, I analyze how their feminist and sociological identities intersect with institutional locations to create opportunities to transform the academy. Outsiders within, feminist sociologists revise and use the master’s tools to produce knowledge that improves recognition of, and ability to reduce, structural inequalities. Proficiency with these tools confers insider legitimacy and access to a “seat at the table” where disciplinary expertise and political commitments contribute to institutional change. Inevitably, these professors confront resistance, and in response develop strategies to advance their goals. Insights from feminist sociologists suggest that to transform universities to reflect the diversity of institutions and lived reality of contemporary faculty, it may be more useful to identify a set of commitments and principles that inform policies and practices, rather than specifying actions to support culture change.
Lockhart, Jeffrey W. 2021. “Paradigms of Sex Research and Women in Stem.” Gender & Society 35 (3): 449-475.
Scientists’ identities and social locations influence their work, but the content of scientific work can also influence scientists. Theory from feminist science studies, autoethnographic accounts, interviews, and experiments indicate that the substance of scientific research can have profound effects on how scientists are treated by colleagues and their sense of belonging in science. I bring together these disparate literatures under the framework of professional cultures. Drawing on the Survey of Earned Doctorates and the Web of Science, I use computational social science tools to argue that the way scientists write about sex in their research influences the future gender ratio of PhDs awarded across 53 subfields of the life sciences over a span of 47 years. Specifically, I show that a critical paradigm of “feminist biology” that seeks to de-essentialize sex and gender corresponds to increases in women’s graduation rates, whereas “sex difference” research—sometimes called “neurosexism” because of its emphasis on essential, categorical differences—corresponds to decreases in women’s graduation rates in most fields.
Mcquillan, Julia, and Nestor Hernandez. 2021. “Real-Life Conundrums in the Struggle for Institutional Transformation.” Gender & Society 35 (3): 300-329.
Intersecting systems of inequality (i.e., gender and race/ethnicity) are remarkably resistant to change. Many universities, however, seek National Science Foundation Institutional Transformation awards to change processes, procedures, and cultures to make science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) departments more inclusive. In this article we describe a case study with observations for eight years of before (2000–2007), five during (2008–2013), and seven after (2014–2020) intensive efforts to increase women through reducing barriers and increasing access to women. Finally, we reflect on flawed assumptions built into the proposal, the slow and uneven change in the proportion of women over time, the strengths and weaknesses of numeric assessments, and the value of a longer view for seeing how seeds planted with promising practices initiated during the award may end with the funding but can reemerge and bear fruit when faculty who engage in equity work are in positions of authority later in their careers.
Misra, Joya, Alexandra Kuvaeva, Kerryann O’meara, Dawn Kiyoe Culpepper, and Audrey Jaeger. 2021. “Gendered and Racialized Perceptions of Faculty Workloads.” Gender & Society 35 (3): 358-394.
Faculty workload inequities have important consequences for faculty diversity and inclusion. On average, women faculty spend more time engaging in service, teaching, and mentoring, while men, on average, spend more time on research, with women of color facing particularly high workload burdens. We explore how faculty members perceive workload in their departments, identifying mechanisms that can help shape their perceptions of greater equity and fairness. White women perceive that their departments have less equitable workloads and are less committed to workload equity than white men. Women of color perceive that their departments are less likely to credit their important work through departmental rewards systems than white men. Workload transparency and clarity, and consistent approaches to assigning classes, advising, and service, can reduce women’s perceptions of inequitable and unfair workloads. Our research suggests that departments can identify and put in place a number of key practices around workload that will improve gendered and racialized perceptions of workload.
Nelson, Laura K., and Kathrin Zippel. 2021. “From Theory to Practice and Back: How the Concept of Implicit Bias was Implemented in Academe, and What this Means for Gender Theories of Organizational Change.” Gender & Society 35 (3): 330-357.
