Notions of Family: Intersectional Perspectives: Volume 17


Table of contents

(19 chapters)

Analyses focusing on the intersecting forces of race, class, and gender have been around much longer than theorists in the traditions of social science and the humanities have acknowledged. As early as the 19th century, Sojourner Truth and Anna Julia Cooper began to voice many of the sentiments that continue to shape the discourse around race, gender, and class that is occurring in this new millennium. They anticipated today's debate over the inadequacy of reliance on single categories of race, gender, or even class, to capture the complexities of lived experience (Lemert & Bahn, 1998; Painter, 1990). Their awareness of the importance of the intersection between race, gender, and class made their spoken perspectives on gender inequality unique at a time when the “cult of true womanhood” reigned supreme. Despite this fact, much of the literature utilizing this intersectional framework of analysis emerged just after the Civil Rights and Women's Liberation movements of the 1960s. Memorable pioneers of this paradigm of analysis are Angela Davis’ Women, Race & Class (1981), Audre Lorde's Sister-Outsider (1984), and Paula Giddings’ When and Where I Enter (1984). These crucial texts and speeches call for us to be mindful of the intersections of experience that are instrumental in the formation and maintenance of families and that are so often ignored in discursive theory and research, which treats race, gender, and class, sexuality, etc. as mutually exclusive social forces.

Purpose – We seek to understand how gender shapes the practice of concerted cultivation in connection to other key social locations of race and class.Design/methodology/approach – This quantitative research paper uses multi-level modeling to provide an intersectional analysis of parenting practices across diverse social and institutional settings.Findings – We find gender matters: across three aspects of “concerted cultivation” (involvement in schooling, extracurricular activities, and cultural outings), parents invest more time and resources in girls compared to boys. More importantly, using an intersectional approach, we find distinct racial/ethnic differences in engendering concerted cultivation. Gender differences occur among Black and Hispanic but not white parents’ involvement in their child's schooling. Additionally, parents cultivate girls’ participation in certain kinds of extracurricular activities more so than for boys, but this difference is greatest at the highest socioeconomic levels.Social and practical implications – The ways in which parents’ shape young children's activities and experiences in daily life vary greatly across gender, race, and class statuses.Originality/value – Gender shapes access and exclusion to various social settings across the life course; this paper adds to literature on socialization, incorporating other social statuses into understandings of processes of the social reproduction of inequality. These results are of value to parents, schools, and social scientists.

Purpose – This chapter explores which factors women see as limiting their ability to achieve preferred traditional and egalitarian gender roles.Design/methodology/approach – Data from 25 in-depth interviews and questionnaires with Black and White wives in same-race and interracial Black/White marriages are used. Analysis relies on an intersectional framework to illustrate how gendered power, race, and resources create obstacles in realizing gender ideology.Findings – Wives who were unable to fulfill egalitarian ideals faced gendered power issues. Wives who desired “traditional” gender roles encountered structural limitations related to class position and racial discrimination in the workplace.Research limitations – This study is limited to the perspectives of Black and White women living in the Atlanta, GA metropolitan area. Future research should look further at how socialization that gives men greater power than women affects intimate relationships while taking into account how the experiences of gender are influenced by other aspects of status, including class, race, and location.Originality/value – Findings from this study add to sociological knowledge of gender by conveying the intersectional nature of race, class, and gender in the family and by further illustrating the importance of applying theories of intersectionality to empirical research in this area.

Purpose – Using a framework of intersectionality, this chapter makes visible the realities of women of color who try to form relationships through the use of personal advertising.Methodological/approach – A discursive analysis of race and social class in personal ads using Phrase Tokens, and in-depth interviews with 14 women of color who participated in various forms of personal advertising, present the synergism of race and racism, sex and sexism, and sexuality and heteronormativity, and how these systems continue to pervade interpersonal relations.Finding – Patterns found in both texts and narratives illustrate how establishing relationships among women who are members of heterogeneous collectivities continues to be located in systems of inequality. These data also illustrate how ad placers are unique individuals whose markers of race, class, gender, and sex identity, produce commonalities, yet how their narratives reflect diverse goals, experiences, and responses to those experiences. Women of color convey how personal advertising remains rooted in modern society where people choose their individual affiliations and continue to be defined by their group affiliations.Originality/value of chapter – Though the structural factors and social processes involved in personal advertising are relevant to the formation of interpersonal and social relationships, the phenomenon of personal advertising as a form of courtship has received relatively little attention by sociologists. In rethinking the intersections of race, gender, and social class in personal advertising this chapter includes participants’ voices to more fully understand the motivations for personal advertising, how women ‘do’ identity, and how they experience personal advertising.

