GENDER IN SOCIAL
Chapter Seven: Families
By Nathan Davis
Beck Laxton and Kieran
Cooper attempted to raise their
child, Sasha, free from the
stereotypes of gender and took
an extremely pro-active
approach in trying to withhold
their child’s sex until
kindergarten (page 141).
When news of Sasha and the way the child was raised made news headlines, the
response was overwhelmingly negative. The general public, having not been
educated about intersectionality, assumed that gender can be deﬁned as male or
female and their associated stereotypical (binary) behaviors should follow their
sex. These ideas about gender and roles, are deﬁned as institutional social
constructions (page 142).
The text leads with this story because the authors feel it
is a good introduction to two central myths about family
1. There is only one normal
form of family.
2. Variations of that norm
will hurt the family and
Well, what exactly is a family
and what does it look like?
Any group of people united by ties of marriage,
blood, or adoption, or any sexually expressive
relationship, in which:
The adults cooperate ﬁnancially for their mutual support,
the people are committed to one another in an
intimate interpersonal relationship,
the members see their individual identities as importantly
attached to the group, and
the group has an identity of its own. (DeGenova, Stinnett, &
Stinnett, 2011, p. 5)
“Families are not merely inﬂuenced by gender; rather,
families are organized by gender” (Haddock, Zimmerman, &
Lyness, 2003, p. 304). This organization is apparent in the
prescribed roles played in many families: mother, father,
daughter, son, sister, brother, grandmother, grandfather,
aunt, uncle, in-laws. These roles are sex marked and
designate responsibilities, expectations, and power.”
While one may say
“none of that stuff
is true today, I do
the laundry at my
house and I’m a
dude!” Well, the
book points out that
means that the
expectation is alive
and well (page 143)
FAMILY AS AN
terms to know with examples:
Micro-practices: whose chore is
it to vacuum? Whose chore is it usually?
Macrostructures: What chore gets
done when, based on availability of time
Law: How much do you get paid to
vacuum vs. cook dinner?
Two people of the
opposite sex, married,
who ﬁt their gender
roles and the wife is a
husband the primary
Often this arrangement
is viewed as “the best”
and a foundation of
society (page 144)
Throughout history this
family set up has not
prevailed due to many
factors but the reality is that
few households with
exception of middle, upper
class, could pull it off. In
fact, the nuclear
arrangement also lead to the
notion that a women’s worth
was deﬁned by her domestic
submissiveness (page 144)
This arrangement was further solidiﬁed in the 1950’s (shocking!) with
the advent of many popular TV shows perpetuating the nuclear family
model. The books points out that consumerism in the 1950’s actually
increased and more women left the home to work.
Question: Why is the model, that
seemed not to work, still around?
Defined:The normality and “naturalization” of two
sexes that are attracted to one another. Marriage and
family is the “correct way to be,” “right thing to do”
and same sex couples are “wrong.” This deﬁnition
also encompasses “legal, cultural, organizational and
Friendship and heterosexual romance:
Culture in the US emphasizes that marriage is the most important
relationship and cross-sex friendships for heterosexuals and same-
sex friendships for LGBTQ are discouraged (page 145).
Take a brief inventory of your own
personal friendships and take inventory of
yourself about the traits that you share
with your friends. These traits can include
gender/sex, sexual orientation, race/
ethnicity, age, nationality and religion.
Movies have shaped our reality when it comes to dating in the United States. We are shown
images of attractive men and women where the men are attracted to the beautiful woman and
the woman has to make herself attractive for the man. The man is expected to initiate the
sexual end of the relationship and them woman will take care of the “relationship
Little kids are taught to
play “weddings” from an
early age and it has
become a statement in
US culture that when
you get married, you
become an adult. Young
children are taught to
ﬂirt and date the
opposite gender and not
Since the early 1990’s, the notion propagated by the religious right and conservative
politicians is that America is “losing its family values.” (page 149) The fear is that the
nuclear family is in decline and we are moving further away from that unsustainable
model, which is true but as the text points out, probably for good reason.
Parents have most commonly made up
their mind on what sex they want their
child to be even before they are born
and start shaping their ideas on how
they are going to interact with that child
based on the child’s sex. Parents then
start rewarding behavior that coincides
with gender behavior based on their sex
Interestingly, it has been reported that little girls
are encouraged to play and behave like a
stereotypical boy while boys are discouraged to
have stereotypical feminine traits for fear they
will be mistreated by others.
Children start to learn from
their parent’s gender cues and
actually start to play a role in
constricting their play habits
to ﬁt their gender identity.
They only want to play with
certain people and certain toys
that ﬁt their prescribed gender
role. (page 153)
Who does the housework? If we were looking at the
“perfect” 1950’s family, the man would go to work and the
woman would stay home and do the house work but the
reality is that many women didn’t stay home. They went to
work, too. Even after women started working outside the
home, they continued doing most of the housework while
working a job.
In recent years, this has become more balanced, but
there is still a large housework deﬁcit when it comes to
equality of men and women. (page 154)
As a society, we have been taught certain ways to communicate based on our
gender. For instance, men have been taught to withdraw from an argument while
women have been taught to “demand.” (page 155) Because of these binary
gender roles in relationships, it has led to more marital/relationship problems.
Domestic Violence can be defined as physical, psychological,
and/or sexual abuse within a couple or family unit.
Domestic violence is in direct conﬂict with the
notion of a couple or family unit. A relationship
should shield one from such things and because
of the intimacy of the problem, domestic
violence is often not talked about. (page 156)
Men who feel they are not
effectively being represented as
head of the household (gender
expectation) will turn to physical,
emotional, and verbal abuse.
Often one of their main goals is
to ruin the self-esteem of the
partner (page 156).
The partner takes protecting
themselves into their own hands.
Example: A woman murders her
partner in self defense.
Situational Couple Violence:
Unplanned violence against each
other that can be brought on by a
number of factors. Stress,
bickering, ﬂirting, etc.
Flexible and Diverse Family
Singles: People who are not in a relationship and may or may
not have children. There is a stereotype that raising a child
in this situation is negative, especially if the child is of the
opposite sex of the parent. Singles report that once they
have a child, they face societal pressure to ﬁnd a partner for
The idea that the man
should be out earning
money for the family
and be “distant”
emotionally at home
American society even
when men are playing
a larger role as
~a 2010 census.
Bureau report shows nearly 3 million men
report being single fathers, up from 393,000 in
1970. A growing body of research documents
men’s increased efforts at engaged parenting.
The authors of the book cite work that examines how masculinity and gendered
violence, i.e. the idea of “ﬁght like a man!” has created a social reality where men
are EXPECTED to be aggressive and women to be submissive, is having an
impact on men’s relationships with their children.
Perhaps this can. Watch this amazing 19 year old man speak about his
experience living with his two moms:
Same Sex Parents: News ﬂash, children raised
by homosexual parents are just as successful as
children raised by straight parents. A common
objection to “allowing” homosexuals to be
parents is they will raise their children to be gay.
If you can’t ﬁgure out what is wrong with that
argument, then I can’t help you.
Conclusion: Make an effort to not use or
rely on gender stereotypes. At the end of the
day, we are all human and should be treated
with respect no matter where a person falls on
the gender spectrum. Don’t judge others
because they don’t ﬁt what you have been
taught or they don’t act how you feel they
should based on their gender. Most of what you
think is right and “normal” is a learned
behavior and is detrimental to our society. The
sooner we start accepting people for who they
are, move away from gendered behaviors and
stereotypes, the better the world will become.
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