“Stability and Transformation in Gender, Work and Family: Insights from the Second Shift for the Next Quarter Century”.
Written by: Mary Blair-Loy, Arlie Hochschild, Allison J. Pugh, Joan C. Williams, and Heidi Hartmann.
The article has analyzed Arlie Hochschild’s book “The second shift: Working families and revolution at home” to related its findings to the contemporary times. The book details research conducted on 50 heterosexual American couples who are both working and have children. Gender equality has been a topic of discussion for a long time. There are many factors that could pose an obstacle to gender equality. Second shift, or the unpaid work that women do at home is a factor that has produced obstacles to gender equality. Women have been expected to stay at home to serve the family and hence they are stopped from working in a workplace against a salary or daily wages. There have also been issues in workplace relating to inflexibility of working time which does not allow women to accommodate caregiving service to their family. That is why they may be automatically opted out of many jobs careers. Non-availability of Paid parental leave might have been an issues that does not allow female to go out and work. Cultural understanding of a family and the role of a women in a family has also been an issue that poses hindrance to gender equality.
The findings of the study could not be generalized in the present age because it does not shed light on gay couples. It also does not analyze couples living together without a legal marriage and having children. Parent who are not employed on full time basis are also not included in the study. Though, the study does suggest these kinds of researches in the future.
Work places have failed to develop working culture that is welcoming and flexible for women who want to accommodate family caregiving. Having said, that, more women have been employed compared to the time Hochschild wrote her book which is a good step towards gender equality. Hochschild suggested that men should also do some of the second shift work meaning they should also volunteer to do some of the caregiving for the family. Since she wrote the book, the number of men engaging in second shift activities has raised.
I interviewed a couple which migrated from Palestine to USA back in the 80’s and both had worked full time after they immigrated to support their day to day needs and their children education. The first interview was with Ali, the husband.
Ali said that he does not think that both men and women have to work if the man earns enough to support the family. My immediate question was why then his wife worked full time in the 80’s and 90’s after they had immigrated to USA. Was he not earning enough money to support his family? “Me and my family were new to USA and did not speak any English, there was not job that I could have done in such a situation which could have supported my family” said Ali. Ali said that his wife was also not ready to work because in our culture back in Palestine, gender role were already set. I think that this can be related to the concept of deep-seated understanding of culture which mentions “deep-seated cultural understandings of gender infuse all levels of analysis: macro-level policies, family and work institutions, and personal experiences of gender, intimacy, and moral commitments” (Blair-Loy, Hochschild, Pugh, Williams and Hartmann, 436). In many cultures, the roles are fixed and the expectation is that women are not supposed to work. Only men are supposed to work which leads to the topic of masculinity and my next question.
Masculinity has a lot to do with gender inequality said Ali, with a smile. I asked why? Ali said, for centuries, men have been working and workplace is where only men are considered to be present. Just like what the article has said. “In many workplaces, the flexibility stigma is a femininity stigma and work remains a masculinity contest.” (Blair-Loy, Hochschild, Pugh, Williams and Hartmann, 441). Men consider themselves to be strong and women to be weak. They don’t want to trust them with all the hard work that happens at a work place he said.
On the question about the impact of both parents working full time on children, Ali said that it does not matter anymore in USA. You both, the male and female, can go to work and send the children to a day care center or school if they are big enough where they are given enough attention by the staff and there is no worrying about it. Ali said that the cultural understanding that women are weak is a contributor to gender inequality. He was broad minded about it and said that as the world advances, gender equality will ultimately be achieved. Ali saw more gender equality when he looked at the past. He said that though he did not like his wife working when they were young, he does not object to his own daughter working in the field as an engineer. He said he support his daughter and helps her make many decisions about her work and career.
After I interviewed Ali, I started to interview his wife and asked her the same questions but in different words. Her name was Reyouf. Reyouf believed that in the present world, it is utmost important for both men and women to work full time because life has many more demands compared to past. She pointed out to the iPhone her younger son had. She said “it cost him more than a thousand dollars.” A thousand dollars is a lot of money if only one person in the house has to work full time. Women must be allowed to go out and work alongside men.
Reyouf termed masculinity as a curse looking at her husband who was smiling in return. She said that all her life, her husband has been of the opinion that he is strong and does not need her help. She said that the concept of masculinity is indeed responsible for less rights for women because men think they are the owners of their women and does not treat them equal.
Reyouf shared almost the same opinion about the impact of both parents with full job on children. I requested her to talk about the same situation but putting herself in the past. This is where she had a different point of view. She said that back in the past, when she had school going children and they had arrived newly in USA, it was not a good feeling for both parents working full time while the children being in the home or school. She said the schools were not quality and the streets were not safe. You were not able to focus on your work because you were always curious about the safety of your children that you have left behind.
Reyouf believed that because human society developed the concept of a wrong understanding of women not being good at jobs outside of her home, it still pose hindrance to them working full time. She said that she would love to see a consensus that both men and women can be efficient with their full time jobs. She did see many positive changes in the present time when it comes to gender equality. For example, she said that her daughter, who is a computer engineer, was selected out of 12 people, 8 of which were male. There was only one position and she was selected based on her abilities and not her gender.
In this section, I have shed light on three sociological terms from the article according to my understanding.
Deep-seated understanding of gender: From this term, my understanding is that cultures have suggested roles for male and female and this is how it recognized gender. The culture does not expect men to do women work or the other way around.
Gender inequality: Gender inequality refers to not giving equal rights to men and women. For example, many workplace might give less salary to a women compared to a man for the same work.
Cultural understanding: Cultural understanding comes from the norms that a culture develops about certain things. This developmental process could take decades and even centuries.
Gender inequality is a reality. There are many factors like masculinity, inflexibility at work, cultural understanding of gender and Deep-seated understanding of gender that could be considered to contribute to gender inequality. Gender inequality is not restricted to a specific time or occasion. It could happen anywhere at any time. For example, women might not be treated fairly in homes, workplace and in the society at large. The main solution to achieve gender equality is to educate people about it. I think that the starting point could be our schools where children should be taught that men and women are equal and the traditional understanding of masculinity is not the right way to look at gender differences. This is a long process that would require time. But, ultimately we will get result.
List of Questions
Is it even important for both men and women to work full time?
What is the impact of both parents working full time on children?
What has masculinity to do with gender inequality?
Why has cultural understanding of women posed a hindrance to women working full time?
Is there more gender equality compared to past?