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Activity Instructions:

Part One

Family is our first and most enduring social institution. It is the one we have the most interaction with and throughout every stage of life. Family is where we first begin to learn gender, and the roles and expectations. Gendered expectations and divisions of labor in the household also significantly impact how we spend our time as well as the opportunities available to us. This week we are examining this gendered impact and how societal conditions in the current pandemic have affected it.

Briefly interview at least one adult who lives with others in a family.  This can be a friend or someone in your household. This person does not need to be in a married/cohabitating couple. You might choose to discuss how gender impacts family division of labor among siblings, single parents, extended family etc.

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Please write your discussion as a summary of your findings addressing the following aspects:

  • – Find out what their household division of labor looked like according to gender before the pandemic. Were chores and responsibilities divided according to gender? Think about who was responsible for caretaking children/elders, cleaning, shopping, working outside the home, helping with homework, scheduling appointments, etc.
  • – How has the division of labor in this household changed due to COVID-19?  How has family and household responsibility been impacted in regard to gender/gender roles etc? Has responsibility or proportion of work for certain tasks shifted among family members?
  • – Assign each interviewee’s division of labor before and during with a label from the book: traditional, neotraditional, or egalitarian.
  • – Discuss your thoughts and reactions to what you have found and how it relates to the material. Remember to consider and discuss intersections of race/class/ability.

Part Two

For your response, please respond to at least one classmate with your reactions and reflections on what they have shared. Please connect your reaction by discussing examples from the book, the articles I posted, or your own sources that you think relates to their post.

  • – Which concepts or ideas from the material this week do you think are relevant to the interview your classmate described? Choose at least one of these terms to describe in your own words and how it relates to your classmate’s post:
    • – The feminization of housework/childcare
    • – The ideology of intensive motherhood
    • – The mommy tax
    • – The care chain
    • – The feminization of poverty
  • – Describe the second shift in your own words. Is there evidence of a second shift for anyone in this family? What is it and what effect do you think it has?
  • – Based on your classmate’s discussion, what do you think might be some of the long term impacts on these family members based on household gender expectations and division of labor?
  • – What other conclusions can you draw about how divisions of labor in general impact expectations and the way we do gender in society?

Classmates Response:

  • – Find out what their household division of labor looked like according to gender before the pandemic. Were chores and responsibilities divided according to gender? Think about who was responsible for caretaking children/elders, cleaning, shopping, working outside the home, helping with homework, scheduling appointments, etc.

The pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of their life including education, work and connection with their family. Chores and responsibilities were never really divided. The women are mostly responsible for staying at home taking care of their chil, cleaning, shopping, scheduling appointments while the dad is normally out working providing for the family.

–  How has the division of labor in this household changed due to COVID-19?  How has family and household responsibility been impacted in regard to gender/gender roles etc? Has responsibility or proportion of work for certain tasks shifted among family members?

The division of labor in this household changed due to COVID-19 because people are spending much more time at home meaning the demand for childcare and home/online school because schools and daycares for children are closed. The household responsibilities have been impacted regarding gender roles because women have a higher chance because they work in sectors. Meaning that men are technically the money provider for the child and partner. It mainly shifted towards his partner (the mom) because she had to give up her job to stay at home and take care of their child due to the pandemic closing daycare.

  • – Assign each interviewee’s division of labor before and during with a label from the book: traditional, neotraditional, or egalitarian.

The division of labor before and during small shifts toward a more equal division of labor.

  • – Discuss your thoughts and reactions to what you have found and how it relates to the material. Remember to consider and discuss intersections of race/class/ability.

My thoughts on what I found out about the person I interviewed was that I have noticed that ever since the pandemic not really many men lost their jobs compared to women … a few of those where men are not working, are now experiencing a more equal gender division.

Materials Needed:


And attached powerpoint

For thousands of years, marriage served economic and political functions unrelated to love, happiness, or personal fulfillment.

Prior to the Victorian era, love was a bad reason to marry.

There were bigger concerns, such as gaining money and resources, building alliances between families, organizing the division of labor, and producing legitimate male heirs.

Marriages were typically arranged by older family members.

The Evolution of Marriage

In this society, they thought it foolish to leave something that important (marriage) to the whims of young people.


