GENDER IDEOLOGIES AND FEELING
The gender ideologies of these men and women fell into three main types: traditional, egalitarian, and transitional. Implicit in each ideology were rules about how one should feel about one’s work outside and inside die home. Traditional men and women felt a woman’s place was in the home even though she might have to work outside it and that a man’s place was at the workplace even though he might have to help at home. Many traditional women talked as if they were being gracious to help support the family, and they reserved some right to resent such helping since earning money wasn’t their job. Correspondingly, traditional husbands felt that by doing housework they were doing their wives a favor for which the wives should feel grateful. In addition, traditional women did not believe it was right to identify with their paid jobs or to love their work too much even though in a guilty way some did. And traditional men did not wish to identify themselves too closely with women’s work at home, though, again, some did.
The egalitarian man or woman felt that husbands and wives should share both the paid and unpaid work. The wife was supposed to identify with her work and to feel her career mattered as much as her husband’s, though some egalitarian women didn’t really feel theirs did. The egalitarian husband was supposed to feel that his role as householder and parent mattered as much as his wife’s, although, again, some didn’t feel theirs did.
The transitional man or woman adhered to a mix between the traditional
and the egalitarian ideology. ()f the several types of transitional ideologies, і focus here on one type in which the couple believed it was good for the wife to work full-time outside the home but it was also her responsibility to do most of the work at home. She was supposed to have an identity outside the home, and it was her right to care about and enjoy her paid work. But she didn’t have a right to feel angry at a husband who didn’t help much, since her husband wasn’t supposed to have an identity equivalent to hers inside the home. Nor, if he didn’t help at home, did the transitional husband feel obliged to feel very much guilt. Those were the feeling rules.
Traditionals were a small minority among both men and women in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980s, and of the rest, more women were egalitarian and more men were transitional. Thus, men and women often applied different feeling rules to what they actually felt about work and home.
Quite apart from differences in the content of gender ideology’ and feeling rules, J began to be impressed by the different ways individuals held their beliefs. A few traditionalists railed passionately against the ERA, abortion, and the economic need for a wife to work, as if a vital moral order were endangered. Others stated the same beliefs matter-of-factly. A number of men also seemed to be egalitarian on top but traditional underneath. This led me to ask how feelings infuse ideologies, how actors care about their beliefs. Passionately? Nonchalantly? Angrily? Hopelessly? Fearfully?
! he underlying feelings of some people seemed to reinforce their surface ideology, while those of others seemed to subvert it. Some underlying feelings seemed traceable to “cautionary tales”—important episodes from a person’s past that carried meaning for the future. For example, one passionate traditionalist, an El Salvadoran daycare worker, Carmen Delacorte, married to a factory worker, spoke vehemently against the ERA, comparable worth, abortion rights, and anything that would detach a woman’s identity from the home. Reinforcing her gender ideology was her urgent desire to avoid the terrible struggles of her mother, a single mother whose husband abandoned her and her baby 1 the young Carmen) because, as she put it, my mother was “too dominating.” The message of this cautionary tale seemed to be: Submit to your man so he won’t leave you. The gender ideology of some passionate egalitarians seemed fueled by a dread bom of a different cautionary tale: a mother who lacked self-esteem, felt depressed, and became a “doormat” for her husband. There the idea was: Work, assert yourself, so you don’t internally leave us.
Often the feeling behind a person’s gender ideology seemed to derive from the interface between a searing experience from the past and an emerging situation in the present. For example, an African American forklift driver, a father of three, firmly resisted the entreaties of his wife, a billing clerk, to help with housework and childcare. Even if his wife worked fulltime, he strongly felt housework wasn’t a “man’s” job. He felt more strongly
about this than other men I interviewed who were in his situation and shared his point of view, and I wondered why. Then he described an early loss; when he was a three-year-old, his mother had left him in the care of his aunt, not to return until he was twenty. Now, he wanted to be sure his wife did her “job” of taking care of him. Both the daycare worker and the forklift driver suggest biographic clues to the emotional anchors of gender ideology.
In other cases, the underlying feeling seemed to subvert the surface ideology. Consider the example of John Livingston, a white businessman who had been living for some time on the brink of divorce and had sought marriage counseling only a few months before I interviewed him. He described a childhood ol extreme neglect in an Irish working-class family, with a reclusive father and workaholic mother. His mother, a waitress during the week, had taken an extra job selling ice cream on weekends. He spoke of how much it meant to him now to be married and to “finally communicate with somebody.”
Ideologically, John was an egalitarian. His mother had “always worked"; he had always expected his wife to work and was “all in favor of sharing” the provider and homemaker roles in his own marriage. But when their daughter Cary was born, his feeling rules became much harder to follow. After Cary’s birth, John very distinctly felt his wife withdraw from him. As he put it, “I felt abandoned, you might say, and angry.” When his wife returned to a demanding job, he resented and resisted it bitterly. As he explained:
Maybe I was jealous of Cary because, for the six years before she was bom, I was the most important person to Barbara. For several months while she was working those long hours, I would come home and spend most oi the night with (‘ary, which was okay. But I resented Barbara not being there. I wanted a few minutes to myself. Then I felt ()aiy was being cheated by her not being here. And I wanted Barbara to spend more time with me! So I withdrew. I didn’t want to complain, to make her feel guilty about working long hours. But I resented it.
John believed Barbara should be engrossed in her work, but at the same time he was furious that she was. His feeling rule clashed with his feeling. Since it was John’s habit to withdraw when he was angry, he withdrew from his wife in all ways, including sexually. His wife grew upset at his withdrawal, creating a painful deadlock, which, through their long hours at work and caring for (^ary (supermom and superdad strategies), they were each avoiding. In the end, they separated, divorced, and fought bitterly over the custody of Cary.