Gender as a Social Structure

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    • 00:05

      [Gender as a Social Structure]

    • 00:11

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN: Hi.This is Dr. Barbara Risman, and I'ma professor at the University of Illinoisat Chicago. [Dr. Barbara J. Risman, Professor, Departmentof Sociology] And I'm here today to talk to you about genderas a social structure.What I want to do is help you understandthat gender is something more than simply about individuals.It's something more than whether I

    • 00:32

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: identify as a male or a female.It's something more than whether I'm feminine or masculine.It's about inequality.[Gender as Stratification]There's many different ways we can talkabout gender as stratification.We can talk about the sex gender order, which ishow some people write about it.

    • 00:54

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: Other people talk about gender as an institution,but my work for the last 30 or so years,has been about gender as a social structure.And so that's what we're going to talk about today.But before we do that, I want to be really clearthat gender doesn't exist all by itself in the world.

    • 01:15

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: That every one of us isn't only-gendered.We're not only male or female, but we're alsowhite or black or Latina.We come from the United States, or Canada, or Colombia,or Venezuela.We're from everywhere, and that who we are

    • 01:35

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: and how we do our gender interacts,or in sociological lingo, intersectswith many other kinds of inequality.And so when we think and talk about gender,I want right from the start for usto remember just how complex gender is,and that it doesn't exist all by itself.On the other hand, it's important to think

    • 01:57

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: about the ways in which gender as a social structure affectsand interacts with other kinds of social structuresof inequality.And so that's really what we're going to do today.[Gender Structure Theory]When we think about gender as a social structure, what

    • 02:19

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: I'm trying to do is complicate it for you.And I'm not trying to say that genderdoesn't matter to us as individuals, that it's notimportant that we study how did somebody come to thinkof himself as male and masculine,or herself as female and feminine,or perhaps comes to understand themselves as male when

    • 02:44

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: they were ascribed the sex female at birth.And so it's very important that we pay attentionto gender at the individual level.I'm not suggesting that this isn't important.It's terribly important.What I'm suggesting is that it's not the only thing that'simportant.That it's to our peril that we think about gender only

    • 03:06

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: as about me, I, what I do as an individual,but rather, we have to think about it in two other waysas well.We have to think about how gender shapes our interactionswith other people.The interactional level of gender.When I meet someone, or you meet someone,

    • 03:26

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: you expect them to behave a certain way once youknow they're male or female.You expect more empathy and nurturance and warmthfrom a woman.You expect leaders to have a kind of masculine bravado.And so when we go into an interactionwith someone, what we expect from them

    • 03:47

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: is based on their gender.And so it's very important that we alsothink about this interaction and how that shapesthe way society operates.But even that isn't enough, because we alsohave this institutional, or some peoplecall macro level of the way in which gender operates.The way in which organizations presume that workers are not

    • 04:11

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: caretakers, is one way that our institutions are gendered.That workers are presumed to be ready and on the job 24/7.Well, why is that?Historically, in industrial societies,the successful workers were men with wives.They didn't have to do the work of caretaking.

    • 04:32

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: And so we've built whole institutional practicesaround presuming that workers live male lives.That's the way in which institutions are gendered.Our expectations of how bosses should operate.If a boss is really bravado and pushy and dramatic,

    • 04:53

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: he's a good leader.If it's a woman, she's a bitch.And so we've built in our beliefs at the cultural levelinto our institution.This is what I'm trying to teach youabout today, to think about gender as more than individual.[Individual Level of Analysis]

    • 05:14

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: I'm going to start with the individual level of analysis.Sociologists are interested-- I'minterested-- in how the social world, what's out theregets inside of us and becomes part of us.So it is individual, how socialization operates.How does that belief about femininity

    • 05:34

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: get internalized into our very sense of self?One way to think about it is how toys work.Until very recently, every toy storehad an aisle for girls and an aisle for boys.And so what did a little girl learn?She learned that to be a good girl or a good woman,

    • 05:56

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: she should play with dolls, and learn to be nurturant.She didn't need to learn to play with toys that were spatialor building blocks.She didn't have to learn how to bean engineer, because the girl's aisle was just about dolls.Similarly, for boys, they didn't have any dolls on their aisle,

    • 06:17

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: except action figures that they could use to kill people.Now, this is beginning to change.Target, for instance, just announcedthat they were no longer going to havea toy aisle for boys and girls.And so that the socialization [socialization]change over time.I don't want to make it sound like it's all static, but still

    • 06:38

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: today, mostly, boys and girls arebeing taught to become male or female, masculine or femininethrough socialization.What happens, then, is they begin to think, ah,that's my identity.I'm going to work really hard to do it good.And so once it becomes inside them,

    • 06:58

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: they construct themselves.It isn't that the society forces us to behave in a certain way,once it gets inside of us, we workreally hard to be good at being a girl or a boy.What's interesting is that sometimes, peopleadopt an identity that they weren't given as a child.They were labeled a boy or girl at birth,

    • 07:21

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: but their identity is male even though they were calleda girl when they were born.They're going to work even harderto do femininity in such a way that they'reaccepted as a woman.And so it is a very important process,this becoming a male or female at the individual level.

