In light of Beyond the Stereotype: The Nurse is a Man letter to the editor and related NYT article recently, we’re revisiting this report on Gender & Society research from Girlw/Pen.

Recent headlines such as “Men, Who Needs Them?” and “Why Fathers Really Matter” showcase a growing debate about the importance of including men in discussions of gender inequality. Two new studies from Gender & Society turn attention to areas in which men have long been ignored: at home, in the study of conception, pregnancy and childbirth, and at work, in the caregiving professions—particularly nursing. New research demonstrates under what conditions men’s contributions are slowly becoming more visible and what the benefits are (and can be).

Reproduction: Let’s start at the beginning…or before the beginning, before conception

In the Gender & Society study, “More and Less than Equal: How Men Factor in the Reproductive Equation,” Yale and Princeton University researchers uncovered widely varying views of men’s contributions to reproduction. Clinicians and scientists perceive men as incredibly important when it comes to conception; equally important to women when it comes to genetics; and incredibly unimportant when it comes to pregnancy.  Even now in the 2nd decade of the 21st century, basic information about how men’s own health status matters for reproductive outcomes, such as birth defects, is lacking.

About the study. Sociologists Rene Almeling (Yale) and Miranda Waggoner (Princeton) brought together their respective studies of professionals involved with sperm banks and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative (PHHCI). The sample includes data from Waggoner’s interviews with 57 experts involved with the CDC’s Initiative and from Almeling’s interviews with 18 people involved with sperm banks, including founders of sperm donation programs, clinicians, researchers, and staffers from four sperm banks. The investigators recognized that sperm banks are a unique site for pre-conception practices, complementing the PHHCI.

Men left out. The standard of care in preconception health is to ask “every woman, every visit” about her health and fertility intentions, but preconception researchers interviewed for this study believed it was not “feasible” to ask such questions of men. Despite giving lip service to the idea that “men are equally important” in reproduction, Almeling and Waggoner’s interviewees admitted that men’s contributions are “sometimes left out of the discussion.”

In a comprehensive analysis of research on preconception care, the study reported that a majority of journal articles did not discuss men at all or mentioned them only briefly. A striking example was in the introduction to an issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology (AJOG) on preconception health. In it, the AJOG authorsdiscussed 84 different risk factors and components of preconception care. Rather than including men in categories such as alcohol or illicit drug use, they were segregated. This means that everything pertaining to men was addressed in a single catch-all category at the end labeled “men,” report Almeling and Waggoner.

Why does it matter? Almeling and Waggoner explain that medical knowledge about reproduction matters, not only for men and their children, but also for how we as a society think about reproductive responsibility. An important step is making sure that men’s contributions to reproduction—not only to conception but to successful, healthy pregnancies–are observed, tested, investigated and discussed.

Calling on the Affordable Care Act. The authors note that paying attention to how reproductive equations influence policy can suggest new and different avenues for improving public health.  Specifically, they point to the Affordable Care Act, which stipulates that women with private insurance are no longer required to pay a co-payment for a preconception health appointment.  “Excluding men from such coverage continues to obscure their role in reproduction,” argue Almeling and Waggoner.

Invisibility Continued: New Research on Nursing

One way of improving public health and men’s involvement in healthy families would be to recruit more men into nursing, so that men’s experiences, concerns, and values are more visible among the front line providers of family care. Yet only seven percent of the nurses in the United States are men, as discussed in a new study, just released online at Gender & Society.

In her Gender & Society article, “Recruiting Men, Constructing Manhood: How Health Care Organizations Mobilize Masculinities as Nursing Recruitment Strategy,”  Marci Cottingham, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Department of Social Medicine, discusses ways that health care organizations attempt to overcome the disconnect between “caring” – defined as the feminine sphere of nurses — and “curing” – defined as the masculine sphere of doctors.

Cottingham’s unique study examined the recruitment messages of healthcare organizations, including the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN). She conducted a systematic, in-depth analysis of 32 videos, brochures, and posters, as well as 286 pages of text from campaign reports, nursing webpages, and newsletters. A total of 124 men were featured in these materials. These materials included a YouTube channel dedicated to recruiting men into nursing. (Check it out to see individual men nurses discussing their perspectives on joining the profession.)

Cottingham finds that many campaigns attempt to redefine nursing in traditionally manly terms – such as an occupation that involves risk-taking, courage, and adventure. This YouTube video, promoting travel nursing, opens with men nurses engaging in extreme snowboarding and driving all-terrain vehicles as part of what travel nursing can look like.

A minority of recruitment efforts, by contrast, center on redefining manhood to encompass caring—this video highlights men’s stories of helping vulnerable people. “Encouraging men to engage in more caregiving—at work and at home—may decrease the burden of carework that typically falls on women and may increase equality between men and women,” reflects sociologist Cottingham.

Originally posted 12/3/2013

photo credit: Steve Buissinne via pixabay

We are still in a world of pain and wondering what will happen with health care. So let’s go over a few facts again. 

The opioid epidemic may be about to get worse. Under the new Republican administration, the Affordable Care Act and other policies to support families are under fire. To understand the impact Republican policy changes could have on the opioid epidemic we sought to learn more from someone who has studied it. Eliza Schultz is a Research Assistant for the Poverty to Prosperity program at the Center for American Progress. One of Eliza’s recent reports (with Katherine Gallagher Robbins) is How Republican Budget Cuts Would Make the Opioid Epidemic Even Worse. The report takes a more inclusive perspective on the impact of the opioid epidemic by addressing how it affects families and communities. When I spoke with Eliza she expanded on the opioid epidemics connection to family and community, what policymakers should be doing, and the threats to well-being that these Republican policies create.

