Gender: Psychological Perspectives synthesizes the latest research on gender to help students think critically about the differences between research fi ndings and stereotypes, provoking them to examine and revise their own preconceptions. The text examines the behavioral, biological, and social contexts in which women and men express gendered behaviors. The text’s unique pedagogical program helps students understand the portrayal of gender in the media and the application of gender research in the real world. Headlines from the news open each chapter to engage the reader. Gendered Voices boxes present true personal accounts of people’s lives. According to the Media boxes highlight gender-related coverage in newspapers, magazines, books, TV, and movies, while According to the Research boxes offer the latest scientifi cally based research to help students analyze the accuracy and fairness of gender images presented in the media. Additionally, Considering Diversity sections emphasize the cross-cultural perspective of gender.

This text is intended for undergraduate or graduate courses on the psychology of gender, psychology of sex, psychology of women or men, gender issues, sex roles, women in society, and women’s or men’s studies. It is also applicable to sociology and anthropology courses on diversity.

Seventh Edition Highlights

• 12 new headlines on topics ranging from gender and the Flynn effect to gender ste- reotyping that affects men

• Coverage of gender issues in aging adults and transgendered individuals • Expanded coverage of diversity issues in the US and around the globe, including the

latest research from China, Japan, and Europe • More tables, fi gures, and photos to provide summaries of text in an easy-to-absorb

format • End-of-chapter summaries and glossary • Suggested readings for further exploration of chapter topics • A companion website at where instructors will fi nd

lecture outlines, PowerPoint slides, student activities, test questions, and website and video suggestions; and students will fi nd fl ashcards, student learner objectives, chapter outlines, and links to related websites and further reading

Linda Brannon is Professor of Psychology at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

“Gender is a very important contribution to the study of gender in psychology. Its innovative format and unique organization provide for an enjoyable learning experience for students of psychology.”

—Florence L. Denmark, Pace University

“Gender strikes the perfect balance between biological and social factors that inform the psychology of gender. Even more importantly, this text is solidly based on scientifi c research fi ndings rather than venturing into the minefi eld of gender politics.”

—Linda Heath, Loyola University Chicago

“Gender provides a readable review of both classic and recent research on gender. Linda Brannon is consistently balanced and empirical in her stance, and original in the way she threads varied topics together to give the reader a comprehensive and nuanced understand- ing of gender.”

—Maureen C. McHugh, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

“Gender thoroughly covers the latest research on traditional topics, such as relationships and sexuality, and clearly presents newer topics such as homosexuality, transsexuals, and sexual abuse. Excellent for psychology and sociology courses.”

—Nancy Netting, University of British Columbia Okanagan, Canada

“I have been happily using Gender for many editions now, and defi nitely plan to continue having seen the same excellent writing, research foundation, and easy-to-follow organization in the seventh edition. My students like this text; I highly recommend it.”

—Karen J. Prager, The University of Texas at Dallas

Gender Psychological Perspectives

Seventh Edition

Linda Brannon

Seventh edition published 2017 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017

and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

© 2017 Taylor & Francis

The right of Linda Brannon to be identifi ed as the author of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identifi cation and explanation without intent to infringe.

First published 1996 by Allyn and Bacon

Sixth edition published 2010 by Psychology Press

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Names: Brannon, Linda, 1948– author. Title: Gender : psychological perspectives / Linda Brannon. Description: Seventh Edition. | New York : Routledge, 2017. | Revised edition of the

author’s Gender, 2015. Identifi ers: LCCN 2016046499 | ISBN 9781138182356 (hardback : alk. paper) |

ISBN 9781138182349 (pbk. : alk. paper) | ISBN 9781315621821 (ebk) Subjects: LCSH: Sex differences (Psychology)—Textbooks. | Gender

identity—Textbooks. Classifi cation: LCC BF692.2 .B73 2017 | DDC 155.3—dc23 LC record available at

ISBN: 978-1-138-18235-6 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-138-18234-9 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-62182-1 (ebk)

Typeset in Garamond by Apex CoVantage, LLC

Preface xv Acknowledgments xx About the Author xxi

1 The Study of Gender 1

2 Researching Sex and Gender 22

3 Gender Stereotypes: Masculinity and Femininity 46

4 Hormones and Chromosomes 77

5 Theories of Gender Development 109

6 Developing Gender Identity 136

7 Intelligence and Cognitive Abilities 170

8 Emotion 201

9 Relationships 235

10 Sexuality 280

11 School 324

12 Careers and Work 355

13 Health and Fitness 390

14 Stress, Coping, and Psychopathology 429

Brief Contents

vi Brief Contents

15 Treatment for Mental Disorders 468

16 How Different? 499

Index 521

Preface xv Acknowledgments xx About the Author xxi

1 The Study of Gender 1

Headline: “The End of Men,” Atlantic Monthly , July/August, 2010 1 History of the Study of Sex Differences in Psychology 3

The Study of Individual Differences 4 Psychoanalysis 4

The Development of Women’s Studies 6 The History of Feminist Movements 6 Sex or Gender? 9 Women in Psychology 10 The Appearance of the Men’s Movement 12

Considering Diversity 15 Summary 17 Glossary 18 Suggested Readings 18 Suggested Websites 19 References 19

2 Researching Sex and Gender 22

Headline: “Does Gender Matter?” Nature, July 13, 2006 22 How Science Developed 22 Approaches to Research 24

Quantitative Research Methods 24 Experimental Designs 25 Ex Post Facto Studies 26 Surveys 27 Correlational Studies 28

Qualitative Research Methods 29 Interviews 29 Ethnography 30 Focus Groups 30


viii Contents

Researchers’ Choices 31 Gender Bias in Research 32

Sources of Bias 32 Ways to Deal with Bias in Science 37

Advocating Transformation 38 Decreasing Bias 39

Summary 40 Glossary 41 Suggested Readings 42 Suggested Websites 42 References 42

3 Gender Stereotypes: Masculinity and Femininity 46

Headline: “Gender Stereotypes Don’t Die Easily” Vancouver Sun, June 27, 2013 46 History of Stereotypes of Women and Men 46

The Cult of True Womanhood 47 Masculinities 48

Conceptualizing and Measuring Masculinity and Femininity 50 Explicit Measures of Stereotyping 50 Implicit Measures of Stereotyping 52

The Process and Implications of Stereotyping 53 Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination 53 Perceptions of Women and Men 54 Stereotypes over the Lifespan 59 Negative Effects of Stereotyping 61

Stereotype Threat 61 Benevolent Sexism 64

Considering Diversity 65 Summary 68 Glossary 69 Suggested Readings 69 Suggested Websites 70 References 70

4 Hormones and Chromosomes 77

Headline: “Venus and Mars Collide” New Scientist, March 5, 2011 77 The Endocrine System and Steroid Hormones 77 Sexual Differentiation 79

Chromosomes 79 Prenatal Development of Male and Female Physiology 79

The Reproductive Organs 79 The Nervous System 82

Changes during Puberty 83 Changes during Adulthood 85 Variations in Sexual Development 86

Contents ix

Variations in Number of Sex Chromosomes 86 Problems Related to Prenatal Hormone Exposure 88

Hormones and Behavior Instability 90 Premenstrual Syndrome 90 Testosterone and Aggression 96

Considering Diversity 99 Summary 100 Glossary 102 Suggested Readings 103 Suggested Websites 103 References 103

5 Theories of Gender Development 109

Headline: “Code Pink” Mother Jones , September/October, 2009 109 The Psychodynamic Approach to Gender Development 110

Freud’s View of Gender Identity Development 110 Horney’s Theory of Gender 111 Contemporary Psychodynamic Theories of Gender Development 113

Chodorow’s Emphasis on Mothering 113 Kaschak’s Antigone Phase 115

Social Learning Theory and Gender 116 Cognitive Theories of Gender Development 123

Cognitive Developmental Theory 123 Gender Schema Theory 126

Which Theory is Best? 127 Summary 130 Glossary 131 Suggested Readings 131 Suggested Websites 132 References 132

6 Developing Gender Identity 136

Headline: “A Boy’s Life” The Atlantic , November 2008 136 Gender Identity Development 136

Development during Childhood 137 The Sequence of Childhood Gender Role Development 138 Differences between Girls and Boys 140

Later Development 141 Infl uences on Gender Identity Development 145

Biological Factors and Gender Development 145 Family Environment and Gender Development 148 Peers and Gender Development 151 The Media and Gender Development 152

Gender Bias in the Media 153 Children and Media 155

x Contents

Considering Diversity 157 Summary 159 Glossary 160 Suggested Readings 160 Suggested Websites 161 References 161

7 Intelligence and Cognitive Abilities 170

Headline: “Is the Female of the Species Really More Intelligent Than the Male?” The Telegraph , July 17, 2012 170

Cognitive Abilities 170 Verbal Performance 173 Mathematical and Quantitative Performance 174 Spatial Performance 178 Other Cognitive Abilities 182

Source of the Differences 186 Biological Evidence for Gender Differences in Cognitive Abilities 186 Evidence for Other Sources of Gender Differences 188

Implications of Gender-Related Differences 189 Considering Diversity 191 Summary 192 Glossary 193 Suggested Readings 193 Suggested Websites 193 References 194

8 Emotion 201

Headline: “Do Get Mad” New Scientist , February 9, 2013 201 Gender in the Experience and Expression of Emotion 201

The Myth of Maternal Instinct 204 Maternal Deprivation and Its Consequences for Nurturing 204 Gender and Caring for Children 206

The Prominence of Male Aggression 209 Anger and Aggression 210 Developmental Gender Differences in Aggression 211 Gender and Aggression during Adulthood 214 Gender and Crime 215 Sexual Violence 219

Expressivity and Emotion 222 Considering Diversity 224 Summary 225 Glossary 226 Suggested Readings 227 Suggested Websites 227 References 227

Contents xi

9 Relationships 235

Headline: “The New Rules of Dating” Men’s Fitness , February, 2013 235 Friendships 236

Development of Styles 236 Friendships over the Lifespan 239 Flexibility of Styles 242

Love Relationships 243 Dating 244 Marriage and Committed Relationships 247

Concepts of Love and Marriage 250 Communication between Partners 252 Balance of Power 253 Division of Household Labor 255 Confl ict and Violence 257 Stability of Relationships 259

Dissolving Relationships 261 Considering Diversity 265 Summary 267 Glossary 268 Suggested Readings 268 Suggested Websites 269 References 269

10 Sexuality 280

Headline: “How to End to War over Sex Ed,” Time Atlantic , April 6, 2009 280 The Study of Sexuality 281

Sex Surveys 281 The Kinsey Surveys 281 Hunt’s Playboy Foundation Survey 284 The National Health and Social Life Survey 285 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior 285 Gender Differences (and Similarities) in Sexual Attitudes and Behavior 286

Masters and Johnson’s Approach 289 Childhood Sexuality: Exploration and Abuse 290 Heterosexuality 294

During Adolescence 295 During Adulthood 298

Homosexuality 303 During Adolescence 306 During Adulthood 308

Bisexuality 311 Considering Diversity 312 Summary 313 Glossary 315 Suggested Readings 315

xii Contents

Suggested Websites 316 References 316

11 School 324

Headline: “The Target,” Vanity Fair , April, 2013 324 The School Experience 324

Early Schooling 326 Changes during Middle School 328 High School 330 College and Professional School 335

Achievement 340 Achievement Motivation 340 Fear of Success 341 Self-Esteem and Self-Confi dence 341 Attributions for Success and Failure 344

Considering Diversity 345 Summary 347 Glossary 349 Suggested Readings 349 Suggested Websites 349 References 349

12 Careers and Work 355

Headline: “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby,” Canadian Business, October 13, 2013 355 Careers 355

Career Expectations and Gender Stereotyping 357 Career Opportunities 359

Discrimination in Hiring 360 Barriers to Career Advancement 363 Balancing Career and Family 367

Gender Issues at Work 369 Gender Segregation on the Job 369 Gender, Communication, and Power in the Workplace 371 Sexual Harassment at Work 373

Considering Diversity 377 Summary 380 Glossary 381 Suggested Readings 382 Suggested Websites 382 References 382

13 Health and Fitness 390

Headline: “Ladies Last,” National Geographic, April, 2013 390 Mortality: No Equal Opportunity 390

Cardiovascular Disease 391

Contents xiii

Cancer 393 Violent Deaths 395

The Health Care System 398 Gender Roles and Health Care 398

Gender and Seeking Health Care 398 Gender and Receiving Health Care 399

Reproductive Health 402 Gender and Healthy Aging 405

Gender, Lifestyle, and Health 407 Eating 408

Body Image 409 Eating Disorders 412

Exercise and Fitness 413 Considering Diversity 415 Summary 418 Glossary 420 Suggested Readings 420 Suggested Websites 421 References 421

14 Stress, Coping, and Psychopathology 429

Headline: “White Men Have Less Life Stress, But Are More Prone to Depression Because of It,” Huffi ngton Post , September 23, 2015 429

Stress and Coping 429 Sources of Stress for Men and Women 429

Family Roles 430 Violence 432 Discrimination 433 Poverty 434

Coping Resources and Strategies 435 Social Support 436 Coping Strategies 437

Diagnoses of Mental Disorders 439 The DSM Classifi cation System 439 Gender Inequity in the Diagnosis of Mental Disorders 440

Gender Comparisons in Psychopathology 443 Depression 444 Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders 447 Anxiety Disorders 449 Other Disorders 450

Considering Diversity 454 Summary 456 Glossary 457 Suggested Readings 458 Suggested Websites 458 References 459

xiv Contents

15 Treatment for Mental Disorders 468

Headline: “Colorado Launches Man Therapy to Break Down Mental Health Stigmas” Nation’s Health, October 2012 468

Approaches to Therapy 468 Psychoanalysis 468 Humanistic Therapy 469 Cognitive Therapy 470 Behavior Modifi cation 471 Medical Therapies 472 Accusations of Gender Bias in Therapy 473

Gender Issues in Therapy 475 Feminist Therapy 475

Principles of Feminist Therapy 476 Clients of Feminist Therapy 477

Therapy with Men 478 Gender-Sensitive Therapies 479

Sexual Exploitation in Therapy 481 The Self-Help Movement 484

Online Support Groups 486 Gender Issues in Self-Help 487

Considering Diversity 488 Summary 490 Glossary 491 Suggested Readings 491 Suggested Websites 492 References 492

16 How Different? 499

Headline: “Signs of Détente in the Battle between Venus and Mars,” New York Times, May 31, 2007 499

What do Women Want? What do Men Want? 499 Have Women Become More Like Men? 499 Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman? 504

Multiple Roles Have Become the Rule 506 Where Are the Differences? 509

Differences in Ability 510 Differences in Choices 512

Is a Peace Plan Possible? 514 Summary 515 Glossary 516 Suggested Readings 516 Suggested Websites 517 References 517

Index 521

This book examines the topic of gender—the behaviors and attitudes that relate to (but are not the same as) biological sex. A large and growing body of research on sex, gender, and gender-related behaviors has come from psychology, sociology, biology, biochemistry, neurology, and anthropology. This research and scholarship form the basis for this book, providing the material for a critical review and an attempt to generate an overall picture of gender from a psychological perspective.

The Topic of Gender

A critical review of gender research is important for several reasons. First, gender is currently a “hot topic,” and almost everyone has an opinion. These opinions are not usually based on research. Most people are not familiar with research fi ndings; they simply know their own opinions. People’s personal experiences infl uence their opinions, but the media cultivate a view of gender through stories and depictions in the movies, on television entertainment and news programs, and in other media. Based on these portrayals, people create images about how they believe women and men should be and attempt to re-create these images in their own lives. This personal reproduction of gender portrayals in the media is another example of what Candace West and Don Zimmerman (1987) described as “doing gender.”

In Gender: Psychological Perspectives , I present fi ndings from gender researchers, although the picture is neither simple nor complete. Research fi ndings are complex and sometimes contradictory, but the volume of research over the past 50 years has yielded suffi cient research to obtain clarity in some areas, whereas other areas are not yet so clear. I believe that it is important to understand this research rather than draw conclusions based on only personal opinions and popular media portrayals.

Second, despite the bias and controversy that have surrounded the research process, research is a valuable way to understand gender. Although scientifi c research is supposed to be objective and free of personal bias, this idealistic notion often varies from the actual research process. Gender research in particular has been plagued with personal bias. Despite the potential for bias in the research process, I believe that research is the most productive way to approach the evaluation of a topic. Others disagree with this view, including some who are interested in gender-related topics. A number of scholars, especially feminist schol- ars, have rejected scientifi c research as the best way to learn about gender.

Although I agree that science has not treated women equitably, either as researchers or as participants in research, I still believe that science offers the best chance for a fuller understanding of gender (as well as of many other topics). Although some scholars disagree, I believe that science can further the goal of equity. I agree with Janet Shibley Hyde and Kristen Kling (2001, p. 369) who said, “An important task of feminist psychology is to challenge stereotypic ideas about gender and test the stereotypes against data.” My goals


xvi Preface

are consistent with that view—to examine what gender researchers have found and how they have interpreted their fi ndings. By doing so, I hope to accomplish one of the goals that Meredith Cherland (2008) mentioned for those who teach about gender: “unsettling their students’ collective views of the world and their sense of life’s inevitability” (p. 273). I believe that the research on gender has that potential.

The book’s emphasis on gender is similar to another approach to studying gender— through examining the psychology of women. The psychology-of-women approach concen- trates on women and issues unique to women, whereas the gender approach focuses on the issue of gender as a factor in behavior and in the social context in which behavior occurs. Gender research and theory draw heavily from research on the psychology of women, but the emphasis differs.

By emphasizing women and their experience, the psychology-of-women approach often excludes men, but gender research cannot. Studying both women and men is essential to an understanding of gender. Researchers who are interested in gender issues may concentrate on women or men, but they must consider both, or their research reveals nothing about gender. Therefore, this seventh edition of Gender: Psychological Perspectives examines the research and theory from psychology and related fi elds in order to evaluate the behavior, biology, and social context in which both women and men function.

The gender approach also refl ects my personal preferences: I want a psychology of women and men. When I was completing the fi rst edition of this book, I attended a conference session on creating a course on psychology of women. Several instructors who had created such courses led a discussion about obtaining institutional approval and the challenges they had encountered, including resistance from administrators (who were mostly men) concern- ing a course in which the enrollment would be mostly women. One of the group advised trying for approval of a course on gender if obtaining approval for a psychology of women course was not successful. The implication was that the topic of gender included men and would be more acceptable but less desirable. I disagreed. I wanted men to be included—in the research, in my book, and in my classes. This preference comes from the belief that both women and men are required in order to consider and discuss gender issues. I prefer the gender approach, and I wanted this book to refl ect that attitude. As R. W. (now Raewyn) Connell (2005) has discussed, women’s efforts for change will not succeed completely with- out men’s support and assistance. Men must participate to create gender equity for everyone.

My interest in gender comes from two sources—my research and my experience as a female psychologist. The research that prompted me to examine gender issues more carefully was work on risk perception related to health problems. I was interested in investigating people’s perceptions of the health risks created by their behavior, such as the perceptions of health risks in smokers versus nonsmokers. In this research, I found that women and men saw their behaviors and risks in similar ways, even when the actual level of health risks dif- fered quite a bit for men and women. My research showed gender similarities rather than gender differences.

In examining the volume of research on gender-related attitudes and behaviors, I dis- covered that many other researchers’ fi ndings were similar to mine—more similarities than differences. When differences appeared, many were small. I came to doubt the widespread belief that men and women are opposites. Rather, the evidence indicated that women and men are more similar than different. With the focus on differences, this view was not often voiced. Recently, this view has become more prominent. Concentrating on research fi nd- ings rather than stereotypes or media portrayals, psychologists have come to conclusions of gender similarities rather than differences. Janet Shibley Hyde (2005) has proposed a gender similarities hypothesis rather than one of gender differences, and Rosalind Barnett and Caryl Rivers (2004) have summarized this view as Same Difference.

