In an advanced industrial society like the contemporary U. S., where an array of legal, political, institutional, and economic processes work against gender inequality, how does this inequality persist? Are there general social processes through which gender as a principle of social inequality manages to rewrite itself into new forms of social and economic organization? Framed by Gender claims there are, highlighting a powerful contemporary persistence in people's everyday use of gender as a primary cultural tool for organizing social relations with others. Cecilia L. Ridgeway asserts that widely shared cultural beliefs about gender act as a "common knowledge" frame that people use to make sense of one another in order to coordinate their interaction. The use of gender as an initial framing device spreads gendered meanings, including assumptions about inequality embedded in those meanings, beyond contexts associated with sex and reproduction to all spheres of social life that are carried out through social relationships.
These common knowledge cultural beliefs about gender change more slowly than do material arrangements between men and women, even though these beliefs do respond eventually. As a result of this cultural lag, at sites of innovation where people develop new forms of economic activity or new types of social organization, they confront their new, uncertain circumstances with gender beliefs that are more traditional than those circumstances. They implicitly draw on the too convenient cultural frame of gender to help organize their new ways of doing things. As they do so, they reinscribe trailing cultural assumptions about gender difference and gender inequality into the new activities, procedures, and forms of organization that they create, in effect, reinventing gender inequality for a new era. Ridgeway argues that this persistence dynamic does not make equality unattainable but does mean that progress is likely to be uneven and depend on the continued, concerted efforts of people.
Thus, a powerful and original take on the troubling endurance of gender inequality, Framed by Gender makes clear that the path towards equality will not be a long, steady march, but a constant and uneven struggle. "The most important book on gender I have read in decades. Why has gender proved so unbending? Ridgeway gives us answers, and paves the way for a new feminist theory that incorporates decades of studies on how gender bias operates at home and at work."-Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law "In lucid prose, Cecilia Ridgeway describes the social psychological processes that continually reproduce gender inequality. Marshalling research from sociology and psychology, Framed by Gender explains why women have not attained equality and what would be required to reach that goal."-Alice H. Eagly, Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University