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Unformatted text preview: CHAPTERS A Social Constructionisf View of Gender ANNE. E. BEALL Chris was really angry today! Enough was enough. Chris put on the gray suit, marched into work, and went into the main boss's office and yelled: “I’vebrought in more money for this company than anybody else and everyone gets promoted but me! You hand out promotions like candy!" The boss saw Chris’s fist slam clown on the desk. There was an angry look on Chris’s face. They tried to talk but it was useless. Chris just stormed out of the office in anger. - In the preCeding passage, you probably envisioned a man yelling at his boss'for not promoting him. However, it was'nevei‘ stated that Chris was a man. The image of- a man yelling at his boss is an inference that was made using cultural information about gender. Thus, the ’gender of Chris is “constructed” by the reader to understand the previous paragraph. This chapter demonstrates how gender is constructed by cultures and by individuals. The purpose of the chapter is to discuss this social construc— tionist approach to gender and to argue that gender is a socially constructed category that influences our perceptions of women and men. In this chapter, I examine several issues: (I) the central tenets of social constructionlsm and the historical background for this viewpoint; (2) how gender is a socialiyvconstmcted category that is maintained by various cultural and cognitive processes; and (3) how gender is socially constructed in the psychology of gender. ' CENTRAL TENETS OF SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM Social constructionlsm is concerned with ‘how people come to understand the world around them and with h0w they come to define “reality.” Social .a a?“ 5-,] .tt ,_,3 BROAD THEORIES or GENDER constructionism differs from other approaches in its belief that people actively consrruct their perceptions and use culture as a guide to do so. Gcrgen (1985) identified the four assumptions that most social construc- [ionists have when they use this approach. Most constructionists share at least one of the following assumptions. 1. There are many different ways that the world can be understood. A particular culture's experience of the world, in this case Western cul— mre‘s undersranding, is not the only experience that a person can have of the world. One‘s understanding of the world does not reflect an absolute reality that is simultaneously experienced by all people (Berger 6t Luck- man, 1980). This point is supported by numerous anthropological treatises that demonstrate that cultures have many different understandings of the world. Some culrures'understand the world as a place that is logical and orderly, whereas other cultures perceive the world as an arbitrary place that is g0verned by the whims of spirits. There can be little doubt that different views of the world lead to ch are equally “real” to the people different experiences of reality, whi who believe in them. For example, the Yir-Yiront of Australia do not believe that sexual intercourse leads to pregnancy, the Ndembu believe that women who are argumentative will be infertile, and the Azande believe you can consult an oracle to determine the future (ShWeder, 1984). in Western cultures such as the United States, many people believe in an omniscient, omnipresent God, and there are large sections of the popula- tion who believe in asrrologv. All of these things are equally real to the people_who experience them. 2, One's underStanding of the world is a social product. Understand- ing involves a group of active, cooperative people who determine what constitutes reality. These understandings of the world are different across time and cultures. Investigators have found that ideas about the self vary across cultures (fihli’eder St Bourne. I984). Some cultures conceptualize the self as an individual entity whereas other cultures conceptualize the self in relation toothers or in terms of social roles. In addition, across time: people have conceptualized romantic love (Hunt, 1960) or the concept of k the child (Aries,- 1962) quite differently. 3. An understanding or conceptualization of the world may be partic- ularly popular o'r‘persistent only because it is useful. For example, it may be useful in some cultures to believe that evil spirits inhabit the body during illness, because the culture does not have access to another under» standing or because it may provide a way of coping when an illness is ! incurable. Conceptualizations are not necessarily persistent or popular . Wu" "and. For example, stereutypes about particu- . .-....mrplv describe ‘ = i H s... Construction of Gender I 529 the group. Stereotypes may be retained because they rationalize the differ— ential treatment of groups or the current social order. For example, Hoffman and Hurst (1990) conducted a study in which they told subjects to imagine a planet in- which there were two groups of people (Orinthians and Ackmians) who performed different jobs on the planet. Most of the members of one group Were city workers who worked in the industrial centers of the cities. Thus. subjects might be told that 85% of the Orinthians and 15% of the Ackmians were city workers._ Most of the members of the other group Were child raisers who stayed around their home and raised children. Subjects were then asked about the person- ality attributes of the people. in the different iobs. They were also asked why they thought'thcre was an'unequai representation of each group of people in the two jobs. Subjects reported that they believed each group had personality traits that suited its members for a particular kind of work. The fact that one group was disproportionately represented in a certain kind of work was used to assign personality traits to the members of that group. Thus. unequal representation of people led to stereotyped assessments of those