Preface xvii

As a female psychologist, I was forced to attend to gender issues from the outset of my career. Sexism and discrimination were part of the context in which I received my professional training and in which I have pursued my career as a psychologist. Women were a small minor- ity in the fi eld during my early years in psychology, but the numbers have since increased so that now women receive over half the doctoral degrees granted each year in psychology. This increase and several antidiscrimination laws have produced some improvements in equitable treatment for women in psychology (as well as in other professions and in society in general).

The psychology-of-women approach came from the women in psychology during the feminist movement of the 1960s. Most of the women in psychology have not been directly involved in the psychology of women, and some are not feminists, but the presence of a growing proportion of women has changed psychology, making a psychology of gender not only possible but also, I think, inevitable.

Gendered Voices

Although I believe that research is a good way to understand behavior, including gender- related behavior, I accept the value of other approaches, including personal accounts. In traditional quantitative research, the data consist of numbers, and each participant’s experi- ence is lost in the transformation to numerical data and the statistical compilations of these data. Personal accounts and interviews do not lead to a comfortable blurring of the results. Rather, each person’s account is sharply depicted, with no averaging to blunt the edges of the story. Louise Kidder (1994) contended that one of the drawbacks of personal accounts is the vividness of the data generated by reports of personal experience. I thought that such accounts could be an advantage.

The text of Gender: Psychological Perspectives consists of an evaluation of research fi ndings— exactly the sort of information that people may fi nd diffi cult to relate to their lives. I decided that I also wanted to include some personal, narrative accounts of gender-relevant aspects of people’s lives, and I wanted these accounts to connect to the research studies. The perils of vividness seemed small compared to the advantages. I believe that people’s personal experi- ences are distilled in statistical research, but I also know that a lot of the interesting details are lost in the process.

These “Gendered Voices” narratives are my attempt to restore some of the details lost in statistical summaries, allowing men and women to tell about their personal experiences. Telling these stories separate from the text was an alternative to presenting information about gender and highlighting the relevance of research fi ndings with vivid detail. Some of the stories are funny, showing a light-hearted approach to dealing with the frustrations and annoyances of discrimination and gender bias. Some of the stories are sad, revealing experiences of sexual harassment, violence, and abuse. All of the stories are real accounts, not fi ctional tales constructed as good examples. When the stories are based on published sources, I name the people presenting their experience. For other stories, I have chosen not to name those involved to protect their privacy. I listened to my friends and students talk about gender issues and wrote down what they told me, trying to report what they said in their own words. I hope that these stories give a different perspective and add a sense of gendered experience to the volume of research reported here.


Long before I thought of writing a book about gender, I noticed the popularity of the topic in the media. Not only are the sexes the topic of many private and public debates, but gender differences are also the topic of many newspaper, magazine, and television stories, ranging

xviii Preface

from sitcoms to scientifi c reporting. I had read warnings about the media’s tendencies to oversimplify research fi ndings and to “punch up” the fi ndings to make the story grab people’s attention. I wanted to examine the research on gender to try to understand what the research says, with all of its complexities, and to present the media version along with an analysis of the research fi ndings.

Of particular concern to me was the tendency of the media and of people who hear reports of gender research to seek (or assume) a biological basis for the behavioral differences between the sexes, as though evidence of biologically based differences would be more “real” than any other type of evidence. The division of the biological realm from the behavioral realm is a false dichotomy; the two are intertwined and mutually infl uence each other. Even genes can be altered by environment, and experiences can produce changes in behavior as permanent as any produced by physiology. Many people hold the view that biological dif- ferences are real and permanent, whereas experience and culture produce only transient and changeable effects. This view is incorrect.

The tendency to seek a biological explanation is strong and appealing to many. As Naomi Weisstein (1982) said, “Biology has always been used as a curse against women” (p. 41), which has led many scholars to minimize the focus on biology. However, this book exam- ines biological evidence in some detail because I want to present and evaluate this research rather than ignore it. I want readers to question the extent to which the biological “curse” should apply.

To further highlight the popular conceptualizations of gender, I decided to use headlines from newspapers and popular magazines as a way to illustrate how the media represent gender. Some of the headline stories are examples of responsible journalism that seeks to present research in a way that is easy to understand, whereas other headline stories are more sensational or simplifi ed.

The sensationalism occurs because such stories get attention, but the stories distort research fi ndings and perpetuate stereotypical thinking about the sexes. I believe that Beryl Lieff Benderly (1989), a science reporter, was correct when she warned about media sensational- ism of gender research by writing the headline “Don’t believe everything you read” (p. 67).

According to the Media and According to the Research

In addition to gender in the headlines, I have included two boxed features called “Accord- ing to the Media” and “According to the Research” that concentrate on gender portrayals in the media. According to the Media boxes examine how gender is portrayed in the various media—magazines, television, movies, video games, Internet sources, cartoons, and fi ction. The corresponding According to the Research boxes provide research fi ndings as a more systematic counterpoint to the media topics. The contrast of these two presentations pro- vides an opportunity to examine gender bias and stereotyping in the media. I hope these features lead students to question and think critically about the accuracy and fairness of the thousands of gendered images that they experience through the media.

Considering Diversity

The history of psychology is not fi lled with a concern for diversity or an emphasis on diver- sity issues, but these topics are of increasing interest and concern within psychology. Indeed, gender research is one of the major contributors to the growing diversity in psychology. In addition, cross-cultural research has fl ourished and continues to expand in countries around the world. This research has begun to provide a more comprehensive picture of psychological issues in contexts beyond ethnic groups within the United States.

Preface xix

To highlight this developing research and tie it to gender issues, this edition of Gender: Psychological Perspectives includes a section in most chapters called “Considering Diversity,” which focuses on diversity research. Although diversity issues enter the text at many other points in the book, the creation of a section to highlight diversity ensures attention to these important issues. In some chapters, the research is suffi ciently developed to present a cross- cultural review of the topic, but for other topics, cross-cultural research remains sparse, so those diversity sections present a specialized topic that relates to the chapter.


Barnett, Rosalind; & Rivers, Caryl. (2004). Same difference: How gender myths are hurting our relationships, our children, and our jobs . New York: Basic Books.

Benderly, Beryl Lieff. (1989, November). Don’t believe everything you read: A case study of sex-difference research turned a small fi nding into a major media fl ap. Psychology Today, 67–69.

Cherland, Meredith. (2008). Harry’s girls: Harry Potter and the discourse of gender. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52 (4), 273–282.

Connell, R. W. (2005). Change among the gatekeepers: Men, masculinities, and gender equality in the global arena. Signs, 30 , 1801–1825.

Hyde, Janet Shibley. (2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60 , 581–592. Hyde, Janet Shibley; & Kling, Kristen C. (2001). Women, motivation, and achievement. Psychology of Women

Quarterly, 25 , 364–378. Kidder, Louise. (1994, August). All pores open . Paper presented at the 102nd annual convention of the American

Psychological Association, Los Angeles, CA. Weisstein, Naomi. (1982, November). Tired of arguing about biological inferiority? Ms., 41–46, 85. West, Candace; & Zimmerman, Don H. (1987). Doing gender. Gender and Society, 1 , 125–151.

At the completion of any book, authors have many people to thank, and I am no exception. Without the assistance, support, and encouragement of many people, I never could have written this book, much less completed six editions. I thank all of them, but several people deserve special mention. My colleagues in the psychology department at McNeese State University were supportive and helpful. Dena Matzenbacher, Denise Arellano, Cameron Melville, Carl Bartling, Charlotte Carp, Tracy Lepper, and Patrick Moreno offered their expertise and assistance.

Husbands often deserve special thanks, and mine is no exception. My husband, Barry Humphus, did a great deal to hold my life together while I was researching and writing: He bailed me out of tech trouble repeatedly and rendered charts and graphs for many of the fi gures that appear in this edition of the book. I would not have attempted (much less completed) this book without him.

I would like to thank the people who told me their personal stories for the Gendered Voices feature of the book, many of whom have been my students at McNeese. To respect their privacy I will not name them, with one exception. Melinda Schaefer deserves special thanks because her story was so good that hearing it made me realize that I wanted to include others’ stories. Without her story, and Louise Kidder’s (1994) presentation, I would not have realized how important these accounts are.

The people at Taylor and Francis have been helpful and supportive. My editor Debra Rieg- ert and her associate Rachel Severinovsky have smoothed the transition to and supported my efforts in revising and completing the manuscript.

I would also like to thank reviewers who read parts of the manuscript and offered helpful suggestions, especially Carol Tavris, who advised me about how to use one of her excel- lent quotations and Florence Denmark, who took the time and careful attention to offer a review. I am honored. I am also grateful to past reviewers Maggie Felton, University of Southern Indiana; Heather Hill, University of Texas at San Antonio; Mary Losch, Univer- sity of Northern Iowa; Elizabeth Ossoff, Saint Anselm College; and Karen Prager, the Uni- versity of Texas at Dallas. Thanks also for the suggestions from Luciane A. Berg, Southern Utah University; Christina Byme, Western Washington University; Linda Heath, Loyola University–Chicago; Marcela Raffaelli, University of Nebraska; and Stephanie Riger, Uni- versity of Illinois–Chicago.


Linda Brannon earned two degrees from the University of Texas at Austin: a B.A. degree in Psychology and a Ph.D. in the area of human experimental psychology. After completing her doctorate, she joined the Department of Psychology faculty at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She stayed at MSU, attaining the rank of Professor of Psychology.

As a female psychologist in the era when they were rare, she developed an interest in gender issues. That interest led fi rst to research, then to this textbook and a Psychology of Gender course, which she has taught for over a decade. She has also coauthored texts in the area of introductory psychology and health psychology and teaches both these courses. Her honors include the 1998 MSU Alumni Association’s Distinguished Professor Award. In addition to teaching and research, she acts as Program Coordinator for McNeese’s Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, mentors students in MSU’s Psi Chi chapter, and maintains her status as licensed psychologist in the state of Louisiana.

About the Author

Headline: “The End of Men,” Atlantic Monthly , July/August, 2010

According to Hanna Rosin (2010), boys and men are losing out to girls and women; the male advantage is declining. For example, in 2010 women became the majority of the workforce in the United States. More boys than girls fail to graduate from high school; women receive the majority of college degrees. These days, about half of doctorates in medicine and law go to women. Many wives earn higher salaries than their husbands do. Rosin pointed out that in modern societies, strength is not the important factor that it was throughout most of history. Instead, intelligence is important, and women and men are equally intelligent. In addition, women have better communication skills and a greater willingness to undergo the schooling that has become so critical for economic success. Rosin proposed that economic and societal forces have changed women’s roles to—and sometimes beyond—the point of equality: “For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point?” (Rosin, 2010, p. 56).

Is it possible that women will become dominant? Anthropologist Melvin Konner (2015) argued that they will; the end of male supremacy is near. Konner’s reasoning is similar to followers of evolutionary psychology who contend that women and men have evolved in different ways that furnish modern humans with “hard-wired” gender differences. Both take an essentialist view , which contends that some “essence,” or underlying biological component, makes men and women different. The evolutionary psychology view (Buss & Schmitt, 2011) holds that evolutionary pressures have shaped women to prioritize their role in raising children, whereas men must gather resources to attract women. These differences in priorities have created modern men who are forceful and dominant and modern women who focus on childbearing and child care.

According to most people’s views of the relationship between biology and behavior, bio- logical differences determine behavior. Therefore, if the differences between women and men are biological, those differences are perceived as fi xed and invariant (Keller, 2005). Recent changes in society should make little difference in women’s and men’s basic natures. Konner argued that the situation of boys and men losing out to girls and women is part of the recent changes in society: The evolved tendencies that have made women more cooperative, caring, practical, and patient have made them better adapted than men in modern society. This twist on an essentialist view of gender differences is not likely to calm the debate about gender.

Confl icts and questions about the roles of women and men occur in debates about gender: Which is more important, nature (biology) or nurture (culture and society)? What types of differences exist? What is the basis for these differences? What is the extent of these differ- ences? A switch from male dominance to equality or female dominance seems inconsistent with an evolutionary view but also with many people’s views: Women and men are born with biological differences that dictate the basis for different traits and behaviors. Indeed, they are

The Study of Gender 1

2 The Study of Gender

so different that women are the “opposite sex,” suggesting that whatever men are, women are at the other end of the spectrum. Those who hold this view fi nd the differences obvi- ous and important. Those who emphasize social and economic factors as the driving forces in behavior see the possibility that roles are fl exible. Drawing from research in psychology, sociology, biology, and anthropology, the differences between women and men seem to be a complex puzzle with many pieces (Eagly & Wood, 2013).

The battle lines have been drawn between two camps, both of which look to volumes of research for support for their view and see supporting evidence for their different views. Some people at some times have believed that differences between males and females are few, whereas others have believed that the two are virtually different species. These two posi- tions can be described as the minimalist view and the maximalist view (Epstein, 1988). The minimalists perceive few important differences between women and men, whereas the maximalists believe that the two have large, fundamental differences. Many maximalists also hold an essentialist view, believing that the large differences between women and men are part of their essential biological natures. Although these views have varied over time, today both the maximalist and the minimalist views have vocal supporters. Table 1.1 summarizes the most prominent version of these two positions and the intersection between these views and the essentialist view.

This lack of agreement coupled with commitment to a position suggests controversy, which is almost too polite a term for these disagreements. Few topics are as fi lled with emotion as discussions of the sexes and their capabilities. These arguments occur in places as diverse as playgrounds and scientifi c laboratories. The questions are similar, regardless of the setting: Who is smarter, faster, healthier, sexier, more capable, and more emotional? Who makes better physicians, engineers, typists, managers, politicians, artists, teachers, parents, and friends? Who is more likely to go crazy, go to jail, commit suicide, have a traffi c accident, tell lies, gossip, and commit murder? The full range of human possibilities seems to be grounds for discussion, but the issues are unquestionably important. No matter what the conclusions, at least of half the human population (and most probably all of it) is affected. Therefore, not only are questions about the sexes interesting, but also the answers are important to individuals and to society. Later chapters explore the research concerning abilities and behaviors, and an examination of this research allows an evaluation of these questions.

Answers to these important questions about differences between women and men are not lacking. Almost everyone has answers—but not the same answers. It is easy to see how people might hold varying opinions about a controversial issue, but some consistency should exist among fi ndings from researchers who have studied men and women. Scientists should be able to investigate the sexes and provide evidence concerning these important questions. Researchers have pursued these questions, obtained results, and published thousands of

Table 1.1 The Maximalist and Minimalist Views of Gender Differences

Position View of Differences between the Sexes

Differences Created through How Strongly Essentialist?

Maximalist Differences are large and important

Evolutionary history and sex hormones


Minimalist Differences are small with few large enough to be important

Stereotyping and different treatment for males and females

Not Strongly

The Study of Gender 3

papers. There is no shortage of investigations—or publicity—about the sexes. Unfortunately, researchers are subject to the same problems as everyone else: They do not all agree on what the results mean—or even what they are.

In addition, many research fi ndings on men and women are not consistent with popular opinion, suggesting that popular opinion may be an exaggeration or distortion, most likely based on people’s personal experiences rather than on research. Both the past and the present are fi lled with examples that exaggerate differences between women and men.

People have a tendency to think in terms of opposites when considering only two exam- ples, as with the sexes (Fausto-Sterling, 2000; Tavris, 1992). If three sexes existed, people might not have the tendency to draw comparisons of such extremes. They might be able to see the similarities as well as the differences in men and women; they might be able to approach the questions with more fl exibility in their thinking. The sexual world may not actually be polarized into only two categories (as Chapter 4 explores this in more detail), but people do tend to see it that way. This perception of only two sexes infl uences people to think of the two sexes as polar opposites. To maintain these oppositional categories, people must exaggerate the differences between women and men, which results in stereotypes that do not correspond to real people (Bem, 1993b). Although these stereotypes are not realistic, they are powerful because they affect how women and men think about themselves and how they think about the “opposite” sex.

History of the Study of Sex Differences in Psychology

Speculations about the differences between men and women probably predate history, but these issues were not part of the investigations of early psychology. Indeed, questions about sex differences were not part of early psychology. Questions in early psychology were guided by its founder, Wilhelm Wundt, and revolved around the nature of human thought processes (Schultz & Schultz, 2012). Wundt wanted to establish a natural sci- ence of the mind through experimentation; he established a laboratory at the University of Leipzig in Germany in 1879 (although this date is subject to some controversy). Students fl ocked to Wundt’s lab to study the new psychology. Using chemistry as the model, they devised a psychology based on an analytical understanding of the structure of the conscious mind. This approach to psychology became known as the structuralist school of psychology.

The structuralists were interested in investigating the “generalized adult mind” (Shields, 1975a), and therefore any individual differences, including differences between the minds of women and men, were of no concern to these early psychologists. This inattention to sex differences did not mean equal treatment of women and men by these early psycholo- gists. The generalized adult mind on which psychology’s early fi ndings were based was a generalization drawn from data collected from and by men. Indeed, women were expressly prohibited from one of the early groups of experimental psychologists in the United States (Schultz & Schultz, 2012).

Some scholars from the United States went to Germany to study with Wundt and brought psychology back. Despite their training in Germany, many found the views of German psy- chology too limiting and impractical. As psychology grew in the United States, it developed a more practical nature. This change is usually described as an evolution to functional- ism , a school of psychology that emphasized how the mind functions rather than its struc- ture (Schultz & Schultz, 2012). As psychologists with a functionalist orientation started to research and theorize, they drew a wider variety of subjects into psychological research and theories, including children, women, and nonhuman animals.

4 The Study of Gender

The Study of Individual Differences

Among the areas of interest in functionalist psychology were the issues of adaptability and intelligence. These interests prompted the development of intelligence testing and the com- parison of individual differences in mental abilities and personality traits, including sex dif- ferences. The functionalists, infl uenced by Darwin and the theory of evolution, tended to look for biologically determined differences, including a biological basis for sex differences. Although female psychologists pointed out the effects of social infl uence on women’s and men’s behaviors, functionalist psychologists were hesitant to acknowledge any possibility of social infl uence in the sex differences they found (Milar, 2000).

The studies and writings of functionalists of this era tended to demonstrate that women were less intelligent than men, benefi ted less from education, had strong maternal instincts, and were unlikely to produce examples of success or eminence. Women were not the only group deemed inferior; people who were not white were also considered less intelligent and less capable.

Findings of the intellectual defi ciencies of women did not go uncriticized. As early as 1910, Helen Thompson Woolley contended that the research on sex differences was full of the researchers’ personal bias, prejudice, and sentiment (Shields, 1975a), and Leta Stet- ter Hollingworth took a stand against the functionalist view of women (Shields, 1975b). These female psychologists argued against the prevailing view. Hollingworth contended that women’s potential would never be known until women had the opportunity to choose the lives they would like—career, maternity, or both.

The functionalist view began to wane in the 1920s, and a new school of psychology, behaviorism , gained prominence. The behaviorists emphasized observable behavior rather than thought processes or instincts as the subject matter of psychology. The behaviorist view of psychology was consistent with the prevailing style of masculinity during the early 20th century—tough-minded and combative (Minton, 2000). With the change from a functionalist to a behaviorist paradigm in U.S. psychology, the interest in research on sex differences sharply decreased. “The functionalists, because of their emphasis on ‘nature,’ were predictably indifferent to the study of social sex roles and cultural concepts of masculine and feminine. The behaviorists, despite their emphasis on ‘nurture,’ were slow to recognize those same social forces” (Shields, 1975a, p. 751). Rather, behaviorists were interested in the areas of learning and memory, concentrating on studies with rats as subjects.

In addition, research on learning ignored social factors, including sex roles and sex dif- ferences. In ignoring gender, psychologists created “womanless” psychology (Crawford & Marecek, 1989), an approach that either failed to include women as participants or failed to examine gender-related factors when both men and women participated in psychological research. Until the 1970s, psychology was overwhelmingly male. As Rhoda Unger (1983– 1984) commented about her education in psychology, “Even the rats were male” (p. 227).

When behaviorism dominated psychology, the only theorists who unquestionably had an interest in sex differences were those with a psychodynamic orientation—the Freudians.


Both Freud’s psychodynamic theory of personality development and his psychoanalytic approach to treatment appear in more detail in Chapter 5 . However, the history of psy- chology’s involvement in issues of sex and gender necessitates a brief description of Freud’s personality theory and his approach to treatment.