Q: I know that you do policy research. So how did opioid addiction come up as a topi­­c––and how did you recognize it as a family and community issue (as opposed to a personal one)?

ES: Opioid use has escalated into a full-blown crisis in the United States—more than 30,000 people died from overdoses in 2015, and, in some pockets of the country, particularly rural ones, it’s ushered in mass trauma—so it’s hard to ignore. It’s been covered so widely in the media and on the campaign trail, but what makes this coverage noteworthy is that, for the first time, the consensus is that the epidemic has been spurred by factors outside the control of people struggling with addiction, like economic insecurity.

Historically, drug use has been framed as a personal failure. Take, for example, the crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. The reaction was to incarcerate people, which, of course, decimated families and communities, compounding whatever havoc the drugs themselves wreaked. It’s fair to say racism played a huge role in these different responses because now that the face of a drug epidemic is white, the country is more sympathetic. This moment presents an opportunity to understand drug addiction in general—not just the opioid epidemic, and no matter who is most affected—not as a personal failure but as a symptom of larger issues, like the lack of good jobs, and address those root causes.

To me, it’s hard not to recognize substance abuse as an issue that impacts families and communities. A phenomenon like opioid use does not happen in isolation to individuals—it inevitably affects the people around them. Adequate solutions to drug epidemics need to acknowledge and support those families and communities. Mass incarceration did precisely the opposite.

Q: What should policymakers do to address issues raised in your study?

ES: Well, the first key step is to do no harm. Under the American Health Care Act, health care costs will jump to the tune of $1,400 on average, but Americans who face the biggest cost increase—about $5,000 annually—are those ages 55 to 64, the same cohort that has seen the biggest rise in fatal opioid overdoses. We also know that rural communities—which, again, are disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic—face severe unmet needs for medical care, with more than 30 million people in counties that have not one licensed provider of medication-assisted drug treatment. The Affordable Care Act has helped to address that gap in services, in part because it incentivizes providers to serve rural counties. Under the current replacement plan, the existence of those 1,300 community health centers—many in rural areas—is threatened. Similarly, we can’t afford to roll back Medicaid expansion, or institute per capita caps, as the replacement bill proposes. All that will do is leave low-income people without insurance, or with significantly worse coverage.

As for a proactive agenda to address opioid addiction, a robust safety net is essential. Dr. Anna Lembke, chief of addiction medicine at Stanford School of Medicine, attributed part of this epidemic to the fact that, in the absence of adequate economic supports, painkillers have become a stop-gap for people with not only physical problems, but also psychological and economic ones.

Q: There’s serious potential for repeal of ACA and elimination of supports for families faced with opioid addiction. What can be done for the foster care system that, as you report, is heavily impacted by opioid addiction?

ES: By way of background, substance abuse now accounts for why about one in three children end up in foster care, and that figure is on the rise, in large part because of the opioid epidemic. State foster care systems have not been able to keep up with the increased demand, forcing states to turn to outside organizations for assistance. While it’s great that a lot of non-profits and religious institutions have stepped up in some parts of the country, reliance on volunteer organizations to plug holes like those in state foster care systems is so far from an adequate long-term solution. These systems need more financial support, but, unfortunately, the primary revenue sources for foster care are under attack. It’s hard to wrap my mind around how an administration can vow to support a population and then threaten to make budget cuts that really just exacerbate the problem at hand.

How do multiracial daters fare in a mainstream online dating website? A study presented to the Council on Contemporary Families by scholars at the University of Texas and University of Massachusetts reports that online daters prefer mixed-race over mono-racial individuals. The authors of “Dating Partners Don’t Always Prefer ‘Their Own Kind’: Some Multiracial Daters Get Bonus Points in the Dating Game” challenge the common belief that people with a white parent and a parent of a different racial-ethnic group, especially ones with a black parent, are always treated as “minorities.

Mixed Summer Flowers via RGBstock

Sociologists Celeste Curington, Ken-Hou Lin, and Jennifer Lundquist used 2003-2010 data from one of the largest dating websites in the United States to examine nearly 6.7 million initial messages sent between heterosexual women and men. They found that the historic preference for whites in the dating market has been replaced in some cases with a preference for multiracial individuals. Read their American Sociological Review abstract here.

Three groups received what the authors call a multiracial “dividend effect”:

  • Asian-white women got the most positive response by white and by Asian men alike. They were preferred to both mono-racial whites and Asians.
  • Asian and Hispanic women preferred Asian-white and Hispanic-white men (respectively), responding more frequently to the multiracial men than to either their co-ethnic men or to whites.​
  • White women responded the least frequently to mono-racial Asian men and to blacks, but being Asian-white bumped a man way up in white women’s preferences. They responded favorably to this group as frequently as they did to white men.

Still a persistent hierarchy: More detailed evidence in the report demonstrates further how racial barriers to dating are shifting, echoing the Pew Research Center’s report this month on the topic. Yet the authors found considerable evidence of a persistent color hierarchy—especially between blacks and whites. For example, white men and women remain less likely to respond to an individual who identifies as part black and part white than to a fellow white person. In related research, the investigators found that black women send few messages to men who are not also black but are more responsive when non-black men reach out to them, leading the authors to conclude that black women expect rejection if they initiate contacts with men of other ethnicities.