    • 07:45

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: And so even now, my main takeaway point isdon't think about gender as just about individuals.I don't want you to think that individuals aren't important,or that femininity and masculinity aren't important.In fact, when we measure femininity and masculinityin research today, what's importantis that they are personality types.

    • 08:07

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: And they're distinct from body.That as a woman, I take a femininity scoreand a masculinity score, and it's possiblethat I'm high on both.I may be high on femininity and low on masculinity,but as women, I still may be high on masculinity and lowon femininity.That these personality dimensions are actually

    • 08:29

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: distinct from the bodies we live in.Now, some psychologists actually say that weshould throw out the labels.And instead of using the label of femininitywhich you see in front of you on this slide,I should have up there nurturance and empathy.Because that's really what we're measuringwhen we measure femininity.And instead of having masculinity up on that slide,

    • 08:51

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: I should have agency and effectiveness.Because that's what we're really measuringwhen we measure masculinity.I'm using the terms that we've used to the 20thand into the 21st century, but I'mall for-- as you'll see at the end of the presentation--for throwing out these labels that we all use right now.[Interactional Level of Analysis]

    • 09:14

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: But what I don't want us to do isto only think that gender is about that individual levelof analysis.And it worries me that that's where we are today.That in all the studies now that focus on individuals,we're losing the concern with doing gender.

    • 09:35

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: And that is, how do we show, how do we become male or female.And the word I want to teach you about thatis performativity [performativity].And think about this as if you were in a playand you had to learn a script.And once you learned that script, you had to do it.Well, that's how you become masculine or feminine.

    • 09:58

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: You learn that script at the individual level,but you also learn it because of whatpeople expect from you when they meet you,when they see you in a room.You won't believe this because it was a long time ago,but the first time I got married and Ifilled out a wedding certificate,

    • 10:18

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: they gave me a basket of cleaning products.What did that say the state thought about wifehood?They didn't give one to my fiance.They gave it to me.They were teaching me that being a good wifemeant being a good homemaker.And so if I learned that lesson well,

    • 10:41

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: I would make sure my home was really clean all the time.I would be doing gender.In fact, lots of the research on couples in marriageshow that women, in fact, do genderby how they dress their children, howclean their houses are, that's how theyshow that they're good women.

    • 11:02

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: So I may have totally lost that lesson.And I may have rebelled and said, thank you very much,but I can be a good wife without being a good homemaker.But nevertheless, whether I conform to it or not--and I didn't-- I knew that when other people comeinto my house, if it's a mess, what they're going to think is,

    • 11:26

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: wow, she's not a good wife or mother.They're not going to think that about my husband.And so the idea behind this very powerful idea of doing genderis that whether or not you conform to the norms.You know they exist.And if you don't conform to them,you know people are going to notice.

    • 11:48

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: And that's really important.It keeps most of us in line most of the time, but not always.But if we're not in line, we know it.And the second part of this interaction levelI want to talk about is cognitive bias theory, statusexpectations theory [status expectations theory].And here, what this theory is about

    • 12:09

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: is the things people expect from you.The way people expect you to act creates biasin how they behave towards you.So if the very same resume with Mary Smith and John Smithon the top line, people are goingto think John Smith is a better worker,

    • 12:32

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: is more productive than Mary Smith.Even if it's an identical resume, except for the name.Because we have a bias to think that menare more productive and more effective than women.So what happens when we have this cognitive bias?What happens?Well, people take our stereotypes

    • 12:54

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: about masculine and feminine behavior,and they use it to make decisions on who to hire,on who to fire, on who to promote.We're all accountable to gender expectations.So as a boss-- and I've been a boss--I know that if I come off as too sure of myself,

    • 13:14

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: people aren't going to like me.If I were male, I could be that sure of myself.But as a female, that's going to reverberate back on me.And people are going to say, she's not a very nice person.And so we have to be attentive to this,even if we don't want to be.Because bias in an interactional setting,

    • 13:36

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: affects all of our lives all of the time.Now, now that I've taught you that genderisn't just about individuals, although it surely is alsoabout individuals, it's also about whathappens to us in interaction when we actuallytalk and meet and do this personal dance with oneanother.[Macro Level of Analysis]

    • 13:60

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: Now, I'm going to talk to you about a macro,or an institutional level of analysis.It's not only that gender mattersas to how we behave as individuals,how other people treat us in interaction,but it also affects the larger macro institutionsthat we're a part of.There are widespread beliefs about gender.

    • 14:21

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: The world views.People just expect men and women to behave in different ways.And this affects how we organize our workplaces,it actually even affects not onlythe idea that everyone should be working 24/7if they're good employees, because that's about presuming

    • 14:42

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: nobody has any other responsibility in their lifeexcept for work.A very historically male presumption.But the workplace policies, do youhave time off to have a child, or to takecare of a young child.All of those things are built in to the institution.