Although Sigmund Freud’s work did not originate within psychology, the two are popu- larly associated. And unquestionably, Freud’s work and Freudian theory concerning person- ality differences between women and men have infl uenced both psychology and society in general. These infl uences have made the work of Freud very important for understanding how theorists within psychology conceptualized sex and gender.

The Study of Gender 5

In the United States, Freud’s work began to gain popular attention in 1909, when Freud came to the United States to give a series of invited lectures at Clark University (Schultz & Schultz, 2012). Immediately after his visit, newspapers started carrying features about Freud and his theory. By 1920, interest in Freudian theory and analysis was evident both in books and in articles in popular magazines. Psychoanalysis gained popular interest, becoming almost a fad. Indeed, popular acceptance of Freud’s work preceded its acceptance by academicians.

Freud emphasized the role of instinct and physiology in personality formation, hypoth- esizing that instincts provide the basic energy for personality and that the child’s perception of anatomical differences between boys and girls is a pivotal event in personality formation. Rather than rely on genetic or hormonal explanations for sex differences in personality, Freud looked to early childhood experiences within the family to explain how physiology interacts with experience to infl uence personality development.

For Freud (1925/1989), the perception of anatomical differences between boys and girls was a critical event. The knowledge that boys and men have penises and girls and women do not forms the basis for personality differences between boys and girls. The results of this perception lead to confl ict in the family, including sexual attraction to the other-sex parent and hostility for the same-sex parent. These incestuous desires cannot persist, and Freud hypothesized that the resolution of these confl icts comes through identifi cation with the same-sex parent. However, Freud believed that boys experience more confl ict and trauma during this early development than girls, leading boys to a more complete rejection of their mother and a more complete identifi cation with their father. Consequently, Freud (1925/1989) hypothesized that men typically form a stronger conscience and sense of social values than women do.

Did Freud mean that girls and women were defi cient in moral standards compared to men? Did he view women as incomplete (and less admirable) people? It is probably impossible to know what Freud thought and felt, and his writings are suffi ciently varied to lead to contra- dictory interpretations. Thus the question of Freud’s view of women has been hotly debated. Some authors have criticized Freud for supporting a male-oriented society and the enslave- ment of women, whereas others have defended Freud and his work as applied to women. In defense of Freud (Tavris & Wade, 1984), his view of women was not suffi ciently negative to prevent him from accepting them as colleagues during a time when women were not wel- come in many professions. In addition, he encouraged his daughter, Anna, to pursue a career in psychoanalysis. Freud’s writings, however, reveal that he held many negative views about women and seemed to feel that they were inferior to men, both intellectually and morally.

Regardless of Freud’s personal beliefs, the popular interpretation of his theory repre- sented women as inferior to men—less ethical, more concerned with personal appearance, more self-contemptuous, and jealous of men’s accomplishments (and also, literally, of their penises). Accepting the feminine role would always mean settling for inferior status and opportunities, and women who were not able to reconcile themselves to this status were candidates for therapy because they had not accepted their femininity.

Freud’s theory also held stringent and infl exible standards for the development of mascu- linity. For boys to develop normally, they must experience severe anxiety during early child- hood and develop hatred for their father. This trauma should lead a boy to identify with his father out of fear and to experience the advantages of the male role through becoming like him. Boys who do not make a suffi ciently complete break with their mothers are not likely to become fully masculine but to remain somewhat feminine, thus experiencing the problems that society accords to nonmasculine men.

The psychoanalytic view of femininity and masculinity has been enormously infl uential in Western society. Although not immediately accepted in academic departments, the psycho- analytic view of personality and psychopathology was gradually integrated into the research and training of psychologists. Although the theory has prompted continuing controversy,

6 The Study of Gender

interest continues in the form of both attacks and defenses. This continuing stream of books and articles speaks to the power of Freud’s theory to capture attention and imagination. Despite limited research support, Freudian theory has been and remains a force in concep- tions of sex and gender.

In summary, psychological research that includes women dates back to the early 20th century and the functionalist school of psychology, but this approach emphasized sex differences and searched for the factors that distinguish men and women. When the behaviorist school domi- nated academic psychology, its lack of interest in sex differences created a virtually “woman- less” psychology. During that same time, Freudian psychoanalysts held strong views on the sexes, but this theory proposed that women are physically and morally inferior to men. This belief in the innate inferiority of women infl uenced research on women. Table 1.2 summarizes psychological theories and their approaches to gender. In contrast to these male-dominated theories, some investigators emphasize the study of women.

The Development of Women’s Studies Women’s studies came about as a result of political, social, and intellectual developments that began in the 18th century and continue in the present (Sommers, 2008). Those develop- ments have affected psychology and have changed society and people’s daily lives.

The History of Feminist Movements

The feminist movement of the 1960s prompted the development of women’s studies (Freed- man, 2002). This version of feminism is referred to as the second wave of feminism. The fi rst wave of feminism began with the campaign for changes in women’s roles and legal status, focusing on voting rights for women, the availability of birth control, and other legal changes to improve women’s social and economic status (Sommers, 2008). That movement experi- enced some success—for example, women gained the right to vote in many countries—but other legal changes did not occur.

The feminist movement of the 1960s grew out of the U.S. civil rights movement and brought about some of the changes that earlier feminist movements had sought (Nachescu, 2009). One of the most prominent changes was women’s entry into the workforce in record numbers in many industrialized countries. Both professional and working-class women experienced situa- tions of discrimination that led many to work toward legal and social changes for women. These goals fi t the defi nition of liberal (or equal rights) feminism and included people who wanted to end discrimination based on sex and extend equal rights to women (Freedman, 2002).

Table 1.2 Role of Gender in Psychological Theories throughout the History of Psychology

Theory Emphasis of Theory Role of Gender

Structuralism Understanding the structure of the human mind

Minimal—all minds are equivalent

Functionalism Understanding the function of the mind

Sex differences are one type of individual difference

Behaviorism Studying behavior in a scientifi c way

Minimal—behavior varies with individual experience

Psychoanalysis Studying normal and abnormal personality development and functioning

Biological sex differences and their recognition are motivating forces

The Study of Gender 7

Some feminists believed that calling for an end to discrimination was not suffi cient; equal- ity for women required more drastic changes in society. These radical feminists believed that women have been oppressed by men and that this oppression has served as a model for racial and class oppression (Nachescu, 2009). According to radical feminists, the entire social system requires major change to end the subservient role that women occupy. Both liberal and radi- cal feminism call for political activism designed to bring about changes in laws and in society.

In the 1960s and 1970s, women entered colleges and universities in increasing numbers. These scholars pursued their interest by focusing on topics related to women, which resulted in the development of courses and curricula devoted to women’s studies as an academic discipline. This emphasis was often compatible with another variety of feminism, cultural feminism , which also advocates social change. Inspired by Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice (1982), cultural feminists advocate moving toward an acceptance and appreciation of traditionally feminine values. Cultural feminists believe that, were women in charge, many of the world’s problems would disappear, because women’s values of caring and relationships would eliminate them.

Radical and cultural feminists have received more publicity than other types of feminism, creating an inaccurate image of and a backlash against feminism (see According to the Media and According to the Research). Feminists were cast as loud, pushy, man-hating, unattractive women who always seemed unsatisfi ed, even with the changes that had offered them the opportunities they sought. This image led to many women’s reluctance to identify with feminism, and media sources proclaimed that feminism was dying (Hall & Rodri- guez, 2003). Feminist values did not disappear; indeed, women and men continued to

Photo 1.1 The fi rst women’s movement pushed for voting rights for women.

8 The Study of Gender

endorse equal right and opportunities, but fewer identifi ed as feminists. This development began the third wave of feminism, often called postfeminism. Underlying this concept is the notion that feminism is not necessary because the goals of second wave feminism have been accomplished. Many dispute this notion, but it remains a common belief. Table 1.3 summarizes the three waves of feminism.

Table 1.3 Waves of Feminism

Wave of Feminism Time Frame Dominant Theme Goals

First Wave Mid-1800s–Early 1900s

Suffrage Movement Women deserve legal rights Voting rights and access to birth control for women

Second Wave 1960s–1980s

Liberal/Equal Rights Women deserve equal legal rights

Equal access to education, workplace, and political careers

Radical Male dominance has oppressed women

Overthrow male oppression

Cultural Women’s values are different and deserve respect

Acceptance and appreciation of women and female values

Third Wave 1990s–present

Postfeminism Feminism is no longer necessary

Women have achieved equal treatment and opportunities

According to the Media . . . Feminists Are Bra-Burning Man-Haters The media image of a feminist is a radical, man-hating woman who is uninterested in attracting (or unable to attract) men. This description is remarkably consistent throughout the United States, reported Courtney Martin (2007), who attributed this consistency to “media manufactured myths.”

The image of feminists as “bra burners” originated with one of the prominent events in the second wave of feminism: the protest at the 1968 Miss America pageant (Kreydatus, 2008). A group of feminist women organized a protest of the beauty pageant, arguing that its emphasis on a specifi c standard of beauty was degrading to women. Heavy media coverage accompanied these protests, and one reporter used the term “bra burner” to describe these feminists. The description stuck.

The media have focused on radical feminists, probably because these femi- nists provide better stories. As feminism grew, the medial labels became even more uncomplimentary, including the term “feminazi,” popularized by Rush Limbaugh (MediaMatters for America, 2005). The focus on radicalism and the uncompliment- ary media terms helped to promote feminists as radical, bra-burning man-haters.

Television and movies have portrayed that image and other variations of feminism in ways that belittle, satirize, or dilute feminism. The PowerPuff Girls (1998–2005) portrayed kindergarten female superheroes, but the show’s worst villain, Femme Fatale, called herself a feminist. Recent televisions shows, such as 30 Rock , Scandal , and Homeland , feature leading female characters that display a mixture of intelligence and competence but also stereotypically poor judgment problems concerning men. These female characters do not match the radical feminist stereotypes, but they dilute their strong female characters to make their strength more acceptable.

The Study of Gender 9

According to the Research . . . Feminists Are Neither of the Above

According to research conducted with feminist women, they fail to match any of the stereotypes promoted in the media. An examination of the events of the protest during the 1968 Miss American pageant failed to show any burned bras (Kreydatus, 2008). A “freedom trash can” was part of the protest, and the protesters threw in objects they associated with “female garbage,” such as bras, girdles, false eyelashes, and steno pads, but they did not set the objects on fi re. The bra burning was symbolic, not literal, but the image persisted.

The notion that feminists hate men is also a widespread belief, but little research has investigated and none has supported this stereotype. One study assessed wom- en’s feminism and then tested their attitudes toward men (Anderson, Kanner, & Elsayegh, 2009). The results indicated the opposite of the stereotype: Feminists had lower levels of hostility toward men than women who did not identify themselves as feminists.

Some feminist scholars (Barakso & Schaffner, 2006) have contended that the media focus on the more extreme issues and members of feminist groups, which has created the image of Limbaugh’s “feminazis” but fails to capture the women or the issues of feminism. As feminist Courtney Martin (2007) said, “Feminism in its most glorious, transformative, inclusive sense, is not about man-hating” but about educated choices for men as well as for women, genuine equality, and a vision of gender roles that allow individuals to become their most authentic selves. This image lacks the controversy and varies from the media stereotype of feminists.

Sex or Gender?

With the growing interest in women’s issues came concerns about how to phrase the questions researchers asked. Those researchers who have concentrated on the differences between men and women historically have used the term sex differences to describe their work. In some investigations, these differences were the main emphasis of the study, but for many more studies, such comparisons were of secondary importance (Unger, 1979). By measuring and analyzing differences between male and female par- ticipants, researchers have produced a huge body of information on these differences and similarities, but this information was not of primary importance to most of these researchers.

When differences between women and men began to be the focus of research, contro- versy arose over terminology. Some researchers objected to the term sex differences , con- tending that any differences trace back to biology (McHugh, Koeske, & Frieze, 1986). Critics also objected that the term has been used too extensively and with too many mean- ings, including chromosomal confi guration, reproductive physiology, secondary sex char- acteristics, as well as behaviors or characteristics associated with women or men (Unger, 1979). Rhoda Unger proposed an alternative—the term gender . She explained that this term describes the traits and behaviors that are regarded by the culture as appropriate to women and men. Gender is thus a social label and not a description of biology. This label includes the characteristics that the culture ascribes to each sex and the sex-related char- acteristics that individuals assign to themselves. Carolyn Sherif (1982) proposed a similar defi nition of gender as “a scheme for social categorization of individuals” (p. 376). Both Unger and Sherif recognized the socially created differentiations that have arisen from the

10 The Study of Gender

biological differences associated with sex, and both have proposed that use of the term gender should provide a useful distinction.

Unger suggested that use of the term gender might reduce the assumed parallels between biological and psychological sex, or at least make those assumptions explicit. That attempt to draw distinctions between the concepts of sex and gender has not been entirely success- ful. Some researchers use the two terms interchangeably, whereas others have substituted the term gender for the term sex but still fail to make any distinction (Pryzgoda & Chrisler, 2000). Others choose the terminology that refl ects their point of view—those who use the term gender often intend to emphasize the social nature of differences between women and men, whereas those who use the term sex mean to imply biological differences. Thus researchers who are biological essentialists use the term sex to refer to all differences between men and women, whereas those who use the term gender want to emphasize the social nature of such differences.

Women in Psychology

The history of studying gender in psychology is lengthy, including the individual differ- ences approach and psychoanalysis. However, women were rarely prominent psychologists. Women were admitted as students in doctoral programs from the early years of psychology, but they had a diffi cult time fi nding positions as psychologists, especially in academic set- tings. In 1941, a group of female psychologists formed the National Council of Women Psychologists to further the work of female psychologists in the war effort (Walsh, 1985). In 1944, this group became the International Council of Women Psychologists, and despite attempts to become a division of the American Psychological Association (APA), they expe- rienced repeated rejections.

The dramatic increase of women attending college in the 1960s affected psychology, and the new area of women’s studies changed the discipline. Infl uenced by feminist scholars and their own research priorities, women expanded the earlier area of gender-related behaviors and individual differences to create a new psychology of women and gender (Marecek, Kimmel, Crawford, & Hare-Mustin, 2003; Walsh, 1985).

In 1968, psychologist Naomi Weisstein presented a paper that infl uenced a generation of psychologists, “‘Kinde, Küche, Kirche’ as Scientifi c Law: Psychology Constructs the Female.” In this paper, Weisstein (1970) argued that psychological research had revealed almost nothing about women because the biases, wishes, and fantasies of the male psy- chologists who conducted the research contaminated the results. Although the criticism was aimed mostly at clinical psychology and the Freudian approach to therapy, Weisstein also charged research psychologists with fi nding only what they wanted and expected to fi nd about women rather than researching women as they were. She wrote: “Present psy- chology is less than worthless in contributing to a vision which could truly liberate—men as well as women” (p. 231).

Weisstein’s accusations came at a time when the feminist movement in society and a growing number of women in psychology wanted a more prominent place for women in the fi eld and sought to create feminist-oriented research. Weisstein made the point that psycho- logical research had neglected to take into account the context of behavior, without which psychologists could understand neither women nor people in general. This criticism seems to have contained a great deal of foresight (Bem, 1993a); psychological research on women began to change in that specifi c way. “During the 1970s psychological researchers made an important discovery: humans are gendered beings whose lives and experiences are (most

The Study of Gender 11

likely) infl uenced by their gender” (Smiler, 2004, p. 15). Psychologists held no monopoly on women’s studies. Sociologists, anthropologists, ethnologists, and biologists also became involved in questions about biological and behavioral differences and similarities between the sexes (Schiebinger, 1999).

The struggle for professional acceptance is clear in the history of the formation in the APA of a division devoted to women’s issues, which did not occur until 1973. Division 35, Society for the Psychology of Women, can be directly traced to the Association for Women in Psychology, a group that demonstrated against sex discrimination and advocated for an increase in feminist psychological research at the 1969 and 1970 APA national conventions (Walsh, 1985). Unlike the earlier International Council, Division 35 goals included not only the promotion of women in psychology, but also the advancement of research on women and issues related to gender. The great volume of psychological research on sex and gender that has appeared in the past 35 years is consistent with the Division 35 goal of expanding the study of women and encouraging the integration of that research with current psycho- logical thinking. Indeed, Division 35 members have conducted much of that research, but other disciplines have also contributed substantially. The current plethora of research on sex and gender comes from investigations in biology, medicine, sociology, communication, and anthropology, as well as psychology.

In summary, the feminist movement of the 1960s prompted a different type of research, producing results that questioned the stereotypes and assumptions about innate differences between the sexes. Not only did this research begin to examine sex differences and similari- ties, but these researchers also expanded ways to study women and men. This more recent orientation has led to voluminous research in the fi eld of psychology, as well as in sociology, anthropology, communication studies, literary analysis, art, and biology.

The feminist movement questioned the roles and stereotypes for women, and soon the questioning spread to men, who began to examine how the infl exibility of gender stereotypes might harm them, too.

Gendered Voices: I’m Not a Feminist, But. . . .

Women (and a few men) utter the phrase, “I’m not a feminist, but. . . .” usually followed by a statement that is clearly feminist. This unwillingness to identify with the women’s movement highlights the emergence of a new F-word shocking polite company: feminism (Penny, 2013). Even women and men who espouse feminist values seem to feel obligated to distance themselves from the label.

One example of that reluctance came from Katie Perry, who said “I’m not a femi- nist, but I do believe in the strength of women” when she received the 2012 Billboard Woman of the Year award (Jezebel, 2012). Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said that she would not consider herself a feminist because that term seems very negative (Mandell, 2013), but she also said “I certainly believe in equal rights. I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so, in a lot of different dimensions.” Beyoncé Knowles is another accomplished woman who was not anxious to be identified as a feminist; the word feminism seems extreme to her, too (Ellison, 2013). But she finally conceded: “But I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality.” This is one of the basic definitions of feminism.

12 The Study of Gender

The Appearance of the Men’s Movement

The men’s movement mirrors the women’s movement, beginning during the 19th-century women’s suffrage movement. During that time, the women’s suffrage movement was not the only challenge to society’s roles for men and women. Men felt increasing threats to their mascu- linity by the change from agricultural to industrial society, by women entering the workforce, and by increasing demands for education, which seemed dominated by women (Minton, 2000).

The contemporary women’s movement has also questioned and challenged men concern- ing the status quo of legal, social, and personal roles and relationships. Although some men have failed to see the problem, other men from around the world have begun to consider how these challenges pertain to their lives, too. R. W. Connell (2001) argued that societal roles constrain men, too, giving men a reason to seek change: “The gender positions that society constructs for men may not correspond exactly with what men actually are, or desire to be, or what they actually do. It is therefore necessary to study masculinity as well as men” (p. 44). Connell (2005, 2012) continued to study masculinity and began to emphasize the necessity of men’s participation in reforming gender roles, contending that: “Moving toward a gender-equal society involves profound institutional change as well as change in everyday life and personal conduct. To move far in this direction requires widespread social support, including signifi cant support from men and boys” (2005, p. 1801).

Feminist men formed groups equivalent to the consciousness-raising groups common in the women’s movement (Baumli & Williamson, 1997). Although group members discussed their common problems and sought support from each other, their activities usually did not progress to the larger organizations that sought political power, as the women’s groups had done. They tended to remain small and local, but a few grew into national organizations.

During the 1970s, men who were interested in furthering feminist goals joined the National Organization for Women and proclaimed themselves to be feminists. During the 1980s, mas- culinity and the problems of men became a focus, and other profeminist men’s organizations arose. The National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) is a profeminist men’s organization that also works to obliterate racism and prejudice against gay men. This type of concern with masculinity and exploring positive options has spread to countries around the world, including Australia, Sweden, Japan, Latin America, and the Caribbean (Connell, 2012).

Within psychology, the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity suc- ceeded in gaining divisional status in 1995, becoming Division 51 of the APA. The goals of this division include (1) promoting the study of how gender roles shape and constrict men’s lives, (2) helping men to experience their full human potential, and (3) eroding the defi nition of masculinity that has inhibited men’s development and has contributed to the oppression of others.

