What Makes A Family By: Kelsey Wathen

The American Dream is something that we all strive for, but the difference is what it consist of. For years the average family was made up of a man, women, and the children that they produced. “Heterosexual couples that produce their own children” (Collins62).  Patricia Collins breaks it down even more to say that “A father head earning an adequate family wage, and a stay-at-home wife”(Collins62). This is idea is shown through the TV show Leave it to Beaver.

This portrays the idea of family that Collins was explaining. The father is the public eye making all the money. The mother takes care of the house and the children. They are a nuclear family, which shows the importance of family. In the United States they now have this built in privilege. When looking at it Intersectionality gender, and race are two of the most important things.

Times have become harder, and this idea that man makes all the money is not always the case.   now have to get an education, and later go on to have a job. Many families now have both parents working, or the mother working and the father staying at home. This idea has become more accepted, because family’s have to do whatever it takes to survive. Women have to make the decision to make more money and spend less time with the family, or not have the money. “Working class women quietly modeled and normalized the post modernized family standard of employment for married mothers”(Stacy422). Social class is a part of a family structure. By families moving up in social classes they have access to more. This is why many mothers choose to work, over staying at home with the kids. They think that it will benefit the kids more.


The movie cheaper by the dozen is about a family with a male and female parent, and there twelve children. The movie starts off by showing the family in a small town with the father as the only one working. They later move to a larger home, and the mother goes to work. She is a book writer, and has to leave the home and children to go on a book tour. I like this example because it shows how things change once the mother enters the working world.  It makes the family structure a little harder because there is not someone keeping everything together on the home front. But this is how it is for the modern family. The idea of hierarchy is not as defined any more. With both parents working the ground has to be more neutralized. The roles have to be shared.


Another aspect of the modern family is the single parent families. The Divorce  rate has grown more each year. This causes many family’s to only have one parent, which makes the family dynamic completely different. The show Make it Break It is about a bunch of young women trying to get to the Olympics, and there home life. I picked this show because it shows two single parent families. One is a family with a single dad, and the other is a single mom. They really play on gender in this show. The single parent dad has a great job, and the family is very well off. Whereas the single parent mom does not always have a job, and is struggling. The children have to help her pay the bills. Even though this is not the “American Dream” it is these modern families are accepted.

Is a gay couple considered a family?   As a nation we have become more understanding, and have started to consider people who are gay. A few states have made it legal for gay marriage. In the article The New Gaycism, by Nico Lang explains how being gay is ok, but it is mainly only white males. This is the stereotypical gay couple. He uses examples like Modern Family to show this. modern They are a gay couple, but are considered a family. They have a child that they have to raise, and one of the men have to go make a living each day. Within the last few years this has become much more acceptable. Even though we are seeing more white males together, we do not see a lot of women together. Ellen DeGeneres is married to Portia de Rossi, these two are a very well like couple. Ellen is a major day time talk show host, and Portia was a model. They show was a modern day power couple can look like, even though they are not that the stereotypical family looks like.

This idea that to be a family you have to have these certain characteristics is no longer mandatory. We started off with this idea of what people thought you should be. Throughout the years we have changed it into so many different things. In today’s society we are more accepting of difference; a few examples are as listed above. We have working families, single parent families, gay families, and excreta. The idea of the stereotypical family will always be there, but it is how we mold that into other ways. We can break a family down Intersectionality, and see that there is just more to that family than there might be others. It is no longer a bad thing, it is much more accepted. We are now realizing that a family means much more than just a man, and female that can produce. We see this in everyday life, and also through TV shows and movies.

Work Cited:

Collins, Patricia Hill. “It’s All in the Family: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Nation.” Hypatia. Vol.13, No. 3.  Blackwell Publishing, 1998. 62-67. Web

Fan Pop. “Modern Family.” Photograph. Webshots. Web.

IMB “Cheaper By the Dozen” Photograph. Webshots. Web

Leave it to Beaver Writ Joe Connelly. Dir Bob Mosher. ABC

Stacey, Judith. “The Making and Unmaking of Modern Families.” Reading Women’s Lives.  New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishing, 1990. Web.

ZAP TO IT “Make it or Break it” Photograph. Webshots. Web

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