Explanations for multiracial dividend effects: “Some cases,” the authors argue, “seem to be closely linked to a continuing partiality for lightness or whiteness.” They also suggest that the preference of white and Asian men for white-Asian women may reflect “the influence of longstanding cultural representations of multiracial women as unique and sexually exotic. Likewise, Asian and Hispanic women may have been influenced by the media’s increasing portrayal of multiracial men as attractive, chic, and trendy.” Alternatively, Asian and Hispanic women may believe that a man who is part white and part Asian or Hispanic may represent an especially attractive mix of both worlds when it comes to gender and cultural norms.

Historical and demographic context: The authors propose that their findings suggest a growing blurring of romantic racial boundaries. Despite powerful historic, demographic and cultural patterns perpetuating such boundaries, the changes these authors detect may portend coming shifts in future interracial relationships.

After a U.S. history of legal prohibitions on interracial coupling that ended formally in 1967 with the Loving vs. Virginia Supreme Court decision, approval of interracial marriage has reached unprecedented highs, according to Gallup. Even so, interracial dating and marriages have increased at a slow rate, and many have demonstrated that this is related to colorism—that is the discrimination against people with darker skin and preferences for people with lighter skin—and to other institutional barriers, such as racially-based economic inequality.

At the same time, the slow and yet growing rate of interracial romance has produced a growing number of children of multiracial parentage. In 2013, according to Pew, 6.3 percent of marriages were mixed-race—nearly a quadrupling of the proportion in 1980. Ten percent of children under one (who lived with two parents) had parents of different races. As these changes lead to a growing multiracial population, is it possible that the multiracial dividend will be extended, or at least begin to counter some of the racial penalties that have existed in the dating and marriage market? Or will individuals perceived as mono-racial blacks fall even further behind?

Originally Posted 7/13/15

Click for image source.

The following is a re-post in honor of the (2014) 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

Catholic and Jewish Americans since The Civil Rights Era

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only ushered in stronger federal protections for racial and ethnic minorities and women, but also for religious minorities. Antipathy toward Catholics and Jews in the US was a persistent and prevalent theme through much of American history. It was common for these groups to be labeled “un-American” and even categorized as “non-white.” Members of these religions were often discriminated against in hiring and in admission to institutions of higher learning (this was especially common for Jewish applicants) and excluded from many neighborhoods, clubs, and political positions. From the late 19th through the mid-20th century, organized hate groups, most notably the Ku Klux Klan, used the threat of violence to intimidate not only African-Americans but Jews and Catholics as well.

After World War II, these restrictions and prejudices eased somewhat. By 1955 the now-classic essay Protestant Catholic Jew could proclaim that although these three religions were the primary sources of identity in America, they were now “alternative ways of being an American” rather than two of them being seen as Un-American.

Still, anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism persisted. In the 1960s, some commentators worried that President Kennedy, a Catholic, would take orders from the Pope. In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon was recorded making several anti-Semitic comments. And even today nativist hate groups continue to perpetuate centuries-old hostilities against Catholic and Jewish Americans. But the Civil Rights Act did give these minorities protection against outright exclusion and discrimination, and other religious minorities have also looked to it for security as the American religious landscape has diversified. more...

Families at all levels of income are struggling in our economy simply because it does not allow congenial coexistence of work and family life. Lives have become busier and busier and policies have not changed to reflect that. In her book, Finding Time: The Economics of Work-Life Conflict (Harvard University Press), Heather Boushey thoughtfully and comprehensively explains the problems with work-life conflict for women. Her book presents a set of solutions, too, that could make work-life conflict a thing of the past. While the story leads with the tale of what happens to women, Boushey takes the very issues that working women with families face and shows how these dilemmas are not about being a woman, they are about economics, and are shackling our entire economy. A valuable contribution is her portrait of contrasting work-life conflicts across income groups and family composition. She uses data as a skilled economist—which is her discipline—yet builds sensitively from history and social theory in a compelling book. Ultimately, her grounded arguments deliver detailed explanations as to why family policy needs to change and change quickly. Boushey, who is Executive Director and Chief Economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, has decades of work bringing careful research to bear on key policy issues—and is successful at making the research and policy issues understandable to people who are really affected by the policies.

DUAL EARNING FAMILY DEPENDENCE

Boushey sets the table with locating economics in social context. The deal with capitalism is that by design the economy is ever-changing. Since the 1970s it has become heavily dependent upon women’s earnings. Families can no longer get by on the earnings of just one parent as they could before around 1979. So if our economy is so dependent upon a dual income family, then why aren’t there policies that support families’ need to manage work and family care? In Boushey’s words: “The hodgepodge of work and family policies that has evolved over the years does not address how people can have the time to deal with conflicts between work and home life” (p. 250). Finding Time explains the factors that determine what needs to change and how that change can happen.

COMPOSITION OF THE FAMILY IS CHANGING

The composition of families, Boushey reminds readers, are a lot different now than they used to be. While in the past families typically consisted of a mother, a father, and children, families now are more complex and could be classified in a burgeoning array. Single parent families make up about 27 percent of families today, for example. While in the past families could survive off of one parent being the breadwinner, that is nearly impossible now, especially for single parent families. She explains that single parent families are more likely to be low-income than families that have two (married) parents. Where are U.S. policies that make single-parent families able to thrive? Yes, they are already at a disadvantage with only one income, but policies that work will empower single parents to earn money and do the carework, which are two key things parents need to do.