people and served as a rationalization For the social order. I ' . _ 4. Understandings of the world are related to all kinds of social actions. Descriptions and explanations of the world influence the way that society is structured and the way that people” interact. For example. if a' culture believes that evil spirits inhabit the bodies of'sick people. that conceptualization will affect how sick people are treated. how sick people are thought about, and how sick people interact with those around them. ‘ I __ The social constructionist perspective argues that human beings are not passive recipients of a set of particular events in the environment. InStead, constructionists believe that humans are actively engaged in their perceptions and thus “construct” their view of the world. Humans. how- ever, do 'not engage in this enterprise alone. Human society _'is actively involved in determining what is ‘2righr” and "wrong.".whar is “moral” and "immoral," and whatis “real” and what is i‘illusory.“ Thus. cultures are actively constructing social information all the time. Culture is an important concept in the social constructionist approach. Individual cul- tures are said to provide people with a body of knowledgejreferred to as “common sense" (Geertz, 198 3). which explains events in the world. Thus, cultures provide people with a set of lenses through which they can observe and understand their environment (Bern, 1987). One's sense of the world is determined by the set of lenses ohe uses to see the world. Thus, the point of socialization is to teach children how to “see” the world, or rather, _ how to use the lenses the rest of the culture is using. T hcse lenses are important because they provide people with similar understandings oi'thc . ti _ 130 BROAD THEORIES 0F GENDER world and because they provide people with a way to interpret ambiguous information around them.- TYPES OF INFORMATION THAT ARE SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED One may be arguing at this point that some ideas or beliefs are verifiable ._ .and that the social constructionist viewpoint can only go so far. I agree. .__ - Immanuel Kant has classified knowledge about the world into the follow- ing categories (Smith, 1973: Shweder'. 1984): (1)‘ analytic. which are state- “ ments about language. such as “a woman is a human with female second- ary-sex characteristics." and (2) synthetic. which are statements about the world. such as “the woman is Standing in the door." Thesc types of knowledge can be: (i) a priori. which are statements that are eStablished as valid without evidence. and (2) a posterior-i. which are statements that are verified with evidence. These types of knowledge lead to four differ'ent categories: (1) syntheticaporteriofl, which are hypotheses or laws of nature, [2) analytic a priori. 'which are syllogisrns. definitions, and the like. (3) analytic a parrerinri. which are statements about language that are estab— lished as valid through experience. and (4) synthetic a priori. which are Statements about the world that are established as valid without evidence or experience. Synthetic a priori knowledge can be neither confirmed nor disconfirmed and therefore is socially constructed. Examples of this type of knowledge are: “Humans go to heaven or hell after death" or “Animals have souls." These beliefs cannor be confirmed or disconfirmed and people who have these beliefs use them to comprehend the world. Much social knowledge is in this category because it is established without evidence and it cannot be confirmed or disconfirmed. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THIS VIEWPOINT According to Gergen (1982). the social construetionist viewpoint is one of two major traditions in philosophical discourse. Gergen distinguishes between what he calls the exogenic and the endagenic perspective. The exogenic perspective is that people's perceptions mirror the world around them. Thus, knowledge is the result of an environment that acts upon human beings. This perspective has been attributed to Louke. Hume. and . Mill. who believed that all of human knowledge results from sensory ' nvnnrianf‘FS in the world or from internal thoughts about those experi— .1..:.J. ic mnre akin to the social com I .6? Harm . .. r Construction of Gender l]: a human brings to it. The endogenic perspective has been attributed to philosophers such as Descartes and Spinoza, who believed that perceptions of the world reveal more about human thought than about the actual world. This debate has emerged. throughout the history of psychology, on a variety of topics. For example, in the field of visual perceptiomi-some theorists have claimed that one sees particular features of a stimulus be- cause thesc features are preSent' (Gibson. 1968). Other theorists have at- gued that perception occurs because people attempt to make sense of the world around them. Thus, perceiving may be less a function of stimulus features than of the processing a person engages in to understand the environment (Natsoulas‘, 1963; Rock Se Victor, 1963). Of course, these positions are extreme and mos: theorists would probably claim that percep— tion is a product of both stimulus features and human cognitive processing. These two perspectives have also surfaced in cognitive psyithology and have resulted in a large amount ofresearch ahout how humans manipu- late and use environmental stimuli. in contemporary cognitive psychol- ogyI researchers have become interested in schemas, scripts. and various heuristics that people use to process information in their environment. Gergen (1985) credits Kurt Lewin for first introducing this perspective. Lewin (1951) proposed field theory. which claims that human behavior is a function of the person and the environment. This theory was a radical departure from behaviorism and psychoanalytic theory. which located the canse of behavior in external events or personality