Gender is determined by society, forming a self-concept whether we are male or female - gender concept - Gender Essay Example

Gender is determined by society, forming a self-concept whether we are male or female – gender concept - Gender is determined by society, forming a self-concept whether we are male or female - gender concept introduction. Sexual identity is a reference towards our biological status as males and females. However gender identity is society bred, it refers to the classification of others, as male or female and us.

Gender role refers to behaviors and attitudes on which society expects from them or considers appropriate behavior to, their biological sex. To be typically masculine or feminine they have to conform to their respective gender roles. Gender stereotypes are widely held beliefs about psychological differences between males and females, which can often lead to prejudices between the sexes.


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Prejudice is defined as an attitude. Stereotypes are over simplifications, which can lead to prejudices and discriminations. Prejudices are caused by three main theories: –

* Social inequality theory

* Scape-goating theory

* Personality theory

Social inequality theory proposes that prejudice is caused by: –

a) Competition for unequally distributed resources. For example the brown eyes, blue eyes experiment (Elliott, in Aronson & Osherow, 1980.

b) Group identity, which relies on using language and dress to distinguish between in members and out members.

c) Stereotyping is the simple distribution of certain characteristics to all members of a social group. For example brown-eyed people were more intelligent than blue-eyed people.

d) Ethnocentrism is favoritism towards the in group and disfavor towards the out group in order to enhance our positive self image, especially those who have low self esteem. For example the robbers cave experiment conducted by Sherif et al., 1961

Scape-goating theory states that frustration arises from many situations, including overcrowding and unemployment, which may lead to aggression that is displaced onto another because the direct-aggression cannot be taken against the cause. These scapegoats are usually from socially approved target groups.

‘Weatherley (1961) had an experimenter insult students who were either low or high scorers on a measure of anti-Semitism as they completed another questionnaire. After this the students were asked to write short stories about pictures, two of which showed men with Jewish sounding names. Low and high scorer did not differ in the amount of aggression displayed in their stories about the pictures of men with non-Jewish sounding names. However high scorers displayed more aggression than low sounding scorers towards the pictures of men with Jewish sounding names. Similar effects have been found when frustration is induced in other ways, such as making people feel failures’ 1

The personality theory was developed by Adorne, which grew from the anti-Semitism of the 1930’s and 40’s, in the USA and Germany. He developed four scales of measuring prejudice. These are: –

1) F-scale which measures the potential for fascism

2) E-scale which measures ethnocentrism

3) PEC-scale which stands fro political- economic- conservatism

4) AS-scale which is Anti-Semitism

Moreover, Adorne found that ethnocentric people tend to share certain characteristics; they had rigid personalities and were very conventional in their attitudes. Many of these had also been raised harshly by disciplinarian parents and were through believers in disciple themselves.

This led Adorne to look into the idea that there was particular type of personality who was prone to be ethnocentric and authoritarian. He named this type of personality fascist, and devised the f-scale inventory to measure people’s potentiality for fascism.

Adorne found that his ‘fascist’ type to be conventional, submissive to authority, aggressive, authoritarian, hostile to do-gooders, superstitious, prone to stereotypes, seeking relationships in terms of power, hostile, untrusting to others, unaware about their own inputs and puritanical about sex.

Another interesting characteristic was discovered in many of these people. Many had been subjected to severe punishment as a child that they disowned the sides of their character that had earned the punishment. These disowned parts of themselves, they then attributed to other people. This is called projection.

Stereotypes form at an early age.

‘There appears to be a high degree of agreement across 30 countries regarding the characteristics associated with each gender group (Williams & Best, 1994)’2

For example male related terms included: –

* Aggressive

* Determined

* Sharp-witted

On the other hand female related terms included: –

* Cautious

* Emotional

* Caring

However, as far as concrete variations are concerned, many stereotypical attitudes about male and females have very little truth in them.