WHO WILL BE THE “SILENT PARTNER” NOW?

Boushey makes a great point when she explains that women have always been the “silent partner” to businesses. Starting with the 19th century “family wage” and ending somewhere after the 1950s boom, men could go to work and not have to worry about their family because they knew their wives would be taking care of it. Businesses never had to take family into account because men never had to worry about theirs. In Boushey’s phrase, women were the “silent partners” to business. However, now that women’s incomes are key to family survival, the country is still not doing anything to lessen the burden of the work-family conflicts. Meanwhile, businesses reap benefits from having more capable workers in a larger labor pool, for whom wages are stagnant.

HOW CAN WE BE HERE, THERE, PROVIDE CARE, AND MAKE SURE ITS FAIR?

Women do not have a “silent partner.” But Boushey has a recommendation to fix this. She found that there is not one sure-fire way to fix the work-life conflict that families are facing. She argues that we need solutions in four areas that she calls Here, There, Care, and Fair.

Here: Policies for when women need to be Here (in the home). These policies include paid sick leave for medical needs and other time that would need to be spent with children.

There: Policies to make sure that the amount of hours that women are working leaves room for managing their family so that they do not always need to be There (at work).

Care: Policies regarding high-quality Care for children and aging family members.

Fair: Overall, policies need to be fair for everyone. This means that no matter what your income or familial composition is, you are still afforded the same work-family policies and no added responsibilities should hinder that.

Not only would adding this support make it less stressful for families to balance work and life, but such supports decrease costly turnover rates and increase productivity.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Women (and men!) need family policy as our silent partner to help us provide for our families. The “family policy” men had in the past was a housewife—and this policy is out of date. The economy has grown with the growth of women’s participation in the work force. It is time, Boushey demonstrates, that this growth should extend to benefits for women and their familial responsibilities.

This book was a great read. Along with clear explanations of economic concepts, Boushey uses her personal experience growing up in a working-class, union family in Washington State along with her knowledge of economics and history to show that to grow our economy and bring us out of the doldrums, working women need family-friendly policies. As a young woman looking ahead to a life of work-life conflict, I gained clarity and direction for my own work. Work-life conflict is a topic that needs recognition and Boushey is helping to spread knowledge and awareness. Boushey’s book still left me wondering how race may factor into this work-life conflict, maybe in a future addition we will be given some insight!

Originally posted 7/29/2016

Molly McNulty is a former CCF public affairs intern at Framingham State University. She graduated in May, 2017, as a Sociology and Education major.

Ashton Applewhite is a Council on Contemporary Families expert and has been recognized by the New York Times, National Public Radio, and the American Society on Aging as an expert on ageism. Her new book, “This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism,” was just published in April 2016. She blogs at “This Chair Rocks,” where you can follow her ongoing insights, speaks widely, and is the voice of “Yo, is this ageist?” Ashton’s work is a call to wake up to the ageism in and around us, embrace a more accurate and positive view of growing older, and push back. She agreed to answer a few questions for us:

Q: First, a challenge: what’s one single thing you “know” with certainty, after years of research into modern families?

AA: One of the biggest obstacles to the well-being of modern families is the all-American myth of self-reliance—that people can and should “go it alone”—and we don’t call it out enough. That myth, which equates needing help with physical frailty and weakness of character, serves none of us well—least of all caregivers, people with disabilities, and older people (increasingly overlapping circles on the Venn diagram of life).

The myth exacts an immense personal cost: it downplays life’s challenges, it needlessly exhausts, and it shames us when, inevitably, we fall short. The social cost is high too: a culture that idealizes self-reliance serves the anti-welfare agenda of proponents of small government, because it silences and deflects questions about the structures that strand us. This go-it-alone ethic is one reason that care for the very young and very old is not publicly funded, which typically leaves family members holding the bag. Another reason is ageism, the last socially sanctioned prejudice, which disproportionately affects people at either end of the age spectrum.

Q: Give us the “Twitter” version of your current research — in 140 characters (give or take), what are you working on now?

AA: I’ll give you two tweets worth: I’m an author, speaker, blogger, and activist working to make discrimination on the basis of age as unacceptable as any other kind of prejudice. It’s time for a radical age movement, and I hope my new book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, will help catalyze it.

Q: How would you encourage a scholar of family life to work to get their research into public life, affecting policy and challenging assumptions about “average families”?

AA: Consider self-publishing. Jane Friedman’s site is a good starting point. I’ve been published by four of the big five publishers but elected to bring this book to market myself, partly because of their general cluelessness about the new digital landscape and partly because of my subject matter. Self-publishing means more control, more work, and more reliance on the network of friends and colleagues that social media enables. Like many of your publications, my book is a call for progressive social change—in this case to mobilize against ageism as we have against racism, sexism, and homophobia. Hence my slogan: Self-publish together! It’s different, and a lot more congenial, to ask for help from readers who share a goal that benefits many. People respond to a persuasive case that an issue requires collective action. I’m getting real traction, and I think many of my CCF colleagues would too. Self-publish together to change the world!

Molly McNulty was a CCF public affairs intern at Framingham State University 2015-2017. She graduated in May 2017 as a joint Sociology and Education major.

east view of the Bastille, via wikimedia.