Implicit bias is one of the most successful cases in recent memory of an academic concept being translated into practice. Its use in the National Science Foundation ADVANCE program—which seeks to promote gender equality in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) careers through institutional transformation—has raised fundamental questions about organizational change. How do advocates translate theories into practice? What makes some concepts more tractable than others? What happens to theories through this translation process? We explore these questions using the ADVANCE program as a case study. Using an inductive, theory-building approach and combination of computational and qualitative methods, we investigate how the concept of implicit bias was translated into practice through the ADVANCE program and identify five key features that made implicit bias useful as a change framework in the academic STEM setting. We find that the concept of implicit bias works programmatically because it is (1) demonstrable, (2) relatable, (3) versatile, (4) actionable, and (5) impartial. While enabling the concept’s diffusion, these characteristics also limit its scope. We reflect on implications for gender theories of organizational change and for practitioners.
Thébaud, Sarah, and Catherine J. Taylor. 2021. “The Specter of Motherhood: Culture and the Production of Gendered Career Aspirations in Science and Engineering.” Gender & Society 35 (3): 395-421.
Why are young women less likely than young men to persist in academic science and engineering? Drawing on 57 in-depth interviews with PhD students and postdoctoral scholars in the United States, we describe how, in academic science and engineering, motherhood is constructed in opposition to professional legitimacy, and as a subject of fear, repudiation, and public controversy. We call this the “specter of motherhood.” This specter disadvantages young women and amplifies anticipatory concerns about combining an academic career with motherhood. By specifying (1) the content of cultural discourses about motherhood in academic workplaces and (2) the processes by which these ideas circulate, produce disadvantage, and inform young, childless scientists and engineers’ career plans, our findings offer novel insight into mechanisms contributing to inequality in academic careers.
Wilkinson, Lindsey, Dara Shifrer, and Jennifer Pearson. 2021. “Educational Outcomes of Gender-Diverse Youth: A National Population-Based Study.” Gender & Society 35 (5): 806-837.
Despite the growing population of youth identifying with a transgender or nonbinary gender identity, research on gender-diverse individuals’ educational outcomes is limited. This study takes advantage of the first nationally representative, population-based data set that includes measures of gender identity and educational outcomes: the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009. Using minority stress and structural symbolic interactionist frameworks, we examine the association between gender identity and high school and college educational outcomes. We compare the educational outcomes of gender-diverse youth—binary transgender, nonbinary, and gender unsure—with those of cisgender youth, and also examine differences within the gender-diverse population. Given the strong link between minority stress and educational experiences among gender-diverse youth, we examine differences in outcomes before and after accounting for school belonging and emotional distress. We also account for individuals’ social-structural location, arguing that social positionality shapes both gender identity and educational outcomes. Results indicate important differences in educational outcomes within the gender-diverse population: Whereas binary transgender and gender-unsure youth exhibit educational disadvantage, relative to cisgender youth, nonbinary youth do not. The gender-unsure disadvantage remains even after accounting for differences in social-structural location and social-psychological factors associated with minority stress.
Miller, Candace, and Josipa Roksa. 2019. “Balancing Research and Service in Academia: Gender, Race, and Laboratory Tasks” Gender & Society 34 (1): 131-152.
Our study highlights specific ways in which race and gender create inequality in the workplace. Using in-depth interviews with 67 biology PhD students, we show how engagement with research and service varies by both gender and race. By considering the intersection between gender and race, we find not only that women biology graduate students do more service than men, but also that racial and ethnic minority men do more service than white men. White men benefit from a combination of racial and gender privilege, which places them in the most advantaged position with respect to protected research time and opportunities to build collaborations and networks beyond their labs. Racial/ethnic minority women emerge as uniquely disadvantaged in terms of their experiences relative to other groups. These findings illuminate how gendered organizations are also racialized, producing distinct experiences for women and men from different racial groups, and thus contribute to theorizing the intersectional nature of inequality in the workplace.
Barcelos, Chris. 2018. “Culture, Contraception, and Colorblindess: Youth Sexual Health Promotion as a Gendered Racial Project.” Gender & Society 32 (2): 252-273.