Another approach to men’s groups appears in national groups that are not interested in feminist goals; indeed, some of these men are interested in restoring the traditional gender roles that they believe have been destroyed by the women’s movement. These men argue that men—not women—are the oppressed sex. One such group is the National Coalition for Men (NCFM, formerly the National Coalition of Free Men), a group that opposes sexism but sees feminist groups as sexist. The men in NCFM (Baumli & Williamson, 1997) have argued that sexism oppresses men more than women.

Some men’s rights groups are organized around specifi c issues, such as changing divorce laws or promoting joint child custody (Baumli & Williamson, 1997). Many of these men see women’s rights groups as enemies because women’s groups tend to oppose joint custody and no-fault divorce laws. Few in the men’s movement actively promote a return of “the good old days” and a reversal of the changes brought about by the women’s movement. Many participants in men’s groups would like to see a less sharply gendered society, in which both women and men have choices not bound by gender stereotypes. The changes that would

The Study of Gender 13

fulfi ll these goals differ among men, and both antifeminist and profeminist men consider themselves part of the men’s movement (Strapagiel, 2013).

Yet another variation of the men’s movement came from men trying to fi nd a masculine identity that differs from traditional masculinity. Early proponents of this view included authors such as Robert Bly (1990) and Sam Keen (1991), who contend that modern society has left men with no easy way to form a masculine identity. The culture provides inappropri- ate models, and fathers are often absent, providing no model at all. This defi cit produces men who are inappropriately aggressive and poorly fi tted to live in society, to form relationships with women, and to be adequate fathers. The straight edge (sXe) is a more recent movement with similar views. Most of those in this movement are young, single, White men who fol- low punk rock music but reject the drug use, violence, and sexual exploitation common in that (and in mainstream) culture (Haenfl er, 2004). These men are committed to creating an alternative masculinity that is more compassionate and accepting: This version of the men’s movement has spread worldwide.

Two versions of the men’s movement gained and then lost popularity: Promise Keep- ers and the Good Men Movement. The Promise Keepers arose during the 1990s as part of neoconservative evangelical Christianity. Their vision of masculinity was one of godly manhood in which men should reclaim their position as head of the family, living up to their roles as providers and protectors (Bartkowski, 2000; Messner, 1997; Newton, 2004). Promise Keepers was also the model for the development of a Catholic men’s movement (Gelfer, 2008). Studies of men who have participated in Promise Keepers (Newton, 2004; Silverstein, Auerbach, Grieco, & Dunk, 1999) revealed that this movement supports men who attempt to become more nurturant, involved fathers. Promise Keepers sponsored rallies that fi lled football stadiums in the 1990s, but fi nancial and leadership problems caused a loss in popularity (Fowler, 2009).

Gendered Voices: When I Look in the Mirror

“When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, what do you see?” a Black woman asked a White woman (Kimmel & Messner, 1992, p. 2).

“I see a woman,” said the White woman. “That’s precisely the issue,” the Black woman replied. “I see a Black woman. For me, race

is visible every day, because it is how I am not privileged in this culture. Race is invisible to you, which is why our alliance will always seem somewhat false to me” (p. 2).

This exchange surprised Michael Kimmel, who examined his own thoughts and realized that when he looked into the mirror, he “saw a human being: universally generalizable. The generic person” (p. 2). Just as the White woman did not see her ethnicity, the White man saw neither his gender nor his ethnic background. His privileged status as White and male had made him blind to these factors. He did not think of himself as White or male but as a generic human. The White woman saw femaleness—the characteristic that prompted discrimination against her. The Black woman saw both her skin color and her gender when she looked into the mirror—both had been salient in her life.

As Michael Kimmel and Michael Messner (1992, pp. 2–3) summarized these experiences: “The mechanisms that afford us privilege are very often invisible to us. . . . [M]en often think of themselves as genderless, as if gender did not matter in the daily experiences of our lives. Certainly, we can see the biological sex of individuals, but we rarely understand the ways in which gender—that complex of social meanings that is attached to biological sex—is enacted in our daily lives.”

14 The Study of Gender

Tom Matlack originated The Good Men Project in 2009 with the publication of a book of essays and a documentary fi lm, both of which explored possibilities for modern masculinity (Good Men Project, 2013). The organization founded an online magazine in 2010, allow- ing men to publish their stories. The Project gained popularity, garnered praise, and then encountered controversy over the increasingly antifeminist tone of some stories, including those from Matlack (Schwyzer, 2011), which ultimately resulted in Matlack’s resignation.

The men’s movement exists in many versions with diverse views and goals, and the men in these various groups do not necessarily know much about the others or endorse their views (Ford, 2004; Newton, 2004). Thus, the men’s movement lacks cohesion. “Mascu- linities, it appears, are far from settled. From bodybuilders in the gym, to managers in the boardroom, to boys in the elementary school playground, a great deal of effort goes into the making of conventional masculinities” (Connell, 2001, p. 50). Although some men are questioning this process, none of the versions of the men’s movement has yet exerted the impact of the women’s movement in infl uencing public opinion and changing social policy. Table 1.4 lists some important events in both women’s and men’s movements and when each event occurred.

Table 1.4 Important Events in the Women’s and Men’s Movements

Women’s Movement Men’s Movement

First women’s rights convention, Seneca Falls, New York


1870 15th Amendment to U.S. Constitution gives African American men the right to vote

19th Amendment to U.S. Constitution gives women the right to vote


National Council of Women Psychologists 1941

Simon de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex published 1952

Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique published 1963

The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex

1964 1964 The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex

National Organization for Women formed 1966

Association for Women in Psychology demonstrates against sexism at APA convention


APA Division 35 formed 1973

First World Conference on Women, Mexico City 1975

United Nations Decade for Women 1976– 1985

1983 National Organization for Changing Men Founded

1990 Robert Bly’s Iron John published

Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, including Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

1995 1995 APA Division 51 formed

1995 Million Man March, Washington, DC

1997 Promise Keepers rally, Washington, DC

United Nations 10-year review, Beijing Platform for Action


The Study of Gender 15

Considering Diversity Lack of diversity was the problem that sparked women to protest their exclusion in psychol- ogy (and in society). That lack of diversity allowed men to be used as the standard (Bem, 1993b; Yoder & Kahn, 1993), which makes women appear defi cient when they differ from that standard. Sandra Bem (1993b) referred to this as an androcentric bias , contending that this bias has permeated not only psychology and its research but also society in general. Whenever research fi nds a gender difference, that fi nding is interpreted as a disadvantage for women.

A similar concern applies to research focusing on women from various ethnic groups (Yoder & Kahn, 1993). White, privileged women have constituted the standard for research with women, and when women from other ethnic groups are included, they are compared to White, usually middle-class, college-educated women. In such a comparison, the dominant group tends to consider its own experience as the standard, and differences can be interpreted as defi ciencies (Unger, 1995). That type of thoughtless bias occurred during the second wave of feminism in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s and produced a rift that has not yet closed.

In the United States, women of color have a long history of oppression and discrimina- tion, but they did not participate in the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s in the same ways that White women did. Instead, they focused on the ways that they experienced oppression and found routes to organize into groups and promote change.

Many African American women have focused their efforts on racial rather than sexual discrimination (Cole & Guy-Sheftall, 2003). When African American women addressed issues of sexism within their communities, these women were often considered disloyal to the struggle against racism for bringing up gender issues. These criticisms did not stop African American women from opposing sexism and founding several feminist organizations during the 1960s and 1970s, including the Black Women’s Liberation Caucus, the Third World Women’s Alliance, and the National Black Feminist Organization (Cole & Guy-Sheftall, 2003).

African American women were not the only ones who faced intersecting sources of dis- crimination. Latina, Asian, and Native American women also formed groups that opposed racism and sexism, creating what Becky Thompson (2002) called multiracial feminism ; she described these interactions:

As the straight Black women interacted with the Black lesbians, the fi rst-generation Chinese women talked with the Native American activists, and the Latina women talked with the Black and white women about the walls that go up when people cannot speak Spanish, white women attempting to understand race knew they had a lot of listening to do. They also had a lot of truth telling to reckon with, and a lot of networking to do, among other white women and with women of color as well.

(p. 343)

The interactions were not always as productive as Thompson described. Women of color often failed to fi nd feminist group compatible with their priorities, which focused on racism and sexism, but in that order. Whitney Peoples (2008, p. 35) explained this point of view: “Feminists of color in the contemporary moment fi nd mainstream social, political and eco- nomic landscape has not rid itself of racism, neither has feminism.” The women who found feminism unwelcoming did not abandon the values of feminism; rather, they adapted them to meet their goals. Peoples described a version of feminism she calls hip-hop feminism , which draws from the energy of hip-hop culture to lead young women to a critical analysis of the

16 The Study of Gender

sexism and racism that continues in U.S. society. Peoples argued that, through this analysis, women can be empowered.

Latina women in the United States were an important part of the civil rights movement for Hispanics, which began during the 1960s. Organized as part of that movement, the fi rst National Chicana Conference took place in 1971, but almost half of the 600 who attended walked out because they objected to the focus of the conference, which was on gender issues rather than racism (Flores, 2008). This situation is similar to that of African Ameri- can women, who also experienced confl icts over which source of discrimination was more important. This confl ict kept many Latinas from allying themselves with feminist groups and labeling themselves as feminists.

The confl ict that Latina women faced is rooted in their culture and religion. Motherhood, sacrifi ce to family, and subservience to men are idealized values in Hispanic culture; women become targets of criticism if they espouse feminist values that would allow them to estab- lish equal power with husbands, live independent of men, and limit the number of children they bear (Rodríguez, 2008). The critics held that women who wanted such changes had abandoned their culture; they were no longer really Latinas. Thus, Latina women have faced challenges in identifying as feminist but have often redefi ned their roles and behavior in ways that are compatible with the defi nition of feminism. In the United States and throughout Latin America, women’s groups are often oriented to access to family planning services, pre- venting domestic violence, increasing educational opportunities, and creating opportunities for women to gain economic power (Espino, 2007).

Native American women have also felt misgivings about the feminist movement for some of the same reasons as Latina women (Smith, 2005). Their objections to racism and their history of treatment by Whites were important to them, but so too were their experiences of sexism and violence from men. They faced criticism from men for speaking out about sexism. Thus, some Native American women avoided the term feminist , whereas others expe- rienced no problems in accepting the term. Regardless of their terminology, many Native American women have organized into groups that have feminist goals, which often revolve around prevention of domestic violence and child welfare, making them similar to the goals of many women’s groups.

Asian American women have also experienced diffi culties in identifying themselves as feminists. Some of their reasons are similar to those of Latina and Native American women, such as the criticism of becoming too “American” and rejecting their heritage (Perez, 2003). Asian American women also experienced stereotyping that applies to their ethnicity as well as to their gender. The passivity and eroticism associated with this stereotype affects Asian American women’s activism and leadership (Kawahara, Esnil, & Hsu, 2007), but violence against women has furnished an issue around which to organize, and Asian American women have become leaders in those organizations.

Asian American women have found it easier to identify themselves with feminists than women in Asia, where politics, religion, and culture form barriers to women’s political par- ticipation, economic independence, and physical safety (Stewart, Lal, & McGuire, 2011; Xu, 2009) and where feminism is a volatile topic (Niranjana, 2010). In modern India, women’s movements range in social class and scope, including local-level organizations to fi ght against caste-based discrimination and sexual violence, national-level organizations striving to elect more women to parliament, and organizations with international affi liations (Subramaniam, 2004). Despite the legal guarantee of equal rights in modern China, long- standing discrimination against women has been diffi cult to erase (Angeloff & Lieber, 2012). Initiatives over the past two decades have emphasized women’s rights, but controversy exists throughout the movement, including over the word to use to identify as a feminist (Stewart et al., 2011). Some Islamic feminists have argued that the Quran was originally interpreted

The Study of Gender 17

to allow women more equal rights (Coleman, 2011), but the growth of women’s rights has been slow in Muslim countries. However, Muslim women who have immigrated to Europe, Canada, and the United States are more openly feminist and have the goal of integrating their heritage with equality for women.

Feminism in the United States been guilty of exclusion based on race and social class, and the reluctance of women of color to identify themselves with White feminists was a result. Feminists within psychology were also guilty of ignoring these factors, but diversity became a goal within psychology (Stewart et al., 2011; Yoder & Kahn, 1993). Scholars used the same critical thinking that had led them to analyze the male bias in psychology to examine the biases within the psychology of women. As Nancy Felipe Russo (1998, p. ii) explained, “Feminist psychology is now beyond simply critiquing yesterday’s fi ndings. The challenge now is to build a knowledge base of theories, concepts, and methods to examine women’s lives in all of their diversity.” With the recognition that cross-cultural comparisons add to the study of women and gender, feminist psychologists value an inclusive psychology. Thus, diversity was not something that came quickly to the women’s movement or to psychology, but it is now a major focus for both.

The history of the men’s movement is shorter than that of the women’s movement (see Table 1.4 ), and the timing of that movement infl uenced its composition. Early men’s groups mostly tended to include privileged White men, but the Million Man March drew African American men together, and gay men continue to be active in pressing for changes in laws and social attitudes.

The men’s movement is less united than the women’s movement, encompassing more divergent perspectives. For example, the men’s movement is composed of both men who are antifeminist and those who are profeminist. Groups that aim to redefi ne masculinity often seek to promote changes in society to make it more inclusive. However, among antifeminist, conservative men’s groups, diversity is not a goal and racism may be a theme. Groups that promote a return to traditional masculinity do not strive to include diverse ethnicities, social classes, and sexual orientations among their members. Therefore, although the men’s move- ment has a history that refl ects more diversity than the women’s movement, some factions of the men’s movement reject goals of diversity.


Typically, the fi rst thing that parents learn about their child is the child’s sex, which high- lights the importance of sex and gender. Beliefs about gender differences are common, but opinions vary, with some people believing in minimal differences and others holding that the differences are maximal and part of essential biological differences.

Within psychology, gender research can be traced to the functionalist school that was infl uential during the late 1800s. This school held that men and women differ in ability and personality (a view that received criticism at that time). Interest in sex differences (and other individual differences) faded when the behaviorist school dominated psychology, but that interest persisted in psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysts held that differences in anatomy produce personality differences in women and men, with women being inferior in a number of important ways. The feminist movement of the 1960s produced a resurgence of interest among psychologists concerning questions about gender, and research tended to question stereotypes about the sexes.

The traditional terminology—namely, the use of the term sex differences— has been criti- cized. By proposing use of the term gender, psychologists have tried to clarify the difference between socially determined and biologically determined differences. However, both terms continue in use, and the proposed distinction between sex differences, meaning biological

18 The Study of Gender

differences, and gender differences, meaning socially determined differences, has not yet come into consistent use.

Ethnic and economic diversity was not a focus during the early years of the women’s movement, which led women of color to experience diffi culties in labeling themselves as feminists but not in forming groups oriented toward positive change for women. The men’s movement has always been diverse, but some factions of the men’s movement object to gays, profeminists, and various ethnic groups. Therefore, diversity remains an issue in both women’s and men’s movements.


behaviorism the school of psychology that emphasizes the importance of observable behavior as the subject matter of psychology and discounts the utility of unobserv- able mental events.

essentialist view the view that gender differences are biologically determined. functionalism a school of psychology arising in the United States in the late 1800s that

attempted to understand how the mind functions. Functionalists held a practical, applied orientation, including an interest in mental abilities and in gender differences in those abilities.

gender the term used by some researchers to describe the traits and behaviors that are regarded by the culture as appropriate to men and women.

maximalist view the view that many important differences exist between the sexes. minimalist view the view that few important differences exist between the sexes. sex differences the term used by some researchers (and considered to be inclusive by others)

to describe the differences between male and female research participants. structuralist a school of psychology arising in Europe in the 1880s that attempted to under-

stand the workings of the conscious mind by dividing the mind into component parts and analyzing the structure of the mind.

Suggested Readings

Bem, Sandra Lipsitz. (1993). The lenses of gender. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Bem contends that gender provides a lens, and people view the world through this lens, often failing to notice

the distortions it produces. She discusses three such distorting lenses of gender: androcentrism, gender polariza- tion, and biological essentialism. Bem argues that viewing the world through these lenses provides the basis (and biases) for organizing gender knowledge.

Connell, R. W. (2005). Change among the gatekeepers: Men, masculinities, and gender equality in the global arena. Signs, 30 , 1801–1825. Connell points out that societal changes toward equality of women and men will require men’s participation,

because men control the resources and institutions that must change for equality to occur.

Marecek, Jeanne; Kimmel, Ellen B.; Crawford, Mary; & Hare-Mustin, Rachel T. (2003). Psychology of women and gender. In Donald K. Freedheim (Ed.), Handbook of psychology: History of psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 249–268). New York: Wiley. This article explores the history of women in psychology by tracing the impact of female psychologists,

examining the contributions of feminist clinicians, and presenting the organizations through which women have infl uenced the profession of psychology.

Shields, Stephanie A. (1975). Functionalism, Darwinism, and the psychology of women: A study in social myth. American Psychologist, 30, 739–754. This lively article details the history of early psychologists’ research on gender differences, with all the biases


The Study of Gender 19

Suggested Websites

The American Psychological Association’s webpage makes a good starting place to explore gender issues in psy- chology. Examine the homepages for both Division 35, Society for the Psychology of Women (http://www.apa. org/about/division/div35) and Division 51, Society for the Study of Men and Masculinity ( about/division/div51.aspx) to understand the mission of these divisions, their current activities, and how to join as well as links to other sites.

Many other organizations have homepages fi lled with information. The National Organization for Women maintains an extensive website (, and the National Organization of Men against Sexism (www. also has a good website.


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movement, 1969–2004. Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 11 (4), 22–44. Bartkowski, John P. (2000). Breaking walls, raising fences: Masculinity, intimacy, and accountability among the

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Headline: “Does Gender Matter?” Nature, July 13, 2006

During the time Lawrence Summers was the president of Harvard University, he made remarks contending that women’s progress in scientifi c careers has been slow because women may lack the talent to succeed in science and engineering. His remarks were incendiary, causing a fi restorm of protest (as well as voices of support). The suggestion that women’s lack of intrinsic ability is to blame for their underrepresentation in science and engineering shows the tendency to resort to biological essentialism to explain gender differences. Indeed, Summers mentioned social factors and discrimination as less important than intrinsic abil- ity for success in academic science careers (“Remarks at NBER,” 2005). This tendency to focus on innate differences and to downplay social factors is one way that people maintain stereotypes and prejudice (Keller, 2005). Neuroscientist Ben Barres (2006) responded to Summers’s remarks by questioning if a scientist’s gender matters.

Barres (2006) contended that discrimination is widespread in science, but neither men nor women want to believe that the practice is common. People prefer to believe that evaluations are unbiased and that success is based on merit. Barres’s contentions of discrimination come from his unique point of view as a scientist—he was born female, trained in neuroscience and began an academic career when he was a woman, underwent the process of changing his sex to male, and continued his career in neuroscience as a man. His experience included many instances of discrimination during his years as a woman in science. For example, he heard one of his colleagues (who was unaware of his surgery) comment “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but then his work is much better than his sister’s” (in Barres, 2006, p. 134).

Barres became suspicious of the claims of innate superiority from those who were advan- taged by such claims. Instead, he argued that the evidence does not indicate innate superi- ority of any group in science. The arguments by Barres, Summers, and others represent a recent episode in the ongoing controversy of women’s place in science, but the controversies in science go even deeper. For the past several decades, there has been a “science war” that has debated the basic conceptions of science and its continued value in the modern world (Gould, 2000). Feminist scholars have been part of that debate, and gender has been one of its major topics. To understand this current battle and its impact on gender research, we must fi rst understand the background of science and some of the procedures and limitations in its methods.

How Science Developed

Modern science arose in the 16th and 17th centuries and came to prominence during the 19th century, bringing about radical changes in ways of knowing and understanding the world (Caplan & Caplan, 2016; Komath, 2008). Instead of looking to religion and the Bible

Researching Sex and Gender 2

Researching Sex and Gender 23

for knowledge and wisdom, science looked to knowledge gathered through observation. This view represented a radical departure from traditional thought. This new scientifi c view assumed that the world works by a set of natural laws and that these laws can be discovered by careful, objective investigation (Dear, 2005).