It is still June, still “wedding month,” still the month of Bastille Day, too. Here’s a revisit to a GirlwPen column from a few years ago.

Mary Wollstonecraft, a founding grandmother of liberal feminism who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), focused on how to improve the status of women (middle-class, white British women, that is) by revising education and transforming marriage. She writes of love,

Love, the common passion, in which chance and sensation take place of choice and reason, is, in some degree, felt by the mass of mankind; for it is not necessary to speak, at present, of the emotions that rise above or sink below love. This passion, naturally increased by suspense and difficulties, draws the mind out of its accustomed state, and exalts the affections; but the security of marriage, allowing the fever of love to subside, a healthy temperature is thought insipid, only by those who have not sufficient intellect to substitute the calm tenderness of friendship, the confidence of respect, instead of blind admiration, and the sensual emotions of fondness.

Down with romance, says Wollstonecraft. To liberate women and men, marriage should be stripped of passion. She argued, in effect, that doing so would offset the way that marriage starts as a cartoon of manly men adoring delicate women of great beauty and not much more (because of the limits of women’s education that Wollstonecraft deplored). To wit, the hero of her unfinished novel, Maria; or the Wrongs of Woman, is remembered above all for her line, “marriage has bastilled me for life.” (Bastille being the 1790s equivalent of Occupy today.)

Now to my story: Today [9/30/2012] in the New York Times, Matt Richtel develops his thought experiment for how to liberate marriage from that bastille experience. He proposes to a set of family researchers the notion of a 20-year marriage contract in “Till Death, or 20 Years, Do Us Part.”

Seems like everyone he interviewed thought marriage—and ideas about marriage—could use some revision. Pepper Schwartz ripely noted, “We’re remarkably not innovative about marriage even though almost all the environmental conditions, writ large, have changed…We haven’t scrutinized it. We’ve been picking at it like a scab, and it’s not going to heal that way.” The upshot was that marriage still is Occupied, and in important ways a prison for our imaginations.

My own proposal focused on getting rid of a lot of marriage fantasies that are represented in the commercial hype around marriage—very Wollstonecraft-ish, right? There might be something to that: wedding hype seems to bring out a lot of the gender cartoons that Wollstonecraft railed against. But is that anti romantic? Not in the way that I mean it.

I don’t think that getting rid of old-school marriage fantasies means not being romantic, not being hopeful, not being tender, committed, loyal, tolerant of bad days, exuberant about good days. What interests me are ways to cultivate romance and commitment in a context where partners recognize that the choice to participate in marriage, to remain, day in and day out, is something that makes it more fantastic, not less. Marriage, in this view, becomes mindful. And the reality is that marriage is a choice day in and day out, for a lot of reasons cogently reviewed in Matt Richtel’s column.

Same-sex partners, who until recently haven’t had access to marriage, have often been forced to forge more imaginative, more mindful unions. Now, as we edge towards marriage equality, everyone gets to see unions that take the sweet traditions of marriage, the fun, the legitimacy, and the somber commitment of it, but perhaps less often encumbered with the baggage of the bastille Wollstonecraft spoke of in heterosexual marriage.

As for me: I’m not married. When I was married, my vows included none of that “till death do you part” stuff; instead we pledged to remain interesting to each other. And we did. Till the day my husband died. And then some.

-Virginia Rutter

Photo by Jeff Djevdet via Flikr

The term “millennial,” according to Frank Furstenberg, is an overly simplistic blanket term frequently used to describe the generation born anywhere between 1980 and 2004. This leads to confusion when we see debates in the media about where millennials fall on either side of the conservative or liberal binary, even when research shows significant complexity in millennial attitudes and behaviors. This month, I asked Barbara Risman, Professor of Sociology at University of Illinois at Chicago and President of the Board for the Council on Contemporary Families, about new research for her forthcoming book Where Will the Millennials Take Us: Transforming the Gender Structure? The research is in Social Currents. Risman’s findings suggest that as gender itself challenges binaries, so do millennials’ negotiations with the gender structure. Rather than a clear-cut conclusion about “millennial” approaches to gender, Risman finds four unique typologies that situate millennials within the gender structure: the true believers, innovators, rebels, and straddlers.

Q: In your typology, I was intrigued by the gender rebels: This is the millennial group that seems most different from previous generations. They emerged in your investigation when you demarcated material and cultural dimensions of the gender structure. Can you tell us more about how you came to recognize the gender rebels?

BR: I agree with your assessment that these gender rebels are perhaps the one group in my research that appear to be an invention of the millennial generation. Gender rebels are very much like a group I call the innovators; both could be described as trying to walk the walk of feminism, even if feminism is so in the air they breathe, they sometimes do not use the word. At the individual level of analysis, both groups reject being constrained to stereotypically feminine or masculine personality traits, both reject the cultural expectations that men and women should live different kinds of lives, and both are ideologically opposed to gender inequality. They are very similar in their cultural rejection of gender at the individual, interactional and macro ideological levels.

But when it came to the material aspects of gender, not ideas, but bodies and the class between their bodily presentations and the organization of social life, rebels and innovators couldn’t have been more different. The rebels rejected the notion that just because they were born female (or in one case, male) that meant they should present their bodies as feminine (or in one case, masculine). These rebels rejected the material expression of gender with their bodies. At the individual level they were androgynous, or if female, they presented their bodies in ways traditionally associated with masculinity. This had repercussions for how people treated them, with gender policing especially dramatic for men who challenged gender norms, but also for women who challenged how they presented their bodies once they reached puberty. At the macro level of organizational design, anyone who falls between the binary of male and female faces constant oppression as they do not fit within standard social categories. As you suggest, my distinction between cultural and material dimensions of the gender structure help us to understand why the experiences of rebels are so different from those of innovators.   