Feminist scholars have identified how race and gender discourses influence the creation and implementation of school-based sexual health education and the provision of health care, yet there are few studies that examine how race and gender work in sexual health promotion as it occurs through community-based public health efforts. Drawing on three years of ethnographic research in a low-income Puerto Rican community, this article demonstrates how a gendered racial project of essentializing Latinx culture surrounding young women’s sexuality and reproduction works to both obscure and reinforce race and racism in sexual health promotion. Professional stakeholders mobilize culture as an explanation for high birth rates among young Latinas in the city and reproduce a “Latino culture narrative” in which Latina gender and sexuality is understood as deterministic and homogenous. Simultaneously, an ideology of colorblindness enables the uncritical promotion of long-acting reversible contraception and obscures the history of reproductive oppression experienced by women of color. I consider how colorblindness and culture narratives allow stakeholders to abdicate responsibility for gendered racial inequality and conclude by advocating for the incorporation of racial and reproductive justice frameworks in sexual health promotion.
Davis, Alexander K. 2018. “Toward Exclusion through Inclusion: Engendering Reputation with Gender-Inclusive Facilities at Colleges and Universities in the United States, 2001-2013.” Gender & Society 32 (3): 321-347.
Ample sociological evidence demonstrates that binary gender ideologies are an intractable part of formal organizations and that transgender issues tend to be marginalized by a wide range of social institutions. Yet, in the last 15 years, more than 200 colleges and universities have attempted to ameliorate such realities by adopting gender-inclusive facilities in which students of any gender can share residential and restroom spaces. What cultural logics motivate these transformations? How can their emergence be reconciled with the difficulty of altering the gender order? Using an original sample of 2,036 campus newspaper articles, I find that support for inclusive facilities frames such spaces as a resource through which an institution can claim improved standing in the field of higher education. This process of engendering reputation allows traditional gender separation in residential arrangements to be overcome, but it also situates institutional responsiveness to transgender issues as a means of enhancing a college or university’s public prestige. This, in turn, produces novel status systems in the field of higher education—albeit ones that perpetuate familiar forms of institutional and cultural exclusion.
Ferber, Abby L. 2018. “’Are You Willing to Die for This Work?’ Public Targeted Online Harassment in Higher Education: SWS Presidential Address.” Gender & Society 32 (3): 301-320.
This address examines a growing problem in academia: the public targeted online harassment of faculty. This harassment, organized and carried out by the alt-right and supported by other sectors of the right wing across the spectrum from mainstream to extreme, are intended to silence faculty and censor the curriculum. I examine a range of contextual factors that have facilitated this phenomenon, and discuss the experiences of seven other people, as well as myself, all with connections to higher education, that have experienced this unique form of attack. These conversations provide insight into the patterns evident in the form of the attack, individual and university responses, and informed the creation of lists of recommendations for those experiencing, preparing, and responding to attacks.
Russell, S. Garnett, Julia C. Lerch, and Christine Min Wotipka. 2018. “The Making of a Human Rights Issue: A Cross-National Analysis of Gender-Based Violence in Textbooks, 1950-2011.” Gender & Society 32 (5): 713-738.
In the past few decades, awareness around gender-based violence (GBV) has expanded on a global scale with increased attention in global treaties, organizations, and conferences. Previously a taboo topic, it is now viewed as a human rights violation in the broader world culture. Drawing on a quantitative analysis of 568 textbooks from 76 countries from across the world, we examine the extent to which this growing global attention to GBV has filtered down into national educational curricula. We find that textbook discussions of GBV are more prevalent in the post-1993 period and are linked to discussions of women’s rights. In addition, discussions of GBV are more common in countries with more linkages to the global women’s movement. Findings from our study underscore the influence of the women’s rights movement and the radical feminist perspective on the reframing of GBV as a human rights issue.
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 (2): 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.
Britton, Dana M. 2016. “Beyond the Chilly Climate: The Salience of Gender in Women’s Academic Careers.” Gender & Society 31 (1): 5-27.
