The Myth of Mutuality: Decision-Making, Marital Power, and the Persistence of Gender Inequality. By: Wong, Jaclyn S. and Daminger, Allison. 2024. Gender & Society. Vol. 38 Issue 2, p157-186.

Invisible power—the ability to resist changing one’s behavior because of an unspoken consensus that the status quo is natural or inevitable—upholds gender inequality in different-gender marriages. Yet the “consensus” that Aafke Komter documented more than 30 years ago—one in which both men and women endorsed male primacy and believed it natural for women to enjoy housework and men to pursue professional ambition—has weakened among the college-educated, upper middle class. We ask: What is the new consensus upholding gendered power imbalances among contemporary highly educated couples? We draw on 112 interviews with members of 44 such couples making career and family decisions to update theorizing on invisible power. Examination of decision-making processes and outcomes across work and family domains over time, including in cases of apparent agreement, reveals the consensus now upholding men’s interests to be couples’ conviction they are practicing mutuality. Partners’ belief that they are mutually pursuing both individuals’ and the family’s best interests by emphasizing “us” and balancing a decision portfolio helps them overlook unsuccessful attempts to minimize power imbalances. Progress toward gender equality among different-gender couples will likely remain stalled as long as efforts to practice mutuality overshadow critical evaluation of their success.