Q: What do you see as the practical/policy implications of your findings about the complexity of millennial gender typologies for the advancement of gender equality?

BR: There was one response that didn’t differ across groups. It didn’t matter if someone was a true believer in essential gender differences or a rebel, everyone, male or female, or somewhere in between, expected to work throughout their lives. That has great policy implications. We need to change our workplace policies to reflect the reality that all people in this generation expect to work in the paid labor force, and thus, workplaces have to be re-designed to be more family friendly. In this and no doubt future generations, employed adults will also be caretakers of young children, sick relatives and aging parents. We must use social policy to re-design the world of paid work to make this possible. Every society needs both economic activity and caretaking, and if the same people do both, social organizations have to reflect that reality.

A second policy implication reflects the needs of the rebels. Now that we have people who refuse the label of man or woman, and gender categories themselves are under siege by at least a small group of millennials, we have to begin to allow for gender variation in our social world. If there are people who are neither women nor men, then we need bathrooms that anyone can use. One policy implication is to move beyond single-sex bathrooms. Why not continue to require all stalls to have doors, and perhaps add curtains for urinals, and allow everyone to use every bathroom, and wash their hands next to people who are their same sex and those who are not? Why gender products? Why do we need different colored razors for men and women? At the end of my book, I call for a fourth wave of feminism that seeks to eradicate not just sexism but the gender structure itself. Only then will people who are constrained by gender, all of us, will be free.

Q: Your qualitative research makes a strong argument for the heterogeneity of millennials’ relations to the gender structure. That heterogeneity is very important to understanding things as they are, but sometimes in media the message gets lost. What advice do you have for researchers communicating nuanced findings to public audiences, when many in popular media depict millennials as falling on one side of a progressive/not progressive dichotomy?

BR: This is a problem for both qualitative and quantitative researchers. For qualitative research, I suggest creating catchy names for groups that differ, and insisting that the range of responses be covered. For quantitative researchers, I think a suggestion often given by Stephanie Coontz is right on target, and that is to discuss both means and standard deviations, especially when there is great variation around the average, and so people are really having different experiences.

Braxton Jones earned his MA in Sociology at the University of New Hampshire, and serves as a CCF Graduate Research and Public Affairs Scholar.

Photo by Zazzle via pinterest

Reprinted from Equal Pay for All – the Official Website administered by the State Treasurer of Massachusetts – See more here:

June is traditionally LGBT pride month, and Massachusetts has a lot to be proud of. In 1989, we became the second state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation (gender identity took longer). In 2004 we became the very first state to have marriage equality for same-sex couples. In spite of these victories for legal equality here and elsewhere, though, LGBT people continue to face wage gaps and other forms of economic inequality.

Employment discrimination still happens and is disturbingly common in the United States. In a 2013 national survey, 21% of LGBT people reported experiences of unfair treatment by an employer. Studies that send identically-qualified LGBT and non-LGBT people’s applications for jobs find that LGBT applicants have to apply for many more jobs just to get an interview.

These kinds of discrimination are likely contributors to the gay wage gap. A recent review of studies found that gay and bisexual men earned 11% less than heterosexual men with the same age, education, and other qualifications.

Perhaps surprisingly, lesbian and bisexual women earn about 9% more than similar heterosexual women. A lesbian wage advantage?  Not exactly–it’s more like a slightly smaller gender wage gap, since lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women all earn less than straight or gay men.

Lesbians do some things differently from heterosexual women, which might reduce the gender disadvantage. Mainly we see higher earnings for lesbians who were never married to men. Lesbians who were married to men at some point have earnings more like heterosexual women’s, maybe because they made similar kinds of childrearing or labor market decisions while living with a male spouse.

Lesbians also work more hours and weeks, so they might be accumulating more experience over time, which helps to raise wages. And lesbians appear to be less deterred by male dominance in an occupation, holding jobs that have more men in them than heterosexual women do.

The gender wage gap bites into lesbians’ economic resources, though. Lesbian couples have two women’s incomes, and studies show they have less income to live on than a male-female couple or a gay male couple. That’s one big reason why lesbian couples have higher poverty rates than different-sex couples and gay male couples. The poverty gaps are even larger for African American same-sex couples and for transgender people.

Interestingly, we’re learning that gay men are also affected by gender inequality. For example, one study shows that anti-gay discrimination is particularly pronounced in jobs looking for applicants with stereotypical male characteristics, like assertiveness, aggressiveness, or ambition.

So how can we move LGBT people closer to actual equality in economic outcomes?

Businesses have been allies in promoting policies and practices to reduce discrimination and to make workplaces more welcoming of LGBT employees. Some examples include putting sexual orientation and gender identity in the company nondiscrimination policy, discussing LGBT issues in diversity training, supporting LGBT employee groups, and developing clear gender transition guidelines.

Employers make a business case for LGBT equality—they need to recruit and retain the best employees, including LGBT people and non-LGBT people who want to work at companies that value diversity. Research backs up the business case claims, showing that companies with LGBT-supportive policies have higher stock prices, productivity, and profits.