Patriarch/Property Marriages

For the wealthy and middle classes, marriage was important for maintaining and increasing the power of families. The concerns of the working classes were similar, if less grand.

These were patriarch/property marriages with men the heads of households and women as their human property and equal to children and slaves.

A woman was entered into a marriage by her father, who owned her until he “gave her away” at the wedding to her new owner, her husband.

This logic—that marriage is a form of property ownership—led to many laws that seem outrageous today. If an unmarried woman was raped, for instance, the main concern was the harm to her father’s property. She became less valuable when she lost her virginity, so the rapist could make amends for the bad deed by marrying her. It was a “you break it, you buy it” rule.


The Breadwinner/Housewife Marriage

The breadwinner/housewife marriage is a “separate but equal” model of marriage that defined men’s and women’s contributions as different but complementary.

Unlike patriarch/property marriage, breadwinner/housewife marriage did not legally subordinate wives to husbands, but it did define rigidly roles.

Women owed men domestic services; in return, men were legally required to support their wives financially. If they failed to play their part, they could be sued for breach of contract.

Policies put in place in the aftermath of World War II further changed how Americans organized families. Most notably, during the 1940s and 1950s the U.S. government collaborated with private investors to build suburbs and facilitate homeownership. This was the birth of the “American dream.”


Separate Spheres

Family wage: larger income paid to one male earner to support a home, a wife, and children.

Cemented the separate public and domestic “spheres”- a masculinized work world and a feminized home life.

In this new sphere, men, were expected to be the kind of people capitalism found useful: more interested in work than family and focused on economic success.

Women were expected to specialize in a kind of supportive and loving domestic sphere that society needed. The notion that women could, and should, wholeheartedly embrace this work is called the cult of domesticity. In this way, men and women were expected to operate in separate spheres.



Sexual Double Standard

Different rules for the sexual behavior of men and women.

Good Girl/ Bad Girl Dichotomy

The idea that women who behave themselves sexually are worthy of respect and women who don’t are not.


Work and Family Today

By 1980, 51 percent of all women were employed, and married and single women were employed at equal rates.

Marriage was slowly becoming less essential.

The 1972 law against discrimination in schooling opened up a number of professional doors that had been firmly bolted.

In the 1980s, even 40 percent of mothers with children under eighteen had at least a part ­time job. Women began to look at college degrees as more than just a good way to find a husband.

Women began to question the benefits of marriage. Holding out until they could find a husband with whom they could innovate a new model of marriage or not marrying at all seemed best to some women.


Balancing Work and Family

Most women, wanted to achieve what came to be called “work-life balance.”

Policies were enacted equalizing some of the power in marriage, financial power especially (Social Security, money management, etc.)

Because partnership marriage involves a gender ­neutral contract, married couples are free to organize their lives however they wish. And they do.

Today we see family-focused dual- earner couples and work-­focused dual­-earner couples. We see male breadwinners married to housewives and, in small but growing numbers, female breadwinners married to house husbands, too. Gay couples adopt all these family forms as well. Grandparents are stepping back in to offer child care and income support in a way that had become rare in the 1950s nuclear family model of the suburbs. Also, today there are larger numbers of single parents than in the past.

Marriage no longer determines one’s living arrangements. It remains the norm that couples live together once married, but some don’t.

Just half of U.S. adults today are married, and about one in seven lives alone.

Why might some couples live separately?

In addition, while marriage is still normative, it is not unusual that people may reach their thirties, forties, or even older without marrying.



When people defend the idea of “traditional marriage,” you should ask which one they mean.

The patriarch/property model of marriage reigned for thousands of years, while the breadwinner/housewife model was a blip on the historical timeline.

Today’s marriage contract reflects a partnership model that facilitates personalization.

Political activism and changing socioeconomic relations have changed marriage as well as other institutions, warping and tweaking all of them separately and together. All the other institutions we discussed in this chapter are also changing. Even sexual practices aren’t simply driven by values or nature but rather reflect shifts in opportunity provided by technological, economic, political, and demographic change.


Modern Marriage Laws

In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws against interracial marriage, and in 2015, the Court made same­-sex marriage legal in all fifty U.S. states.

A majority of Americans believe that sexual minorities deserve the same rights as heterosexuals. Citizens of many other countries agree.

