Work Wives

Laura Rosenbury | 36 Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 345 (2012)

Traditional notions of male and female roles remain tenacious at home and work even in the face of gender-neutral family laws and robust employment discrimination laws. This Article analyzes the challenge of gender tenacity through the lens of the “work wife.” The continued use of the marriage metaphor at work reveals that the dynamics of marriage flow between home and work, creating a feedback loop that inserts gender into both domains in multiple ways. This phenomenon may reinforce gender stereotypes, hindering the potential of law to achieve gender equality. But such gender tenacity need not always lead to subordination. The concept of marriage at work may in fact permit different performances of gender than those found within traditional marriage, providing both women and men with forms of support, connection, and intimacy that escape gender hierarchy without eschewing gender altogether. This Article’s analysis of work wives thus provides a vehicle for envisioning more nuanced legal strategies for gender equality, strategies that do not aspire to gender neutrality or gender blindness but rather focus on the ways gender is constructed in and out of law at home, work, and beyond. Read more...