Purpose – Historically, the gay and lesbian community has been divided over same-sex marriage along gender lines, with gay men its most frequent supporters and lesbians its most frequent critics. In recent years, however, in localities where same-sex marriage has been available, the gender polarity around same-sex marriage has reversed, with lesbian couples constituting the majority of those married. Although same-sex marriage is framed in a gender-neutral way, the higher rate of lesbians marrying suggests that gay men and lesbians may have different stakes in, demand for, and benefits from access to marriage.Methodology – Drawing on interviews with 42 participants (24 women; 18 men) in the 2004 San Francisco same-sex weddings, I qualitatively analyze how and when gender comes to be salient in the decision by same-sex couples to marry.Findings – Explicitly attending to the intersections of gender, sexual identity, and family, I find that lesbians and gay men did not systematically offer different narratives for why they married, but parents did offer different meanings than childfree respondents: the apparent gender gap is better described as a parenthood gap, which has a demographic relationship to gender with more lesbians than gay men achieving parenthood in California. Scholarship on the gendered experience of reproduction suggests that the importance of gender in the experience of queer parenthood may persist even if parity in parenthood were reached.Originality/value – Findings attest to the importance of attending to the intersections of gender, sexual identity, and family for scholars of same-sex marriage.

Purpose – To assess the unrelenting argument made by conservative social theorists that low-income women of color have high rates of out-of-wedlock births because they are anti-marriage and have deviant family values.Methodology – Based on a four-year ethnographic study of homeless mothers in San Francisco, this research examines whether or not Latinas and African Americans do in fact denigrate marriage and unabashedly embrace unwed motherhood.Findings – The major contribution of this research is the recognition that low-income African American women and Latinas do value the institution of marriage and prefer to be married before they have children. Unfortunately, the exigencies of poverty force many of them to delay marriage indefinitely. A lack of financial resources, the importance of economic stability, gender mistrust, domestic violence, criminality, high expectations about marriage, and concerns about divorce are common reasons given for not getting married.Research limitations – Although San Francisco is a unique city, and I cannot generalize my findings to other locales, the experiences of homeless women in the Bay Area are analogous to what was happening throughout urban America at the end of the twentieth century.Originality – For homeless mothers in San Francisco, having children without being married is a consequence of poverty in which race, class, and gender oppression conspire to prevent them from realizing their familial aspirations, pushing them further into the margins of society. Using intersectionality theory, this research debunks the Culture of Poverty perspective and analyzes why homeless mothers choose to remain unmarried.

Purpose – This study examined the impact of educational differences between married women and men on marital quality at the intersections of gender, race, and class.Methodology/approach – Guided by an intersectional perspective we analyzed data for 4,835 black and white married couples from the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH; 1987–1988). Dyadic multigroup models were estimated using structural equation modeling to examine how status differences affected four latent dimensions of marital quality: happiness, stability, perceived fairness, and disagreement.Findings – Our findings highlight how multiple dimensions of marital quality vary according to intersections of gender, race, and class, and reveal how these intersections moderate the impact of status on marital quality.Research limitations/implications – To our knowledge, the NSFH is the most up-to-date, nationally representative dataset available with couple-level data; however, the data were collected in the late 1980s and are insufficient for extending our analysis to other race-ethnic groups. Our findings demonstrate a strong need for more comprehensive contemporary data collection that has adequate numbers of respondents/couples at the intersections of gender, race, and class to facilitate further quantitative studies using an intersectional perspective.Originality/value – Our study is innovative in using education, an arena where women are currently outpacing men, as an indicator of status, and in embracing an intersectional perspective. By doing so we advance literature on status discrepant marriages, and contribute to the fields of gender and family studies which seek to understand how the changing roles of women may be affecting marital quality.