Strengthening the scope and enforcement of nondiscrimination policies would help, too. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission considers discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to be a form of sex discrimination, so LGBT people can file employment discrimination charges everywhere in the U.S. But it would also be transformative to have a comprehensive federal law like the proposed Equality Act, which would ban discrimination not only in employment, but also in credit, housing, public services, and other areas.

Some other policies would help lift LGBT people out of poverty, in particular. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would cut gay men’s poverty by a third and cuts lesbians’ poverty in half. Finding a way to eliminate the gender wage gap would erase the gap in poverty for lesbian couples, and cutting racial wage gaps would reduce the poverty gap for African American and Hispanic people in same-sex couples. Plus those policies have the advantage of helping everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Finally, we need more data and research on LGBT people to better understand what’s making LGBT people economically insecure. Massachusetts and other states should join California in moving toward more inclusive data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity within state agencies, including health and human services, education, and employment.

While we have reasons to be proud of LGBT people’s victories in the push for legal equality, we will all be prouder when we’ve also achieved economic equality.

M. V. Lee Badgett is a professor of economics and the former director of the School of Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is also a Williams Distinguished Scholar at UCLA’s Williams Institute and a board member of the Council on Contemporary Families. Her latest book is The Public Professor:  How to Use Your Research to Change the World.

A briefing paper prepared for the Council on Contemporary Families Online Symposium on Gender and Millennials, originally released March 31, 2017. 

The 2016 election occasioned much debate about how strongly Americans support gender equality. Was this election “a referendum on gender,” as a Newsweek article claimed, one that “women lost”? Or was it just bad luck and campaign missteps? Now that Women’s History Month is over, the Council on Contemporary Families takes a look at the complexities involved in assessing the future of gender equality.

One reason political forecasters did poorly last year was that they ignored growing alienation among their traditional supporters. New research by sociologists Joanna Pepin of the University of Maryland and David Cotter of Union College suggests that those who have been counting on the younger generation to complete the gender revolution may be making the same mistake. For CCF’s Gender and Millennials Online Symposium, Pepin and Cotter summarize their findings in the lead briefing paper, and five other researchers comment.

Whoa! Looks like young adults are less supportive of equality at home than at work. People frequently attribute the dramatic increase in support for gender equality since 1977 to generational replacement, assuming it will continue as the so-called Millennials, born between 1982 and the early 2000s, come to dominate the population. But examining almost 40 years of surveys taken of high-school seniors, Pepin and Cotter report that fewer youths now express support for gender equality than did their Gen-X counterparts back in the mid-1990s.

Since the 1990s, nearly 90 percent of every class of high-school seniors has supported the principle that women should have exactly the same opportunities as men in business and politics. However, when it comes to home life, youths have become more conservative since the mid-1990s. In 1994, only 42 percent of high-school seniors expressed the belief that the best family was one where the man was the outside achiever and the woman took care of the home. In 2014, 58 percent said this was true.

Black high-school seniors and females, in general, were more likely than White males to give egalitarian answers throughout the years of the survey, but all sectors of students became more conservative between 1994 and 2014. Pepin and Cotter suggest that this across-the-board increase in support for traditionalism helps explain the stall in women’s workforce participation and in occupational desegregation.

A growing gender gap among youth in their early 20s. CCF research intern Nika Fate-Dixon examined the General Social Survey (which has reported on the same questions for 40 years and breaks the answers down by age) to see whether similar changes had occurred among the next-oldest age group, those 18-to-25. She found that by 1994, 84 percent had come to disagree with the claim that a woman’s place was in the home. In 2014, however, the percent disagreeing had dropped to three-quarters.

In the GSS survey, the decline in egalitarianism was driven primarily by young men, who went from 83 percent rejecting the superiority of the male-breadwinner family in 1994 to only 55 percent doing so in 2014. Women’s disagreement with this claim fell far less sharply, and their confidence that an employed woman could successfully parent a preschool child increased slightly over the period, while men’s confidence dropped.

A dip in gender egalitarianism revealed by the election? As for the larger group of young adults aged 18 to 30, they were the only age group to decisively favor Hillary Clinton in the election. Yet according to an analysis of exit polls prepared for this symposium by Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Director of Tuft University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), their support for a White woman in 2016 was 10 percentage points lower than their vote for a Black man in 2008, suggesting a dip in enthusiasm for gender equality here as well. Only 25 percent of the women Millennial voters and 15 percent of the males identified as feminists.

Are new cultural values on the rise? Pepin and Cotter argue that most Americans have rejected the ideology of inherent gender difference that dominated American culture from the early 19th century up through the 1950s and remained embedded in law well into the 1970s. According to this view, women were best suited to raise children and society should protect home life by limiting women’s access to the public sphere of work, politics, and higher education.

But although Americans now overwhelmingly agree that society has no right to deny opportunities to individuals on the basis of their sex, many are uncomfortable with the idea that men and women can be interchangeable in the tasks they perform at home and at work. Pepin and Cotter suggest that the changing views of high school seniors since 1994 reflect the growing appeal of a hybrid ideology they call “egalitarian essentialism.” This combines a commitment to equality of opportunity with the belief that men and women typically choose different opportunities because men are “inherently better suited to some roles and women to others.” Egalitarian essentialism assumes that as long as women are not prevented from choosing high-powered careers, or forced out of them upon parenthood, their individual choices are freely made and are probably for the best.