The prevailing metaphor for understanding the persistence of gender inequalities in universities is the “chilly climate.” Women faculty sometimes resist descriptions of their workplaces as “chilly” and deny that gender matters even in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary. I draw on interviews with women academics (N=102) to explore this apparent paradox, and I offer a theoretical synthesis that may help explain it. I build on insights from Ridgeway and Acker to demonstrate that women do experience gender at work, but the contexts in which they experience it have implications for how they understand gender’s importance and whether to respond. Specifically, I find that women are likely to minimize or deny gender’s importance in interactions. When it becomes salient in structures and cultures, women understand it differently. Placing gender in organizational contexts can better inform our understanding of gender inequality at work and can help in crafting more effective efforts to foster gender equity.
Miller, Sarah A. 2016. “’How You Bully a Girl’: Sexual Drama and the Negotiation of Gendered Sexuality in High School.” Gender & Society 30 (5): 721-744.
Over the past decade, sexual rumor spreading, slut-shaming, and homophobic labeling have become central examples of bullying among young women. This article examines the role these practices— what adults increasingly call “bullying” and what girls often call “drama”— play in girls’ gendering processes. Through interviews with 54 class and racially diverse late adolescent girls, I explore the content and functions of “sexual drama.” All participants had experiences with this kind of conflict, and nearly a third had been the subject of other girls’ rumors about their own sexual actions and/or orientations. Their accounts indicate that sexual drama offers girls a socially acceptable site for making claims to, and sense of, gendered sexuality in adolescence. While they reproduce inequality through these practices, sexual drama is also a resource for girls—one that is made useful through the institutional constraints of their high schools, which reinforce traditional gender norms and limit sexuality information.
Khurshid, Ayesha. 2015. “Islamic Traditions of Modernity: Gender, Class, and Islam in a Transnational Women’s Education Project.” Gender & Society 29 (1): 98-121.
Women’s education has been central to discourses that have sought to modernize developing and Muslim societies. Based on ethnographic data collected from women teachers from rural and low-income communities of Pakistan, the article shows how being a parhi likhi (educated) woman implies acquiring a privileged subject position making claims to middle-class and Islamic morality, and engaging in specific struggles within, rather than against, the institutions of family, community, and Islam. This focus on the lived experiences of educated Muslim women complicates the prevalent narrative of modernity that presents women’s education and gender empowerment as an expression of individual women’s choice and free will against the oppressive frameworks of family, community, and Islam.
Martin, Patricia Yancey. 2015. “The Rape Prone Culture of Academic Contexts: Fraternities and Athletics.” Gender & Society 30 (1): 30-43.
About two decades ago, feminist sociologists stopped focusing on rape and sexual assault even though rapes and their destructive toll on girls and women did not end. Rape did not diminish appreciably and neither did the legal justice system dramatically improve its treatment of victims. Perhaps this is why 80 percent of women college students and 67 percent of non-college women fail to report being raped to the police (Langton and Siznocich 2014, citing National Crime Survey data). We now know that the great majority of rapes in the United States—about 80 percent—are perpetrated by someone known to the victim, not by a stranger who jumps out of the bushes. This pattern suggests that rape often is not a random event but, in many cases, a planned one. While some men are more apt than others to commit rape, some social contexts also are more amenable to rapes. Two such contexts that inhabit U.S. academic institutions—men’s social fraternities and athletic programs—are the focus of this essay. These contexts can be understood only within the wider parent institution—the contemporary college or university (Stotzer and MacCartney 2015). Thus, the qualities and dynamics of multiple contexts must be addressed.
Quadlin, Natasha Yurk. 2015. “Gender and Time Use in College: Converging or Diverging Pathways?” Gender & Society 30 (2): 361-385.
