Below is an activity I’ve seen used a few different ways. The activity helps to illustrate the issue of mate selection for forming a family; it also gets students thinking about gender, sexuality, and the life course.
First, have students think about their expectations of what their immediate family will be like someday. What are their plans for the future? Or, if they are already married or in a domestic partnership, what is their family like?
Then, have students draw a future mate randomly from the list below, which has been adapted from several versions of this exercise. The trick is that the draw is indeed random, so there will be same-sex, interracial, or other couples.
- A middle-class, white man who travels three weeks each month for his job and has three kids from a previous marriage of whom he has custody. Currently, he has a live-in nanny but would rather have a full-time parent in the home for his kids.
- A wealthy, African-American woman who owns a publishing business in Chicago.
- A working class, Latino man from Costa Rica who wishes to live near his family in his home country.
- An upwardly-mobile white woman who wishes never to have kids or at least not to care for them herself. (If you want kids, you will have to be the sole parent.)
- A female, Presbyterian minister whose first job assignment is in central Kansas.
- An African-American male professor who has tenure at Harvard.
- A English man who wishes to live in the US but cannot get residency for 3-4 years as a result of the immigration waiting list for English citizens into this country.
- A white, male Florida “cracker” whose family has owned a fishing business in Everglades City for two generations. He plans to adopt the business in five years and needs to continue working for the business until that time.
- Martha Stewart’s sister, a middle-class, white woman who plans to be a homemaker.
- An Indian woman (US resident) whose parents are planning to arrange a marriage for her with someone other than you.
Students must suppose they will fall in love with this person within five years and plan to form a family with them. Then, they should think about the following questions:
How will their future plans be affected by this selection? What will their other family members think? Where will they live? What about kids? What is the likelihood that they would actually consider marrying this person?
Check out the myriad posts on Soc Images about marriage and family, and consider coupling one or two with this exercise!