Cultural Explanations of the Stalled Gender Revolution

Reeve Vanneman, University of Maryland
Joanna Kling, University of Maryland

The gender revolution that restructured American families during the last quarter of the 20th century stalled in the middle of the 1990s. We offer a cultural explanation for this stall based on the rise of seven themes that grew rapidly in the 1990s: married mothers’ distress from trying to combine work and family, higher standards for child-rearing that led to intensive mothering, egalitarian essentialism that reaffirmed equality while conceding essential gender differences, mommy wars that pitted stay-at-home mothers against working mothers, media interest in working mothers who “opted out”, welfare reform that made work a duty rather than an opportunity, and a policy emphasis on work/ family balance that inadvertently reinforced a “mommy track” stereotype. Content analyses of 859 articles from the New York Times and 567 articles from the Washington Post supports most but not all of these cultural trends.

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Presented in Poster Session 6