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Women Pursue Equal Relationships: Face Social Pressures

NEW YORK - March 6, 2014 - PRLog -- March 6, 2014

CONTACT: Andreea Nica, Media Specialist, Sociologists for Women in Society (http://www.socwomen.org/prmarch614/)
Phone: +1971-256-1547
Email: swsmedia@ku.edu (mailto:%20swsmedia@ku.edu)

Women Pursue Equal Relationships: Face Social Pressures

(March 6, 2014) – Women today strive to establish equal relationships, yet it remains hard to do. New research from Gender & Society reveals that women increasingly seek egalitarian partnerships with men, while still engaging in traditional dating rituals.

Sociologist Ellen Lamont (http://sociology.as.nyu.edu/object/soc.cand.lamont.html) at New York University interviewed 38 college-educated women in her study “Negotiating Courtship: Reconciling Egalitarian Ideals with Traditional Gender Norms (http://gas.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/0891243213503899v1?ijkey=nS.zWOfR1c7Oc&keytype=ref&siteid=spgas).” Her study, forthcoming in the April issue of Gender & Society, a top-ranked journal in Gender Studies and Sociology, finds that the women interviewed decisively pursued egalitarian relationships with men, but still adhered to conventional gender norms while dating.

The women in the study – highly educated, high-income professionals – expressed that their practice of reinforcing gender differences in their dating lives did not impact their egalitarian ideals. Despite their egalitarian beliefs, many of the participants still believed that when it comes to dating, men are responsible for asking women out, paying for dates, determining when the relationship will shift from casual to committed, and proposing marriage.

Why do women uphold gendered dating traditions despite egalitarian ideals?

The women in the study believe that men are “naturally” hesitant to make a commitment in a relationship. In this case, the women did not want to put men off by explicitly proposing marriage or a committed relationship.
Women feared rejection from men if they initiated a date, or other courtship activities.
Some of the women preferred being pursued and desired, rather than being the one who initiates.

What has changed?

The women in the research openly described their ideal relationship to be one in which partners equally shared economic, housework, and child care responsibilities.
Three quarters of the 32 women who had or wanted children had not interrupted or would choose not to interrupt their careers.
The study cites research (Gerson 2010) that if an egalitarian relationship is not possible, women would rather choose financial independence than a traditional partnership.

Room for improvement

While the women interviewed were mostly successful in getting what they wanted in their relationships, they felt the need to disguise nontraditional behavior due to social pressures. For example, to ensure men desired commitment, some women concealed their own desires for commitment.
Lamont suggests an apparent contradiction in that the women exhibit traditional dating norms, which reinforce beliefs about natural gender difference, while pursuing egalitarian ideals in relationships.
According to Lamont, if women continue to retain traditional dating rituals and uphold differing relational expectations for men, this will only reinforce non-egalitarian behavior.

The research highlights progress as women continue to pave the road for cascading levels of equality in relationships, yet demonstrates that women continue to feel constrained by social expectations and gender norms.


Source: Lamont, Ellen. 2013. “Negotiating Courtship: Reconciling Egalitarian Ideals with Traditional Gender Norms (http://gas.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/09/23/089124321...)” forthcoming in April Gender & Society.

Contact: Ellen Lamont (http://sociology.as.nyu.edu/object/soc.cand.lamont.html), Doctoral Candidate of Sociology and Author, New York University, reach her at ellen.lamont@nyu.edu.

Media Contact
Andreea Nica, Media Specialist, SWS

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