New sexism in couple therapy: A discursive analysis
The persistence of gender inequality in postindustrial societies is puzzling in light of a plethora of changes that destabilize it, including shifts in economy, legislation, and the proliferation of feminist politics. In family relations, such persistence manifests as a disconnect between couples aspiring to be more egalitarian yet continuing to enact traditional gender roles and hierarchies. There is an emerging consensus that gender inequality persists because of people's continued reliance on sexist ideology or gendered assumptions that constitute women as innately distinct from and inferior to men. Sexist ideology changes its form to accommodate to changing socio‐economic conditions. Contemporary forms of sexism are old ways of legitimizing male power articulated in new and creative ways, often by incorporating feminist arguments. To effectively recognize and address “new sexism,” scholars and practitioners require new, innovative research frameworks. Our objective in writing this article is two‐fold. First, we seek to advance discursive (i.e., focused on language in use) approaches to the study of sexism. Second, we present the results of a discursive analysis of “new” sexist discourse in the context of couple therapy. The study provides preliminary evidence that, despite endorsing egalitarian norms, couples studied continue to rely on gender binaries and remain entrenched in old‐fashioned patterns of gender inequality. Implications of these results for the practice of couple therapy and for future research are discussed.