The Committee on Family Research (RC06) – one of the largest and oldest ISA committees – brings together scholars who wish to pursue family research in a critical and interdisciplinary perspective and within comparative and transnational approaches. We seek to understand the complex intersections of family life, social contexts and individual experience, including how family life interfaces with social class, gender, race, ethnicity, and generation. As such, RC06 is well placed to respond creatively to the ISA Forum Call for better futures.
We invited our RC06 young and/or early-career scholars to address the theme of the ISA Forum: “The Futures We Want: Global Sociology and the Struggles for a Better World”. In a brief text (up to 200 words), they were asked to consider it while focusing on their own research. Here are four thought-provoking contributions from Australia, Portugal, Japan, and Taiwan.
– Secretary and treasurer Barbara Barbosa Neves, on behalf of the RC06 board.
Luke Gahan: “Separating Same-Sex Parents”
Just like other parents, same-sex parents separate and are required to navigate family law courts, post-separation parenting, family counselling, single parenting and/or the creation of blended or reconstituted families.
However, the law has not always recognized same-sex relationships or their families and as a consequence non-biological parents have lost all contact with their children. Similarly, separating same-sex parents have often felt alienated by what they perceive as heteronormative service providers, such as lawyers, counsellors, therapist, and government service providers.
In our struggle for a better world we must ensure that all families have the same access to services and to protection under the law. While much of the world is focused on the ideas of marriage equality, we must go one step further and ensure that there is equality within the standard of service available to same-sex parented families from counsellors, family therapists, lawyers and other government services, when these families require help with their relationships, assistance while going through divorce/separation, or when they are creating a reconstituted family.
Luke Gahan is a PhD Candidate at The Bouverie Centre, Victoria Australia’s Family Institute, and is an executive member of the Australian Sociological Association (TASA). Luke teaches sociology of relationships at La Trobe University and is completing his PhD research on separating same-sex parented families.
Cláudia Casimiro: “Online dating and gender stereotypes”
Family studies show that the number of unmarried people has been increasing for the last decades in the Western society, but the social pressure for a conjugal life persists. In this scenario, the internet as a matchmaker became indisputable. The internet plays an important role in the formation of romantic relationships. In pursuit of a fairer world, it is also a privileged stage for the sociological understanding of gender issues. Namely, how in the construction of online dating profiles do men and women convey to maintain or contribute to the transformation of gender differences, roles, and stereotypes.
According to empirical findings obtained in my postdoctoral research, carried out in Portugal, there are important gender differences in the self-presentation procedure and gender role stereotypes tend to be (re)produced. Male daters reinforce the instrumental role (rational and practical attributes as well as socioeconomic status are underlined), and female daters accentuate the expressive role (emotional and affective facets are valued, and physical attributes emphasized). Online self-presentations reflect shared cultural values about gender and they contribute to the predominance of online stereotypical gender identities. The association of women to the world of reproduction and of men to the world of production has not been completely fractured, and important traits of conventional gender relations still persist today. In this matter of gender, change does not occur as it is expected, change, as Bourdieu explained, occurs in the permanence.
Cláudia Casimiro is an Assistant Professor at the University of Lisbon (School of Social and Political Sciences, ISCSP, Lisbon). She is also the member of the coordination team of the Thematic Section “Families and life course” of the Portuguese Association of Sociology (APS). Her research interests include: relationships; families and personal life; intimacy; online relationships; online dating/romance; information and communication technologies; family violence; female violence; qualitative research methods.
Sigeto Tanaka: “Combining ideology, political dynamics, and empirical research to map out our future: a frontier of family sociology”
Among various difficulties our societies face, I am interested in problems of equality and sustainable welfare system, especially from perspectives of family sociology. The social institution of family, in an aspect, has been developed as a part of the welfare system in human societies. In modern societies, however, family has been losing its welfare functions. Family today accordingly needs to restructure itself. In another aspect, family is also a social institution based on gender and parent-child relationships. As a natural result, there are many occasions where family-related institutions contradict with the modern principle of equality, in regards both to gender and to origin. These problems are common to many of contemporary societies, with variations according to each society’s own historical contexts.
Sociology has accumulated empirical findings about these issues with evolving techniques for collecting and analyzing data. However, in my opinion, we have not yet enough developed theories and methods to combine empirical findings to ideological and political dynamics and to outline probable scenarios for the future. It is a vast frontier for family sociology today.
Sigeto Tanaka is an Associate Professor at the School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University. Specializing in family sociology, social statistics, gender studies, and the use of information technologies for sociology.
Hsin-Chieh Chang: “On Multicultural Families and Civil Partnerships”
Around the time when I held my doctoral defense at UCLA in late 2013, the proposed civil partnership bill was to be sent to the legislature in Taiwan. This proposed bill includes gay marriage and various forms of civil partnerships, is considered quite liberal in Taiwan and East Asia, where traditional gender roles and family values are well maintained at home and workplace, and reinforced by the mass media and some religious doctrines.
My dissertation examines the patterns, processes, and consequences of social integration of intra-Asia marriage migrants in Taiwan and South Korea. Having worked with marriage migrants, their Taiwanese/Korean marital families (referred as multicultural families by the Taiwanese and Korean governments), and migrant organizations that hold rather liberal or conservative perspectives on marriage migrants’ welfare, I felt excited for my interviewees while observing the heated debates over alternative forms of families in Taiwan for two reasons. First, if the majority of Taiwanese recognizes the existence of “unconventional forms of marriages and families” including interethnic marriages that are formed by socially disadvantaged Taiwanese husbands and foreign wives from less-developed societies, that would be a very positive sign of a multicultural society. Second, once the bill is passed, it might push more citizens to show respect and practice empathy to marginalized individuals and their families at different socioeconomic and geographic locations. I felt optimistic.
Since I moved back to Taiwan in early 2014, I have observed some stark contrasts along the value spectrums on traditional versus secular-rational, and on survival versus self-expression among academics and friends of different age cohorts, gender orientations, and educational backgrounds. I came to realize there seems to be a long way to go, before the gaps in cultural values between genders, generations, and across nations can be narrowed. In the era of globalization, we are in need of realistic goals for policy makers, academics, and the civil society to work together, to relieve the tensions between traditionalism and modernity, and to build all forms of partnerships in the name of love, for the sake of love.
Hsin-Chieh Chang received her PhD in Community Health Sciences at the University of California Los Angeles in 2014 and is currently Assistant Professor at National Taiwan University. She was previously Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Sociology at Academia Sinica. Her current research focuses on the social integration of transnational migrants as well as the social and health consequences of social change in transitional economies.