CIRCLE’s 2016 exit polls found that only 20 percent of Millennial women disagreed with the statement that feminism “is about personal choice, not politics.” This represents a sharp departure from the 1970s feminist slogan “the personal is political,” with its insistence that personal choices often reflect political and economic constraints that should be removed.

…or have women’s gains provoked a backlash? Other contributors propose alternative interpretations of the decline in support for egalitarian domestic arrangements. Political scientist Dan Cassino suggests that the growth in women’s earnings power may have led some threatened males (and sympathetic females) to seek other ways to shore up masculine identity. Youth who have witnessed financial role reversals in their own families or communities may have felt a renewed need to validate men’s leadership in family finances and decision-making. Cassino’s research shows that many men react negatively to women’s economic gains. During the 2016 primaries, he asked prospective voters questions designed to direct their attention to how many women now earn more money than men. Men who were reminded of this threat to traditional masculine identity became less likely to express a preference for Hillary Clinton, though not for Bernie Sanders.

When masculinity is threatened, Republican men get more conservative, Democrats more liberal. Not all men react to threats to traditional masculine identity in the same way, however. In another study, Cassino was able to identify marriages in which a husband’s earnings fell substantially relative to his wife’s. And he was also able to track changes in these husbands’ responses to two political questions that generally divide liberals and conservatives. He found that men who were Democrats became more liberal as their share of household earnings fell, while Republican men became more conservative, perhaps explaining the increase in “strong” agreement with traditional values that Fate-Dixon describes. (Interestingly, Democratic men whose earnings rose substantially compared to their wives also became more conservative, illustrating the feedback effect between changing structural conditions and changing values.)

But wait: Married couples are less threatened by women’s gains than in the past. Is support for traditionalism a reaction to inadequate social policies?

University of Utah assistant professor of family and consumer studies Dan Carlson objects that Millennials who have embarked on family life seem less threatened by women’s gains relative to men than were couples in earlier decades. Since the 1990s, the higher risk of divorce for couples where the wife earns more than her husband has disappeared. And in contrast to the past, couples where husband and wife equally divide family chores and child-rearing now report the greatest marital and sexual satisfaction.

Carlson argues that the increase in young adults’ agreement that male-breadwinner families “are better for everyone concerned” may reflect the difficulties many families have had in sustaining egalitarian relationships in the current political and economic climate. When a man loses his job and the family reverses the conventional male-breadwinner arrangement, with the woman becoming the breadwinner and the man taking care of the family, this tends to create high levels of marital dissatisfaction. In other cases, young people may have watched the conflicts that arise when their parents struggle to share breadwinning and child-raising in the absence of supportive work-family policies and concluded that, whatever their ideal preferences, the reality of trying to share responsibilities is too stressful.

This interpretation finds some support in University of Leuven researcher Jan Van Bavel’s examination of European public opinion surveys. In Europe, where substantial public investments in affordable childcare and guaranteed paid leaves are now the norm, support for gender equality has continued to rise among all age groups. Van Bavel predicts this will continue. He argues that as women increasingly come to marriage with more education than their partners and have access to policies allowing them to integrate work and family responsibilities, they are less likely to cut back their work commitments after having children, further eroding the cultural norm of male breadwinning.

Even in the United States, the seeming stall in women’s workforce participation may mask important changes, according to a new paper by economists Claudia Goldin and Joshua Mitchell. As women enter motherhood at a later age, they work longer before taking time off for parenting. And the longer women work prior to having children, the longer they tend to work once they return. Furthermore, fewer women actually quit their jobs after a first birth, and more take leaves that make it easier for them to return to full-time employment in the same job. The proportion of women who quit their jobs around the time of the birth of their first child decreased from 30 percent in the 1980s to 22 percent in the early 2000s.

The problem with claims about “the” Millennials. Sociologist Frank Furstenberg criticizes the over-generalizations often made about “the” attitudes of such a diverse group as the Millennials and notes that the 18-to-25-year-olds interviewed in 2014 are not really comparable to those interviewed in 1994, being far less likely to be married or employed in permanent jobs. Their attitudes could go either way, depending on the economic and political changes that occur over the next several years.

Finally, as CCF Board President Barbara Risman observes, people are full of inconsistencies that may not be captured in their responses to single issues. When Risman did lengthy interviews with Millennials for a forthcoming book, she was struck by the wildly contradictory expectations about gender and family life that many of them expressed over the course of a single conversation. “You can read through a life history interview,” she reports, “and really not believe the same person is talking about themselves, what they think others expect of them because they are male or female, and what they expect from others in their relationships.” Those contradictions in people’s worldviews and sense of identity, Risman argues, offer opportunities for youths to imagine new possibilities as they encounter new experiences and new ideas. But as Pepin and Cotter warn, they also open the way to nostalgia for gender arrangements of the past, especially if youths continue to believe that their personal choices are not political.

Update: After this symposium was posted, 2016 data from the General Social Survey became available. The latest numbers show a sharp rebound in young men’s disagreement with the claim that male-breadwinner families are superior. GSS two-year trends are exceptionally volatile, due to the small size of the sample, and the overall decade averages still confirm a rise in traditionalism among 18-to-25-year-olds since the 1990s. But the new data shows that this rise is no longer driven mainly by young men, as it appeared to be in the General Social Survey results from 1994 through 2014. Nevertheless, other evidence for a Millennial gender gap still stands, so stay tuned for more updates on this moving target.

Stephanie Coontz is a CCF Director of Research and Education, and a Professor of History at The Evergreen State College.