Emily K. Carian



Women have made astounding gains in the past century, including in law, education, the labor market, and at home, yet research shows that gender inequality persists. Moreover, nearly every indicator suggests that progress toward gender equality stalled beginning in the 1990s. Since that time, the gender wage gap has been largely stagnant, the desegregation of college majors has slowed, and attitudes toward gender (like believing men are better politicians) have remained unchanged. Not only is the gender revolution stalled, it is also uneven: those changes that have occurred are the result of behavioral changes in women much more so than in men. For instance, while women have entered the labor force in record numbers and increased their hours of paid work, men have not exited the labor force or increased their hours of unpaid work in the home. Men are still incentivized to participate in stereotypically masculine behaviors, like breadwinning, and eschew stereotypically feminine ones, like caring for children, which maintain aggregate levels of gender inequality. In sum, there have been few changes in men and masculinity. Drawing from the sociology of gender and social movements, social psychology, and cultural sociology, my research asks how cultural, status, and identity processes, particularly in regard to men and masculinity, contribute to persistent gender inequality. My research tackles this question on two fronts: (1) backlash against efforts aimed at reducing gender inequality and (2) masculine overcompensation. In my dissertation and other research projects, I ask: what accounts for individual differences in men’s willingness to work for or against gender equality? And how can those mechanisms that motivate attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate gender inequality be overcome?


Anti-feminist backlash, defined as those behaviors that work against gender inequality, takes a variety of forms. One anti-feminist movement, the men’s rights movement, holds that women are already advantaged in society and disputes that feminism intends to give women and men equal status. The first component of my dissertation compares men who are men’s rights activists and feminist men using in-depth semi-structured interviews. I examine how participants understand their identities and how these identity meanings shape their mobilization into two distinct social movements with disparate understandings of and approaches to gender inequality.

The second component of my dissertation empirically tests the social psychological processes theorized to underlie backlash, such as system justification and threat to group position, in the context of work organizations. Using an original experimental design and incorporating theories from diverse fields, I investigate which social psychological mechanisms, chief among them status, cause backlash and which factors can override them.

Masculinity Threat

Threat to masculinity has been causally linked with a host of behaviors and attitudes related to persistent gender inequality, including homophobic attitudes, support for dominance hierarchies, belief in male superiority, physical aggression, and blaming victims of sexual assault and exonerating perpetrators. In this line of research, my graduate student colleague Tagart Sobotka and I investigate the relationship between masculinity threat and political behaviors. In our paper, “Playing the Trump Card: Masculinity Threat and the United States 2016 Presidential Election” (forthcoming in Socius), we find that threat indirectly mediates support for Donald Trump. We find that the precarity of masculinity plays an important yet complicated role in candidate preference. Our next collaboration examines the scope and timing of masculinity threat.


Recent Publications and Works in Progress

Carian, Emily K., and Tagart Cain Sobotka (equal authorship). 2018. “Playing the Trump Card: Masculinity Threat and the United States 2016 Presidential Election.” Socius https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023117740699.

Carian, Emily K. “The Inversive Sexism Scale: Endorsements of the Belief that Woman are Privileged and Other Contemporary Sexist Attitudes.” In Progress.

  • Winner of the 2018 Graduate Student Paper Award, American Sociological Association, Section on Social Psychology. Read about the paper on page 15 of the section's newsletter.

Carian, Emily K. “‘No Seat at the Party’: Mobilizing White Masculinity in the Men’s Rights Movement.” In Progress.

Carian, Emily K. “‘So I Googled It’: Online Consensus Mobilization in the Men’s Rights Movement.” In Progress.

Carian, Emily K. and Amy L. Johnson. “The Agency Myth: Persistence in Individual Explanations for Gender Inequality.” Under Review.

Carian, Emily K. and Jasmine D. Hill (equal authorship). "Everybody's Lying: What Qualitative Researchers Need to Know about Social Desirability Bias." In Progress.

Wynn, Alison T. and Emily K. Carian. "High-Hanging Fruit: How Gender Bias Remains Entrenched in Employee Evaluations." In Progress.


Recent Presentations

Most recently, I have presented my research at:

  • The Conference on Right-Wing Studies, Center for Right-Wing Studies, Berkeley, CA. 2019.

  • A meeting of the Los Altos-Mountain View branch of the American Association of University Women, Los Altos, CA. 2018.

  • The annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Philadelphia, PA. 2018.

  • The annual meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association, Long Beach, CA. 2018.

  • The Chicago Ethnography Conference, Chicago, IL. 2018.

  • The winter meeting of Sociologists for Women in Society, Atlanta, GA. 2018.

  • Sidley Austin LLP, Palo Alto, CA. 2018.