traits respectively. Lewin’s theory suggested that humans were not simply rioting like robots in response to innate tendencies or environmental Stimuli. Subsequent psychologists such as Festinger 0954) studied how' people construe social ' interactions through their own social comparison processes. Other investi- gators have examined how emotions are socially consrructed phenomena that involve the active participation of individuals in order to experience them (Averill, 1985; Harte, 1986). ' I SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM AND GENDER Although the social cousrructionist viewpoint is not a new perspective, it has been applied to the field of gender only recently. Social construction- isrs in the field of gender have argued that gender is a socially constructed category and that the relations between the two genders are basically social relations (Lorber, 1986). There are many reasons that theorists believe gender is a socially construcred category. Consrtuetionisrs have noted that ideas about gender differ across cultures. Thus, across cultures, one’s biological sex does not necessarily imply that one will engage in certain activities or that people will believe that one possesses certain i .{i r.__._ i i g, a _.l3.2 BROAD THEORIES OF GENDER attributes. In addition, there is a plethora of research that demonstrates that there are cognitive and cultural forces that maintain gender distinc- tions. Culture obviously influences one's beliefs and social practices and there is evidence that people actively use cultural ideas about gender to perceive and understand the social categories of male and female. I consider each of these points iri‘. this chapter. Gender Constructions Across Cultures ‘ 7 Some social construCtidnists have pointed out how malleable the gender concept is in terms of how many genders there are supposed to be. Al— though people of Western cultures cannot imagine more than two genders, there are cultures that believe that there is a third gender or that a person can change his/hei- gender without undergoing a sexychang'e operation. For example. many American Indians such as the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Zuni have a category of people called berdacbe. The berries/re are people who are physically one gender but who dress or engage in the activities of the other gender. It is unclear whether the tribes considered the berdacbe to be transformed to:the other gender. or whether the tribe considered ..the bard:bi to be a third type of gender (Kessler 8t McKenna, 1985). It _. is likely that some American Indian tribes considered the berdatbe a separate gentler while other tribes regarded them as people who had transformed their gender. Similarly, among the Navajo American Indians and the Hijara of India. there is a belief that some people are male. some people 3 are female, and other people are intcrscxcd, that is. they are both male ‘ “and female. The Navajo and the I-Iiiara clearly belich that there are more C “than two genders (Martin & Voorhies, i975). Other societies categorize ' people into several gender statuses withour regard to a person’s genitals. For example. the Navajo have several gender Statuses: males. females, males who act like females, females who act like malesI and intersexed people who act like either males or females (Martin 8:: Voorhies. l9’r'5). It is difficult to describe these groups without referring to them in the only two names we have: male and female. However, these different gender statuses described highly different groups that were not given appellations according to their biological gender. Anthropologists and psychologists have also documented how cul— tures vary in their beliefs about the nature of Females and males. Mead (1935) dommented that among the Mundngumour. both women and men are expected to be aggressive and unemotional whereas among the Arapesh both women and men are expected to be passive and maternal. In Western Culture we believe that menare the aggressive gender and that women ._ .non Univ-saver. among the Tchamhali, Construction of Gender i3} men are Considered the more emotional gender and women are considered the unemotional. rational members of the society (Mead. 1935). Even ideas about birth are net necessarily associated with a specific gender. For example. although women give birth to children in all cultures. some societies have elaborate rituals where they establish that it is really the father who is the main Contributor to the birth. This ritual is called concede and it is practiced in Asia. Europe. Africa, North and South America, and many islands (Hall St Dawson, 1989). After the mother gives birth. the infant is delivered .to the father and he tests for several days and is waited upon by relatives to overcome his fatigue. The mother returns to work immediately beCause the society believes that she does nor need to ten like the father. Among the Koravars of Asia, one infi-ii-manr explained that fathers were more Cared for than mothers after birth because the father’s life is a more important factor than the mother's life in the birth of a child (Hall 8: Dawson, 1989). Among the Nayadis of India, the father would shampoo his own abdomen during labor delivery and pray to the gods of the mountain. When the delivery was over. he would thank thegods for having “got his child out" (Hall 8; Dawson. 1989). The unique status of the father in childbirth is shown in many prac- tices before and after the birth of the baby in these societies. Husbands of pregnant women must not eat certain foods. engage in certain activities. or use certain tools because it is believed that these things will harm the child (Hall St Dawson. I989). Some societies that practice comm/e believe that women do not experience pain during childbirth liccausc the pain is passed to the father (I‘lall & Dawson. 