Many psychologists discovered some common findings in relation to gender differences. These are: –

Aggression – Maccoby & Jacklin (1974) and Weisfeld (1994) discovered that boys are greater in physical and verbal form of aggression than girls, this difference occurs around the age of two when social play develops. However both sexes become less aggressive with age, but both boys and men retain a more aggressive approach throughout their development. Some studies show that women score higher than men on certain types of indirect non-physical aggression (Durkin, 1995) whilst others have found no differences at all between the sexes, for example Campbell & Muncer, 1994.

Verbal ability – psychologists have found that verbal ability from Pre School to adolescence. When they start high school at the age of 11 females become superior and this increases during adolescence and adulthood (Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974). Again, evidence also states that any differences are so small they become insignificant (Hyde & Linn, 1988)

Spatial Ability –

‘ Males’ ability to perceive figures or objects in space and their relationship to each other is consistently better than that of females in adolescence and adulthood (Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974).’ 3

Whilst there is male dominance on some spatial tasks. Variability within the sexes is also high. Moreover, when between-sex differences are found, they are usually small (Durkin 1995).

Mathematical ability – these abilities increase faster during the onset of puberty in boys around the age of 12 to 13 (Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974). However, there are significant sex differences, these are in the reverse direction to the stereotype (Hyde et al., 1990).

‘Durkin (1995) suggests that:

‘The overwhelming conclusion to be drawn from the literature on sex differences is that it is highly controversial’.’4

Even though there is statistical evidence, which shows a significant difference, it does not mean that there will be a behavioral difference. Edley & Wetherall, 1995, believe that, what determines a significant result is the consistency of difference between the groups. For example

‘All the girls in a school scored 0.5 per cent higher than all the boys on the same test’5

A small but very significant result would be produced.

Eagly (1983), argued that in at least some cases a significant difference does reflect a considerable sex difference. He compared the results of different but equivalent studies and from this arose substantial sex differences on some measures. According to Eagly, research has tended to hide sex differences than uncover sex differences.

‘The differences within each gender are, as noted earlier, at least as great as the differences between them (Maccoby, 1980)’6

Androgyny is the term used to describe people who possess qualities, which are regarded as both typically masculine and feminine. An androgynous person has no trouble in coming to terms with their biological identity but clinches masculine and feminine elements into their persona.

In 1974, a Stanford University psychologist, Sandra Bem, developed the concept of androgyny. “Andro-” means “man,” and “gyn-” refers to “woman.” Bem does not view femininity and masculinity at opposite poles of a continuum. In other words, if you are high in masculine traits, you are not automatically low in feminine traits. The androgynous person is high in both masculine and feminine traits. Androgynous people can be aggressive or yielding, forceful or gentle, sensitive or assertive, as the particular situation requires.

Usually, bright or creative people tend to be androgynous. Androgynous people are more adaptable. They behave in ways appropriate to the given situation, regardless of whether the behaviour is masculine or feminine. For example, when subjected to group pressures, androgynous women are more assertive and independent than feminine women. Likewise, androgynous men are more nurturing than masculine men. Androgynous men feel more comfortable holding, touching and playing with babies. They are more able to show empathy and offer support to others.

Stereotyped masculine men are typically unresponsive in these situations. Rigid, stereotyped sex roles seriously restrict behaviour. Masculine men have great difficulty in expressing warmth, playfulness and concern. They believe that expressing feminine traits will make them seem homosexual or contradict their masculine image. Likewise, feminine women have trouble being independent and assertive – even when independence and assertiveness are needed. In contrast, choosing from a wider range of behaviours, truly androgynous people are able to modify their responses – according to their needs and the needs of the situation. Bem believes that androgynous people are free, more adaptable and more emotionally healthy than those who restrict their behaviour to traditional sex roles.

