Dissertation: Gatekeeping the Cradle: Gender Essentialism and Men's Participation in Childcare
In the past fifty years, women’s lifestyles and behaviors have changed at a significantly faster pace than men’s. This asymmetric change is particularly evident in the realm of care work, where women continue to perform the lion’s share labor, both within their own families and as paid employees. The scarcity of men acting as primary caregivers crosses many domains; single and stay-at-home fathers remain rare, and male babysitters, rarer yet. This dissertation identifies individual, normative, and institutional factors which limit men’s participation in the realm of childcare. Using data from a series of online survey experiments, I show that perceptions of men as insufficient and inherently inferior caregivers may act as barriers to men’s increased involvement in the lives of children. In a series of three studies, I identify a variety of ways that essentialist beliefs and normative expectations actively reproduce the uneven division of childcare in both paid and unpaid care settings. Overall, I argue that thoroughly addressing gender inequality must involve acknowledging that domestic and labor-force activities are two sides of the same coin; increasing women’s earnings is dependent on our ability to more evenly balance out the gender division of caregiving.