1989). After the birth: the child rests with the father and he may engage in certain rituals that insure the baby's health and happiness. Many societies that practice couradc liclicvu that the father gives life to the child-during this period (Hall 8: Dan-— son. 1989). ' in addition to different birth practices, the division of labor also ‘ varies widely in the ethnographic record. Among the Nambikwara. young women join war activities (Levi—Strauss. 1971). in some societies. women are responsible for all agriculture. whereas in other societies men are primarily responsible for farming (Levi—Strauss. 1971). Admittedly. these examples are extreme in their demonstration of cross-cultural variability of gender roles and beliefs about gender. Recent work on cross-cultural stereotypes of gender (Sec Best 8: Williams. Chapter 9. this volume) has shown that there is evidence for pancultural similarities in gender stereotypes. However. I discuss these examples to show that cultures do vary in how they use the gender category to divide work or personality traits. Although gender is a social category in every culture. it does vary in what it means and how it is used in a society. After i t l i U4 BROAD THEORIES OF GENDER surveying the literature about the sexual division of labor, Levi-Strauss (1971) concluded; The very fact that it varies endlessly according to the society selected for consideration shows that . . . it is the mere fact of its existence which is mysteriously required, the form under which it comes to exist being utterly irrelevant at least from the point of view of any natural necessity. (p. 347) The sexual division of labor, then, is somewhat arbitrary, but it serves an important function. Levi~Strauss (1971) argues that a sexual division of labor-serves to make the two genders dependent on one another for survival. He notes that whenever one gender performs a specific task, the Other gender is not aliowacl to perform it. This division creates a dependency between «the genders because any one person will need a member of the other gender in order to Survive. This sexual division of labor may have emerged because it ensures that the basic family unit consists of a male and a female who will produce children. Rubin (1975) argues that this sexual'division of labor is thus a “taboo against the same- ness of men and women, a taboo dividing the sexes into two mutually exclusive categories. 'a'taboo which exacerbates the biological differences between the sexes and thereby creates [italics in the original] gentler" (p. 178). Thus, the sexual division of labor may be arbitrary in terms of what is specified as the appropriate tasks for eachgender, but it makes gender a salient social category because it creates a dependence between women , and men. In summary. gender appears to be a socially constructed category because it differs across cultures in its content and form. Some cultures perceive more than one gender and cultures vary in their beliefs about the nature of males and females. Gender may be a salient social category because there is a sexual division of labor that creates a dependence be- tween women and men. Gender Constructions by the individual Because gender is a salient social category, it is constantly used by individ- uals within any culture to underStand and perceive the world. There are a number of reasons that people categorize humans into the categories male and female. First, as mentioned earlier, gender is an important social Category that we learn to identify at an early age because it is useful in society. We quickly learn to categorize ourselves because we musr learn Which public rest room to use, which activities to engage in, and which - .-_ uh. um 1mm to categorize others because a. Construction cf Gender ' 133 and our same-gender role models. One researcher found that people are greatly influenced by same-gender role models even when they have seen them only for a few minutes (Geis, 1983). There is evidence that gender is one of the first characteristics that people encode about another person. A naturalistic study was conducted in which the researcher asked people who had purchased tokens at a subway station todescribe the person selling tokens (cited in Unger 8: Crawford, 1992). Subjects were no: given instructions about how to de- scribe this person and they were not given information about the gender of the token seller. However. in people's descriptions, the gender of the token seller was mentioned 'as one of the first or second characteristics of the seller 100% of the time. Thus. subjects used gender to label a person with whom they had only interacted for a few seconds. Gender was such an important identifier that without this information one subjecr was unable to answer the experimenter's query and said: “i can't even remem— ber if.it was a man or a woman" (cited in Unger 8: Crawford. 1992. p. 143). The gender of a person is quickly encoded and processed cogni- tively. Humans are highly reliant on cognitive structures such as sche- mas to construct their experiences (Markus 8t Zajonc, [985). The gen- der schema is one of the ways that people understand and perceive women and men (Bem, 1987). This schema is a complex Structure of information about gender. This information includes traits that suppos- edly describe Women and men (e.g.. (lominant-T—likesmath and science: passive; and independent) (Basow, 1986). The schema also includes various subtypes of stereotypical males and females such as feminist. housewife. sex kitten, lady-killer, and career man (Six 8: Eckes, l991). The gender schema is important became it allows one to organize infor-. mation about males and females. In addition, it helps arisign gender labels to social behavior or social information. - For example, in one experiment (John 8: Sussman. 