Author: Hana Anderson

Gender roles persist in family structure

Family structure has been a long-debated topic in American culture. These controversies range from questions about the overall family dynamic to the concept of divorce, addressed by magazine headlines that read, “How to fix your marriage fast” and “Negotiating with your Spouse.” However, perhaps one of the most disputed topics is one that is hardly talked about: gender roles in the household. This may be a little surprising to some, given that it’s 2017. Weren’t we supposed to have solved gender disparities by now? Sadly, this is far from the truth. Data suggests that now more than ever, millennials believe that the most successful type of family consists of a woman who cares for the home and a man who serves as the breadwinner.

This traditional household system has regained popularity among millennials for a variety of reasons. First, although support for equal opportunities in the workforce has increased, a new type of “egalitarian essentialism” has also increased. Egalitarian essentialism refers to the idea that “as long as women are not prevented from choosing high-powered careers, or forced out of them upon entering parenthood, their individual choices are freely made and are probably for the best,” according to Stephanie Coontz, the Director of Research and Public Education at the Council on Contemporary Families. This means that as long as men and women choose the role that they want to have in the family, it is okay if traditional gender roles are taken on.

However, egalitarian essentialism glosses over the fact that our society is still dominated by traditional values. Therefore, even if these values may not overtly stigmatize a woman who works or a man who stays at home, there will always be subtle reminders that it is not completely accepted. Additionally, these subtle cues are present starting from an early age, as seen in childhood books that feature the mom as the caretaker and the dad as the money maker, a scenario which outnumbers any other alternative dynamic. One’s childhood family dynamic can also have a lasting impact. For example, if one’s parents lived by traditional gender roles, it would be more likely that the child would also grow up to do the same.

Another reason for the widespread support of traditional household values stems from the current financial situation of many families. In the United States especially, there is a lack of affordable child support for parents, which means that families must find alternatives to babysitters or nannies. Oftentimes, the mother ends up being the caretaker, and must leave her position at work to become a stay-at-home mom. However, this does not mean that this is what the woman wants – instead, it is usually done to alleviate financial stress for the family. Without adequate paid leave, it is difficult to juggle work and parenting. Millennials’ views on the household are reflecting this change.

The data shows that while white men are opposed to the notion of the “breadwinning male” more than any other subcategory, in general, millenials are in favor of preserving traditional household roles. This shows that this shift in ideology is not being pushed by the socially dominant group, but by the collective whole. Additionally, this data should be interpreted with caution, because many millenial females are nonetheless pursuing careers in fields like medicine, law, politics and science. However, whatever occupation one pursues, every person deserves to be able to choose what he or she wants to do and be respected for that decision, including being a stay-at-home mom or dad. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and she is the strongest person I know.

The truth of the matter is, there is not and will never be one standard form of a successful and equitable household. For some, the most successful form may be a traditional kind, but for others, it may be completely different. Although the data does show that millennials are starting to lean towards traditional roles, it could also just show that with the rise of financial uncertainty, people tend to revert back to what they grew up seeing and experiencing.

Hana Anderson ’20 (anders38@stolaf.edu) is from Duluth, Minn. Her major is undecided.

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Panel addresses exclusionary politics

On April 1, the St. Olaf branch of the political science honor society Pi Sigma Alpha (PSA) hosted a panel discussion featuring Nekima Levy-Pounds, Mariano Espinoza and Sambath Ouk, three prominent Minnesotan community leaders. Each speaker offered a unique perspective on exclusionary politics, immigration and race using his or her own experience with specific social justice issues.

Levy-Pounds, a civil rights attorney who was named “Minnesota Attorney of the Year” in 2014, has been a nationally recognized expert on topics ranging from mass incarceration to the public education system. Espinoza, a social justice advocate for the Latino community, helped pass the 2013 Minnesota Dream Act and is currently pushing for new reforms to help immigrants. Ouk, the English Language (EL) Coordinator for the Faribault School District, was named one of the “40 Under 40” honorees by the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce for his work as chair of the Faribault Diversity Coalition.

“Recent national events have made this topic especially timely,” PSA President Tyler Benning ’17 said. “The divisive rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaign certainly influenced our decision to focus on the politics of exclusion, and it seems that some of that rhetoric is being translated into policy.”

Speakers were offered several prepared questions from PSA in addition to questions from the audience. The discussion topics were primarily concerned with the situation in Minnesota specifically, focusing on the manifestation of unfair policies and the marginalization of certain groups of people. Levy-Pounds stressed that many people often overlook exclusionary policies because they do not affect them directly, as seen in the criminal justice system. Growing up in an impoverished area in Los Angeles, she saw firsthand how police would specifically target black men for committing petty crimes. She also observed this in Minnesota, where spitting on the sidewalk was once considered a crime, thus enabling police officers to apprehend individuals for minor offenses. Levy-Pounds helped repeal the law, arguing that police used it as a means to target black individuals at a much higher rate than any other group.

The rhetoric leading up to exclusionary policies also targets immigrants and those who already feel excluded by society, according to Ouk. As a Cambodian refugee, Ouk was forced to flee his home and move to the United States at the age of two. Although he has lived here for most of his life, he stated that the rhetoric of the current federal administration has “made [him] feel like a refugee again.” This feeling of fear and uncertainty is not unique to Ouk; many people of color, immigrants and other groups currently feel persecuted by the federal government.

Espinoza echoed Ouk’s sentiment, stating that he has never seen so much fear in the Hispanic community. In the United States, a country that celebrates Hispanic food but disregards the very people whose culture it has adopted, Espinoza argued that “Latinas are loved and hated at the same time.” He also stressed the economic influence that undocumented immigrants have in Minnesota, arguing that without them the economy would collapse.

Each speaker also gave ideas regarding ways for St. Olaf students and community members to help solve these issues, including volunteering in the community, becoming involved in politics and simply having conversations with different people. The speakers also said that change at the local level can in turn bring about change at the federal level.

“Never underestimate the power of small beginnings,” Levy-Pounds said.

“I was happy with the discussion, and it was great to see so many people attend on such a beautiful day,” Benning said. “It is important for people to be aware of issues facing various communities, and I certainly gained a greater awareness of some of the struggles of those around us. I hope others did as well.”

anders38@stolaf.edu

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote