What do ordinary citizens really think about issues of gender equality and gender roles? Combining data from both telephone surveys and in-depth focus groups, Ambition and Accommodation provides the most detailed portrait to date of how Americans, in particular American women, think they are faring in today's society.
By juxtaposing the voices of women and men from all walks of life, Sigel finds that women's perceptions of gender relations are complex and often contradictory. Although most women see gender discrimination pervading nearly all social interactions—private as well as public—they do not invariably feel that they personally have been its victims. They want to see discrimination ended, but believe that men do not necessarily share this goal. Women are torn, according to Sigel, between the desire to improve their positions relative to men and the desire to avoid open conflict with them. Their desire not to jeopardize their relations with men, Sigel holds, helps explain women's willingness to accommodate a less-than-egalitarian situation by, for example, taking on the second shift at home or by working harder than men on the job. Sigel concludes that, although men and women agree on the principle of gender equality, definitions as well as practice differ by gender.
This complex picture of how women, while not always content with the status quo, have chosen to accommodate to the world they must face every day is certain to provoke considerable debate.