Are Millennials Gender Rebels or Returning to Tradition


Source: University of Illinois at Chicago
Published: 2018-01-16
Summary: Research suggests millennials are pushing boundaries by rejecting traditional distinctions between sexes, at home and at work, and refusing to accept gender categories altogether.


Some research suggests that millennials are pushing boundaries by not only rejecting traditional distinctions between the sexes, both at home and at work, but also refusing to accept gender categories altogether.

Other studies indicate millennials are idealizing traditional roles where stay-at-home moms are primarily responsible for children.

A forthcoming book from a University of Illinois at Chicago sociologist shows that both are true, so don't expect to find one typical millennial.

Where the Millennials Will Take Us: A New Generation Wrestles with the Gender Structure by Barbara Risman, UIC professor of sociology and distinguished professor of liberal arts and sciences - Photo Credit: Oxford University Press.
Where the Millennials Will Take Us: A New Generation Wrestles with the Gender Structure by Barbara Risman, UIC professor of sociology and distinguished professor of liberal arts and sciences - Photo Credit: Oxford University Press.
"Where the Millennials Will Take Us: A New Generation Wrestles with the Gender Structure" details feedback from more than 100 life history interviews with a gender and ethnically diverse group of millennials that includes transgender and gender queer youth.

Using her theory of gender as a social structure, Barbara Risman, UIC professor of sociology and distinguished professor of liberal arts and sciences, provides insight into the minds of today's young adults to uncover the strategies they use to negotiate the unsettled gender norms and expectations facing their generation.

Beyond how gender is embodied by many individuals, she reports on its influences in daily life and its entrenchment within the organization of workplaces, politics and ideology.

"I found that the fear of being stigmatized for challenging old gender stereotypes is still widespread, but far more among young men than women," Risman said. "Still, nearly everyone felt the powerful constraint of gender stereotypes when it came to how to display their bodies -- from the clothes they wore to the mannerisms they used; to what they weighed and where they had muscle."

The interviews show how dramatically the gender structure still constrains life in America, according to Risman, who is an executive officer of the Council on Contemporary Families, a national organization.

"Both men and women, and those who reject being so labeled, all know the presumptions that come with being female or male: the expectations that women be pretty, supportive and nice, and the expectations that men avoid anything that is considered feminine," she explained. "It is not that all, or even most, millennials always meet gendered expectations, but they face consequences for not doing so."

The millennial generation may not inspire a new wave of feminism in spite of the emergence of gender "rebels" who reject categories altogether, but Risman doesn't foresee a retreat to 1950s ideals either.

"Some millennials may be ambivalent about how far to push the gender revolution, but this is not your grandparents' ambivalence," she said. "In my research, what was very clear is that even millennials who make traditional choices are unlikely to accept a political agenda that penalizes people who do not."

The book concludes with Risman's call for a fourth wave of feminism to eliminate not only sexism but also the gender structure itself.

"To achieve a more just society we must overcome gender expectations entirely, so that none of us are constrained by expectations simply because of the sex category to which we were assigned," she said. "Nor should any business assume that some people have caretaking responsibilities and some do not. If women are not expected to care for the young and the old, then we all must be, and workplaces have to change to make that possible."

Risman, who received the American Sociological Association's 2011 award for public understanding of sociology, is author of "Gender Vertigo: American Families in Transition" and co-editor of "Families As They Really Are," an edited textbook featuring a collection of research studies on how families function in everyday life.

She is spending the spring semester as a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Durham University in the United Kingdom.


Similar Topics


Send us your coming events & LGBT related news stories for publishing on SexualDiversity.org

In July 2017, President Donald Trump announced, "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military..."


While non-LGBT students struggle most with school classes, exams, and work, their LGBT peers say the biggest problem they face is unaccepting families.


District of Columbia residents can now choose a gender neutral option of their drivers license.


80% of gay and lesbian youth report severe social isolation and 42% of people who are LGBT report living in an unwelcoming environment.


According to the Williams Institute about 46% of those in same-sex relationships have college degrees. This may not sound particularly surprising until you consider that the number for heterosexual couples is close to 30%.


80% of gay and lesbian youth report severe social isolation and 42% of people who are LGBT report living in an unwelcoming environment.

Transgender Youth More Often Diagnosed with Mental Health Conditions


Subtle Discrimination Still Detected in Gayborhoods


Sexual Objectification Influences Visual Perception


Cite This Document