1935'), subjects read information about two people who met at :1 singles bar. One person was referred to as gray buttons and the other person was referred to as brown buttons. There was no gender information in the paragraph. At some points gray buttons took the initiative and at some points brown buttons took the initiative. Subjects were asked at different points in the story to indicate the gender of each character, When gray butmns was taking the initiative, subjects thought this person was male. When brown buttons was taking the initiative. subjects thought this person was male. Most subjects even changed their judgments about the gender of the characters from one paragraph to the next, even though that choice was illogical. When the character was behaving dominantly, subjects thought the person was male and when the same character was behaving passively, rlwv changed their mind and decided that the person was female. Thus. a, t i .Ei‘ l 36 BROAD THEORIES OF GENDER when gender information-was not available, pe0ple used their knowledge about gender stereotypes to assign gender labels. In this case. the mascuu line stereotype, which includes dominance and independence, was used to understand ambiguous social information. There are also a variety of perceptual biases that reinforce the gender schema and maintain its-role in perceiving and evaluating people. One of these biasesis that people tend to perceive few differences within groups and to perceive large differences between groups. 'Thus, people perceive women and men as two homogeneous groups that differ greatly from one another (Unger 8: Crawford, 1992). In one study, subjects were less able to distinguish between members of the same gender (either males or fe- males) than to distinguish between members of different genders. People of the same gender appeared very similar, but people of a different gender were seen as dissimilar (Taylor, Fiske, Etcoff. 8t Ruderrnan, '1978). In actuality, males and females differ more among. themselves than they do from one another. The only well-documented gender differences in behav— ior appear to be in the area of aggression (Eaeg & Steffen, 1986) and helping behavior (Eaeg St Crowley, 1986). Other perceptual biases such as selective encoding, selective recall, and selective interpretation alSo reinforce the gender schema (Unger 3: Crawford. 1992‘). People selectively encode and remember information that confirms the gender schema. in addition, people interpret behavior in ways that are in accordance with gender schema. For example, in one study (Paludi 8t Strayer. 1985), the majority of subjects believed that articles about politics were written by men and that articles about the psychology of women were written by women. This judgment is fallacious because all articles thataddress women's issues are not written by women and all articles that address politics are not written by men. Of course. the construction of gender is not completely perceptual. . Gender distinctionsare maintained by differential socialization of male and female children (see Lott 8t Maluso, Chapter 4. this volume), which may cause males andfemalcs to engage in different behavior and to have different aspirationsr‘ln addition, gender distinctions may be maintained through the use of different verbal and nonverbal behavior by women and by men (Henley, W77). Gender distinctions may also be maintained by different hair Styles and different clothing for the genders. Cultures often expect that men and women will not dress similarly. For example in Western culture. the Christian Bible says: “A woman must not wear men's clorhing, nor a man wear women’s clothing. for the Lord your God detests anyone who dues this" (Deut. 22:5). Even physiological differences be- tween women and men may sometimes be due to societal practices. Differ- ential amounts of exercise or different types of activities by the two genders can influence their biology.'For example, the smaller size of women in 1 i ; ll . Construction cf Gender [3? some cultures may be due to their poorer nutrition as compared with the men in those cultures (Jagger, 1983). _ " In addition. ideas and expectations about gender can influence people to confirm their gender stereotype. Thus. one’s expectation that a man will be unemotional may lead to a confirmation of this expectation, because people will treat the man in an unemotional way. Expectations about people do influence the way individuals are treated and their response to this treatment may confirm the initial expectation. This process has been called the self-fulfilling prophecy (see Geis. Chapter 2. this volume. for a full explanation of how this prophecy works). > a __ . In summary. gender is socially constructed by the individual with the help of a cultural gender schema. The schema is learned at an early age because gender is a salient social category'in the society. The schema _ is reinforced and maintained through various perceptual biaSes, through cultural mechanisms that may produce differences between the genders, and through the self-fulfilling prophecy. AN EXAMPLE or this seem. CONSTRUCTION ' or. GENDER . Psychology and other disciplines have engaged in the construction of gender in a variety of ways. I will first discuss the historical background of this proccSS and then the way that psychology continues to engage in the construction of gender. ‘ - Historical Construction ofGencler Science has engaged in the construction of gender‘at least since the-Inincu teenth century and probably ever since it first addressed gender issues (Shields, 1975; Weisstein, I971). Researchers within psychology and re- lated fields attempted experimentally to verify numerous claims about the genders, which included the idea that males were more intelligent than females. This hisrorical review is a demonstration of how experimental science engages in the construction of cultural beliefs about gender. _' Franz Joseph Gall was one of the first researchers to address the question of intelligence and gender. He was specifically interested: in how the