Posted in AS Sociology: Family

Growing number of people are without children

Taken from The Guardian: Wednesday October 5th 

The number of women in the UK and US not having children is at an all-time high. American women without children between the ages 15-44 increased from 35% in 1976 to 47% in 2010.

Women in the UK born in 1984 had an average of 1.02 children by the time they were 30 years old, which is slightly fewer children than women born in 1969 who have on average 1.12 children by 30 years old. 18% of women born in 1969 remain without children, whereas only 11% of those born in 1944 were without children.

Choice, circumstance, medical reasons and the perceived benefits of having children all play a part in deciding whether to have children. 10% of women without children in the US are so by choice, 10% for medical reasons, and 80% by circumstance according to research conducted by sociologist Renske Keizer, a professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam.



Posted in A2 crime and deviance, A2 Sociology: Religion, AS Sociology: Family, General Sociology

Y13 trip to University of Sussex

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Hopefully everyone will agree that the trip to the University of Sussex gave you all a taste of university life but most importantly, two fantastic sociology lectures. Personally, I was particularly riveted by the first lecture by Dr Ben Fincham. Using Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler and in particular, Iris Marion Young (who he claimed is a “genius”), he really broke down gender to highlight how masculinity offers males an advantage in life and conversely femininity imposes limits on what most women can achieve. For Young the example of how many girls throw is the perfect example of how females are socialised into acting in an inferior way – throwing a ball badly. There is nothing genetically predisposed that means a female should throw a ball like a shot put but this is something that is taught.

Another good example of this is how males and females sit. Many males stretch out or sit with a wide posture, they effectively own the space around them. On the other hand, females often sit with their legs crossed or together, so unlike the men, they are inhibited and are filling as little space as possible. Again, this is an example of gendered learnt behaviour and cleverly encapsulates the limitations of femininity.

Here is the Vice magazine article that Ben (The Professor of Fun!) mentioned:

The second lecture delivered by Dr Paul McGuiness was also very interesting. Discussing Bentham’s panopticon prison he utilised Michel Foucault to help him consider how these ideas could be applied to contemporary society. For example, it could be argued that with greater governmental powers to monitor internet usage many British modify their behaviour for fear of being watched. This is crucial to Bentham’s panopticon prison idea with the central guard station being positioned in the centre of the prison with very small slits for the guards to look out of. Thus the prisoners could not know for sure if they are being watched, therefore they would have to regulate their behaviour just in case they were.

Also, remember that Jaques Donzelot applied the ideas of Foucault to the family. He argued that government policy could be considered a form of state control over families because surveillance is taking place. For Donzelot, a policing of families is taking place because doctors, teachers and social workers are all implementing these policies and to control and change families.

Dr McGuinnness also considered the role of prison. Is it there to punish or rehabilitate inmates or does it exist to deter the public at large. Interestingly, using a Marxist perspective he argued that if capitalism was replaced by socialism perhaps prison would be unnecessary…



Posted in AS Sociology: Family

AS Family

Dads in Ads: Are Times Changing?

Sociologists have known for a while now that even though women are more integrated in the workplace, men are not as integrated at home. This disparity places extra constraints on women’s time, which Arlie Hochschild calls the “second shift.” During the second shift, women have an obligation to spend their time off caring for their houses and their children without equivalent effort from men.

For the most part, advertising has reflected that (see over 150 examples here). Ads directed at women often tie the product to a smiling, laughing, or hugging child. But until recently, dads have been largely absent from the picture—unless it’s conveniently close to Father’s Day. When dads have made an appearance in an ad, they have been accompanied by an explanation for why their unique take on parenting can be manly, implying that childcare is still women’s work.

Recently, dads have found their way into the ads and they’re starting to look more comfortable there. Swiffer has a father taking care of his son by himself,Dove connects masculinity to caring for kids of all ages, and NyQuil even has two ads with the same plot about the constant demands of parenting for amother and father.


But is active fatherhood the new norm?

Not quite. While some ads casually use competent dads to sell laundry detergent, others use themes that reflect a more troubled transition into a hands-on fathering style. For example, the Nissan Superbowl commercial tells the story father with a risky profession that keeps him on the road and away from home. The ad ends with the dad physically being in the same space as his teenage son. This is cast as a huge victory, but in reality, it’s a pretty low bar. Still, the ad got a lot of attention for being a tearjerker for its emphasis on fatherhood.