The methods of science depended on empirical observation , gathering information through evidence from the senses, and objectivity , the notion that the observation is free of bias by the observer. Critics have argued that science has fallen short of this ideal, suggest- ing that the required level of objectivity may not be possible (Cosgrove & McHugh, 2008). Scientists work to avoid bringing their personal views and biases into their research, but this goal is diffi cult to attain. Many fail, which keeps their studies from being objective.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, science proliferated in Europe and spread through- out the Western world. Research in chemistry, physics, biology, and medicine created new products, medicines, and industries. This proliferation of science was related to the social and political context of Europe, but the development of technology based on science was an important factor in the adoption of the scientifi c method by other cultures (Komath, 2008). The social sciences of psychology, sociology, and anthropology developed as part of the growing enthusiasm for science. These social sciences used the natural sciences as models, adopting the same assumptions and methods.

What is necessary to conduct scientifi c research? What makes scientifi c investigation dif- ferent from other ways of gaining knowledge? What techniques do scientists use to accom- plish these goals, and what are the limitations for each? The following sections explore these questions, with an emphasis on the social sciences, and then examine the critiques of science that have led to the current “science wars.”

Photo 2.1 Increasing girls’ participation in science is a fi rst step toward increasing the number of female scientists.

24 Researching Sex and Gender

Approaches to Research

The major approaches to research consist of quantitative and qualitative methods. The tra- ditional methods fall into the quantitative approach, which follows the empiricist principles based on observation and quantitative data collection. The procedure of quantifi cation includes turning observations into numbers, referred to as quantitative research . Numbers form the data for quantitative research. Data are not the same as the observed phenomenon, but rather are representations of some facet of the phenomenon the researcher considered important. For example, a researcher interested in attitudes toward gay men might ask people to rate their feelings about gay men based on a description of characteristics and behaviors furnished by the researcher. These ratings might range from very negative to very positive on a 7-point scale. Thus, the data for this study would be numbers obtained from each participant’s rating, and each number would represent a participant’s attitude in this research study. Quantitative researchers usually analyze their studies by performing statistical analyses of their data.

Some scholars believe that quantitative research fails to capture important aspects of the situations under study; that is, something is lost in the process of turning observations into numbers. These researchers choose qualitative research , which focuses on understanding the complexity of the situation rather than trying to reduce the situation to numbers. In addi- tion to a different philosophy of research, qualitative studies include some different methods.

Any particular research question may be approached using a number of different meth- ods, and each has advantages and disadvantages. Thus, researchers must not only choose a quantitative or qualitative approach but also examine their research question and decide which method is appropriate.

Quantitative Research Methods

The method of collecting information is critically important in science. By following spe- cifi c rules, researchers collect information that meets the requirements of science. Scientifi c information must be observable not only to the researcher but also to others; that is, it must be observable by anyone. This requirement is intended to minimize bias and lead to some level of objectivity.

Another rule of gathering information in science requires systematic observation; scientists must follow some plan or system to gather information. Everyone makes observations, but most people in most circumstances do so in a personal, nonsystematic way, which can lead people to notice certain things while ignoring others. This selective perception may result in distortion and bias. Scientists strive to be systematic in their observations in order to gather information that more accurately refl ects the situations they have observed. This procedure does not mean that scientists are free of personal biases; as humans, they are subject to the same perceptual distortions (and even biases) as other humans. Although they cannot avoid personal opinions, scientists are supposed to strive to treat information fairly (Gould, 2000; Mahoney, 2003). Working with observable information and adopting a systematic plan to gather data are strategies to help researchers minimize bias.

The use of numbers in quantitative research has led to an erroneous impression about science—namely, that science is precise. People tend to believe that numbers lend precision, when actually numbers are only one way to summarize certain characteristics of a situation. The process of quantifi cation does not make science precise; it really does the opposite, omitting some aspects of the situation and concentrating on only one.

For example, a researcher who is interested in investigating campus attitudes toward gay, lesbian, and bisexual students might choose to study how such students rate their college

Researching Sex and Gender 25

campus. The researcher might ask students to rate their progress toward a degree, how their instructors interact with them, how they are treated in the dorms, whether they have ever been threatened by other students, and other such questions. The data might consist of rating each question on a scale ranging from 1 to 7; these numerical ratings would be the data. The researcher can analyze these numbers to determine the results of the study, but the process of turning people’s attitudes and experiences into numbers loses many details of their feelings and experiences.

An additional narrowing of the observations in science comes from the specifi cation of a variable or several variables in research studies. A variable is the factor of interest in a research study. The term comes from the notion that the factor varies or potentially has more than one value (as opposed to a constant, which has only one value). Most things vary, so fi nding a variable of interest is not nearly as diffi cult as restricting a study to only a few variables. For example, variables include family income, level of anxiety, number of hours of practice, gender of participants, and so forth. Studies typically include only a few variables, and this restriction limits what researchers know about a situation. Researchers often use an operational defi nition , which is a defi nition of a variable in terms of the operations used to obtain data on that variable rather than in terms of the concepts underlying the variable. Operational defi nitions are one method that researchers use to be more specifi c about the variables they study. An operational defi nition provides instructions about how to measure the variables in quantitative studies.

Quantitative research can be divided into two types: descriptive and experimental. Each approach has advantages and limitations that the other does not. Descriptive research methods help investigators answer “what” questions. That is, descriptive research can tell what types of things exist, including great detail about those things and even the extent of relationships among various things. Experimental research is highly prized because a care- fully conducted experiment allows researchers to draw conclusions about cause-and-effect relationships. This type of information is diffi cult to obtain through any other method, and psychology researchers conduct experimental studies if they can do so (Wertz, 2011). How- ever, this method has requirements that make it impossible to use in all research situations.

Experimental Designs

To obtain information about cause and effect, researchers do experiments . This type of design allows researchers to answer “why” questions—questions with answers that involve explana- tions rather than descriptions. An experiment involves the manipulation of one factor, called the independent variable (IV) , and the measurement of another factor, called the dependent variable (DV) , while attempting to hold all other factors constant. The researcher is trying to determine if manipulating the IV will produce a change in the value of the DV.

Although the logic of experimental design is simple, creating conditions to effectively manipulate one factor while holding all other factors constant is far from simple. Such a situation would be almost impossible in a naturalistic setting, because any one change would result in many others. Therefore, almost all experiments take place in laboratories. These settings offer the possibility of the necessary control, but they open experiments to the criti- cism of artifi ciality. This situation limits the extent to which researchers can generalize their results to other situations. The artifi ciality of the situation and its limitations in generalizing results to other situations are drawbacks of the experimental method.

Despite some disadvantages, researchers favor experiments because, when carefully designed and conducted, this method allows conclusions to be made concerning causality. Researchers prize this type of information, leading scientists to choose experiments if practi- cal and ethical considerations allow them to do so.

26 Researching Sex and Gender

Ex Post Facto Studies

Researchers cannot always perform experiments because, for either practical or ethical rea- sons, some variables of interest are beyond possible manipulation. For example, researchers might want to know about the effect of biological sex on speed at solving math problems. To do an experiment, researchers would be required to select a group of people and manipu- late biological sex as the independent variable. Obviously, this research is impossible or at least impractical and certainly unethical. However, the question that prompted it—Does sex infl uence the speed of solving math problems?—is still of interest. Sexual orientation is similar; it is a variable of interest, but researchers cannot manipulate sexual orientation by assigning people to groups and changing their sexual orientation.

A strategy for conducting this research is the ex post facto study (or natural experiment) . In this type of study, researchers would select a group of men and contrast their performance with a group of women. Both groups would participate in the math test. Therefore, biological sex would be the subject variable (or participant variable )—the characteristic of interest in the participants—and the speed of solving the math problems would be the dependent variable.

Such an ex post facto study would not be a true experiment, because the researchers did not (1) create the difference in biological sex while (2) holding all other factors constant. Instead, the researchers entered the picture after the difference in participants existed. With no opportunity for precision in creating the values of the independent variable or in holding other factors constant, the ex post facto study lacks the controls of an experiment that would allow researchers to draw conclusions about cause-and-effect relationships (Christensen, Johnson, & Turner, 2014).

Ex post facto studies and experiments involve a contrast of two or more groups and measurement of a dependent variable. These similarities can lead to misinterpretations of these studies and incorrect attributions of causality. Researchers are usually careful to use the correct language to interpret their fi ndings from ex post facto studies, but people who read the research may not be appropriately cautious, leading to misunderstandings of research fi ndings from ex post facto studies.

Biological sex, gender, and sexual orientation of participants are all subject variables, characteristics of the participants that exist prior to their taking part in a study. These char- acteristics can be the basis for division of participants into contrasting groups, but they can- not be independent variables. The ex post facto design has a long history in psychology and has constituted the traditional approach to gender research. In 1974 psychologists Eleanor Maccoby and Carol Nagy Jacklin published The Psychology of Sex Differences, a comprehen- sive review of research-based psychological fi ndings about gender-related differences. These authors collected more than 2,000 studies in which gender was a subject variable, and they organized the fi ndings around different topics, such as aggression and verbal ability. Mac- coby and Jacklin then evaluated the fi ndings for each topic, determining how many studies failed to fi nd a difference, how many studies supported a difference, and the direction of the differences for those comparisons that showed differences. Maccoby and Jacklin’s book was soon accepted as a classic in this type of research review.

Studies with gender as a subject variable remain a common choice in researching gender and sexual orientation, but it is important to keep in mind that the thousands of studies with gender as a subject variable are also ex post facto studies. Thus, all of the limitations of this method apply to those studies. That is, these studies do not and cannot reveal that biological sex, gender, or sexual orientation causes differences in any behavior. This caution is diffi cult for many people to keep in mind, and those who are not familiar with research methods have a tendency to believe that gender-related differences in behavior have biological sex as the underlying cause (Keller, 2005). This reasoning contains two errors: (1) incorrectly

Researching Sex and Gender 27

attributing causality to a research method that cannot demonstrate cause-and-effect rela- tionships and (2) reducing the many variables that coexist with biological sex to the subject variable gender. Therefore, an erroneous interpretation of such studies can lead people to conclusions for which there is no research evidence.

Figure 2.1 illustrates some of the differences between experimental and ex post facto designs, using sexual orientation as an example. In the experimental design, researchers often randomly divide the participants into groups in order to keep individual differences equal among the groups. Random assignment would be very unlikely to yield groups based on sexual orientation. The ex post facto design, on the other hand, assigns participants to groups on the basis of some factor that the participants already possess, such as sexual orientation or gender. This research design is the most common approach in the study of gender-related differences and similarities.

Gender can be an independent variable in an experiment if the researcher manipulates gen- der in a description of some target person whom the participants rate, evaluate, or react to. This approach makes gender a social category rather than a characteristic of an individual. Therefore, experimental designs can study gender as a social category to which participants react but not as a characteristic of participants. These experimental and ex post facto approaches are not equivalent, and each yields information that requires careful interpretation of fi ndings.

Unlike experimental and ex post facto studies, other types of quantitative research do not concentrate on comparisons and differences. Instead, these methods focus on describ- ing characteristics or attitudes of participants, determining the relationship (correlation) between variables, and other descriptions of variables. These variables may include gen- der, sexual orientation, or many others; these methods fi t within the category of descriptive research . Surveys and correlational studies are examples of such descriptive methods.


In a survey , researchers construct questions, choose a group of people to respond to the questions, collect the data, and analyze the data to yield results. This method sounds decep- tively simple; almost anyone can think of questions to ask. However, the method is fi lled

Figure 2.1 Two Designs with Sexual Orientation as a Variable

28 Researching Sex and Gender

with choices and pitfalls. For example, researchers using this method must decide about the wording of questions (e.g., “Do you agree . . .” versus “Do you disagree . . .”), the answer format (respondents give answers in their own words versus respondents choose from a set of answers), the appearance of the questionnaire (number of pages, size of type, page layout), the choice of participants (representative of the entire population versus a select group, such as fi rst-time parents or gay men), the number of people needed (what number will give a good estimate for accuracy), and the method of administration (face-to-face interview, tele- phone interview, mailed questionnaire, or Internet posting). Unwise choices on any of these decisions may result in a survey that does not allow the researcher to answer the question that prompted the research or, worse, may give the researcher an answer that is misleading.

The main limitation of surveys is inherent in the method: Surveys pose questions rather than make direct measurements. That is, surveys rely on self-reports rather than direct obser- vations of behavior, which requires participants to be both honest when they are asked about their attitudes and opinions and to have a good memory when they are asked to report on past behavior. Both tasks may present problem: People may lie, withhold the truth, or sim- ply not know or remember the information. In addition, participants’ beliefs about social standards and their tendency to present themselves in a favorable way are biases that can invalidate a question or even an entire survey. The topics that gender researchers investigate are especially prone to this problem. Despite the wide variety of information that can be obtained through the survey method, that information is limited not only by its descriptive nature but also by its potential inaccuracy.

Despite the disadvantages, surveys offer the advantages of allowing researchers to ask peo- ple about things that the researchers could not easily (or possibly ethically) observe directly. Thus, the method is fl exible and useful in a variety of situations. Surveys are very commonly used for measuring people’s attitudes. Psychologists, sociologists, market researchers, and political pollsters all use this method to help decide how people feel about a wide variety of issues.

Correlational Studies

If researchers want to know about the relationship between two specifi c variables rather than information about several variables, they may conduct a correlational study , another type of descriptive method. Correlational studies allow researchers to determine both the strength and types of relationships between the variables under study.

To conduct a correlational study, researchers must choose two variables, create an opera- tional defi nition of the variables, measure these variables, and then analyze the relation- ship between them. To perform the analysis of the data, researchers calculate a correlation coeffi cient. The results reveal the strength or magnitude of the relationship between two variables, expressed with a number that varies between +1.00 and −1.00. Correlations that are close to +1.00 indicate a strong positive relationship, which means that as scores on one variable increase, those on the other also increase. Correlations that are close to −1.00 indicate a strong negative relationship, which means that as one measurement increases, the other decreases. Correlations that are close to 0.00 indicate little or no relationship between the two variables.

Like other descriptive methods, correlational studies do not reveal why the relationship exists. However, making such deductions may be very tempting. Indeed, a causal relation- ship may exist between two variables that have a high correlation, but the method does not allow that conclusion to be made. Even a high correlation would not allow a researcher to know the source of the relationship: Did changes in one variable produce changes in the other, or vice versa? Another possibility is that both variables may be causally related to a

Researching Sex and Gender 29

third variable that was not part of the study. A conclusion of causality is not legitimate on the basis of the evidence from a correlational study, but these studies allow researchers to describe the existence and strength of relationships.

In summary, different quantitative research methods yield different types of information. Experimental research allows researchers to explain why a relationship exists between inde- pendent variables and dependent variables because this method yields information about cause-and-effect relationships. The ex post facto study (or natural experiment) is similar to an experiment in the designation of variables (called subject or participant variables) and dependent variables, but these designs differ from true experiments in that they use the existing values of the subject variable rather than create the values of the independent vari- able through manipulation. Descriptive research methods include surveys and correlational studies. Such studies help to answer questions about what occurs; that is, they describe what exists but reveal no information about causality.

Qualitative Research Methods

Researchers who use qualitative methods often believe that the quantifi cation process removes important information from the research process. This belief leads qualitative researchers to collect different data and to resist reducing their data to numbers. The data for qualitative research are narratives, not numbers. Such researchers may collect extensive reports or inter- views, which they transcribe and attempt to organize and understand. This strategy makes statistical analysis diffi cult or impossible.

Qualitative researchers also reject the notion that they should be detached and impartial; instead, they accept the subjectivity of the research process and attempt to form coopera- tive relationships with those whom they study. By interacting with research participants as equals, they try to understand the meaning and context of the phenomena they study. Some researchers advocate an even more active role, striving to bring a voice to individuals and groups that have been pushed to the margins and striving to change social and political situations (Zavos & Biglia, 2009).

The methods of qualitative research are not necessarily different from those of quantitative research. That is, the methods themselves do not create qualitative or quantitative research; the key to the difference is the type of data collected. However, qualitative researchers tend to use a different selection of methods than quantitative researchers, including case studies, interviews, ethnography, and focus groups.

Case Studies

A case study is an intensive study of a case—that is, a single person or a small sample of people. Several different factors determine which case might be a good candidate for study. The person may be typical and thus refl ective of many other people, or the person may be unusual and thus of interest. The unusual cases are more common for case studies. Researchers conducting case studies often spend days or months interviewing or observing in order to write a case study.


Interviews can take many forms, but qualitative interviews differ from interviews con- ducted as part of survey research in both format and goals. Survey interviews are quantita- tive, including a uniform set of questions to which all respondents reply. The uniformity of responses allows statistical analysis, but such analysis is not the usual goal of qualitative

30 Researching Sex and Gender

interviews. These interviews can take the form of oral or life histories, or the interview may be oriented around a narrower topic.


Ethnography , one of the most common qualitative methods, has a long tradition in anthro- pology, in which qualitative research has been more common than in psychology. However, this method is compatible with research in psychology—observation and recording of behavior and events (Wertz, 2011). Researchers using this method spend time becoming immersed in the situation they are studying, which necessitates attention to context. For anthropologists, this situation is typically another culture; for psychologists and sociolo- gists, the situation may be a school, company, or hospital. By becoming part of the situa- tion, the researcher can gather and interpret information situated in the context in which it occurs.

Focus Groups

The focus group is another qualitative method that psychologists have borrowed; this method is more common in communications and marketing research than in psychology (Kleiber, 2004). A focus group is a discussion centered on a specifi c topic. The group can consist either of people brought together for the purpose of the discussion or of people who belong to some existing group, such as a family or sorority. Groups usually consist of six to eight people, but are rarely more than 12. Focus groups are similar to interviews in terms of the questions and topics that can be explored. However, this method allows group members to interact with each other as well as with the researcher, making the focus group more similar to naturally occurring situations than the interview method is (Wilkinson, 1999).

Table 2.1 presents both quantitative and qualitative research methods, along with advan- tages and limitations of each approach.

Table 2.1 Advantages and Limitations of Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods

Method Advantage Limitation

Quantitative Methods

Survey Examines a variety of topics without being intrusive

Relies on self-reports rather than direct observation of behavior

Correlational study

Allows determination of strength and direction of relationship between two variables

Cannot reveal any information about causality

Experiment Allows determination of cause-and-effect relationships

Conducted in laboratory situations that are artifi cial; can investigate only a few variables at a time

Qualitative Methods

Case study Reveals extensive information about one case Cannot be generalized to other cases

Interview Allows researchers to question participants extensively about a topic

Does not yield a standard set of answers; may include only a few participants

Ethnography Allows researchers to become immersed in a situation and to understand the contexts in which behavior occurs

Data collection is not systematic, which may lead to focusing on some and overlooking other information

Focus group Allows extensive exploration of a topic as well as observation of the interaction among group members

Does not yield a standard set of data, making the information diffi cult to analyze

Researching Sex and Gender 31

Researchers’ Choices The use of qualitative research methods expanded in anthropology and sociology to the point of being labeled a revolution (Wertz, 2011), but the fi eld of psychology has been less acceptant of qualitative methods. Within psychology, gender researchers have been more acceptant than some other fi elds, but these methods still constitute a minority of the research, even in the area of gender (Marchel & Owens, 2007). Researchers steeped in the quantitative tradition may fail to accept qualitative investigations as “legitimate” research (Weil, 2008). An analysis of two leading journals, Feminism & Psychology and Psychology of Women Quarterly , revealed that the interview method was the most com- mon qualitative approach (Wilkinson, 1999). It accounted for over 50% of the research articles in Feminism & Psychology but only 17% of research articles in Psychology of Women Quarterly. Other qualitative methods accounted for much lower percentages, and no other qualitative method represented more than 2% of the research studies in these journals. A more recent analysis (Marchel & Owens, 2007) reported increased use of qualitative methods over the past two decades in some psychology journals, especially those that focus on interdisciplinary areas in which qualitative research is more readily accepted. For example, qualitative methods now represent about 8% of the research published in the journal Sex Roles (Zosuls, Miller, Ruble, Martin, & Fabes, 2011). However, the majority of psychology research remains quantitative research—even those studies published in journals featuring feminist scholarship.