anatomical structure of the brain revealed a person’s attributes-. such as generosity. honesty, and intelligence. l [is methods of lnycstlgutiun have subsequently been referred to as phrenology. Gall believed, as waspopular during those days. that females Were less intelligent than males. He rea~ 301ch that because one could identify how intelligent people were from _S- .1' 138 BROAD THEORIES OF GENDER the structure of their brain, one could easily tell the difference between a male brain and a female brain (Shields, 1975). Although phrenology fell into disrepute, the practice of determining intellectual abilities from-brain structure continued. Scientists believed that the smaller the brain size. the less intelligent the person (Rain, 1868). Thus, scientists believed that women are less intelligent because it was thought they have a smaller brain. Other investigators believed that certain regions of the brain were responsible for intellectual functioning and they attempted to document that these areas are less developed in women. When investigators believed that the frontal lobes were responsible for intelligence. they noted that women have smaller frontal lobes. However, when investigators believed that the parietal lobes were responsible for intelligence, they then claimed that these lobes are smaller in women (Shields, 1975). “ Woolley (1910) summarized the research on the anatomical differences between the genders and found that investigators had learned of female brain deficiencies in the following areas: (1) total weight of the brain. (2) weight of the frontal lobes, (3) location of the central sulcus, (-i) size of the corpus callosum. (5) complexity and conformation of the gyri and sulci, and (6) development of the fetal cortex. Woolley (1910) also discussed several experiments that found that women gave more predictable answers to association tests, which was taken as evidence for women‘s lesser intel— lectual abilities by scientists. Scientists believed not only that women are less intelligent by virtue of their brain structure, but that women are guided by instinct and emotion more than are men (Shields. 1975). Burt and Moore (1912) claimed that they had found the following: - r Women excel wherever emotions are seen to interfere with higher mental processes and to express themselves immediately and‘overtly in motor and organic changes; onithe ether hand. wherever there are differences in power of reasoning and of attention these. when well-aceredited, seem to be slightly in favour of men. (p. 385) They explained that-women's greater emotionality is due to the structure of their brain. The thalamus was popularly believed to bethe area where emorions are controlled and investigators proposed that women have a larger thalamus than do men. which leads to their differential emotionality. Burt and Moore (1912) stated: “Briefly and crudely, that the mental life of man is predominantly cortical; that of woman predominantly thalamic" (P. 385). Thus, it was believed that men are more rational than women and that women are more emotional than men. This belief about men and ........ .m erill henhserved today (Shields, 1987). ' ill Censtructian (J Gender I39 The belief that women and men are different in terms of their intellec- tual and emotional functioning was further argued by individuals with evolutionary arguments. Spencer (1961) suggested that women’s intellec- tual development was arrested at a lower stage of evolution than that of men because women need to conserve energy to bear children. Whereas, in man. individual evolution continues until the physiological cost of self-maintenance very nearly balances what nutrition supplies, in woman, an arreSt of individual development takes places while there is yet a consider— able margin of nutrition: otherwise there could be no offspring. (p. 341) I l Spencer reasoned that because women are at an early stage of evolution. they are less able to reason in an abstract manner. l'le’also argued that natural selection led to women's greater ability to understand emotions. Spencer (1961) states: in barbarous times a woman who could from a movement. tone or voice, or expression of face. instantly detect in her savage husband the passion that was rising. would be likely to escape dangers run into by a woman less skilled in interpreting the natural language of feeling. Hence. from the perpetual exercise of this power. and the survival of those having mest of it. we may infer its establishment as a feminine faculty. (1:). 343) Although the study of gender only revealed what was popularly believed in the culture. it was used by some scholars'to argue for the differential education of men and women. Hall (i906) urged that women should not be educated with men. l-lis major argument was that coeduca- tion would adversely affect women's menstrual periods and women's aspi— rations for marriage and family. However. within his article he also states that equal education with men is a peer idea because of women‘s lesser intellectual abilities. Hall (1906) wrote: ~ I have never met or read a physician . . . who does not hold that at times girls should be metaphorically be turned out to grass. and lie fallow, so far as strenuous intellectual effort goes. The new love of freedom . . .whieh inclines so many girls to strive for intellectual careers has brought their sex much tension. and this is hard upon their constitution. (p. 590) Clarke (18“). a physician. introduced a popular book that argued that women should not be educated like men. He argued that medical evidence demonstrated that intellectual endeavors would harm women physiologically. i‘le specifically argued that women should not engage in the same intellectual activities as men because it would adversely affecr the development of women‘s reproductive organs and would cause sterility. a .. 