Gendered Power Relations among Women: A Study of Household Decision Making
In Black, Lesbian Stepfamilies.
Moore (2008) uses a qualitative research method to shed light on the power relations and the decision-making among Black, lesbian households. This method analyzed a total of 32 Black women in lesbian step families. Interestingly, the findings of the study show that the partners share the role of providing for the family but the biological mothers significantly undertake more household duties (Moore, 2008). It is emphasized that the biological mother has control over the family due to her legal relationship with the child and the responsibility for the well-being of that child. In addition, the author explains that the lesbian couples who espouse to the egalitarian relationship produce marriage-like unions that are more equitable (Moore, 2008). The author also draws empirical sound conclusions to address gender construction in relation to how the division of labor, paid work, money management, and child bearing are negotiated among same-sex couples. The author also sheds light on broader issues on gender interaction, power, and hierarchy within familial relationships (Moore, 2008).
The author is keen in drawing empirical sound conclusions that bridge the gap between the sociology of the family and the ways in that individuals in the same-sex unions negotiate in making decisions within their households (Moore, 2008). The author uses the Black, lesbian families to explore the issues such as the organization of household processes and division of labor (Moore, 2008). Public events for Black lesbians are common in New York City. Therefore, the author based the study in this city to draw sound conclusions. Data was collected from 100 women with experience of living in the same-sex marriages. Secondly, there are 32 respondents living in stepfamilies. The conclusions are also drawn from an in-depth interview with 22 women in the stepfamilies sample.
The author also uses a subsample to draw a conclusion on household decision-making. In this case, seven of the ten were participants were from the stepfamily unions. On the other hand, Moore (2008) uses a secondary comparative analysis to the stepfamily data. The author uses field notes and interview data from eight respondents; four couples had at least one child together using alternative insemination methods. Additionally, the respondents in the stepfamily subsample range in age from 24 to 61 years with a median age of 37. Moore (2008) focused on educational background of the participants to draw sound conclusions regarding the process of the decision-making in the household.
More data in relation to education, occupational status, and income shows that 59% in the stepfamily subfamily are in occupations such as administrative assistants and sales clerks (Moore, 2008). 22% are middle class workers, namely teachers and social workers, while 19% are upper-middle workers in occupations such as physicians or attorneys. Moreover, the study purposely focuses on bisexual women, that is, women in committed relationships with other women, as well as mothers without partners who identify themselves as lesbians (Moore, 2008). More to say, to be eligible for the study, only one person in the relationship had to self-identify as Black. The gathered data was collected from June 2002 to July 2005. These are efforts by the author to ensure that the drawn conclusions will be empirical with sound evidence (Moore, 2008).
On the other hand, the author drew conclusions based on findings rather than the pre-conceived notions and expectations. The findings highlight three main points. They show the importance of economic independence rather than egalitarian ideologies of distribution of labor in Black, lesbian homes (Moore, 2008). Secondly, they show the importance of the status of a mother in creating hierarchies in lesbian stepfamilies. The findings also reveal how gendered self-presentations in Black, lesbian relationships are associated with the types of household tasks performed by each partner (Moore, 2008). For instance, the author draws a conclusion that partners in Black, lesbian families value self-sufficiency and autonomy. This conclusion is based on the findings that 30 of the 32 respondents living in stepfamilies unions are in the work force. However, even though all the respondents report sharing responsibilities for household bills, less than half (14 women) share a bank account (Moore, 2008).
In addition, the control of individual finances, especially, for biological mothers allows both partners to claim a co-provider role even if they do not earn equally. In this case, there is the idea of pooling some funds for common responsibilities (Moore, 2008). However, the respondents insisted on the notion of maintaining separate finances. Questions in face-to-face interviews regarding how the couples divide their housework and finances have influenced the author to conclude that there is some form of specialization (Moore, 2008). Furthermore, biological mothers perform more household chores and assume more responsibilities in providing for childcare. They also make sure that the chores and activities in the house are implemented smoothly (Moore, 2008).
Gender and Race in Marriage Institutions
Race and gender work in an overlapping manner in marriage institutions. The history of African Americans shows that there occurs a division of labor between the males and females (Massey & Denton, 1993). In other words, it is the responsibility of the husband to provide for the family while the wife acts as the primary care giver. For example, a husband and wife from the White background tend to run joint accounts in an equal manner. However, Black women are likely to keep separate bank accounts (Moore, 2008). In relation to family processes, women in the Black community have more authority in organizing the family life. Presumably, the greater responsibilities of Black women in childbearing are related to certain aspect of their culture that put an emphasis on motherhood as a revered status (Moore, 2008).
In addition, the status that the mother occupies in the Black households usually has a greater influence on the decision-making. Their influence is much greater in households that are headed by lesbians (Moore, 2008). In the essence, if the African-American lesbians head their families in the same manner as their counterparts in heterosexual unions, then it is expected that there will be a high level of economic independence among both partners. A closer analysis of the stepfamilies shows that gender has a more significant influence on the ways in which the adults are involved in childcare if compared with the biological relationship (Moore, 2008). Possibly, this explains the reason why biological mothers have more responsibilities than their mates. On the contrary, stepfathers are less likely to be engaged in parenting. They display a low level of direct involvement, monitoring, and disciplining the children. In other words, male stepparents are less involved in the daily activities of child care. Moore (2008) is also cautious that the conditions that biological mothers set for stepfathers can strain their relationship.