Qualitative research offers alternatives to traditional quantitative research methods in terms of philosophy and methods. A comparison of the two approaches appears in Table 2.2 . Qualitative researchers emphasize context and acknowledge that subjectivity is part of the research process; they become involved in the research situation, interact with participants in order to understand the patterns of their behavior, and sometimes endeavor to bring about change in the situations they research (Zavos & Biglia, 2009). Researchers who use these methods believe that this approach offers advantages over the traditional quantitative approach, and the rise of qualitative research has polarized the teaching of research methods (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003). Some researchers see no room for qualitative research (Capaldi & Proctor, 2005), whereas others (Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2005) have called for a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods as a pragmatic way to approach social science research.

Table 2.2 Comparison of Quantitative and Qualitative Research

Quantitative Researchers Qualitative Researchers

Often work in laboratories Rarely work in laboratories

Strive to detach themselves from the situation to attain objectivity

Immerse themselves in the situation and accept subjectivity as part of the process

Attempt to study a representative group of individuals to be able to generalize

May seek unusual individuals because they are interesting cases

Create a distinction between researchers and participants

Treat participants as equals

Collect data in the form of numbers Collect information that is not reduced to numbers

Attempt to control the infl uence of variables other than the independent variable(s)

Attempt to understand the complexity of the situation as it exists

Use statistics to analyze their data Do not use statistics to analyze their information

32 Researching Sex and Gender

Gender Bias in Research Despite the long history and success of science, some modern scholars have questioned its assumptions and procedures, starting what has become known as the “science wars” (Gould, 2000). One criticism is that science grew not only from the activities of men but also from a gendered, masculine bias that is inherently part of science. According to this view, this mas- culine bias affects our modern conception of science, including the thinking of the men and women who do scientifi c work. Harvard President Lawrence Summers expressed this bias when he suggested that women may be inherently less capable of being scientists than men are.

Another criticism of science contends that science is incapable of revealing an objec- tive picture of the natural world because objective reality does not exist. These critics are constructionists , who emphasize the subjective nature of all knowledge, including scien- tifi c knowledge. The constructionists argue that “we do not discover reality, we invent it” (Hare-Mustin & Marecek, 1988, p. 455). That is, science does not lead researchers to map a realistic picture of the world but to construct views of the world in ways that refl ect social and personal perceptions and biases. Scholars who take this view have cited the study of gender as a particularly good example of the distortions and misrepresentations of science.

Gendered Voices: My Trouble with Girls

At a conference for female scientists in Korea, biochemist Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt made a remark that made news around the world: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry” (in Thomason, 2015, p. 1). Reporting on this remark made headlines and started a social media backlash. Female scientists started a Twitter campaign (hashtag #distractinglysexy) that included sarcastic remarks and photos of them at work with decidedly unsexy outfi ts in unsexy situations. Hunt later claimed that his remarks were intended as a joke and that he had always been supportive of women in science; his remarks were taken the wrong way (Boyle, 2015). However, the controversy raged for months.

Sources of Bias

Bias can enter research at many levels, beginning with the very framework of science. The philosophers whose work spurred the founding of science were all men, and Evelyn Fox Keller (1985) argued that these philosophers introjected a masculine bias into the very conceptual foundation of science. She interpreted the emphasis on rationality and objectivity in science as masculine values, and she contrasted those masculine elements of science with the femi- nine elements of nature—feeling and subjectivity. Keller discussed what she interpreted as the gendering of science and nature: masculine for science and feminine for nature. Thus, even at its inception, science carried connotations of maleness, rationality, and dominance. According to Keller, not only have women been discouraged from the pursuit of science as a profession, but also the activity of science itself suggests masculinity (see According to the Media and According to the Research). The culture of science was and remains masculine (Schiebinger, 2007; Schiebinger & Schraudner, 2011), and female scientists cite this as more important than innate ability for women’s exclusion from science careers (van Anders, 2004).

Theories are another potential source of bias in science. The study of gender is full of examples in which speculations and theories have attained a status in which they are mistaken for results. Freud’s theory is probably the most prominent example, with its emphasis on the importance

Researching Sex and Gender 33

of biological sex differences in building personality. Research has not supported this theory (see Chapter 5 for more on Freud), and supporters of the theory speak with unearned authority.

Additional bias in research on gender (and many other topics) comes from the procedures involved in planning studies and evaluating results. Researchers’ values enter the research process as early as the planning stage of studies, infl uencing the choice of problem to inves- tigate and the choice of questions to ask (Harding & Norberg, 2005; Rolin, 2004). Publica- tions place too much emphasis on results and too little emphasis on the conceptualization of the questions underlying the research process, often ignoring the social and political aspects and implications of research (Harding, 2001; Harding & Norberg, 2005). The answers that researchers fi nd depend on the questions they ask; the planning and questioning aspects of the process are critically important, therefore, but often neglected.

When researchers formulate their studies, they ask questions and choose methods of gathering information that will allow them to answer their questions. Most researchers know what they expect to fi nd when they ask a question, so research is not free of the values and expectations of the scientists, even at this stage of the research (Cisneros-Puebla & Faux, 2008). In quantitative research, these expectations lead to the formulation of a hypothesis , a statement about the expected outcome of the study. Researchers test hypotheses by gather- ing data and analyzing them to obtain results. The researchers can then decide whether the results support or fail to support their hypothesis.

To evaluate the data collected from studies, quantitative researchers usually use statistical tests. Many different statistical tests exist, but all of those used to evaluate research data have a common goal—to allow the researcher to decide whether the results are statistically signifi cant. A statistically signifi cant result is one due to reasons other than chance alone. If the analysis indicates that the effects are statistically signifi cant, then the researchers can conclude that their results were not due to chance alone—that is, the study worked as hypothesized. If the analysis does not indicate a signifi cant effect, then the researchers cannot claim that their results are due to anything but chance, so the study did not work. Researcher bias may enter both at the stage of planning and at the point of data analysis. For example, an analysis of many studies on the topic of gender development (Tennenbaum & Leaper, 2002) revealed that studies with male fi rst authors showed larger gender differences than studies with female fi rst authors. In addi- tion, scientifi c training does not override this type of bias (Morton, Haslam, Postmes, & Ryan, 2006), which suggests that gender research is especially vulnerable to scientists’ personal biases.

Researchers are constrained from making claims about factors that do not produce signifi – cant results, because these results are not considered “real,” and researchers are not allowed to accept the validity of nonsignifi cant results. Although a statistically signifi cant result gives confi dence that the result is not due to chance, the term signifi cant may be misleading. People who are not sophisticated in the logic of statistical evaluation may believe that statistically signifi cant means important or large.

A large or important result is not only statistically signifi cant but also signifi cant in practi- cal terms. The concepts of statistical signifi cance and practical signifi cance are not the same. A result is statistically signifi cant when it is unlikely to have occurred solely on the basis of chance. A result has practical signifi cance when it is important to everyday life. For example, a low correlation can indicate a statistically signifi cant relationship if the number of people participating in the study was suffi ciently large (what constitutes a large sample varies with the design and statistic), but this signifi cant relationship does not indicate a strong relationship between the two variables in the correlation. That is, this correlation would have little practical signifi cance. Confusion between these two concepts can result: “Reasonable people who are repeatedly exposed to fi ndings reported as signifi cant mean differences or nonchance factors . . . sometimes begin to think and talk as if those differences were actually true in most individual cases” (Bernstein, 1999, p. x). Such misunderstandings can lead people to believe that results mean more than they actually do and apply to everyone when they actually do not.

34 Researching Sex and Gender

According to the Media . . . Scientists Are Men (or Act Like Men)

In the movies, scientists are most often male and are more often mad or bad than good. If they are good, they are generally bumbling incompetents. These depictions go back to the era of silent fi lm and continue to the present in movies and on television. “The movies have always been full of insane chemists, demonic doctors and obsessive inventors who, whether purposely or inadvertently, unleash malevolent forces that neither they nor anyone else can control” (Ribalow, 1998, p. 26). Some scientists in the movies want to do evil, but even with noble motivations, movie scientists often cause serious problems when they fail to understand the implications of their actions. Both evil and well-meaning scientists are portrayed as obsessive, self-centered, person- ally cold, and removed from society.

Women have been in the background more often than playing leading characters in media portrayals of science (Losh, 2008). In children’s science programming, about 80% of the women appear in secondary or supporting roles, and the proportion of male to female scientists was two to one (Steinke & Long, 1996). That proportion is similar in feature fi lms that appeared between 1991 and 2001 (Steinke, 2005), mak- ing women much less frequent media scientists than men.

Female scientists are not “mad scientists” or bungling nerds as often as male scientists (Flicker, 2003). They may be evil but are more likely to be masculine women, “old maids,” world experts, or lonely heroines. The masculine women and unmarried women who have given up on romance were more common in older films. During the 1990s, the female scientist became the “brainy babe” (Ribalow, 1998). This female version of the scientist was sometimes the extraor- dinarily talented expert, such as the female scientists in Thor: The Dark World , Gravity , and The Martian or the lonely heroine, such as Dr. Ellie Arroway (in Contact ), Dr. Emma Russell (in The Saint ), and Elizabeth Shaw (in Prometheus ). A variety of female scientists who are brainy babes obsessively dedicated to their work appear on TV as Abby Sciuto in NCIS and as Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in Bones .

Although female scientists have begun to be portrayed as brainy and compe- tent (Steinke, 2005), they are defi nitely babes: Female scientists in fi lm and on television tend to be young and extraordinarily good looking (Flicker, 2003). Indeed, many are too young to be the world-class experts they portray. However, female scientists often have to withstand challenges from their male colleagues, who question their competence and make sexist remarks. Romance has been a common theme for these movie scientists, but family and children have not. Most female scientists in fi lms have been unmarried, and the married female scientists tend to be childless.

To sum up, female scientists appear much less frequently than male scientists in the movies. When they appear, they are portrayed as driven, outspoken, obsessive, and dedicated—characteristics common to male scientists.

Researching Sex and Gender 35

According to the Research . . . Women in Science Face Barriers

The images of female scientists in the media may furnish models for girls and thus help to orient girls to pursue careers in science and engineering, a goal that has proven diffi cult. However, some of the portrayals do not present enticing images of scientifi c careers, and thus the media image of female scientists may discourage girls from pur- suing such careers (Jones, 2005).

Depictions of female scientists have increased in the movies, and that change is accurate: The number of women working in science and engineering has increased over the past 35 years. An analysis of feature fi lms (Steinke, 2005) indicated that about one-third of fi lms that portrayed scientists or engineers included women in those roles, which is actually higher than the 20% of women working in these fi elds (Kohlstedt, 2004). It is easier to become a female scientist in the movies than in real life.

The frequency of female scientists in the media is not the only inaccuracy of science at the movies, but male scientists receive worse treatment than their female counter- parts. Male scientists appear as inept social bunglers or evil geniuses (Jackson, 2008). Female fi lm scientists appear professional and competent (Steinke, 2005), which is correct, but male scientists are also professional and competent. Unfortunately, the portrayals of challenges to that competence and harassment by male colleagues are also correct.

Reports from female scientists (Rosser, 2012; Settles, Cortina, Malley, & Stewart, 2006) have revealed that women in science face barriers that their male colleagues do not. Two of those barriers appear in fi lms about female scientists: challenges to competence and sexual harassment. Such negative experiences were more common among women in the natural sciences than in the social sciences, and female scientists reported such negative experiences as factors in decisions to leave their departments or even their jobs. Female scientists who perceived that their work environment included a sexist climate, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment reported lower job satisfaction and poorer productivity than female scientists who experienced more sup- portive work environments.

Another barrier faced by female scientists often fails to appear in fi lms—the confl ict between work and family demands. Films avoid depicting this dilemma by portray- ing female scientists as single or childless (Steinke, 2005). Research on the success of female scientists (Bentley & Wise, 2004) revealed that this depiction may not be accurate; female scientists often marry and have children. However, family commit- ments hampered scientifi c success for women compared to men.

Thus, research on women in science shows a growing number of women pursuing careers in science but also barriers that block their success. Those barriers are similar to the movie image of female scientists in terms of harassment and lack of acceptance by their male colleagues, but in addition, women in science face problems of balancing career and family in ways that the movies fail to show.

36 Researching Sex and Gender

The gender difference in mathematics performance is one such well-publicized difference (Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974). Are boys really better at math than girls? If so, how much bet- ter? Do all boys do better than all girls? One way to answer these questions is to examine the amount of overlap in the distribution of math scores for boys and girls. Figure 2.2 shows some possibilities for the distributions of math scores for boys and girls. Group A of this fi gure shows two distributions with no overlap. If this fi gure represented the mathemat- ics performance of boys and girls, then all boys would do better than all girls. Group B shows the performance of boys and girls overlapping slightly. If this fi gure represented the performance of boys and girls, then most boys would do better than most girls. A few girls would do better than a few boys, but no girls would do better than boys with the highest performance. Group C shows a lot of overlap between the performance of the two groups. If this fi gure represented performance, many girls would do better at math than many boys.

Hyde (1981, 1994, 2005) contended that the upper range of difference in mathematical performance between men and women is no more than 1%. With this level of difference, only a small percentage of the distribution of math scores for boys and girls fails to overlap, and most of the scores for the two are in the same range. Figure 2.2 C comes closer to this distribution of math ability than the other parts of Figure 2.2 . These gender-related differences in math per- formance are suffi ciently large to show a statistically signifi cant difference but not large enough to have any practical signifi cance when applied to the performance of most boys and most girls. This magnitude of difference would not lead educators to create different math classes for boys and girls because their abilities were so dissimilar, nor would counselors advise girls to avoid math courses because of their lack of ability. With this level of overlap, Lawrence Summers (or anyone else) should not speculate about women’s lack of innate ability.

Studies that do not fi nd hypothesized differences in outcomes are less likely to be pub- lished than studies that offer support for the hypotheses. Thus, a strong prejudice exists in

Figure 2.2 Distributions with Varying Degrees of Overlap

Researching Sex and Gender 37

Table 2.3 Stages of Research and Potential for Bias

Stage Ways Bias Can Enter Gender-Related Example

Finding a problem to investigate

Allowing personal and societal values to infl uence choice of topic

Studying heart disease rather than breast cancer in middle-aged populations

Selecting variables Using inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading defi nitions

Defi ning rape as vaginal penetration accompanied by force or threat of force (excludes other forced sexual acts and excludes men as victims)

Choosing a design Choosing a design that does not allow for the evaluation of context

Testing participants in a situation that is anxiety provoking for women but not for men

Formulating a hypothesis

Failing to consider the validity of the null hypothesis

Always hypothesizing gender differences rather than similarities

Following a theory that is biased Following Freudian theory to hypothesize that women have weak superegos

Collecting data Permitting personal bias to infl uence measurement; using a defi nition of the behavior that is too narrow

Defi ning battering as the number of police reports of domestic violence

Analyzing results Allowing personal values and expectation to guide the choice of which factors to evaluate

Failing to make a comparison of female and male participants

Interpreting results Failing to report effect sizes Interpreting a gender difference in a way that makes it seem large when it is not

Interpreting gender differences as due to biological factors when no biological data exist

Claiming that boys’ advantage in math is biological when no biological data have been collected

Publication bias Publication of fi ndings showing signifi cant gender differences

Publication and media attention for fi ndings of gender differences, but no attention for fi ndings of similarities

favor of fi ndings that show differences rather than fi ndings that do not succeed in showing differences; that is, there is a prejudice against fi ndings that suggest similarities (Greenwald, 1975; Hyde, 2005). This tendency prompts researchers to highlight the differences they fi nd and to dismiss other nonsignifi cant results. Indeed, researchers may omit any mention of failure to fi nd a difference, such as a gender-related difference, but researchers who fi nd statistically signifi cant differences will always mention the differences and the level of statisti- cal signifi cance. Researchers cannot discuss an effect they have failed to fi nd, and they must discuss effects that they have found. However, the omission of some information and the mention of other information can lead to a distorted view of overall fi ndings by magnifying differences and obscuring similarities.

Table 2.3 shows the stages of research and how bias can enter at various points in the pro- cess. The possibilities for gender bias listed in the table are only a few examples; the history of gender research is fi lled with many other examples.

Ways to Deal with Bias in Science Those who criticize the bias in science have proposed two very different strategies for dealing with this problem. The constructionists deny the possibility of objectivity and thus reject the basic tenets of science. The extreme of this position calls for abandoning science as a way to deal with its inevitable bias. That position is unlikely to prevail: Science has been too

38 Researching Sex and Gender

successful and is too widely accepted. Nevertheless, some scholars advocate radical transfor- mation in collecting and analyzing information. Other researchers argue that scientists must try harder to do good science.

Advocating Transformation

Several scholars have argued that feminist research has the power to transform research with women and even the discipline of psychology. Historian Londa Schiebinger (1999, 2003) asked a broader question about the infl uence of feminism on all of science. She evaluated the possibility that feminism and its criticisms of traditional science have changed modern science. Her conclusions were both positive and negative. On the one hand, Schiebinger contended that feminism (and the presence of women) has brought about some changes in science. On the other hand, nothing has changed in science’s basic assumptions or approach.

The criticisms concerning masculinist bias in science may be founded, and the women who enter the profession of scientifi c research must play by the rules of science. In that sense, feminism has not changed science. Women have changed science in terms of what questions researchers ask and possibly how those results are interpreted. Research on issues important to women—such as incest and sexual abuse of children, rape and sexual assault, sexual harass- ment, spouse abuse, and achievements by women—has increased dramatically within the past 30 years, parallel to the increase in women in psychology (Worell, 1996). In addition, extend- ing research to understudied populations has been a force in expanding psychology research beyond White, middle-class college students (Worell & Etaugh, 1994). Women in psychology have managed to change psychology research more than to transform science itself.

To decrease sexism in science, Londa Schiebinger and Martina Schraudner (2011) proposed that both women and science should change. They contend that changes in science must occur through encouraging more women to become scientists, eliminating the sexism in the institutions in which scientifi c research takes place, and integrating sex and gender into every facet of the scientifi c enterprise. Schiebinger and Schraudner argued that these gender innova- tions in science would benefi t not only women but also science and society in general through applications of science to the entire population rather than focusing on men or women.

Scholars who claim that research should center on women advocate a more radical trans- formation. This view is feminist standpoint epistemologies (Campbell & Wasco, 2000; Harding, 2004, 2006; Harding & Norberg, 2005), and scholars who take this view claim that women have a unique point of view and different cognitive processes that have been ignored. These researchers believe that the analytical categories that are appropriate for men may not be appro- priate for women and that research should remedy these shortcomings by devising methods to study the unique experience of womanhood. Rather than push women’s issues to the margins, feminist standpoint scholars make those issues the center (Anderson, 2002; Harding, 2006).

As a way of gaining additional information about women and their experience, the feminist standpoint epistemologies have considerable value and appeal. Some feminist scholars have rejected traditional quantitative research as impoverished in capturing the female experience and have opted for more qualitative approaches. Such methods allow researchers to be sub- jective and interpretive, which qualitative researchers believe is critical in studying behavior.

The feminist standpoint epistemologies have the disadvantage of perpetuating the emphasis on gender differences that they criticize (Cosgrove, 2003) and carry the risk of emotionally harming participants (Sampson, Bloor, & Fincham, 2008). The growing interest in qualitative research and its increasing frequency in psychology journals speak to the greater support of these changes in research, but in departing radically from accepted methodology, these studies are diffi cult for mainstream science to accept (Riger, 1992; Wertz, 2011). Less radical changes, however, are easier to accept and enact. Thus, decreasing bias in gender research is a more feasible goal.

Researching Sex and Gender 39

Decreasing Bias

Those scholars who advocate a more objective study of gender can be termed feminist empiri- cists (Campbell & Wasco, 2000; Riger, 1992). These feminist researchers have argued that the development of a feminist methodology may not benefi t research on women and gender- related behaviors. “A distinctive set of feminist methods for psychological research are not only futile but dangerous,” and “any method can be misused in sexist ways” (Peplau & Conrad, 1989, p. 380). This view rejects the notion that methodology is gendered or that feminist research must be conducted by women or exclusively on women. Instead, some feminist psychologists (McHugh & Cosgrove, 2004) argue that the use of diverse and appro- priate methods is best for the study of women and gender-related behaviors.

