12 Sept 2007

Future of Gender (Inequality)

Seminar on Women, Men, and Gender in the Future


Fall 2007

Robert Max Jackson

Preliminary Syllabus


      What lies in store for the future of gender?  What shape will women’s and men’s identities and roles take?  Are there obstacles that will prevent us moving further toward equality or will we achieve gender equality in the foreseeable future?  If we achieve equality, will gender differences largely disappear or will women and men become “different but equal”?  How will formerly male dominated institutions change when women have an equal presence and voice, or will it be that the institutions change the women?
      One of the critical criteria for good theories and analyses is that they give us the capacity to say something meaningful about the future.  In this class we will examine a range of ideas, theories, research efforts, and debates relevant to predicting the future course of gender.  We will aim to develop our understanding of good research and theory while seeking insights into the future of gender.  
    The seminar aims to achieve two different kinds of goals.  First, through intensive reading, discussion, and research, this course will give students the intellectual tools needed to understand and talk about the future of gender and sex inequality knowledgeably and perceptively.  Second, much of the course work will be organized around each student's pursuit of a research paper related to this topic, allowing students to develop their skills at researching and writing a sociological argument in the form of an academic paper.


    All students must attend class consistently and punctually, read materials as assigned, join in class discussion, write brief papers, and prepare a research term paper on some aspect of the future of gender.   


    A class is a collective learning enterprise.  We  must all act with reasonable responsibility and decorum or the enterprise fails. We must each try to avoid making the class less pleasant for others.  This means we come to class on time, pay attention, and avoid disruptive actions.  We will have a lot of discussion.  Everyone is always free to disagree with other people's ideas, but we should all treat everyone else and their ideas respectfully.  Plagiarism or academic dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated.

Term Paper:

          The term paper will present a sustained sociological analysis of the expected future course of some aspect of gender (inequality).  Examples of issues to explore include:  women’s movement into politics, child rearing, sexuality, women's movement into top economic positions, portrayal of women compared to men in popular media (TV, etc.), and the status of women in other countries.  The term paper will conform to normal academic style with a maximum length of 20 pages.  It will offer a critical overview of the relevant literature and develop an argument about the likely directions of future change.  
    Important dates:  

Books Required for the Class:

Author Title Publisher
David Grusky, Francine Blau, & Mary Brinton Declining Significance of Gender? Russell Sage
Jude Browne Future of Gender Cambridge
Additional books recommended: On the general problem of social change, consider David Chirot's How Societies Change.  On the history of gender inequality's decline in the United States and its explanation, consider Robert Max Jackson's Destined for Equality.  Note that Future of Gender is just being published and will not be available for a while.

Course Outline and Readings 

Introductory note:  We will work out our exact schedule of readings as we go along.  We have two unpredictables in the mix.  The Future of Gender's exact availability date is unknown (although the end of September is expected).  And we will be mixing our discussion of the reading materials with discussions around the students' semester projects.

I. Thinking about long-term change.

"Explaining Large-Scale Historical Change." Daniel Little. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 30:1 (2000):89-112.
"Evidence and Objectivity in the Social Sciences" Daniel Little. Social Research 60:2 (1993)

Interview Assignment: Interview 4 members of "grandparent" generation, write up results for next week.  Details in class.

II.  Analyzing the causes of gender inequality.  Selected chapters from Jackson's manuscript in progressDown So Long ...: The Puzzling Persistence of Gender Inequality (available by download from the class web site.

Down So Long:  Why Is It So Hard to Explain Gender Inequality?

Down So Long:  Analyzing the Persistence of Gender Inequality: How to Think about the Origins
Down So Long:  Disputed Ideals: Ideologies of Domesticity and Feminist Rebellion
Down So Long:  Economic Inequality and the Division of Labor
Down So Long:  The Reproduction of Economic and Political Power 

III. Defining questions and discovering relevant material

Declining Significance: Chapter 1 -- The Declining Significance of Gender? (Francine D. Blau, Mary C. Brinton, and David B. Grusky)
Report on equality between women and men 2007.  European Commission
Gender Equality: a step ahead - A Roadmap for the future.  European Commission

Research Assignment:  Compile a list of 10 or more important questions about the future of gender and find at least one relevant source related to each question.  Details in class.

IV.  Analyzing changes in gender.  The example of the wage gap.

Declining Significance:  Chapter 2  -- The Gender Pay Gap: going,going ...But Not Gone.  (Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn)

Declining Significance:  Chapter 3 -- The Rising (And Then Declining) Significance of  Gender. (Claudia Goldin)

Declining Significance:  Chapter 5  -- How Much Progress in Closing the Long-term  Earnings Gap?  (Heidi Hartmann, Stephen J. Rose, and Vicky Lovell)

V.  What does the future hold?  A debate on the possibilities.

Declining Significance:  Chapter 8 -- Toward Gender Equality:progress and Bottlenecks. (Paula England)

Declining Significance:  Chapter 9 -- Gender as an Organizing Force in Social Relations: Implications for the Future of Inequality. (Cecilia L. Ridgeway)

Declining Significance:  Chapter 7 -- Opposing Forces:how,why,and When Will Gender Inequality Disappear?  (Robert Max Jackson)

VI. European approaches.

Future of Gender, Part I Reorienting the feminist imagination 

1 Mapping the feminist imagination: from redistribution to recognition to representation. (Nancy Fraser)

2 Perspectives on gender equality: challenging the terms of debate (Valerie Bryson)

3 When will society be gender just? (Ingrid Robeyns)

VII. Continuity & change. 

Future of Gender, Part II Variations on the theme of gender 

4 Does biology play any role in sex differences in the mind?  (Simon Baron-Cohen)

5  Sex and the social construction of gender: can feminism and evolutionary psychology be reconciled?  (Susan Hurley)

7  Gender and social change (Tony Lawson) 

VIII.   The role of politics.

Future of Gender, Part III Gender and political practice

9 The politics of female diversity in the twenty-?rst century  (Catherine Hakim)

10 Gender inequality and the gendered division of labour  (Rosemary Crompton)

11 The principle of equal treatment and gender: theory and practice  (Jude Browne)

IX.  Topics to be added....