Despite the ascendance of the partnership model, the degendering of marriage law, and legalization of same-­sex marriage, the breadwinner/housewife model is still an American ideal.

Despite the trouble, and clamor to return to the breadwinner/housewife model of marriage, partnership marriage is here to stay for now. What is it that you think the breadwinner/housewife model represents that is so compelling to some people?


The Second Shift

The second shift refers to the childcare, cleaning, feeding, and errand-running that greets us when we return from paid work.

Working two jobs, a paid job at work and an unpaid job at home, can be exhausting.

The second shift isn’t gender-neutral. Childcare and housework still carry the gendered meanings they did when the breadwinner/housewife families were considered ideal.

Only 20 percent of all mothers are stay-at-home wives with a working husband, and nearly three-fourths of all mothers are in the workforce.

The second shift is the unpaid work that greets us when we return home from paid work. It is a gendered terrain that can be exhausting and conflicting.

Discussion questions to ask the students: Who did the second shift work in their households growing up? If they’re currently living with roommates, a partner, or family members, who does the second shift now? After hearing the responses, see if the class notices any patterns with regard to who does second shift work. Do the examples from the class align with the textbook, which states that it’s still primarily women who do this work?


Childcare and Housework in Culture

Individual mothers are the primary caregivers in only 20 percent of cultures, and in most of these, children have considerable independence.

In the 1800s, experts even argued that too much attention paid to children was harmful.

In the 1800s, children were often expected to look after themselves. Of note is the fact that John Watson, who was considered an expert at the time, cautioned that “mother love is a dangerous instrument” and suggested a very limited schedule of parental affection.


Ideology of Intensive Motherhood

Wealthy white Victorian wives claimed that mothering was an essential, delicate, and time-consuming enterprise.

The ideology of intensive motherhood is the idea that:

Childrearing should include copious amounts of time, energy, and material resources.

Giving children these things takes priority over all other interests, desires, and demands.

It should be mothers who do this work.

Wealthy white Victorian wives embarked on a deliberate and self-interested effort to preserve their social standing. This was the time period when the gendered work/home distinction was new, and these mothers were often resisted the devaluation of their work and the domestic sphere.

How do you feel about intensive mothering? Do you think there any benefits to intensive mothering? If yes, who benefits (women, children, and/or men)? Do you think there are any costs to intensive mothering? If yes, who do you think bears these costs (women, children, and/or men)? After hearing responses to these questions, do the benefits seem to be equally shared? How about the costs?


Concerted Cultivation

Intensive mothering is still culturally dominant today in the United States among the middle and upper classes.

Societal messages affirm that it is still a women’s responsibility to care for the home and children.

Fathers are often portrayed as reluctant or incompetent parents.

Concerted cultivation refers to the active and organized effort to develop in children a wide range of skills and talents.

Not everyone has the time or money to engage in these types of parenting practices.

Today, intensive mothering is still culturally dominant, and it appeals today especially because of the economic insecurity of the past few decades. If getting ahead matters, then there’s no time to waste as a mother. It’s a strategy that can help protect the children against falling from the parent’s own class position.

Think about this in practice. At young ages, it means avoiding the use of playpens or other restraining devices in favor of close supervision. It also means providing constant interaction and stimulation. For older children, it means maximizing children’s educational achievement, enrolling them in and ferrying them to and from organized activities, and so on. This approach tends to dominate conversations among mommy bloggers, parenting experts, child psychologists, and advice-book authors, and most of these conversations assume that the mother is the primary parent. When fathers are addressed in popular media, they are often portrayed as reluctant or incompetent.

Think back to elementary or middle school. How many activities were you involved in? Who coordinated these activities for you—who signed you up, drove you, purchased any needed supplies, and so on? After the hearing responses, do you notice any patterns or trends with regard to who coordinated these activities? Does it align with the reading? Why or why not?


Housework and Childcare in Practice

Many people internalize the idea that housework and childcare are feminized activities.

Studies of male roommates, gay couples, women partnered with trans men, and single dads all support this view.

Family life is very gendered.

Fathers do about two-thirds of the paid work and one-third of the unpaid work.

Mothers do about one-third of the paid work and two-thirds of the unpaid work.