Gender differences in children’s and adults’ time use are well documented, but few have examined the intervening period—young adulthood. Because many Americans navigate higher education in young adulthood, college time use provides insight into how gendered behaviors evolve during this critical life stage. Using three years of time use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen and latent transition analysis, I examine gender differences in time use within and across the college years for those in selective institutions. Among students whose time use is consistent throughout college, I find that women exhibit academically-oriented time use more often, and men exhibit socially oriented time use more often. However, many men transition from social time use at the beginning of college to academic time use toward the end—to the extent that gender gaps in academic time use converge by the third year. I argue that men and women construct distinct college pathways, and that men, in particular, must reroute their time use to accommodate gendered expectations for the transition to adulthood.
Mullen, Ann L. 2014. “Gender, Social Background, and the Choice of College Major in a Liberal Arts Context.” Gender & Society 28 (2): 289-312.
Enduring disparities in choice of college major constitute one of the most significant forms of gender inequality among undergraduate students. The existing literature generally equates major choice with career choice and overlooks possible variation across student populations. This is a significant limitation because gender differences in major choice among liberal arts students, who attend college less for specific career training and more for broader learning objectives, are just as great as among those choosing pre-professional majors. This study addresses this gap by examining how privileged men and women at an elite, liberal arts university select their fields of study. Drawing on in-depth interviews, findings contradict the prevailing assumption of a unitary model of major choice as career choice by revealing a plurality of gendered meanings around choosing a field of study. Majors may play an important part in the construction of an intellectual identity as much as a means of career preparation. How students approach the choice relates to both gender and social background. For privileged students, traditional gendered associations with bodies of knowledge hold salience in their decision making as well as expectations of reproducing future elite family roles. This research also illuminates how gendered processes of choosing fields of study take place in relationship to particular institutional contexts.
Dwyer, Rachel E., Randy Hodson, and Laura McCloud. 2013. “Gender, Debt, and Dropping Out of College.” Gender & Society 27 (1): 30-55.
For many young Americans, access to credit has become critical to completing a college education and embarking on a successful career path. Young people increasingly face the trade-off of taking on debt to complete college or foregoing college and taking their chances in the labor market without a college degree. These trade-offs are gendered by differences in college preparation and support and by the different labor market opportunities women and men face that affect the value of a college degree and future difficulties they may face in repaying college debt. We examine these new realities by studying gender differences in the role of debt in the pivotal event of graduating from college using the 1997 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. In this article, we find that women and men both experience slowing and even diminishing probabilities of graduating when carrying high levels of debt, but that men drop out at lower levels of debt than do women. We conclude by theorizing that high levels of debt are one of the mechanisms that sort women and men into different positions in the social stratification system.
Ovink, Sarah M. 2013. “’They Always Call Me an Investment’: Gendered Familism and Latino/a College Pathways.” Gender & Society 28 (2): 265-288.
In the past 20 years, Latinas have begun to outperform Latinos in high school completion and college enrollment, tracking the overall “gender reversal” in college attainment that favors women. Few studies have examined what factors contribute to Latinas’ increasing educational success. This article focuses on gender differences in college-going behavior among a cohort of 50 Latino/a college aspirants in the San Francisco East Bay Area. Through 136 longitudinal interviews, I examine trends in Latinos/as’ postsecondary pathways and life course decisions over a two-year period. Findings suggest evidence for gendered familism, in which gender and racial/ethnic beliefs intersect to differentially shape Latinos/as’ attitudes, behaviors, and college choices. Gendered familism encouraged Latinas to seek a four-year degree as a means of earning independence, while Latinos expressed a sense of automatic autonomy that was not as strongly tied to educational outcomes.
Pomerantz, Shauna, Rebecca Raby, and Andrea Stefanik. 2013. “Girls Run the World?: Caught between Sexism and Postfeminism in School.” Gender & Society 27 (2): 185-207.
Through interviews with girls in the Niagara Region of Canada, Pomerantz, Raby and Stefanik challenge us to consider the larger implications when girls become placed in the middle of social inequalities. More specifically, when sexism becomes viewed as an individual problem, in a time of postfeminism that categorizes girls in the narratives of “Girl Power” and “Successful Girls”. Girls are left to manage their identities in a space where “boys and girls are equal” and where maintaining a “nice” persona as an empowered girl becomes important “so they would not have to blame anyone for the social injustices”.
