Research has shown that “nature” determines neither the level of inequality in America nor which Americans in particular will be privileged or disprivileged; social conditions and national policies do. Inequality is in that sense designed.
(Inequality by Design, 1996)
This blog is a running account of my thoughts and research dealing with the relationship between gender and sexual inequality and social space. Inequalities aren’t only patterned relationships between groups of people; they are also literally embedded within the social spaces within which we interact. In this way, inequality is reproduced in ways that feel natural, but are actually designed. Gender and sexual inequality are among the most intimate forms of inequality that exist and they are maintained in diverse ways. They are:
naturalized – like the layout of a house, social relations (even inequitable ones) can feel “natural” when they follow predictable patterns. Yet it is simultaneously the persistence of these patterns that produces this collective feeling.
minimized as “tradition”– a great deal of gender and sexual inequality is dismissed by simply calling it “tradition.” Traditions are integral aspects of social life; yet they are also largely taken for granted. And when inequality becomes taken for granted, it is not always seen for what it actually is.
structured by relationships – gender and sexual relationships and roles are saddled with systems power and inequality even before we occupy them. Parent and child, sister and brother, husband and wife, partnerships, man and woman, homosexual and heterosexual all have intricate rules and understandings that conceal the ways that inequality structures the very relationships we hold most dear.
part of the social spaces in which we live – while inequality is embedded in our relationships and the ways we relate, it also embedded in the social spaces in which we interact. For instance, gender inequality influences the ways we design and use our homes. The gendered division of household labor among heterosexual couples is in part accomplished by patterned gendered uses of household space. Which parts of the home we use and avoid and how we use and avoid them is structured by the use of design of our homes.
I am working on this blog as I begin a project on “man caves” in contemporary couple households. I’m interested in how men and women talk about, use, justify, and decorate man caves. What role do man caves play in relationships? Where did man caves come from and where are they now? Do women have “man caves” too? Many of my posts will deal with this project in particular, though I’ll also use this space to address other issues related to social space and inequality more generally (with the occasional book review). And when all that structure overwhelms me, I may write a post on something else sociological, but without much connection with this project (though I’ll try to stay on task).
I’m also hoping that this blog becomes a somewhat public conversation. So, I’m very interested in your (yes you) participation. Please comment or question any of the posts and I’ll do my best to keep up.