Can you recall specific examples from the text that demonstrate how housework and childcare are feminized?

Instructor Note: The answer can include the finding that men who avoid doing housework also like to eat out when all the dishes are dirty so that none of the male roommates have to wash them. You can also note the finding that fathers spend about eighteen hours per week on the house and kids, in contrast to thirty-two hours spent by mothers.



Traditionalists believe men should be responsible for earning income and women should be responsible for housework and childcare.

They advocate for specialization: splitting unpaid and paid work so that each partner does more of one than the other

These traditional breadwinner/homemaker marriages are seen mostly at the highest and lowest family income levels.

The most common family type is one that involve specialization, not sharing. Some families resemble a 1950s breadwinner/homemaker model and are called “traditionalists.” Highly paid men earn enough money so that the family can afford for one person to stay home while those at the bottom of the income ladder often have to have a parent stay home because they cannot afford childcare.

Do you think men benefit from breadwinner/homemaker marriages? What about women? Why or why not? Do you desire this type of arrangement in your household? Why or why not?



Neo-traditionalists believe that a woman should be able to work if she desires, but only if it doesn’t interfere with her “real” duty to take care of her husband and children.

These are breadwinner/superspouse marriages where breadwinners focus on work and their spouse both works and takes care of the home.

Superspouses do most of the second shift and the majority of invisible work: the intellectual, mental, and emotional work of parenting and household maintenance.

Neo-traditionalists are a modified version of the breadwinner/homemaker marriage. These are gendered arrangements where the care for the home disproportionately falls on women. When males do step in, they are often referred to as “pitching in” or “babysitting.” They are viewed as the role of helper, and this can lead to female partners feeling like they have to nag to get help/tasks done. This can be exhausting and disempowering.

Do you think men benefit from breadwinner/superspouse marriages? How about women? Why or why not? Do you desire this type of arrangement in your household? Why or why not?


The Loss of Status and Security

Housework and childcare are viewed as low-status activities.

Those who specialize in domestic work sometimes feel as though their partners don’t value their contributions.

People who specialize in unpaid household labor may also feel they have less of a voice in their relationships.

Victorian women introduced the idea of intensive motherhood as a way to resist the androcentric devaluation of the domestic sphere, but these efforts have not been wholly successful. A woman who stays at home often is viewed as “not working” or “not doing anything.”

How do you view stay-at-home parents? What words do you use to describe what they do? Do you desire to be a stay-at-home parent at any point in the future? Why or why not?


The Mommy Tax

Taking time out of the workforce to raise small children and then reentering it with less momentum means lost wages, benefits, and Social Security contributions.

This is often called a “mommy tax.”

One of the functions of marriage is still to transfer economic resources from breadwinners to caregivers.

What penalties are incurred if someone takes time out of the workplace? One’s reputation may be damaged, and opportunities for projects or promotions can may be missed. A college-educated American women who has children is likely to sacrifice nearly $2 million over the course of her lifetime.

How do you think mothers are viewed in the workplace? Do you think they are viewed as committed to work as men and women without children? Why or why not? Do you think fathers can be subject to a “daddy tax”? Why or why not?


Outsourcing Inequalities

Domestic outsourcing refers to paying nonfamily members to do family-related tasks.

This is especially common among highly educated, career-focused, professional-class couples.

Outsourcing can help couples build and maintain egalitarian relationships, but it does nothing to undermine the devaluation of feminized work.

One way to account for the asymmetry in care is to hire help. If both parents want to remain on accelerated career tracks, most of these families will need to hire a substantial amount of outside help. Parents can outsource childcare (nannies, daycare, etc.), meals (eating out, getting take-out, buying prepared meals, etc.), work around the house (hiring housekeepers, gardeners, a handyman, etc.), chores and errands (accountants, tailors, dry cleaners, etc.), and direct childcare and instruction (babysitters, tutors, swimming instructors, etc.). You should also want to note that outsourcing typically pushes feminized work onto other, more disadvantaged women, which deepens inequality.

Do you agree that outsourcing doesn’t undermine the devaluation of feminized work? Why or why not?


The Care Chain

When families outsource childrearing and domestic work, they typically hire more disadvantaged women.

