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

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

How does gender inequality persist in an advanced industrial society like the United States, where legal, political, institutional, and economic processes work against it? This book draws on empirical evidence from sociology, psychology, and organizational studies to argue that people's everyday use of gender as a primary cultural tool for organizing social relations with others creates processes that rewrite gender inequality into new forms of social and economic organization as these forms emerge in society. Widely shared gender stereotypes act as a “common knowledge” cultural frame that people use to initiate the process of making sense of one another in order to coordinate their interaction. Gender stereotypes change more slowly than material arrangements between men and women. As a result of this cultural lag, at sites of social innovation, people implicitly draw on trailing stereotypes of gender difference and inequality to help organize the new activities, procedures, and forms of organization that they create, in effect reinventing gender inequality for a new era. Chapters 1 through 3 explain how gender acts as a primary frame and how gender stereotypes shape interpersonal behavior and judgments in contextually varying ways. Chapters 4 and 5 show how these effects in the workplace and the home reproduce contemporary structures of gender inequality. Chapters 6 examines the cultural lag of gender stereotypes and shows how they create gender inequality at sites of innovation in work (high-tech start-ups) and intimate relations (college hook-ups). Chapter 7 develops the implications of this persistence dynamic for progress toward gender equality.

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