    • 15:02

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: Is there a place if you just had a childto lactate and save milk so you can feed that child?If not, that institution isn't set up for womento be a really major part of it.Gender is built very much into the organizational structureitself.[Three Main Advantages of Gender Structure Theory]

    • 15:28

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: I want to end here by giving you three good reasons, threeadvantages to thinking about gender structuretheory as a better way to understand gender and genderinequality than just thinking about gender as an individual.The first one is that it's an organizational scheme

    • 15:49

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: to help you find answers to a jigsawpuzzle of an empirical research question.So if you're interested in figuring out why womenon average, earn less than men.You could only look at well, women onlylook at certain kinds of jobs.And those jobs are lower paying.

    • 16:10

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: Therefore, it's about women's individual choices.That's an individual level of analysis.You know what?Gender socialization may just be so strongthat the reason we have more female teachers than engineersis that's part of the question.But on the other hand, we also knowthat when women and men apply for jobs,

    • 16:31

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: there's cognitive bias in the way their resumes arelooked at.You know it's true for men when they go into female jobsas well.When men try to get jobs as a daycare worker,they may be, in fact, part of interactional expectationsthat people wonder about their motivation, even.So you can't deny at the interactional level,

    • 16:54

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: that that's part of what's going on.But it's even beyond that, at the institutional level.We sometimes talk about our women opting out of jobs.Well, I like to think of it more as women being pushed out.Because if you want to reproduce and you're male,you can do it without institutionsthat also have lactation rooms and postpartum leaves.

    • 17:20

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: You can't if you're a woman.You can't if you're a caretaker.If you're a male caretaker who wantsto be part of this infant's lives,you often can't do it without paternity leave.And so what I'm suggesting is that to understanda simple question like, why do we have a gender gap in wages?

    • 17:41

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: We have to look at individual interactionaland the macro level.So that's one reason why it's betterto think about gender structure than justgender as individuals.The second reason is that this way of thinking about genderhelps us move beyond a warfare model of science.

    • 18:02

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: In the 20th century, much of scientific research--of which sociological research is one kind--was about theory testing.You have theory A, say, gender gap is all about socialization.Then you have theory B, gender gapis all about cognitive bias.And you had them tested in a theory against each other.

    • 18:25

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: And the best theory won, kind of a model of theory testing,and one won, one lost.This is a more complicated version of sciencethat I'm working within, a kind of post-modern,even post-positivist, which is not A or B,it's that the world is a complicated placeand we should be looking at what variables explain what

    • 18:47

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: percentage of the variance.What one aspect of social life is helping to explain it,and what other aspect works together to explain more.And finally, I think the big advantage of gender structuretheory is that it is dynamic and systemic, which

    • 19:09

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: is that my argument in this theoretical traditionis that if something changes at the interaction levellong enough, it will change what's going onat the individual level.If over time, husbands are expected--or men are expected, whether they're husbandsor not-- to be morally responsible for keeping

    • 19:30

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: their infant alive for the first three or four months of life,men will become to see themselvesas the kind of human beings that do caretaking.So if men become to see themselvesas the kind of men who do caretaking, enough of them,the institutions will have to changeto give them some flexibility in the first year of life

    • 19:53

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: of their children's lives to do that.And in fact, we just saw a big American corporation Netflixsay just this week, that men and womenhad flexibility in the first year of a child's lifein their workplaces.So this is a reverberating system.And changing one level necessarily

    • 20:14

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: changes everything else.And it never stops.[Conclusion]So where would we go with this in a utopian future?What does this all mean for the future?Well, if you care like I do, about a future with lesssexism, less inequality, a utopian future that

    • 20:37

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: is more just, my argument is that youneed to think about a post-gender society.A society where it doesn't matterif you're male or female, gender queer or trans, or anywherein the middle.That as an individual, you're free to undue gender.To be any way you want to be, whatever your label

    • 20:58

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: is at the interactional level, that we don't expectmen and women or any other category of identitiesto be any particular kind of person just becauseof their identity.And at the macro level, that we have gender-neutral beliefsand family-friendly policies thatpresume that everyone in society has a job to make a living,

    • 21:24

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: and also to help be caretakers for their parents,their friends, and their children.I'd like to end here with a quoteby a philosopher, Susan Moller Okin,and suggest to you that "a just future wouldbe one without gender and its social structure and practices;

    • 21:45

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: one's sex would have no more relevant than one's eye coloror the length of one's toe."Thank you.[Further Reading, Collins (1990).Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness,and the politics of empowerment.] [Connell (1987).Gender and power: Society, the person,and sexual politics.] [Lorber (2005).Braking the bowls: Degendering and feminist change.] [Risman

    • 22:08

      DR. BARBARA J. RISMAN [continued]: (2004).Gender as a social structure: Theory wrestling withactivism.] [Risman (2013).From sex roles to gender structure.]

Gender as a Social Structure

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Professor Barbara Risman explains the concept of gender as a social structure. She discusses how to examine gender from individual, interactional, institutional, and intersectional perspectives. Risman also describes particular gender scripts and schemas that men and women live with.

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Gender as a Social Structure

Professor Barbara Risman explains the concept of gender as a social structure. She discusses how to examine gender from individual, interactional, institutional, and intersectional perspectives. Risman also describes particular gender scripts and schemas that men and women live with.

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