This creates a care chain: a series of nurturing relationships in which the care of children, the disabled, or the elderly is displaced onto increasingly disadvantaged or unpaid caregivers.

Instructor Note: Build from the previous slide and discuss that when families outsource childrearing and domestic work, the people they hire are almost always female and poorer than the people who are buying their services.

Many of these women also have children of their own, and they usually are not allowed to bring them to work. They then purchase even lower-wage services of even poorer women, who then often leave their own children with family members or friends. Care chains are not only economic; they also displace love and its benefits by pushing it up the chain.



Most men and women today are neither traditionalists nor neo-traditionalists; they’re egalitarians.

They prefer relationships in which both partners do their fair share of breadwinning, housekeeping, and childrearing.

If men and women want egalitarian relationships, why do studies find that couple often specialize in practice?

Instructor Note: This is a good place to summarize some of the main points of the chapter.

Because of androcentrism, we devalue the feminized domestic sphere relative to the masculinized work sphere. Because of sexism, we feel comfortable expecting women to bear the brunt of this trivialized, unpaid work, and an intersectional lens reveals that when the harm is displaced, it is often displaced onto women of color, poor women, and migrant women. Mixed-sex partnerships bring men and women into different and unequal relationships. But is that what people really want? Then you can discuss the fact that on the contrary, most people seem to want egalitarian relationships.

Do you think men benefit from egalitarian marriages? What about women? Why or why not? Do you desire this type of arrangement in your household? Why or why not?


Barriers to Equal Sharing

Both work and family are greedy institutions, ones that take up an incredible amount of time and energy.

High expectations for workers intersect with high expectations for parenting.

It can be difficult to be successful at work and home, and also attend to personal well-being.

Even though couples may desire to be egalitarian, there are a lot of challenges and barriers to being egalitarian.

What do you think are barriers to equal sharing? Are there particular barriers that you think are more important than others? If so, what are they?


Institutional Barriers

The economy can make it difficult for both parents to share.

Real sharing often means both spouses need to retreat into lower-paying, less-demanding occupations or work part-time.

Even if a couple can afford two compromised incomes, marriage and employment law make sharing challenging as well.

Most families access health insurance through a parent’s employer, but people typically need to be employed full-time to receive this benefit.

The Social Security tax rewards breadwinner/homemaker families.

Our economy make it difficult for both parents to share this work.


Ideological Barriers

Within American culture, the messages that men are breadwinners and women are homemakers still resonates among both men and women.

Among men, 70 percent of those who desired an egalitarian relationship would desire a neo-traditional arrangement if equal sharing didn’t work.

Many women ascribe to the ideology of intensive motherhood and wish to put their children at the center of their lives.

There are also ideological barriers to sharing. Many men value their roles as workers too much while many women, regardless about their beliefs about marriage, still ascribe to the ideology of intensive motherhood.

If you couldn’t have an egalitarian relationship with your partner or spouse, what type of arrangement would you desire? Why?


The Feminization of Poverty

Women are more likely to specialize in domestic work, more likely to end up as single parents, and more likely to work in underpaid industries.

This has led to a feminization of poverty, a trend in which the poor are increasingly women and their children.

Becoming a mother has been identified as the single strongest predictor of bankruptcy in middle age and poverty in old age.

Instructor Note: Be sure to discuss how single parenting exposes the economic vulnerability that comes with being responsible for housework and childcare.

Point out that 43 percent of single mothers live below the poverty line, compared to 24 percent of single fathers. The economic costs and structural contradictions of single parenting apply to everyone, but women bear the brunt of the disadvantage.


Choosing Not to Have Children

Faced with the challenge of balancing work and family life, some adults choose not to have children at all.

In 2016, the U.S. birthrate was the lowest on record in the last thirty years.

One out of seven Americans between the ages of forty and forty-four is without children.

Some adults choose not to have children. This may be partly a response to the demands of the ideology of intensive mothering and concerted cultivation. Parents report a greater sense of purpose and meaning in life than nonparents, while nonparents are happier day-to-day. The happiness gap between parents and nonparents in the United States is the largest in the industrialized world.

How does happiness relate to parenthood in the United States? Why do you think parents often report being less happy than nonparents? Are there any changes within society that you think could lessen this happiness gap?


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