Doing and Undoing Gender in Commuter Marriages
Much recent literature has focused on how women and men “do” (and potentially “undo”) gender when juggling home and work responsibilities. Commuter marriages—in which dual-income professionals live apart due to the demands of their jobs—present a strategic context in which to investigate these gendered processes. Drawing upon theoretical work on doing and undoing gender, prior literature about gender dynamics at the nexus of home and work, and data from in-depth interviews with 97 other-sex commuter spouses, this analysis finds that in some ways these nontraditional arrangements are unique sites for undoing gender; yet, in other respects, standard gender roles are crystallized within these relationships. Specifically, for some women, these arrangements provide a respite from domestic demands, enabling them to function as hyper-productive, “masculinized” workers. However, commuter spouses also perform gender in ways that replicate the conventional gender structure. For example, living apart crystallizes many women’s roles as caregivers. These findings have implications for broader literature on gender, family, and work. They also have implications for counselors, institutional practices, and social policy; for instance, they caution against equating female autonomy with gender parity in making family policy.
KeywordsFamily Work-life balance Gender equality Commuter marriage
The author wishes to thank Dan Cornfield, Elizabeth Long Lingo, Marta Murray-Close, Steven Tepper, Dana Britton, and the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University. This project was funded in part by the Rutgers University Research Council and Lehigh University’s Paul J. Franz Award. All errors are the author’s own.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest
To my knowledge, there are no potential conflicts of interest involved in this research.
Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals
This study, which involved human participants, was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of both Vanderbilt University and Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
All participants in the study provided informed consent.
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