To adequately study gender contrasts, research must include men (or boys) as well as women (or girls). Such comparisons are the subject matter of gender similarities and differ- ences, and this research cannot include only one sex or the other. However, the necessary research must differ from much prior research, because so much of the existing research concerning gender is fi lled with serious bias.

Several groups of feminist empiricist researchers have alerted researchers to the potential for inadvertently introducing sexist bias into research and have presented some sugges- tions for conducting nonsexist psychological research. Maureen McHugh and her colleagues (McHugh, Koeske, & Frieze, 1986) acknowledged that psychology research has included biases, some of them unintentional. An unwarranted confi dence in traditional research methods is one source of bias. In addition, bias can come from the theories and explana- tions researchers use as well as from inappropriate labeling and defi nitions.

Unwarranted confi dence in traditional research methods occurs, for example, when psy- chologists accept that observations of behavior are objective (McHugh & Cosgrove, 2004). Observations are not necessarily free of sexist (or other) biases, because the observer may be biased and the context of the observation is rarely included in the analysis of the situation. The process of measurement itself fails to capture critical aspects of experience.

Gender may be part of the context of research and yet go unmentioned in a study. For example, the gender of the participants may be a subject variable in a study, but the gender of the experimenter usually is not. The gender of the experimenter may affect the behavior of participants, yet researchers rarely consider this factor.

Bias in an explanatory system occurs when researchers use broad terms (such as hormones or modeling ) to explain specifi c behaviors. Appropriate explanations should take many fac- tors into account, including social, cultural, biological, and situational factors. Inappropriate labeling and defi nitions occur in gender research when differences exist and one variation is labeled in a derogatory way. For example, the controversy over Lawrence Summers’s remarks concerning women in science provoked research asking “Why aren’t more women in sci- ence?” (Ceci & Williams, 2007). Londa Schiebinger (2008) highlighted the subtle sexism in that question by asking why there aren’t research initiatives to determine why so few men are involved with child care and domestic labor. The focus of the research on women’s partici- pation in science is defi cit: Women must have something wrong with them, or they would be engineers and scientists in numbers similar to men. Researchers should avoid placing value-laden labels on behaviors before they have evidence of the value, consider the context of the behavior, include both women and men in research on gender-related behaviors, or give appropriate emphasis to topics of interest to both men and women (McHugh et al., 1986; Schiebinger & Schraudner, 2011). It may not be possible to eliminate gender bias in research, but such bias can be decreased. Critical thinking can lead to an appropriate skepti- cism and a reformulation for gender research that includes a step-by-step consideration of how bias can enter the study of gender at any point (Caplan & Caplan, 2016).

40 Researching Sex and Gender

Specifi c analysis techniques can reduce the bias in evaluating research, depending on the technique chosen. The development and use of a statistical technique called meta-analysis allow researchers to evaluate results from many studies and thereby determine the overall size of various effects. This information is related to the concept of practical signifi cance because it can reveal which results are small and which are large. Janet Hyde (2007) explained that “Meta-analysis is a statistical method that allows the researcher to synthesize the statistical fi ndings from numerous studies of the same question” (p. 259). She contended that meta- analysis is preferred over evaluations that count the outcomes or combine probabilities from various studies because meta-analysis allows similar studies to be combined and statistically evaluated. Researchers have performed over 370 meta-analyses related to gender (Eagly & Wood, 2013), which have contributed to the fi nding that gender-related differences are small or nonexistent in many cases and large enough to be practically signifi cant for only a few variables. That is, meta-analyses have revealed more gender similarities than gender differences (Eagly & Wood, 2013).

Analysis and reporting results also require changes (Hyde, 1994). Researchers should conduct all appropriate signifi cance tests and report all (even nonsignifi cant) fi ndings and sizes of effects, exercising caution in interpreting results so as to make appropriate conclusions, and applying appropriate scientifi c standards to ensure that fi ndings are not misused. All of these suggestions are intended to make the research on sex and gender more scientifi cally rigorous and thus elimi- nate the biases that have been so common in this area, creating a feminist empiricism.


The present and past of gender research offers examples of bias, and one such example came from Harvard President Lawrence Summers, who set women seething when he suggested that women may be inherently less suited to science than men. This episode is only one example of the controversies surrounding women in science.

Science as a method of gathering information can be traced back to the 16th century and rests on philosophical traditions that assert the advantages of an objective, observation- based understanding of the world. By using descriptive methods such as correlational studies and surveys, researchers gather and evaluate information that leads them to understand the world. By using the experimental method, researchers can develop an understanding of the cause-and-effect relationship between an independent variable and a dependent variable. Although the ex post facto method resembles experimentation, it differs in procedure and in the type of information it yields; ex post facto studies do not involve the manipulation of independent variables and do not allow the determination of causality.

All studies with gender as a subject variable are ex post facto designs, and none has the ability to reveal the cause of any differences they might show. Gender can be an independent variable in experimental studies when, for example, the researcher manipulates the descrip- tion of targets, identifying some as male and some as female. This type of approach treats gender as a social category and, like all laboratory research, suffers from artifi ciality.

Dissatisfaction with traditional quantitative research has led to a growing interest in quali- tative research methods among psychologists. These methods include case studies, inter- views, ethnography, and focus groups. Researchers using these approaches acknowledge that they are part of the research process, try to treat their participants as equals, and attempt to preserve the complexity of the situations they study.

Bias can enter the research process at any point, and the history of gender studies is fi lled with examples of bias. Some have argued that science has a masculinist bias, and theories such as Freud’s psychodynamic theory have a clear bias against women. Any of the steps in conducting research can be contaminated by personal bias. In addition, studies that reveal

Researching Sex and Gender 41

gender-related differences may show a difference that is statistically signifi cant—that is, not due to chance. Yet the difference may not have any practical signifi cance; for instance, it may not reveal large, important differences between women and men.

Solutions to the bias in science include an abandonment of science, which is unlikely, or drastic revisions to research methodology. Some feminist scholars advocate abandoning the traditional scientifi c method and adopting alternatives that center on women and that use different methods of gaining information, especially qualitative research methods such as ethnography and interview studies. The term feminist standpoint epistemologies applies to those who want to create a woman-centered approach to researching the female experience. Less drastic revisions include recommendations for making researchers more careful. Those researchers who advise taking care to avoid sexist bias in research can be described as feminist empiricists . In psychological research, those who are feminist empiricists are more numerous than feminist standpoint epistemologists. Some psychologists have examined the challenges and proposed solutions for carrying out nonsexist research. Some feminist scholars argue against excluding any method and propose a more varied and objective feminist empiricism.


case study a qualitative method that focuses on gathering extensive information about a single person or a small group.

constructionists a group of critics of science who argue that reality is constructed through perception and is inevitably subject to bias. Included in this bias is all scientifi c observa- tion, thus excluding science from its claim of objectivity.

correlational study a descriptive research method that requires researchers to measure two factors known to occur within a group of people to determine the degree of relationship between the two factors.

data representations, usually in numerical form, of some facet of the phenomenon that the researcher observes.

dependent variable (DV) the factor in an experiment that the experimenter measures to determine whether the manipulation of the independent variable has an effect.

descriptive research methods a group of research methods, including naturalistic observation, surveys, and correlational studies, that yield descriptions of the observed phenomena.

empirical observation collecting information through direct observation. ethnography a type of qualitative research in which the researcher becomes immersed in a

situation in order to make observations and interpretations of that situation. experiment a type of study in which a researcher manipulates an independent variable and

observes the changes in a dependent variable; only through experiments can researchers learn about cause-and-effect relationships.

ex post facto study a type of nonexperimental research design that involves the comparison of subjects, who are placed in contrast groups, on the basis of some preexisting charac- teristic of the subjects.

focus group a qualitative research method consisting of a discussion involving a group of people centered around a specifi c topic.

hypothesis a statement about the expected outcome of a study. independent variable (IV) the factor in an experiment that the experimenter manipulates

to create a difference that did not previously exist in the participants. interview a type of qualitative study in which respondents are interviewed in order to deter-

mine patterns or commonalities among their responses. meta-analysis a statistical analysis that allows the evaluation of many studies simultaneously. objectivity the notion that observation is free of bias by the observer.

42 Researching Sex and Gender

operational defi nition a defi nition of a variable in terms of operations used to obtain information on that variable, rather than in terms of concepts underlying that variable.

practical signifi cance an important result with practical implications; different from statisti- cal signifi cance.

qualitative research research that focuses on understanding complexity and context rather than distilling situations to sets of numbers.

quantifi cation the process of turning observations into numerical data. quantitative research research that uses numerical data and statistical analysis. statistically signifi cant result a result obtained by analysis with statistical tests and found

unlikely to have been obtained on the basis of chance alone. subject variable a characteristic of the subjects, such as gender, that allows researchers to

form contrast groups in quasi-experimental studies. survey a descriptive research method involving the measurement of attitudes through the

administration and interpretation of questionnaires. variable a factor of interest to researchers; something that can have more than one value, as

opposed to a constant, which has only one constant value.

Suggested Readings

Mahoney, Michael J. (2003). Minding science: Constructivism and the discourse of inquiry. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 27 , 105–123. Mahoney’s very personal account of science includes a review of the history of science, the ideal procedures of

scientifi c investigation, and the many ways in which that ideal is not realized in the work and politics of science.

Marecek, Jeanne. (2003). Dancing through minefi elds: Toward a qualitative stance in psychology. In P. M. Camic, J. E. Rhodes, & L. Yardley (Eds.), Qualitative research in psychology: Expanding perspectives in methodology and design (pp. 49–69). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Marecek reviews the status of qualitative work in psychology, pointing out that such studies have a long history

in psychology and much to offer to investigators.

Schiebinger, Londa; & Schraudner, Martina. (2011). Interdisciplinary approaches to achieving gendered innova- tions in science, medicine, and engineering. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 36 (2), 154–167. Schiebinger and Schraudner propose changes to science that include not only recruiting more women into

science but also institutional changes to make women more accepted and successful in scientifi c careers. They also advocate widespread changes in the practice of science to include gender in every aspect.

Suggested Websites

If you are interested in the history of women in science, check out 4000 Years of Women in Science (http://www. This website contains biographies, references, and photos, as well as links to other sites.

GirlGeeks ( is an online community devoted to girls and women who are interested in science and technology. It includes career information and tips, a forum to share information and support, and information about girls and women who are contributing to the technology fi eld.

Girlstart ( is an organization devoted to promoting girls’ interest in and access to science experiences. It includes information about nationwide programs for girls and access to educational information and community programs.


Anderson, Elizabeth. (2002, Fall). Feminist epistemology and philosophy of science. In Edward N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy . Retrieved August, 2015, from fall2002/entries/feminism-epistemology

Barres, Ben. (2006). Does gender matter? Nature, 442 (7099), 133–136.

Researching Sex and Gender 43

Bentley, Jerome T.; & Wise, Donald E. (2004). Gender differences in the careers of academic scientists and engineers . Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics.

Bernstein, Dan. (1999). Introduction. In Dan Bernstein (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation, 1999: Gender and motivation (pp. vii–xxiii). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Boyle, Danny. (2015, Dec. 18). Sir Tim Hunt ‘to leave Britain for Japan’ after sexist row. The Telegraph. Retrieved February 8, 2016 from Hunt-to-leave-Britain-for-Japan-after-sexism-row.html

Campbell, Rebecca; & Wasco, Sharon M. (2000). Feminist approaches to social science: Epistemological and methodological tenets. American Journal of Community Psychology, 28 , 773–791.

Capaldi, E. J.; & Proctor, Robert W. (2005). Is the worldview of qualitative inquiry a proper guide for psycho- logical research? American Journal of Psychology, 118 , 251–269.

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H eadline : “ Gender Stereotypes Don’t Die Easily,” Vancouver Sun , June 27, 2013

During the 1970s, women began to complain about negative portrayals of women in the media (Todd, 2013). Drawing on stereotypes of women, these images portrayed women as hysterical, gossipy, poor at math, and lacking in humor. The feminist movement that was gathering power during that time fought against these stereotypical portrayals. Although this type of stereotyping has not disappeared, it is no longer as blatant as it was. Columnist Douglas Todd (2013) complained that men now seem to be in a similar position; negative stereotypes of men fi ll the media, but no fl ood of complaint has arisen from men (or women) about these negative images.

Todd focused on a report about men’s lack of maturity. Indeed, the report claimed that men did not reach maturity until age 43, whereas women mature at age 32. The study was commissioned by a British television network as part of the publicity for a new television show about an immature man, but stories appeared throughout Great Britain, Canada, and the United States, reporting the fi ndings without questioning the validity of the research. As Todd pointed out, both women and men seemed eager to accept confi rmation of these negative stereotypes about men. Perpetuating negative stereotypes of men is no more accept- able than for women.

In this chapter, we examine stereotyping, including the historical origins of today’s gender stereotypes. We also look at how gender stereotyping functions for today’s women and men and infl uences how people think about and treat women and men. Indeed, the phenom- enon of stereotyping is so important and pervasive that it can serve as a framework for our examination of psychological perspectives on gender in future chapters.

History of Stereotypes of Women and Men

A gender stereotype consists of beliefs about the psychological traits and characteristics of, as well as the activities appropriate to, men or women. These beliefs often have something to do with the behaviors typically performed by women and men in a particular culture, but gender stereotypes are more generalized beliefs and attitudes about masculinity and feminin- ity. Such attitudes do not have a perfect relationship with observed behaviors: When people associate a pattern of behavior with either women or men, they may overlook individual variations and exceptions and come to believe that the behavior is inevitably associated with one gender but not the other. Therefore, gender stereotypes go beyond behaviors, forming categories that may not correspond to real women and men in many ways.

Gender stereotypes are very infl uential; they affect conceptualizations of women and men. They establish social categories that represent what people think. Even when beliefs vary

Gender Stereotypes Masculinity and Femininity


Gender Stereotypes 47

from reality, the beliefs can be very powerful forces in judgments of self and others. There- fore, the history, development, and function of stereotypes are important topics in under- standing the impact of gender on people’s lives.

The current gender stereotypes, especially those about women, refl ect beliefs that appeared during the 19th century, the Victorian era (Lewin, 1984c). Before the 19th century, most people lived and worked on farms, where men and women worked together. The Industrial Revolution changed the lives of a majority of people in Europe and North America by mov- ing men outside the home to earn money and leaving women at home to manage households and children. This separation forced men and women to adapt to different environments and roles. As men coped with the harsh business and industrial world, women were left in the relatively unvarying and sheltered environments of their homes. These changes produced two beliefs: the Doctrine of Two Spheres and the Cult of True Womanhood.

The Doctrine of Two Spheres is the belief that women’s and men’s interests diverge—women and men have their separate areas of infl uence (Lewin, 1984b). For women, the areas of infl u- ence are home and children, whereas men’s sphere includes work and the outside world. These two spheres have little overlap, which has allowed them to be seen as opposites. This notion of women and men as opposites has been infl uential in how people think about women and men and has also guided psychology’s attempts to measure masculinity and femininity.

The Cult of True Womanhood

The Cult of True Womanhood arose between 1820 and 1860. “The attributes of True Wom- anhood, by which a woman judged herself and was judged by her husband, her neighbors, and society could be divided into four cardinal virtues—piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity” (Welter, 1978, p. 313). The Cult of True Womanhood held that the combina- tion of these characteristics provided the promise of happiness and power to the Victorian woman, and that without these, no woman’s life could have real meaning.

Piety was a virtue that society viewed as more natural to women than men. Religious stud- ies were seen as compatible with femininity and deemed appropriate for women, but other types of education detracted from women’s femininity. In addition, other types of education might lead women to ignore religion, become overly romantic, and lose their virtue, or purity (that is, their virginity). The loss of sexual purity was a “fate worse than death.” Having lost her purity, a woman was without value or hope. Men, on the other hand, were not naturally as religious and thus not naturally as virtuous as women. According to this view of True Womanhood, men were, at best, prone to sin and seduction, and at worst, brutes. True Women would withstand the advances of men, dazzling and shaming them with their virtue.

Submissiveness was the third virtue in the Cult of True Womanhood. This characteristic was not true of, and not desirable in, men (Welter, 1978). Women were expected to be weak, dependent, and timid, whereas men were supposed to be strong, wise, and forceful. Dependent women wanted strong men, not sensitive ones. These couples formed families in which the husband was unquestionably superior and the wife would not consider ques- tioning his authority.

The last of the four virtues, domesticity, was connected to both submissiveness and to the Doctrine of the Two Spheres. True Women were wives whose concern was with domestic affairs—making a home and having children: These domestic duties included cooking and nursing the sick, especially a sick husband or child.

Table 3.1 summarizes the elements of the Cult of True Womanhood. However, the crite- ria were too demanding for any real woman to meet. Nonetheless, these virtues were held as attainable, and women tried to meet these ideals. Remnants linger in our present-day culture and infl uence current views of femininity.

48 Gender Stereotypes

Gendered Voices: Gendered Food

A college senior related how gender stereotypes intruded into eating at a restaurant with her boyfriend: “When my boyfriend and I go out to dinner, I usually order a steak, and he orders a big salad. More than half of the time, the food server puts the salad in front of me, and my boyfriend gets the steak. If the servers don’t write down the order, the stereotypes take over.”

. . . And Drinks

A graduate student related how gender stereotypes took over when she and her husband ordered drinks in a restaurant: “My husband’s favorite drink is a strawberry daiquiri. He often gets funny looks because I guess he doesn’t look like a daiquiri kind of guy. On one occasion, my husband ordered a strawberry daiquiri, and I asked our waitress that she add extra whipped cream and a cherry. We all laughed about it. I ordered a long-neck beer, which is my typical drink during the summer. When our drinks arrived, the waitress put the daiquiri—complete with whipped cream and cherry—in front of me and the beer in front of my husband. I thought it was interesting after the laugh we had over my husband’s order, but I guess that stereotyping won out.”

Table 3.1 Elements of Stereotyping of Women and Men

The Cult of True Womanhood Male Sex Role Identity

Piety: True Women were naturally religious. No Sissy Stuff: A stigma is attached to feminine characteristics.

Purity: True Women were sexually uninterested. The Big Wheel: Men need success and status.

Submissiveness: True Women were weak, dependent, and timid.

The Sturdy Oak: Men should have toughness, confi dence, and self-reliance.

Domesticity: True Women’s domain was in the home.

Give ’Em Hell: Men should have an aura of aggression, daring, and violence.

Sources: Based on “The Male Sex Role: Our Culture’s Blueprint of Manhood and What It’s Done for Us Lately” (p. 12), by Robert Brannon, in Deborah S. David and Robert Brannon (Eds.), The Forty-Nine Percent Majority, 1976, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley; and “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820–1860,” by Barbara Welter, in Michael Gordon (Ed.), The American Family in Social-Historical Perspective (2nd ed.), New York: St. Martin’s Press.


The 19th-century idealization of women also had implications for men, who were seen as the opposite of women in a number of ways. Women were passive, dependent, pure, refi ned, and delicate; men were active, independent, coarse, and strong. The Victorian ideal of manhood was the basis for what Joseph Pleck (1981, 1995) referred to as the Male Sex Role Identity (now called the Male Gender Role Identity). Pleck discussed the Male Gen- der Role Identity as the dominant conceptualization of masculinity in our society and as a source of problems, both for society and for individual men.

R. W. Connell (1995) explored the historical origins of attitudes toward masculinity, look- ing back into 16th-century Europe and the changing social and religious climate to trace

Gender Stereotypes 49

the development of individualism. He contended that industrialization, world exploration, and civil wars became activities associated with men and formed the basis for modern mas- culinity. Pleck (1984) also reviewed the social climate, focusing on the late 19th century, and citing examples of the increasing concern that men were not as manly as they once had been. Being a good provider became an increasingly diffi cult role for men to fulfi ll (Bernard, 1981; Faludi, 1999); failure at this role endangered their masculinity. Education became increasingly important for employment, but early childhood education became the province of women, and Pleck discussed how these female elementary school teachers tried to make boys into well-behaved pupils—in other words, “sissies.” This issue remains part of a debate over boys in the classroom (Kimmel, 2000; Rosin, 2010; Sommers, 2000).