Purpose – While existing literature on work–family schemas has focused on white middle-class mothers, we examine how race, class, and gender shape black middle-class mothers’ work and family life.Design/methodology/approach – Drawing upon 31 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with mothers (and their husbands), this chapter utilizes an intersectional approach to explore distinct cultural schemas for work and family.Findings – We document two schemas that define conceivable and desirable roles for black motherhood, work, and family. Some black middle-class mothers interpreted work and family roles as contradictory following the schema of family devotion (Blair-Loy, 2003). However, most mothers interpreted work and family as complementary role-identities, following a schema we call work–family integration. They enacted dual roles of mother and worker, integrating them into a meaningful, multi-dimensional view of black womanhood.Research limitations/implications – The findings emphasize the need for a more intersectional approach to research on work and family. Given existing literature documenting racial variation in work–family conflict, it also suggests that this may be explained by racial variation in cultural schemas. However, because our sample was limited to black middle-class, heterosexual couples with children, we were unable to make comparisons or generalizations to other groups. We recommend future research that draws comparisons across race, class, sexuality, gender, and/or family structure.Originality/value – This chapter introduces a new cultural schema, work–family integration; provides empirical research on an underexplored group, black middle-class families; and adds further nuance to cultural theories of work and family.

Purpose – Informed by an intersectional perspective, this chapter examines how middle-class, immigrant Tamil (an Indian regional group) Brahmin (upper-caste) profess/ional women organize motherhood in the U.S., by identifying the arrangements of mothering they develop, and the conditions under which these emerge.Methodology/approach – Data is based on a year-long ethnography among Tamils in Atlanta, and multi-part, feminist life-history interviews with 33 first-generation, Tamil professional women, analyzed within a constructivist grounded theory method.Findings – Tamil immigrant motherhood emerges from the interplay of Tamil women's social location as an immigrant community of color in the U.S. and their agency. Paradoxically racialized as model minorities who are also culturally incommensurable with American society, Tamil women rework motherhood around breadwinning and cultural nurturing to mother for class and ethnicity respectively. They expand the hegemonic model of Tamil Brahmin motherhood beyond domesticity positioning their professional work as complementary to mothering, while simultaneously reinforcing hegemonic elements of mothers as keepers of culture, responsible for ethnic socialization of children. Mothering then enables them to engender integration into American society by positioning families as upwardly mobile, model minorities who are ethnic. This, however, exacts a personal toll: their limited professional mobility and reduced personal leisure time.Originality/value – By uncovering Tamil immigrant motherhood as structural and agentic, a site of power contestation between spouses and among Tamil women, and its salience in adaptation to America, this chapter advances scholarship on South Asians that under-theorizes mothering and that on immigrant parenting in which South Asians are invisible.

Purpose – This chapter explores mothering scripts among women of color and the intersection of race/ethnicity, social class, and family background in their narratives.Design/methodology/approach – Drawing from in-depth, semi-structured interviews of 24 African American and Latina mothers, this study analyzes the extent to which their narratives reflect more “intensive” or “extensive” mothering scripts.Findings – African American mothers typically drew from “extensive mothering” narratives, whereas Latina mothers’ scripts were more varied.Research implications – The findings point to the importance of and complexities in an intersectionality perspective: Latinas’ mothering scripts generally varied more across social class categories than those of African American mothers. However, African American mothers’ discussions of stress were mediated by their social class background.Social implications – The chapter concludes with the implications of this research for scholarship on families, and for social policies surrounding caregiving and employment.Originality/value – While rich theoretical and empirical works explore women of color and their family lives, few to none ask mothers themselves to talk about their actual and ideal experiences of motherhood. This chapter fills this gap by exploring the mothering scripts of women of color from diverse class backgrounds