Gender also plays a role in father-stepmother marriages. Similarly, to biological mothers, stepmothers experience more pressure to provide the primary child care (Moore, 2008). In comparison, stepmothers are more involved in childrearing and housework more than the stepfathers. The gendered roles might affect children, especially, the adolescents in a way that can create conflicts. Consequently, while children might not accept parenting from a stepmother, a father might still expect her to engage in traditional mothering responsibilities (Moore, 2008). In reference to lesbian unions, the ideology of division of labor is not practical. These women have equal economic contribution in the relationship. They do not practice the concepts of specialization as seen in heterosexual marriages. These women discourage hierarchical relationships with their partners (Moore, 2008). They tend to follow the idea that the differences in authority within the family should not be determined by differences in the amount of financial resources each partner brings to the relationship. The roles of childcare are provided in a co-parenting manner (Moore, 2008). However, in cases where one partner is the biological mother, there is the tendency for her to feel more privileged. Consequently, she becomes reluctant to integrate her partner fully into the household as parental figures. This can produce misunderstanding over which tasks relating to childrearing her mate will perform (Moore, 2008).
More focus on gender roles shows that in relation to family processes, both lesbian and heterosexual stepfamilies share some similarities (Moore, 2008). For instance, biological mothers in both types of marital relationships often try to protect their children from the harsh parenting of their partners. Therefore, they regulate the involvement of partners in childcare and act as mediators in disputes between their mates and children. Gender structures prevail in families because of the manner in which the interactional functions are arranged (Swidler, 2013).
Gender creates differences between the roles taken by males and females. It creates a distinction in the roles that are either conventionally masculine or feminine in marriages (Swidler, 2013). In relation, the differences in gendered roles are more significant when comparing the economic contributions between the White and Blacks couples. Illustratively, the African-American males are supposed to assume the sole responsibility to provide for the family. As for the women, they are perceived as primary caretakers with the responsibility to nurture the overall well-being of the family (Parreñas, 2001). However, among the Whites, both partners can make equal contributions to improve the economic status of the family. Most of the couples in White communities practice a notion of pooling some funds or common goals. On the opposite, the Black women run their own accounts secretly (Swidler, 2013). Interestingly, while the wives from the White community share the roles for providing with their mates, the Black women take more roles in managing the household chores. However, in both races, biological mothers in stepfamilies have an authoritative role in organizing household tasks. They assume more responsibilities for making sure that chores are implemented smoothly (Swidler, 2013).
While in heterosexual relationship, women are more involved in performing household activities, and the contrary is true among the lesbians. In these unions, household tasks are shared equally. There is an equal role of providing the childcare (Parreñas, 2001). However, a difference in noted when one of the partners is a biological mother, she performs more tasks that are related to feminism more often than their mates. Interestingly, among the Blacks, the males are treated as the providers, but the wives usually take the lead in managing and budgeting for these funds (Moore, 2008). They make sure to pay the bills, and they decide of how much money will be spend on things such as groceries and fueling the car.
Inequalities in the American Societies
The issue of inequalities between the Whites and Blacks is widespread in the United States. The articles “Savage Inequalities in America’s Schools” by Jonathan Kozol and “Dude, You’re A Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School” by Pascoe explore the issues of inequalities in the American societies. Kozol (1991) focuses on East St. Louis to shed light on inequality. In this city, the Blacks form the major part of the local population, about 98% (Kozol, 1991). In addition, the city has poor services such as garbage collection and quality healthcare. There are high rates of unemployment (Ehrenreich, 2010). Most of the families are forced to live on welfare donations from the government (Kozol, 1991). The garbage collection services do not work since 1987, and the residents are forced to burn the garbage at their backyards (Kozol, 1991).
Hazardous chemicals are also transported through the city on the railroad. The residents live with the danger of being exposed to the spillage of chemicals. The residents are used to the wailing of sirens warning them to evacuate to avoid dangers associated with spillages (Kozol, 1991). Accidents occurring because of spillages from overfilled tanks are regular occurrence. There is a case where more than 400 residents were admitted to hospital after being affected by phosphorous trichloride that spilled from an overfilled tank (Kozol, 1991). Moreover, the residents are at the risk for diseases such as cholera and diarrhea because the raw sewerage overflows in their residential areas. It is common for school to close down due to problems arising from the blocked sewer systems that cause overflows to the kitchen and bathrooms (Kozol, 1991). The opposite is the case for the rich people in White neighborhood. Their children attend private schools and have access to standardized health services. The live in good houses with proper drainage, electricity, and adequate water supply (Domhoff, 2006).