Rauscher, Lauren, Kerrie Kauer, and Bianca D.M. Wilson. 2013. “The Healthy Body Paradox: Organizational and Interactional Influences on Preadolescent Girls’ Body Image in Los Angeles.” Gender & Society 27 (2): 208-230.
The culture of thinness and anti-fat bias for 8-14 year old girls was assessed through a girl-serving positive U.S. national youth development program, Girls on the Run, in Los Angeles, California. Using mixed methods, Rauscher, Kauer and Wilson ask us to consider how community based organizations improve and impede the relationship between girls’ body and health. More specifically, the “tension between telling girls that their bodies do not define who they are, while simultaneously encouraging them to maintain a nonfat body, the dominant form of body seen as healthy”. The contradictions reflect the ways in which the body is socially constructed to represent the cultural ideals surrounding physical activity, weight and health.
Riegle-Crumb, Catherine, and Melissa Humphries. 2012. “Exploring Bias in Math Teachers’ Perceptions of Students’ Ability by Gender and Race/Ethnicity.” Gender & Society 26 (2): 290-322.
This study explores whether gender stereotypes about math ability shape high school teachers’ assessments of the students with whom they interact daily, resulting in the presence of conditional bias. It builds on theories of intersectionality by exploring teachers’ perceptions of students in different gender and racial/ethnic subgroups and advances the literature on the salience of gender across contexts by considering variation across levels of math course-taking in the academic hierarchy. Analyses of nationally representative data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS) reveal that disparities in teachers’ perceptions of ability that favored white males over minority students of both genders are explained away by student achievement in the form of test scores and grades. However, we find evidence of a consistent bias against white females, which although relatively small in magnitude, suggests that teachers hold the belief that math is just easier for white males than it is for white females. In addition, we find some evidence of variation across course level contexts with regard to bias. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for research on the construction of gender inequality.
Weber, Jennifer Beggs. 2012. “Becoming Teen Fathers: Stories of Teen Pregnancy, Responsibility, and Masculinity.” Gender & Society 26 (6): 900-921.
Asking for a more complex understanding of the social construction of masculinity, Weber provides an analysis of teen fatherhood through gendered assumptions regarding pregnancy and contraception, a “belief that male sexuality is uncontrollable” and the “utilization of love and intimacy talk”. Through the three main ideals of masculinity, the stories of becoming and being a teen father are explored for young men in a Midwest city of the United States.
Denny, Kathleen E. 2011. “Gender in Context, Content, and Approach: Comparing Gender Messages in Girl Scout and Boy Scout Handbooks.” Gender & Society 25 (1): 27-47.
Examining the meanings of femininities and masculinities for girl and boy scouts in the United States, Denny describes how messages of gender become created for one of the oldest single-sex youth organizations. By focusing on the “context of activities—with whom the Scouts participate in activities, content of activities—the types of activities and badges offered, and the approach to the activities—the attitude with which Scouts are expected to approach these activities” more variability within femininity than masculinity becomes available to troop members. For Girl Scouts, there is a consistent blending of traditional and progressive femininity whereas the Boy Scouts use traditional masculinity based on social class.
Fox, Mary Frank, Gerhard Sonnert, and Irina Nikiforova. 2011. “Programs for Undergraduate Women in Science and Engineering: Issues, Problems, and Solutions.” Gender & Society 25 (5): 589-615.
Through the use of surveys, Fox, Sonnert and Nikiforova examine contemporary undergraduate science and engineering programs for women in the United States, programs that became part of the university structure in the 1990s. Focusing specifically on how programs define the barriers facing women in science and engineering, solutions to address the barriers, goals and perceived success with goals, and “organizational characteristics and relationship to the larger institutional environment of the universities”, their work represents the impact of gender inequality in an organizational structure. Taking a comprehensive approach, the relationship between the individual student and the structure of the program are analyzed to represent the discrepancies between creating change and maintaining the status quo.