When considered as a group, these ads imply not that we’ve arrived at gender equality in the home, but instead that we’re in a stage of transition. We can appreciate active fatherhood, but we’re not entirely sure what it should look like. With the recent popularity of dadvertising, we can expect to see the commercial conversation around fatherhood continue, giving us the chance to watch as Americans learn #HowToDad.


Nicole Bedera is a PhD student in sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is currently studying college sexual assault and construction of young men’s sexualities.

Posted in AS Sociology: Education

The Theory of Everything, The Gendering of Genius

The-Theory-Of-Everything1Spoil alert! White men are going to take home a lot of Oscars this year. America and the world will once again honor the cult of male genius, and the great men of history.

Steven Hawking, Alan Turing, Martin Luther King Jr. – these are some of the great men of this year’s Oscar line-up. Their accomplishments are significant. And kudos to the filmmakers, who, in a few of these cases, complicated the “lone genius” idea by telling a story that reveals the power of mentors, colleagues, and friends. But the genius or the hero is always male, isn’t he?

I still haven’t seen a movie about a woman genius, and I’m wondering if I will in my lifetime. Afterall, our social construction of “genius” is a math-equation-solving white male nerd who is usually associated with an elite institution. We have SO many movies about that guy. Are women ever part of the equation? Isn’t the equation itself reductionist and unfair? Taking this even further, do all geniuses have to use chalkboards, or can we find great thinkers and problem-solvers outside of classrooms?

The genius stereotype isn’t something we let go of when we leave the theater. Fiction shapes real life. Sarah-Jane Leslie is a philosopher at Princeton University who writes in the journal Science that the male genius stereotype is holding women back.  And therein lies the challenge – the vicious cycle of fiction shaping reality and vice versa. How can women be called to math, physics, and philosophy, for example, when all we hear about are the great men of these fields?

This genius question undergirds Walter Isaacson’s great new book about the forgotten female programmers who created modern technology. Will anyone invest in making this story into a movie, or does it not fit our narrow idea of genius?


It isn’t clear if Oscar-nominated The Theory of Everything pushes the genius trope to the next level. The film doesn’t put a woman in the equation, exactly, but she is nearby. While the film sets us up to follow Steven Hawking’s career and contributions, there next to him in almost every scene is his girlfriend and then wife Jane, who saves him from his depression upon being diagnosed with ALS, and then nurses him and cares for him for not two years (the period of time his doctors give him to live), but decades upon decades, while raising a family and pursuing a PhD. Just as important, she is an educated peer who pushes his thinking. She’s a superwoman! And she speaks to us. What woman doesn’t feel a pang of familiarity watching her balance work and family, thought and emotion? That said, Jane’s load is huge and lonely, especially without her husband’s consent for additional assistance.

felicity_jones_interview_theory_of_everythingIn The Theory of Everything, Jane is a type of hero in a film about defying all odds. Still, the film left me feeling like she didn’t get her due. Given her heroism as a caretaker, perhaps Jane should be the one, at the end of the film, who takes the stage and tells us how she did it. Afterall, she appears to be a problem-solving genius. How in the world did she study Spanish literature, raise three kids, care for a severely physically disabled husband, and get food on the table every night?

The Theory of Everything enables us to see the great woman behind the great man. But we still have a ways to go before the great women are the stars of the show, and the Oscar recipients.

For a great infographic, see Women’s Media Center on the gendering of this year’s Oscar nominations.

We need to keep critiquing the genius effect. Just for fun, I’m going to start using the word a whole lot more, to describe the women in my life. There are a lot of amazing problem-solvers out there.

Posted in Uncategorized

Not Just Attitudes: Marriage Is Also Becoming More Egalitarian

Husbands and wives who share similar levels of education now enjoy a lower risk of divorce than those in which husbands have more education—a trend consistent with a shift toward egalitarian marriages. This brief was part of the Gender Revolution Rebound Symposium first published July, 2014.