Purpose – Within cultural discourse, prescriptions for “good” motherhood exist. To further the analysis of these prescriptions, we examine how media conversations about Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and First Lady Michelle Obama during the 2008 presidential election campaign illustrate existing notions of good motherhood.Methods – Using qualitative content analysis techniques, we review media discourse about Palin, Clinton, and Obama during this campaign. We use existing feminist literature on motherhood and an intersectionality perspective to ground our analysis, comparing and contrasting discourse about these political figures.Findings – The 2008 campaign represented a campaign for good motherhood as much as it represented a campaign for the next president. Discourse on Palin, Clinton, and Obama creates three very different characterizations of mothers: the bad, working mother and failed supermom (Palin), the unfeeling, absent mother (Clinton), and the intensive, stay-at-home mother (Obama). The campaign reified a very narrow, ideological standard for good motherhood and did little to broaden the acceptability of mothers in politics.Value of paper – This article exemplifies the type of intersectional work that can be done in the areas of motherhood and family. Applying an intersectionality perspective in the analysis of media discourse allows us to see exactly how the 2008 campaign became a campaign for good motherhood. Moreover, until we engage in an intersectional analysis of this discourse, we might not see that the reification of good motherhood within campaign discourse is also a reification of hegemonic gender, race, class, age, and family structure locations.

Purpose – Utilizing the intersectionality framework, this study examines how a racially diverse group of adults aim to balance work–family life.Methodology/approach – This chapter uses qualitative data from the Intersections of Family, Work, and Health Study consisting of 132 black, white, and Mexican-American adults.Findings – We find that socioeconomic status and marriage provide social and economic capital to more easily fulfill role obligations. Individuals with more capital have more choices and are offered a chess board and a variety of pieces to facilitate the goal of creating work–family harmony. Individuals with less capital end up with less job flexibility and play checkers through rigid concrete roles because work decisions are in the hands of their employers instead of their own.Social implications – This chapter sheds light on the influence of high social status and the ability some individuals have to maximize both job flexibility and autonomy in managing work–family life. As we show here, married middle-class whites are able to manage work–family life better than professional black single mothers and working class Mexican Americans by having the ability to choose to play checkers or chess.Originality/value of chapter – We argue that the concept of “balancing” does little to express the ways individuals negotiate the constraints of work and family. By using an intersectionality perspective, we show that conceptualizing work–family life as “checkers or chess” games allow for the cognitive process of decision making (in terms of, for example, time pressures and perceived role demands) to be assessed more efficiently across work–family domains.

Purpose – Although most mothers are currently in the labor force, mothers’ labor supply varies by race and ethnicity. However, most of the discourse on mothers’ employment, particularly recent media coverage and research on mothers opting out of the labor force, focuses on the experiences of White women in managerial and professional occupations. I address the lack of diversity in the opt- out discussion by comparing the prevalence of opting out of the labor force and scaling back on work hours among Asian, Black, Hispanic, and White mothers in 20 occupations.Methodology/approach – This research employs hierarchical logistic models and hierarchical linear models using 2009 American Community Survey data.Findings – Although mothers of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are more likely to opt out when they have young children, opting out is more prevalent among White mothers. Racial and ethnic disparities are particularly salient when examining work hours. White and Asian mothers are more likely to scale back compared with Black mothers who do not appear to scale back at all when they have children.Social implications – These results show that work–family strategies differ by race, ethnicity, and occupation, and work–family solutions need to address the specific needs of women in different occupations.Originality/value – This study provides evidence suggesting that the opt-out discourse surrounding mothers’ employment has not been sufficiently nuanced and that policy solutions that are based on the experiences of women in managerial and professional occupations are likely to fall short of meeting the needs of most women.

Delores P. Aldridge has served as the Grace Towns Hamilton Professor of Sociology and African American Studies since 1990 at Emory University. Her career has focused on racial, ethnic, gender, family, and educational issues. She provided the seminal work on Black Women and the Labor Market in the Journal of Social and Behavioral Sciences (1975). For her scholarly contributions and social activism in and beyond the academy, she has received countless awards including the Cox, Johnson, Frazier Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Sociological Association(2010); Charles S. Johnson Award for Professional and Scholarly Achievement on Race and the South, the Southern Sociological Society (2006); and, the W. E. B. Du Bois Award (distinguished scholar, social activist, humanitarian), the Association of Social and Behavioral Sciences (1986).

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Advances in Gender Research
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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