Giffort, Danielle M. 2011. “Show or Tell? Feminist Dilemmas and Implicit Feminism at Girls’ Rock Camp.” Gender & Society 25 (5): 569-588.
Through the use of participant observation and semi-structured interviews at Girls Rock Midwest!, Gifford asks us to consider the ways in which feminist organizations connect feminist politics for girls in the United States. More specifically, how “implicit feminism is a strategy practiced by feminist activists within organizations that are operating in an anti- and postfeminist environment that involves concealing feminist identities, not labeling feminist ideas as such, and emphasizing more socially acceptable angles of their efforts to those outside of the organization”. Even if not continuously self-identified as feminist, the organization provides opportunities for girl self-growth and musical empowerment in a traditionally masculine space.
Love, Adam, and Kimberly Kelly. 2011. “Equity or Essentialism?: U.S. Courts and the Legitimation of Girls’ Teams in High School Sport.” Gender & Society 25 (2): 227-249.
Analyzing the rulings of fourteen U.S. Court cases, Love and Kelly invite us to consider how integrated sports teams in high school can reduce gender inequality. The contemporary use of sex-segregated teams is upheld through two specific social institutions — sports and law. Together the social institutions support the traditional norms of femininity of “fragility and weakness”. Thus, the experiences and opportunities for girl athletes become restricted and in-turn girls’ sports are not viewed as equally important as boys sports.
Myers, Kristen, and Laura Raymond. 2010. “Elementary School Girls and Heteronormativity: The Girl Project.” Gender & Society 24 (2): 167-188.
Myers and Raymond remind us to include children’s own voices when researching children’s sexuality and how “most studies of heteronormativity among children focus on adolescent girls and boys (ages 12 to 18) or on those transitioning into adolescence (9- to 11-year-olds). It stands to reason that younger girls struggle with these pressures too”. Through small focus groups in the Midwest of the United States, that is exactly what the research revealed. Girls identified their sexuality as a part of their everyday lives — some rejecting while others co-producing the gendered expectations.
Winslow, Sarah. 2010. “Gender Inequality and Time Allocations Among Academic Faculty.” Gender & Society 24 (6): 769-793.
This article focuses on faculty members’ allocation of time to teaching and research, conceptualizing these—and the mismatch between preferred and actual time allocations—as examples of gender inequality in academic employment. Utilizing data from the 1999 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, the author finds that (1) women faculty members prefer to spend a greater percentage of their time on teaching, while men prefer to spend more time on research, although these preferences are themselves constrained; (2) women faculty members spend a greater percentage of their workweek on teaching and a smaller percentage on research than men, gaps that cannot be explained by preferences or educational and institutional attributes; and (3) women faculty members have larger time allocation mismatches than men—that is, their actual time allocations to both teaching and research diverge more from their preferred time allocations than those of men. These findings shed light on how gender inequality is both produced and maintained in this aspect of academic employment and have implications for job satisfaction, productivity, and the recruitment and retention of current and future faculty members, especially women.
García, Lorena. 2009. “’Now Why do you Want to Know About That?’: Heteronormativity, Sexism, and Racism in the Sexual (Mis)education of Latina Youth.” Gender & Society 23 (4): 520-541.
Research has revealed that sex education policies are informed by national and local struggles over the meanings and consequences of gender, race, sexuality, and class categories. However, few studies have considered how policies are enacted in the classroom production of sex education to support or challenge gender, racial, sexual, and class hierarchies. This article draws on data obtained through semistructured in-depth interviews with 40 Latina youth (20 Mexican origin, 20 Puerto Rican) to explore how heteronormativity, sexism, and racism operate together to structure the content and delivery of school-based sex education. Findings suggest that some Latina youth encounter racialized heterogendered constructions and experiences that limit their access to sex-education-related information and reinforce existing inequalities.