The prevailing view for the past several years has been that the gender revolution stalled in the 1990s. In that decade, there was a flattening or slowdown in many trends associated with progress toward gender equality: women’s labor force participation, women’s entry into male-dominated occupations, reductions of the gender pay gap, and egalitarian gender attitudes.

But recent research throws doubt on the conclusion that the gender revolution has stalled. Through the 1990s and 2000s, for example, one trend that did not slow was women’s increasing educational advantage over men.

This has created a major shift in marriage patterns: Men once tended to have more education than their wives, but it is now wives who have the educational advantage. This change in spouses’ relative education has been large: Only about 35 percent of couples married in the 1950s who had different levels of education were ones in which wives had more education than their husbands. For couples marrying in the late 2000s, the share had risen to over 60 percent. The percent of couples married who had different levels of education were ones in which wives had more education has risen from 35 percent to over 60 percent. And during the 1990s – the era of the stall in many trends – couples forming these marriages became less divorce prone. Up until the 1980s, marriages in which wives had more education than their husbands were more likely than other couples to end in divorce. But among marriages formed in the 1990s and later, this was no longer the case. Instead, couples in which wives have more education than their husbands are no longer at higher risk of divorce. And husbands and wives who share similar levels of education now enjoy a lower risk of divorce than those in which husbands have more education. This trend is consistent with an ongoing shift away from the breadwinner-homemaker model of marriage toward an egalitarian model.

Image from Jo Christian Oterhals via Flickr Creative Commons

Data on attitudes also suggest people are increasingly tolerant of relationships in which women have higher status than their male partners. In 1997, a Pew Research study found that 40 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “It’s generally better for a marriage if the husband earns more than his wife.” That percentage had dropped to just 28 percent in 2013. In addition, as the new paper by Cotter et al. shows, the 1990s may have been a temporary rather than a long-term stall in egalitarian gender attitudes.

But these findings provide no basis for complacency. Despite continued upward trends in some markers of gender equity, progress in one realm can be offset by the shoring up of male dominance in other realms. For instance, wives who outearn their husbands may compensate by deferring more to their husbands’ authority and doing more housework. (However, other research casts doubt on the finding that wives do more housework when they outearn their husbands, so the jury is still out on the issue.)

Finally, it is possible that, while wives’ educational advantage no longer appears to be associated with divorce, wives’ higher earnings are, despite the growing number of people who now accept the latter arrangement, in principle. Perhaps couples are now willing to ignore a wife’s educational advantage as long as her husband still earns more. In other words, the “line in the sand” that triggers a threat to men’s gender identity may have moved from a wife’s educational advantage to her earnings advantage. Research on the relationship between spouses’ relative earnings and divorce has been primarily based on marriages formed in the 1980s and earlier, and thus whether there has been change or stability in these relationships remains to be seen. But the attitudinal shifts in men’s stated tolerance for these relationships suggests that even the “line in the sand” for wives who outearn their husbands may be shifting.

The new findings suggest that the evidence for a stalled revolution may not be as uniform as it once seemed, but why the trends vary calls out for explanation. Social scientists

are still exploring why some trends move together and others do not and what changes represent real progress toward gender equality and which are offset by compensation in other areas.


Cotter, David A., Joan M. Hermsen, and Reeve Vanneman 2011. “The End of the Gender Revolution? Gender Role Attitudes from 1977 to 2008.” American Journal of Sociology 117:259-289.

England, Paula. 2010. “The Gender Revolution: Uneven and Stalled.” Gender & Society 24:149-166.

Gupta, Sanjiv. 2007. “Autonomy, Dependence, or Display? The Relationship Between Married Women’s Earnings and Housework.” Journal of Marriage and Family 69(2):399-417.

Ridgeway, Cecilia L. 2011. Framed by Gender: How Gender Inequality Persists in the Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press.

Schwartz, Christine R. and Hon Han. 2014. “The Reversal of the Gender Gap in Education and Trends in Marital Dissolution.” American Sociological Review. 79(4):605-629.

Tichenor, Veronica Jaris. 2005. Earning More and Getting Less. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Wang, Wendy, Kim Parker, and Paul Taylor. 2013. “Breadwinner Moms.” Pew Research Center, Washington D.C. (May 29), accessed 7/21/2014.