Gender Vertigo - Risman, Barbara J. - Yale University Press

Social Science

Gender Vertigo

American Families in Transition

  • Barbara J. Risman
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Just as every society has an economic and political structure, so too every society has a gender structure. Barbara Rismanís original research on single fathers, married baby boom mothers, and heterosexual egalitarian couples and their children, reported in this intriguing book, weaves together qualitative and quantitative data from surveys, interviews, and observation. Risman shows how gender as a social structure affects individuals, organizes expectations attached to social positions, and becomes an integral part of social institutions. She provides empirical evidence that human beings are capable of enduring and affective intimate relationships without gender as the central organizing mechanism. The data also strongly indicate that men and women are capable of changing gendered ways of being throughout their lives.

In her analysis of nontraditional families, Risman finds that gender expectations can be overcome if couples are willing to flout society and risk "gender vertigo." Most children of such families adopt their parentsí beliefs about gender, but they do struggle with the contradictions between parental ideology and folk knowledge and expectations in peer relationships. The author argues that we can create a just society only by creating a society in which gender is an irrelevant category for social lifeóa post-gender society.

Barbara Risman is associate professor of sociology and director of the graduate program in Women and Gender Studies at North Carolina State University. She is also co-editor of the journal Contemporary Sociology.