Wilkinson, Lindsey, and Jennifer Pearson. 2009. “School Culture and the Well-Being of Same-Sex-Attracted Youth.” Gender & Society 23 (4): 542-568.
This study assesses how variations in heteronormative culture in high schools affect the well-being of same-sex-attracted youth. The authors focus on the stigmatization of same-sex attraction (rather than identity or behavior) to better understand how heteronormativity may marginalize a wide range of youth. Specifically, the authors use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to examine how variation across schools in football participation, religious attendance, and urban locale affects same-sex-attracted adolescents’ depressive symptoms, self-esteem, fighting, and academic failure. The results suggest that though same-sex-attracted youth are at greater risk for decreased well-being, these youth are at higher risk in non urban schools and in schools where football and religion have a larger presence. Results vary for boys and girls: The urban locale of a school has a larger impact for boys, while school religiosity has a greater impact for girls.
Steinbugler, Amy C., and Janice Johnson Dias. 2006. “Gender, Race, and Affirmative Action Operationalizing Intersectionality in Survey Research.” Gender & Society 20 (6): 805-825.
In this article, the authors operationalize the intersection of gender and race in survey research. Using quantitative data from the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality, they investigate how gender/racial stereotypes about African Americans affect Whites’ attitudes about two types of affirmative action programs: (1) job training and education and (2) hiring and promotion. The authors find that gender/racial prejudice towards Black women and Black men influences Whites’ opposition to affirmative action at different levels than negative attitudes towards Blacks as a group. Prejudice toward Black women has a larger effect on Whites’ policy preferences than does prejudice toward Black men or Blacks in general. In future research, survey methodologists should develop better intersectional measures to further document these gender/racial attitudes.
Hunter, Margaret L. 2002. “’If You’re Light You’re Alright’: Light Skin Color as Social Capital for Women of Color.” Gender & Society 16 (2): 175-193.
This article uses two national survey data sets to analyze the effects of skin color on life outcomes for African American and Mexican American women. Using a historical framework of European colonialism and slavery, this article explains how skin color hierarchies were established and are maintained. The concept of social capital is used to explain how beauty, defined through light skin, works as capital and as a stratifying agent for women on the dimensions of education, income, and spousal status. The analysis shows that light skin predicts higher educational attainment for both groups of women. Light skin directly predicts higher personal earnings for African American women and indirectly affects personal earnings for Mexican American women. Light skin predicts higher spousal status for African American women but not for Mexican American women.
Kane, Emily W., and Else K. Kyyrö. 2001. “For Whom Does Education Enlighten?: Race, Gender, Education, and Beliefs about Social Inequality.” Gender & Society 15 (5): 710-733.
Beliefs have the potential to obscure and legitimate, or to challenge, inequalities of gender and race. Through an analysis of the association between education and beliefs about racial and gender inequality, this article explores for whom education is most likely to foster beliefs that challenge social inequality. Data from the 1996 General Social Survey suggest that education tends to have a greater positive impact on rejection of group segregation and rejection of victim-blaming explanations for inequality than it does on recognition of discrimination or endorsement of group-based remedies for inequality. This pattern is consistent with the view that education reproduces rather than challenges inequality, and it is evident for white men, white women, and African American men. African American women present an exception, which is considered in terms of the unique structural location and historical legacy surrounding African American women’s relationship to education.
Hall, Julia. 2000. “IT HURTS TO BE A GIRL: Growing Up Poor, White, and Female.” Gender & Society 14 (5): 630-643.
In this article, the author asserts that a group of poor white middle school young women in the postindustrial urban Northeast are living among high concentrations of domestic violence. Many of these females are constructing futures characterized by jobs and self-sufficiency. As their narrations indicate, such plans are fueled by the hope that by living independent lives as single career women, they will bypass the domestic violence that currently rips through their own and their mothers’ lives. By not critically exploring the issue of violence against women in classrooms, the author argues that schools become implicated in the silencing and “normalizing” of abuse. This analysis is one piece of a large-scale ethnographic study in which the production of identities among poor white urban girls and boys is explored.