Jonathan Kozol (1991) has demonstrated that the inequalities are witnessed in East St. Louis in areas, including lack of education, dilapidated housing, insufficient health care, unemployment, and poverty. There are high levels of illiteracy among the children living in this city. For instance, none of the children knows the exact time that the school opens. It is also not surprising that a child responds that they sing jingle bells after the flag pledge (Kozol, 1991). Moreover, although Smokey is nine years old, he does not know how to look at the watch while Mickey is seven years old, but he cannot speak fluently. The children communicate in poorly constructed sentences with incorrect use of tenses (Kozol, 1991).
In addition to high rates of illiteracy, the security is relatively poor. Smokey’s sister was raped and beaten to death by two men, but the police managed to arrest only one of the men (Kozol, 1991). Mickey’s grandmother also lost her life when she was shot twice in the head. On the other hand, there are deficiencies in the level of hospital care. The maternity ward at the Catholic hospital is a more than a century old structure and it is shut down. The other hospital in town was also closed down due to lack of funds, and consequently, the rate of infant deaths is very high (Kozol, 1991). In comparison, New York City has adequate and improved drainage and sewer systems. The health care facilities are well equipped with services such as child and maternal health care and reproductive health (Massey & Denton, 1993). There are government interventions to reduce cases of infant mortality, especially, through campaigns that create awareness on the need to access pre-natal and post-natal clinics (Domhoff, 2006).
Inequality is a common practice in the American schools as illustrated by Pascoe (2011), in his article “Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School”. The article has integrated the dimensions of school curriculum, teaching practices, and the activities among the students to analyze the levels of inequalities (Pascoe, 2011). Secondly, the author maintains gender identity along the boundaries of masculinity at River High Boys school. The word fag is used both as a direct link to homosexual boys and radicalized disciplinary actions (Pascoe, 2011). It is also created a powerful identity of masculinity. For instance, becoming a fag demonstrated the failure to perform masculine tasks of competencies, heterosexual power, and strength. Therefore, the boys had to furnish their behaviors in a way that would demonstrate lack of masculine identity such as dancing. However, the Black boys would be seen practicing new dancing moves because most of them have a hip-hop background (Roy & Dowd, 2010).
The issues of inequality are more evident in the manner that the word fag is used among the students from the two races (Pascoe, 2011). The Whites used it to express their prejudices against the Black students. They used the word to show the Blacks that they were worthless and they did not occupy any prestigious position among the Whites. On the other hand, when the word fag was used among the Whites, it simply meant to express hatred for homosexuality (Pascoe, 2011). At the same time, in River High School, when a boy demonstrated behaviors that were not related to masculinity, then he would be termed as a fag. These include behaviors such as dancing or being too emotional (Pascoe, 2011).
On the other hand, some boys agree that even though fag is used as an insult, they would not direct it at homosexuals. For instance, David argues that homosexuality is simply lifestyles and gays can still exhibit masculine behaviors such as playing football (Pascoe, 2011). It is the failure to demonstrate masculinity that would make a gay boy deserves the insult of being a fag. In other instances, the boys used the word fag to demonstrate inequalities between the heterosexual and homosexuals. For instance, when asked about Craig and Brian, Neil responded in a way that labeled them as faggots (Pascoe, 2011). He responded while thrusting his hips and pulling his arms back and forth to indicate that Craig and Brian could be having a sexual intercourse. The other boys laughed loudly because they related the common use of fag to understand that Neil’s response meant that the two boys were homosexuals.
In relation to race, the Whites frequently used fag more their Black counterparts. The Blacks were more likely to tease one another for being white than for being a fag (Pascoe, 2011). However, among the Whites, if a boy showed too much attention to clothing or dancing then he would be cast to being a faggot. For the Black boys, dancing would be associated to a member of hip-hop community (Roy & Dowd, 2010).
Despite the fact that the issues of slavery were abolished long time ago, the Blacks are still segregated on racial grounds. They are treated in a way to push them to occupy a lesser position compared to the Whites. For instance, women in Black households follow a culture that forces them to assume to household chores than the White women. They are also less likely to take part in economic activities because the husband is labeled as the sole provider for the family. While among the Whites, both partners are likely to pool some funds jointly to achieve common goals. Moreover, even in relation to lesbian families, the Black women take more responsibilities in providing the primary care.
In addition, the Black’s lives in poor neighborhoods are compared to the White communities. The Whites live in urban areas of New York City while the Blacks reside in poor estates such as East St. Louis. The living conditions are deteriorating with high rates of unemployment, poor access to health care, and lack of education. Lack of proper sewerage system often causes many schools to shut down because the sewerage overflows to the kitchen and bathrooms. The rates of infant mortality are high because hospitals are closing down due to lack of financial support. The residents are forced to live in fear of crimes such as rape and murder.
The children from affluent White backgrounds attend private schools that have adequate staffs and learning resources. However, those living in the ghettos in East St. Louis go to public school with poorly constructed structures. It is a common thing for schools to close down because of overflow of sewerage into the school premises. In addition, when at schools, students from the Black community are still subjected to inferiority. The White boys use the word fag to create a notion that they exhibit more masculine behaviors than the Blacks. These are prejudiced ideas to portray the idea the whites have well-composed bodies than those of African American students.