Gender Stereotypes

Much of this chapter so far has been concerned with the ways in which men and women differ. An important related topic pertains to the beliefs that we hold about the ways in which the sexes dif fer, regardless of whether these beliefs are accurate reflections of the sex di ferences that empirically exist. The beliefs that we hold about men and women are sometimes called gender stereotypes.

Gender stereotypes have three components (Hoyenga & Hoyenga, 1993). The first is cognitive and deals with the ways in which we form social categories. For example, we may categorize all men into "cads" or "dads," those who play around and are reluctant to commit versus those who are faithful and invest heavily in their children. The second component of gender stereotypes is affective. You may feel hostile or warm toward someone, simply because you place that person in a particular social category . The third component of gender stereotypes is behavioral. For example, you may discriminate against someone simply because he belongs in a social category—in this case, "man." We will discuss all three components of gender stereotypes—cognitive, affective, and behavioral—in the following sections, in order to illuminate this form of social categorizing and show how it shows up in everyday life.

Content of Gender Stereotypes

Although there are some variations from culture to culture, it is remarkable that the content of gender stereotypes—the attributes that we believe that men and women possess—is highly similar across cultures. In the most comprehensive set of studies yet conducted, Williams and Best (1982, 1990) studied gender stereotypes in 30 countries around the world. In all these studies, men, compared with women, were commonly viewed as more aggressive, autonomous, achievement-oriented, dominant, exhibitionist, and persevering. Women, compared with men, were commonly seen as more affiliative, deferent, heterosexual, nurturant, and self-abasing. These general gender stereotypes have a common theme. Women in all 30 countries tend to be perceived as more communal—oriented toward the group. Men, in contrast, are perceived to be more instrumental—asserting their independence from the group. These stereotypes about the sexes correspond in many ways to the actual sex dif ferences that have been discovered. Nonetheless, there is some evidence that people overestimate the magnitude of sex dif ferences in personality, showing exaggerated beliefs about the size of sex dif ferences that actually exist (Krueger , Hasman, Acevedo, & Villano, 2003).

Stereotypic Subtypes of Men and Women

In addition to general gender stereotypes, studies show that most people have more finely di ferentiated stereotypic views of each sex. Six and Eckes (1991) examined the structure of their participants' cognitive categories of men and women and came up with several subtypes, as shown in Figure 16.3. Men were viewed as falling into five subtypes. The playboy subtype, for example, includes males who are cool, casual, lady killers, and macho. The career man subtype includes men who are social climbers and managers. Stereotypes of women fell into a smaller number of subtypes. One might be called the "classically feminine" subtype, which includes housewives, secretaries, and maternal women. In the modern world, these women might be "soccer moms," highly devoted to their husbands and children. A second subtype is define by short-term or overt sexuality . This subtype includes sex bombs, tarts, and vamps.

Part A. Male Subtypes

CLUSTER B Social climber

Bureaucrat

CLUSTER B Social climber

Bureaucrat

Flash Harry Macho

CLUSTER D Playboy /' Lady killer

Mr. Casual

Flash Harry Macho

Career man Manager CLUSTER C Bourgeois Egoist CLUSTER E

Pasha Cod

Intellectual

Confident

CLUSTER D Playboy /' Lady killer

Alternative

Philanthropist ,-M Quiet Softy

Mr. Casual

Gambler

Part B. Female Subtypes

Sex bomb

Tart CLUSTER C

^ Nasty piece of work

Spoiled child

Naive

Femin

Career woman

CLUSTER A Intellectual

\ \/Ubb ' Confident Lefty-ecologist

Society lady

Career woman

Femin

Conformist

CLUSTER B

Naive

Conformist

CLUSTER B

Secretary Housewife

Busy / Lizzie Maternal Housework-maniac

Straightforward

Figure 16.3

The structure of cognitive sexual categories. The structure of cognitive categories of various male and female subtypes, where distance between subtypes on the graphs is assumed to correspond to cognitive "distances" in people's stereotypic concepts. Some subtypes are closely related to each other, as indicated by the dotted lines that surround them to form the various clusters.

These two female subtypes correspond roughly to the "Madonna-whore" dichotomy, which is commonly made in everyday life (Buss, 2003). That is, these two stereotypes of women correspond to women who would make good mothers and women who give of f the appearance of pursuing casual sex.

A third stereotype of women, however , involves a subtype that may have emerged relatively recently , perhaps over the past 20 or 30 years—the confident intellectual, liberated career woman. Hillary Rodham Clinton would be a perfect illustration of this category—she scored at the top of her class in law school and developed an influential career in politics. Also included in this cluster are feminist, women's libber, and lefty-ecologist, perhaps suggesting that, in the minds of the subjects, these political orientations tended to go along with independent, confident career women.

The key point is that, cognitively , most people do not hold only a single gender stereotype. Rather, cognitive categories are dif ferentiated into subtypes of women and subtypes of men. It remains to be seen whether these stereotypical subtypes have any empirical basis. That is, are "playboy" men actually cooler, more casual, and more macho than other men? Are homemakers more naive, busy, and conformist than other women? Answers to these questions must await future research.

Prejudice and Gender Stereotypes

Categories of gender, and the stereotypes associated with them, are not merely cognitive constructions that rattle around inside people' s heads. They have real-world consequences. Prejudiced behavior is one damaging consequence of gender stereotypes. These damaging ef fects can be found in many important activities: in legal decisions, in medical treatment, in car purchases, in check cashing, and in job hunting (Hoyenga & Hoyenga, 1993).

U.S. Senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton illustrates a relatively new gender stereotype—women who are intellectual, assertive, liberated, and career-minded.

In wrongful death lawsuits, for example, the families of the victim receive more money if a man was killed than if a woman was killed (Goodman et al., 1991). In medicine, men are more likely to be recommended for coronary bypass sur gery than women, even when they show the same amount of heart damage (Khan et al., 1990). A study in which men and women called car dealerships to request prices for particular cars found that the women were quoted higher prices than were the men for exactly the same car (Larrance et al., 1979).

Not all sex discrimination, however, favors men. In a study of book reviews published in the journal Contemporary Psychology, male authors were at the receiving end of more negative reviews (Moore, 1978). Interestingly , the male authors received more negative reviews than the women authors, whether the reviewer was a man or a woman. In another study of reviews by men and women of manuscripts submitted to refereed journals for publication, women were found to give more positive reviews to women authors than to men authors (Lloyd, 1990). Unlike the study of book authors, however, men reviewers did not show this bias.

In summary, gender stereotypes can have important consequences for men and women. These consequences can damage people where it counts most—in their health, their jobs, their chances for advancement, and their social reputations.

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