7-, .l ,5? I40 BROAD THEORIES OF GENDER Although schools did not cease educating women, many schools began programs that were designed to address women’s special physiological needs. and some of Clarke’s ideas Were instrumental in shaping different programs of study for men and women (Rury, 1991). Thus, science hnslhistorically engaged in the construction of gender by “scientifically verifying" popularly held beliefs about the nature of ' males and females. An example of this phenomenon occurred in the scien— tific analysis of the" intellectual abilities of the two genders. Scientists attempted to verify that women were intellectually inferior to men with research on the structure of the brain and through evolutionary and func- tional analyses. The research about intelligence was used to argue for the differential education-of men and women. 1 Contemporary Psychology and the Construction of Gender Psychology has continued to engage in the construcdon of gender in numerous ways. Although researchers and scientists may be able to show how past investigators used faulty methodology, which they interpreted in biased ways. contemporary psychologists are subject to a whole 'set of other biases and problems with methodology‘that may help in the '- construction of cultural ideas about gender (Sher-if. i979). This chapter-does not argue that science is a useless tool or that one cannot'study the psychology of gender. i only advocate that investigators safeguard their ovvn investigations from their biases. I believe that in any research where scientists have hypotheses and particular beliefs about the subieet matter. which is the case with most research, there are numerous ways they can bias their work. Two of the most common biases in the psychology of gender are alpha and beta biases. Alpha Bias One of the biases that has been prevalent in the contemporary study of gender is alpha bias, which is the exaggeration of the differences between males and females (Hare—Mustin 8t Marecelt, 1988). This bias is seen in work that tends to emphasize that females and males are quite different in personality or in behavior. Alpha bias is no: a new phenomenon. The belief that women and men are vasdy different or even opposite from one another is a part of Western culture and has been proposed by Aristotle, Aquinas, Bacon, Descartes, Locke, and Rousseau (I-iare-Mustin & Mare- ceic. i988). Males have been associated 'with reason and rationality, Whereas females, have been associated with forces that are beyond reason Sach as nature (Ortner. 1974). This bias can be seen in contemporary psychology in numerous ways. . I ..Ii. ....t.-...-n.-:| u-irli iii-w— ill Construction of Gender M l culinity, femininity, and androgyny, which has led to the routine inclusion of these scales in all kinds of research. In an historical review of this area. Morawski (1985) concluded that this research can best be characterized as an attempt to establish the psychological existence of masculinity and femininity rather than an attempt to discover the importance or utility of such concepts. investigators originally'constructed masculinityand femininity scales by selecting questions that men and women responded to differently and then compiling the questions into a scale. The responses that males gave were called masculine and the responses females gave were called feminine. Subsequent investigators never questioned the theoretical justification for suchtraits and just assumedthe psychological existence of masculinity and femininity, even though many of the scales 'were‘ not quantitatively reliable. In addition, although many of the scales did not predict psychological functioning as they were originally intended, the scaleswere still used by clinicians for diagnostic purposes. And when males and females responded similarly to such scales, reSearchers invented new, more “sensitive” ways to measure masculinity- and femininity (Moraw— ski, 1985). Gilligan‘s-theory about moral development is also an example of the emphasis on differences between men and women (Gilligan, 1982). She proposes that women and men‘s morality is different because the two genders are concerned with different things. Women are concerned with preserving relationships and caring for other people. Men, in contrast, are concerned with following rules of fairness. Their morality is not con- cerned with the preservation of relationships. Gilligan‘s U982) theory is different from other theories, however. because she views female morality in a positive light. ' Beta Bias The other kind of bias prevalent in contemporary psychology of gender is beta bias (Hare-Mustin & Marecek, 1988), which is the minimization of differences between the two genders and is generally less prevalent in the field. One example of beta bias is in the representation of women and men as similar people without regard to their differential power. status, or economic opportunities (l-lare—Musdn 8t Marecek, £988). Much research in psychology includes the variable of gender as an independent variable regardless of the fact that women and men cannot be randomly assigned to these groups (Unger, 197'9). Men and women may differ in status and power and may not be perceived or treated similarly when they perform the same behavior. For example, Butler and Geis (I990) found that when male and female confederates both demonstrated leadership behavior in a snmll-urmm wtrintr. subiccts responded with tlisprnporlinnatelv more .[i :1.- Jnudu unis/rug“) L..'" ushrualn displeased facial responses to the female leader than to the male leader. Even though the male and Female confederates demonstrated the same behavior, subjects gave a lesser evaluation of the female leader. Clearly, the variable of gender can reflect differential status or power. Women and men cannot necessarily be viewed as similar in psychological research. Gender differences can reflect other processes that have little to do with _ biological sex. ‘ A related bias is the tendency to ignore the social context in research on gender (Riger. 