Some may not agree with her. Nevertheless, men can be tender without losing their masculine image. Equally, women can speak up for their rights without losing their femininity. Essentially, anyone’s behavior can be determined by their individual humanity or the demands of the situation, not merely by the restrictive roles of masculinity or femininity.

Bem’s aim was to develop a psychometric test to measure androgyny. She did this by choosing with her students two hundred personality traits that were masculine or feminine, but were neutral in social attraction. Likewise a further 200 personality traits that were either socially desirable or socially undesirable were chosen. These traits had to apply equally to both males and females.

‘One Hundred students then rated these traits by answering the following question format: “In American society, how desirable is it for a man to be truthful?” Half of the students (50) were asked about men, and half were asked about women. There were an equal number of men and women in both groups. (Note the word ‘truthful’ was replaced with all the other 399-trait words in turn.). The scale used was 1 = not at all desirable, 7 = extremely desirable. Only items that were judged to be significantly more desirable for one gender than the other were considered for inclusion in the inventory (BSRI).’7

Both male and female judges had to agree. Similarly, neutral items were those that were judged to be neither masculine nor feminine, by judges of both genders. The twenty most ‘feminine’ traits, the twenty most ‘masculine’ traits, the ten most neutral undesirable traits and the ten most neutral desirable traits make up the BSRI (Bem Sex Role Inventory).

Bem uses male and female judges in equal proportions. Four Hundred potential traits are cut down to 60. So plenty of items were considered. One Hundred judges should overcome the problem of having a biased sample. However, the judges were all university undergraduates. This means most were between the ages of 18 and 21. Bem ensures she has a test with face validity, because the items are selected on their face value in the first place.

The sentence does ask for a judgment of desirability. This could lead to subjects giving high masculinity ratings and high femininity ratings. In turn this would lead to a low androgyny score (which means highly androgynous). If this is so experimenter bias has taken place. Bem would show that androgyny is more common than it really is. Bem found from her normative data, that although social attraction correlated with masculinity and femininity, it did not correlate with androgyny.

Bem built into her scale a check to see whether it is likely the subject is simply trying to give a complimentary conception of them. If the ten socially desirable ‘neutral’ items are given high ratings, and the ten socially undesirable ‘neutral’ items are given low ratings, then it is likely the subject is trying to give a good impression of them. Another advantage of the neutral items is that it helps to increase out the inventory; this reduces demand characteristics. Therefore, participants will be less aware of which category each item belongs to.

It is important to collect normative data from a large number of subjects, so that an average score and standard deviation can be obtained for each dimension of the scale, that is masculinity, femininity, androgyny and Social Desirability. Only by contrast to others can an individual’s score have any meaning. Students, mostly between the ages of 16 and 21 were used; 444 male and 279 female students from Stanford University, and 117 male and 77 female students from Foothill Junior college. This may mean that the normative data might only apply to this age group. Perhaps more appropriately, the students of this time (1974) would probably have held different values from those students of today.

‘Bem found that although there was a high correlation between masculinity or femininity and social desirability, there was no correlation between androgyny and social desirability. This shows that the inventory is measuring something other than social desirability.’8

Stanford University

Foothill junior college









Above are the results that Bem found and the percentage androgyny found in the groups.

Whitley’s studies (1985) contradicted Bems work. He suggests that most psychologically healthy individuals are those that rate themselves higher on masculine traits. Also another criticism of Bems work is where the study was conducted, in Stanford University, which is an Ivy League school in America. The methodology of her original study is not a representative sample.

The aim of the study is to investigate the attitudes towards gender stereotyping in the 21st century.

As a result of Bem’s study the experimental hypothesis is

‘An individuals sex will have an effect upon their score in a psychometric test.’

And the null hypothesis is

‘The sex of the individual will have no effect upon their score in a psychometric test, any differences will be due to chance factors.’

This is a two-tailed hypothesis because it predicts that the independent variable will have an effect on the dependant variable but the direction is not specified. It also does not predict which direction the experimenter expects to take.

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