Gender is a fundamental organizing principle of people's lives, family relationships, and society. Women and men have powerful expectations about gender and intimate relationships in contemporary society. “Traditional” societal gender expectations for how men and women should behave and what they should value continue to influence our lives and shape our family relationships. Yet these societal expectations are in transition, and many people today are striving to define themselves and their family relationships in new, less restrictive ways. They believe that traditional gender expectations often keep them from finding their own individually defined purpose and fulfillment. They are searching for ways to live and love free from the constraints of rigid, gender-based expectations and inequities.
In this chapter, we describe gender as a social construction and explain how it continues to organize our lives and relationships. We provide evidence that although gender norms are in transition in the United States, ideological and structural barriers continue to prevent many families from translating their egalitarian ideals into daily realities. We also illustrate that, despite these barriers, a growing number of families have been able to reject gender as an ideological justification for inequality in family life. Finally, we believe that therapists need to address gender and power dynamics proactively to assist clients in recognizing and overcoming gender-based constraints.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Normal Family Processes: Growing Diversity and Complexity. Edition: 3rd. Contributors: Froma Walsh - Editor. Publisher: Guilford Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 301.
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