Framed by Gender: How Gender Inequality Persists in the Modern World

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Overview

In an advanced industrial society like the contemporary U.S., where an array of legal, political, institutional, and economic processes work against gender inequality, how does this inequality persist? Are there general social processes through which gender as a principle of social inequality manages to rewrite itself into new forms of social and economic organization?

Framed by Gender claims there are, highlighting a powerful contemporary persistence in people's everyday use of gender as a primary cultural tool for organizing social relations with others. Cecilia Ridgeway asserts that widely shared cultural beliefs about gender act as a "common knowledge" frame that people use to make sense of one another in order to coordinate their interaction. The use of gender as an initial framing device spreads gendered meanings, including assumptions about inequality embedded in those meanings, beyond contexts associated with sex and reproduction to all spheres of social life that are carried out through social relationships. These common knowledge cultural beliefs about gender change more slowly than do material arrangements between men and women, even though these beliefs do respond eventually. As a result of this cultural lag, at sites of innovation where people develop new forms of economic activity or new types of social organization, they confront their new, uncertain circumstances with gender beliefs that are more traditional than those circumstances. They implicitly draw on the too convenient cultural frame of gender to help organize their new ways of doing things. As they do so, they reinscribe trailing cultural assumptions about gender difference and gender inequality into the new activities, procedures, and forms of organization that they create, in effect, reinventing gender inequality for a new era. Ridgeway argues that this persistence dynamic does not make equality unattainable but does mean that progress is likely to be uneven and depend on the continued, concerted efforts of people. Thus, a powerful and original take on the troubling endurance of gender inequality, Framed by Gender makes clear that the path towards equality will not be a long, steady march, but a constant and uneven struggle.

"The most important book on gender I have read in decades. Why has gender proved so unbending? Ridgeway gives us answers, and paves the way for a new feminist theory that incorporates decades of studies on how gender bias operates at home and at work."—Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law

"In lucid prose, Cecilia Ridgeway describes the social psychological processes that continually reproduce gender inequality. Marshalling research from sociology and psychology, Framed by Gender explains why women have not attained equality and what would be required to reach that goal."—Alice H. Eagly, Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Impeccably titled, this meticulous scholarship showcases the richness of social psychology...Ridgeway's conclusion offers added urgency to the twin mandates that work become more family friendly and men become more thoroughly involved in caretaking in order for persisting gender inequalities to be overcome. Highly recommended." —CHOICE

"It's rare that one of this generation's leading scientists creates an accessible book that tackles the really big questions. And it is even rarer to have such an important theoretical work, backed by decades of research, written so beautifully. You can use this book in a graduate seminar, or give it to your neighbor to show why treating boys and girls differently perpetuates women's disadvantage. If you only read one book about inequality this decade, make it this one." —Barbara J. Risman, University of Illinois at Chicago

"In lucid prose, Cecilia Ridgeway describes the social psychological processes that continually reproduce gender inequality. Marshalling research from sociology and psychology, Framed by Gender explains why women have not attained equality and what would be required to reach that goal." —Alice H. Eagly, Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University

"The most important book on gender I have read in decades. Why has gender proved so unbending? Ridgeway gives us answers, and paves the way for a new feminist theory that incorporates decades of studies on how gender bias operates at home and at work." —Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law

"There is much to like about this book. It is clearly written and accessible to a scholarly audience. Ridgeway presents a powerful and convincing account of how gender inequality works and is reproduced in everyday interactions. Her argument that gender lurks in the background, always available as a way of understanding others or anticipating their behavior, fits well with the sort of 'now you see it, now you don't' way that many women experience gender in the workplace." —merican Journal of Sociology

"Ridgeway provides a compelling argument that gender framing helps to stabilize gender inequality and is one important source of resistance to the movement toward gender equality. Ridgeway's argument carefully and effectively details mechanisms that connect cultural conceptions of gender, patterns of individual cognition, patterns of individual behavior, aggregate consequences of gender-related actions, and the relationship among these phenomena across time." —Contemporary Sociology

"In Framed by Gender, Cecilia Ridgeway has given a true gift to the field of gender inequality... In her interrogation of the mutually reinforcing influences between culture and structure, Ridgeway has opened up a new path for us to traverse as we explore how gender can become less consequential for inequality." —Social Forces

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199755776
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/9/2011
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 1,418,975
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Cecilia L. Ridgeway is the Lucie Stern Professor of Social Sciences in the Sociology Department at Stanford University. She is the recipient of the Jesse Bernard Award for distinguished career contributions to the study of gender, awarded by the American Sociological Association; the Distinguished Feminist Lecturer Award, given by Sociologists for Women in Society for career contributions to feminist research; and the Cooley-Mead Award for lifetime contribution to distinguished scholarship in social psychology, awarded by the Social Psychology Section of the American Sociological Association.

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Table of Contents

1. The Puzzle of Persistence
2. A Primary Frame for Organizing Social Relations
3. Cultural Beliefs and the Gendering of Social Relations
4. Gendering at Work
5. Gender at Home
6. The Persistence of Inequality
7. Implications for Change

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