Are today's young adults gender rebels or returning to tradition? In Where the Millennials Will Take Us, Barbara J. Risman reveals the diverse strategies youth use to negotiate the ongoing gender revolution. Using her theory of gender as a social structure, Risman analyzes life history interviews with a diverse set of Millennials to probe how they understand gender and how they might change it. Some are true believers that men and women are essentially different and should be so. Others are innovators, defying stereotypes and rejecting sexist ideologies and organizational practices. Perhaps new to this generation are gender rebels who reject sex categories, often refusing to present their bodies within them and sometimes claiming gender queer identities. And finally, many youths today are simply confused by all the changes swirling around them.
As a new generation contends with unsettled gender norms and expectations, Risman reminds us that gender is much more than an identity; it also shapes expectations in everyday life, and structures the organization of workplaces, politics, and, ideology. To pursue change only in individual lives, Risman argues, risks the opportunity to eradicate both gender inequality and gender as a primary category that organizes social life.
Barbara J. Risman is Distinguished Professor of Arts & Sciences in the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author of Gender Vertigo: American Families in Transition, editor of Families as They Really Are, and a forthcoming Handbook on Gender (co-edited with Carissa Froyum and William Scarborough).