1992). Some gender research has attempted to separate social context from the behavior under study. Some researchers assume that people do not “bring their social roles. history, or culture_to the laboratory when they participate in art-experiment. However, these factors 'may be exactly what-cause men and women to behave differently in an experiment. Sociocultural factors may possibly be the most important variables to consider in gender research. Unfortunately, some researchers attempt to remove social context and then falsely to ascribe gender differ~ ences to forces within a person. Research Design V- . Another way that psychologists have engaged in the construction of gender is through the types of questions invesrigators have asked, the subjects researchers have used. and the experimental designs researchers have employed. .. One of the ways that psychology has engaged in the conStruction of gender is through selectivity in the research that is conducted and pub- lished in scientific journals. In the journal ofl’erranatity and Social Psychology, about 5% of the articles addressed issues about women's life during the 1960s. about 11%:‘7‘during the [0705. and about 14% during the early 19805 (cited in Grady..1981; Lott, 1985). issues germane to a woman's life Were defined as topics that-addressed sex, sexuality, sex differences, sex roles, marriage. maternity, pregnancy. physical attractiveness, inter— personalattraction, achievement, and reactions to success and failure. Thus, psychologists have appeared to be relatively unintereSted in research about women. However, it has been argued that these percentages do not accurately reflect the amount of research that is currently being conducted about women. These percentages may reflect how research about women is evaluated by 'journal editors or by the field of psychology (Grady, 1981). In addition, psychological journals will tend to publish research that finds differences between groups or. rather, when researchers reject the null hypothesis lGreenw-ald. 1073). Thus. researchers who find differential . effects for gender tend publish their results. whereas researchers who find lll t IleiJlll‘ULH'U“ Ly wander :--4 no differences between the genders tend not to publish their results (Grady, 1981). Thus, psychology may engage in the construction of gen— der by not publishing research about women or by selectively publishing reSearch that documents gender differences. Another way that psychology engages in the construction of gender is through the use of single-gender subject samples for experiments. His- torically, males were experimental subjects approximately twice as often as females, and many of these experiments used only single—gender designs (McKenna 8t Kcssler, 1977). Even classic experiments in psychology only used males as subjects and relatively little is knownabout how women would respond to the same situations. Thus, males-are viewed as the standard and the results fdr women are assumed to be similar. An example of this phenomenon is in some of the classic research on attraction (Meyer, 1938). In this research, Dutton and Aron (1974) were interested in‘ how arousal would influence the experience of romantic love. Male subjects crossed a shaky bridge or a steady bridge and were then interviewed by an attractive female confederate. The dependent variable of attraction was ‘ whether the subjects called the confederate after the experiment. Other studies have looked at how running in place. hearing a Steve Martin comedy, or hearing a tape of a person being mutilated inflUenced attraction (White, Fishbein, & Rutstein, 1981; White 8t Kight, 1984): The one consistent part of this research has been the gender of the subjects (male) and the gender of the confederates (female). in this case, we knowa‘great deal about how arousal affects men’s attraction .to women, but we know little about the reverse. 7 - One of the last ways that psychology engages in-thc construction of gentler is through its operationalization of independent and dependent variables in experimental designs. McKenna and Kcsslcr (197'!) noted that when researchers are studying aggression. female subjects are treated quite differently from male subjects. Male subjects are often provoked by another person and the measure of their aggression is how many times they shock or how painful a shock they present to a confederate. In contrast. female subjects are often given vignettes and the measure of their aggression is how they would respond to this imagined person. Clearly, the differential experimental situations would lead to different types of responses that might be explained as differences between females and males. In summary. contemporary psychology engages in the construction of gender through the kinds of questions that are researched, the kinds of research that get published. the types of experimental designs that are used, and the gender of the subjects who are studied. All these influences can lead to biased experimental results that are more congruent with cultural ideas about gender than with actual reality. .9 1.44 BROAD THEORIES 0F GENDER CONCLUSION In this chapter I have argued that gender is a socially constructed category of human society. The contents of the gender schema may be different across cultures, but gender is a salient social category that is reinforced- by cultural Forces and by various human cognitive mechanisms. Cultures distinguish between two or more genders and organize beliefs and activities according to these categories. Individuals are influenced by the exisrence of these categories and their perceptions of the world are organized ac.— cording to them. - . Gender is also sociallyrconstructed within the scientific community . through “scientific” verification of cultural beliefs about gender. 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