The prohibition against being a sissy and the rejection of the feminine are strong compo- nents of modern masculinity. According to Robert Brannon (1976), No Sissy Stuff is one of the four themes of the Male Sex Role. Another theme, The Big Wheel, describes men’s quest for success and status as well as their need to be looked up to. The Sturdy Oak component describes men’s air of toughness, confi dence, and self-reliance, especially in a crisis. Finally, the Give ’Em Hell aspect of the Male Sex Role refl ects the acceptability of violence, aggres- sion, and daring in men’s behavior. Table 3.1 summarizes these elements.

The more closely a man conforms to these characteristics, the closer he is to being a “real man.” This idealization of masculinity is equally as unrealistic as the “true woman” of the Cult of True Womanhood. However, even men who are fairly successful in adopting the Male Gender Role Identity may be poorly adjusted, unhappy people; this role prohibits close personal relationships, even with wives or children, and requires persistent competition and striving for achievement. These diffi culties lead men to make signifi cant departures from the role’s requirements.

Pleck (1981, 1995) proposed a new model, which he called Sex Role Strain (now Gen- der Role Strain), which departs in many ways from the Male Gender Role Identity. Pleck argued that during the 1960s and 1970s, both men and women started to make signifi – cant departures from their traditional roles. Nevertheless, the Male Gender Role Identity retained a powerful infl uence over what both men and women believe men should be. Many men deviate from the role, and some even believe that the role is harmful to society and to them personally, which makes adherence to the role a strain. Even men who succeed feel the strain in doing so, and the toxic components of the role present problems even for the successful. A review of research on male gender role ideology (Levant & Richmond, 2007) confi rmed that strain occurs and problems are associated with strong adherence to traditional masculinity.

Connell (1987, 1995, 2005) argued that gender has been constructed as part of each society throughout history, a view that is consistent with the belief that gender is some- thing that people do rather than part of what people are (West & Zimmerman, 1987). This construction of masculinity includes both sanctioned and less accepted behaviors. Thus, masculinity varies with both time and place, creating a multitude of masculinities. For each society, Connell contended that one version of masculinity is sanctioned as the one to which men should adhere, which he termed hegemonic masculinity . This version of masculinity attempts to subordinate femininity as well as less accepted versions of mas- culinity, such as male homosexuality. Like Pleck, Connell recognized many disadvantages to this narrow, dominant form of masculinity and saw many problems for society and for individual men who adhere to it.

Despite the notion that masculinity has undergone drastic changes in the past two decades, evidence indicates little change in hegemonic masculinity and strong representation of the four themes of the Male Gender Role (Bereska, 2003). Boys and men are still supposed to be stoic, aggressive, dependable, and not feminine.

50 Gender Stereotypes

Conceptualizing and Measuring Masculinity and Femininity

The history of gender stereotypes suggests that differences should be easy to understand. Indeed, the concepts of male and female are relatively easy for people to understand because these words relate to biological differences. The concepts of masculine and feminine are much less closely related to biology and thus much more diffi cult to separate into two nonoverlapping categories: “One can be more or less feminine. One cannot be more or less female” (Maccoby, 1988, p. 762). Nonetheless, these dimensions seem important—perhaps critically important—and psychologists have attempted to conceptualize and measure mas- culinity and femininity along with other important personality traits. Unfortunately, psy- chologists’ efforts to measure masculinity and femininity have a long history but not a long record of success (Constantinople, 1973; Hoffman, 2001; Lewin, 1984a, 1984b). The problems began with the fi rst measures developed, and no measurement technique used since has escaped serious criticism.

Explicit Measures of Stereotyping

Lewis Terman (who adapted the Binet intelligence test into the Stanford-Binet test) and Catherine Cox Miles constructed the Attitude Interest Analysis Survey, a 456-item test that appeared in 1936 (Lewin, 1984a). This test yielded masculinity–femininity (MF) scores that lay along a continuum with strong masculinity lying at one extreme and strong femininity at the other. The test was not valid in any way other than distinguishing men from women (Lewin, 1984a). This test is no longer used, but its existence infl uenced others to develop measurements of masculinity and femininity.

When the MF scale of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) appeared in 1940, it soon became the most common measure of masculinity and femininity, largely because of its inclusion in this personality test developed to measure psychological disor- ders (Lewin, 1984b). This scale was also unidimensional and bipolar, with masculinity and femininity at opposite ends of the scale. The psychologists who developed the MMPI were not really interested in measuring masculinity and femininity; they were more interested in measuring homosexual tendencies in men. As a result of this interest, their validation pro- cedure included a comparison of the MF responses of 13 homosexual men to the responses of 54 heterosexual male soldiers. They used the responses of the 13 homosexual men as a standard for femininity, thus defi ning femininity as the responses of these men.

The test makers knew that the scale should not be used as a valid measure of femininity (after all, they had used no women in their standardization), and they were initially tenta- tive in describing its use for a heterosexual population. But the test was soon extended to thousands of people, and the reservations disappeared. “It is rather staggering to realize that the femininity dimension of this popular test was ‘validated’ on a criterion group of 13 male homo- sexuals! ” (Lewin, 1984b, p. 181; emphasis in original). The scale was not even very successful in diagnosing sexual orientation in men, and this confusion of masculinity–femininity and sexual orientation posed a problem for understanding both concepts.

An alternative means of conceptualizing masculinity and femininity used the terms instru- mental and expressive , with men’s behaviors considered instrumental and women’s behaviors as expressive (Lewin, 1984b). This distinction was based on an analysis of families around the world, with the conclusion that men occupy the role of autonomous- and achievement- oriented leaders, whereas women provide nurturance and support. The terminology change made some difference in conceptualizing psychological masculinity and femininity, but even more important was the realization that femininity and masculinity may not be best concep- tualized as opposite ends of one continuum.

Gender Stereotypes 51

In 1974, Sandra Bem published a different approach to the measurement of masculinity and femininity by separating the dimensions of masculinity and femininity and by adding the concept of androgyny . She proposed that some people have characteristics associated with both masculinity and femininity; that is, some people are androgynous. The androgyny concept requires both masculinity and femininity in combination, making it incompatible with a unidimensional view of masculinity–femininity. Instead, Bem constructed two scales to capture her concept of androgyny. Her test, the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI), included one scale to measure masculinity and another to assess femininity. Figure 3.1 illustrates the difference between the traditional unidimensional approach to personality measurement and Bem’s two-dimensional approach.

People who take the BSRI respond to 60 characteristics by rating how well each of these characteristics applies to them on a 7-point scale ranging from Always or almost always true to Never or almost never true . Of the 60 items, 20 represent cultural stereotypes of masculinity (ambitious, independent, competitive), 20 represent femininity (gentle, warm, understand- ing), and 20 are fi ller items. Scores on the masculinity and femininity scales yield four differ- ent possibilities: masculine, feminine, androgynous, and undifferentiated. People who score high on the masculinity scale and low on the femininity scale would be classifi ed masculine , whereas people who score high on the femininity scale and low on the masculinity scale would be considered feminine . These people not only accept cultural stereotypes of mascu- linity or femininity, but they also reject the other role. Bem labeled those people who score high on both scales androgynous and those who score low on both scales undifferentiated , classifi cations that do not appear in traditional tests of masculinity–femininity. Androgynous people evaluate themselves as having many of the characteristics that our culture associates with men and women, whereas those people who are undifferentiated endorse few traits of either gender.

The concept of androgyny experienced a rapid growth in popularity, prompting the devel- opment of another test, the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ) (Spence, Helmreich, & Stapp, 1974). Designed to overcome problems with the BSRI (see Spence & Helmreich, 1978), the PAQ also identifi ed people as masculine, feminine, androgynous, and undiffer- entiated. Both tests have undergone revisions and continue to be in use.

Neither the PAQ nor the BSRI contains examples of the negative aspects of masculinity and femininity as part of their assessments. Some researchers have argued for the inclusion

Figure 3.1 Two Approaches to the Measurement of Femininity and Masculinity

52 Gender Stereotypes

of negative as well as positive dimensions for masculinity, femininity, and androgyny as an improvement to this strategy of assessment (Ricciardelli & Williams, 1995; Woodhill & Samuels, 2003). This approach combines examples of positive masculinity such as strong and confi dent with negative characteristics such as rude and aggressive and combines examples of positive femininity such as sensitive and patient with examples of negative femininity such as weak and timid (Ricciardelli & Williams, 1995). Positive and negative androgyny consist of combinations of the positive and negative traits from both. Research into the concept of negative and positive androgyny (Woodhill & Samuels, 2003) indicated that the separa- tion of positive and negative aspects of masculinity, femininity, and androgyny was a useful addition, including the fi nding that the mental health benefi ts of the positive characteristics associated with androgyny (Levant et al., 2006) and also the risks associated with the nega- tive characteristics (Woodhill & Samuels, 2003).

Although the terms masculinity and femininity are meaningful to most people, psycholo- gists have not yet managed to measure them in theoretically meaningful and valid ways. Problems exist both in the measurement of masculinity and femininity as well as in the con- cept of androgyny (Constantinople, 1973; Lewin, 1984b; Woodhill & Samuels, 2003). In answering the question “Are MF tests satisfactory? [The answer is] No. There is no evidence that the MF tests of the last sixty years provide a valid measure of the relative femininity of women or the relative masculinity of men” (Lewin, 1984a, p. 198). The MF tests pur- port to measure masculinity and femininity, but actually measure gender stereotypes rather than personality characteristics. The tests that include the concept of androgyny offer some improvement but do not solve the problem.

Implicit Measures of Stereotyping

In evaluating stereotyping, researchers often ask people to give their evaluations or opinions about individuals or groups, as in the BSRI and PAQ. This procedure yields explicit atti- tudes because people are explicitly, consciously aware of the opinions they furnish. However, people also have underlying components to their attitudes that they may not know about on a conscious level, called implicit attitudes . These implicit attitudes may differ from or be more extreme than a person’s explicit attitudes. Research indicates that gender stereotyping includes such implicit components.

Assessing implicit attitudes is more diffi cult than asking people about their explicit opin- ions. Those who study implicit attitudes ask participants to make judgments about the simi- larity or compatibility of word pairs and measure how long it takes people to react to these pairs, a process called the Implicit Association Test (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). Shorter reaction times mean closer associations. Thus stereotypical associations should be faster than counterstereotypical associations, a hypothesis confi rmed by research (Greenwald & Farnham, 2000; to take the Implicit Association Test, go to Over the past 25 years, it has become less acceptable to express gender and ethnic bias, but people still harbor those prejudices, and the Implicit Association Test reveals these biases (Banaji & Greenwald, 2013; Rudman, Greenwald, & McGhee, 2001). Studies of brain functioning (Knutson, Mah, Manly, & Grafman, 2007; Mitchell, Ames, Jenkins, & Banaji, 2009) have confi rmed that implicit gender and ethnic bias appears as activation of brain locations that differ from the activation that occurs with explicit bias. Such fi ndings validate the difference between explicit and implicit stereotyping.

Research on the Gender Implicit Association Test (van Well, Kolk, & Oei, 2007) indicates that this approach may be a better assessment of gender stereotyping than tests that tap explicit attitudes. Both types of measures reveal stereotyping, but the effect is larger for implicit measure- ments. Thus, implicit measures offer promising possibilities for the assessment of stereotyping.

Gender Stereotypes 53

The Process and Implications of Stereotyping

Psychologists have struggled with conceptualizing and measuring femininity and masculinity, and they have also grappled with understanding the process and implications of stereotyping. Despite the negative connotations of the term stereotyping , some theorists have minimized the negative aspects of the process. The simplifi cation that is inherent in stereotyping leads to streamlined cognitive processing, which may be an advantage (Macrae & Bodenhausen, 2000). The limits on children’s cognitive abilities make gender stereotyping a normal part of children’s cognitive development (Martin & Halverson, 1981). Therefore, the function of gender stereotyping can be understood as a useful way to approach the complexities of social cognition, including thinking about gender. Stereotypes do not lead inevitably to bias (Per- rin, Heesacker, & Shrivastav, 2008), but a great deal of evidence indicates that stereotyping produces such large distortions and incorrect generalizations that its disadvantages outweigh the advantages (Bobo, 1999; Glick & Fiske, 2001; Hegarty & Pratto, 2004).

Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination

Gender stereotypes provide not only descriptions of how people think about women and men but also prescriptions about what women and men should be, which means that gender stereotyping places limits and evaluations on what traits and behaviors are allowed (Pren- tice & Carranza, 2002). The process of stereotyping results in the formation of cognitive categories, and people have the tendency to use one of those categories as the norm and the others as deviant from the norm (Hegarty & Pratto, 2004). For example, in forming cognitive categories for men and women, men are cast as the norm; in categorizing sexual orientation, heterosexuality is the norm. This process leaves women and gays and lesbians as deviant from the norm categories. Thus, perceived differences will be attributed to the “deviants” rather than the norm categories, which tends to create negative evaluations for women, gays, and lesbians. Such negative evaluations should create problems, and prejudice and discrimination are among the effects that fl ow from stereotyping.

Prejudice is a negative evaluation of an entire group, which allows prejudiced people to react to members of the group without any personal contact or without knowing anything about people in the group as individuals. Discrimination is behavior that holds people or groups apart from others and results in different treatments for those people. Thus, prejudice is an attitude, but discrimination is behavior. Figure 3.2 shows the relationship among these

Figure 3.2 Relationships among Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination

Stereotyping [cognitive process]

Prejudice [attitude]

Discrimination [behavior]

54 Gender Stereotypes

three factors. People may be prejudiced yet not actively discriminate, but the two often go together. Perceptions of women and men are important in these processes.

Perceptions of Women and Men Perception is the basis for the cognitive processing that can become a stereotype. The per- ception that men spend time playing video games and even become competitive with their own children is one of the reasons that men might be perceived as immature, as Douglas Todd’s headline story (2013) suggested. But how do these perceptions become stereotypes?

The content of gender stereotypes may be analyzed into four separate components that people use to differentiate male from female—traits, behaviors, physical characteristics, and occupations (Deaux & Lewis, 1984). All these components are relatively independent, but people associate one set of features from each of these with women and another set with men. On the basis of knowledge of one dimension, people extend judgments to the other three. Figure 3.3 shows the components of this model; the arrows indicate the associations people make among components. For example, given a gender label for a target person, people will make inferences concerning the person’s appearance, traits, gender role behav- iors, and occupation. Information about one component can affect inferences made about the others, and people will attempt to maintain consistency among the components.

Physical features seem to be central: People viewed men and women as differing more in physical features than in psychological characteristics (Deaux & Lewis, 1984), but research with children (Miller, Lurye, Zosuls, & Ruble, 2009) suggests that the application of stereo- type components may not be equal: Girls were described in terms of physical appearance, whereas descriptions of boys focused more on traits and activities. As Figure 3.3 shows, when people have information about behaviors, they make inferences about traits, and information about occupations can affect judgments about behaviors. However, physical appearance affected judgments about the other components more strongly than information about traits, behaviors, or occupations infl uenced judgments about appearance. In addition,

Figure 3.3 Components of Deaux and Lewis’s Model of Gender Stereotyping

Gender Stereotypes 55

specifi c personal information can outweigh gender as a factor in subsequent judgments about a person. For example, men who were described as managing the house or taking care of children were also judged as likely to be emotional and gentle. Such counterstereotypical information about men also increased the likelihood that such men would be judged as likely to be homosexual—“those who don’t fi t the mold in one way . . . are often confused with those who do not fi t in another way” (Sell, 2004, p. 134).

Although the participants in a stereotyping study (Deaux & Lewis, 1984) saw differ- ences in the physical characteristics, traits, behaviors, and occupations of women and men, their ratings of the two categories refl ected the possibility that women may have some characteristics more typical of men, or men may have some characteristics more typical of women. That is, people do not view the stereotypes for women and men as completely separate categories but as probabilistic and overlapping. Participants judged the probabil- ity of a man and woman having certain characteristics on a scale of 0 (no chance) to 1.00 (certainty). The participants judged the probability that a man would be strong as .66, a high probability but not a certainty. However, they also judged the chances that a woman would be strong as .44, a lower probability but far from unlikely. An analysis of physical and stereotypical characteristics of men and women as well as dozens of psychological and behavioral factors (Carothers & Reis, 2013) showed that people tend to perceive the physi- cal and stereotypical characteristics of women and men as falling into two categories, but they see most behavioral and psychological factors as falling somewhere on a continuum. These fi ndings support the notion that people do think of behavior and psychological characteristics as dimensions that include overlap between women and men.

Therefore, adults and children use several dimensions to categorize men and women, draw- ing inferences on one dimension based on information from another. What traits are ste- reotypically associated with these categories? Studies in the 1960s and 1970s often found evidence for beliefs that matched elements of the Male Gender Role Identity or the Cult of True Womanhood, and studies continue to fi nd remnants of these beliefs (Ferrar, Olds, & Walters, 2012; Hundhammer & Mussweiler, 2012). (See According to the Media and According to the Research for examples of stereotyping in the media and its potential effects.) However, recent research also indicates changes in attitudes.

Beliefs held by college students in the 1960s showed strong acceptance of gender stereotypes by both college men and women (Rosenkrantz, Vogel, Bee, Broverman, & Broverman, 1968). Table 3.2 shows how some of the items that differentiated women and men match the com- ponents in the Cult of True Womanhood and Male Gender Role Identity. Not all of the traits these college students named match these categories; for example, one of the characteristics of women was “talkative,” which does not fi t into traits for the Cult of True Womanhood, and college students in the 1960s did not mention sexual purity as a defi ning trait of women. They did, however, mention several characteristics of men that relate to sex, including “worldly” and “talks freely with men about sex,” which matches the suggestion (Good & Sherrod, 2001) for an additional component of the Male Gender Role—Be a Stud. Both the women and men in early studies (Broverman, Vogel, Broverman, Clarkson, & Rosenkrantz, 1972; Rosenkrantz et al., 1968) gave more positive ratings to the characteristics associated with men than with women, which suggests that these stereotypes include gender bias.

Have subsequent changes prompted decreased bias? Administrations of the Attitudes Toward Women Scale (AWS) to students at the same university over a 20-year period showed that college students in the United States (Spence & Hahn, 1997) and Canada (Loo & Thorpe, 1998) became more egalitarian between the 1970s and the 1990s. A meta-analysis of studies that used the AWS revealed a positive relationship between feminist attitudes and the year of administration—but a stronger relationship for women (Twenge, 1997). Two additional studies (Diekman & Eagly, 2000; Prentice & Carranza, 2002) showed larger

56 Gender Stereotypes

According to the Media . . . White Men Are in Charge

In both television commercials and entertainment programming, White men are more common, more prominent, and more dominant than others. According to content analyses of commercials, White male characters were more prominent than any other group (Ganahl, Prinsen, & Netzley, 2003; Smith, Choueiti, Scofi eld, & Pieper, 2013). Women tended to be cast into supporting roles, and male prominence extended even to those who appeared in voice only: Male voices narrated commer- cials more than 10 times more often than female voices. The patterns of men in posi- tions of authority and men as the voice of authority exist in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Asia, and the United States (Furnham & Mak, 1999) as well as in Saudi Arabia (Nassif & Gunter, 2008) and Spain (Valls-Fernández & Martínez- Vincente, 2007).

In U.S. entertainment programming, women have a history of underrepresenta- tion. Despite increases in female characters during the 1980s and 1990s, women have failed to reach parity, even in the 21st century (Smith et al., 2013). Women’s roles also tend to be less signifi cant and less serious (Harwood & Anderson, 2002). This pattern also emerged in an analysis of feature fi lms (Eschholz, Bufkin, & Long, 2002). Women are more likely to be shown as dependent, and around the world, women appear more often at home than in other settings (Furnham & Mak, 1999).

Women are not the only stereotyped group on television. In prime time televi- sion programming in the United States, 74% of characters were White, whereas only 16% were African American, 5% were Latino/Latina, and less than 2% were Asian American (Monk-Turner, Heiserman, Johnson, Cotton, & Jackson, 2010). These percentages have not changed signifi cantly in more than a decade and rep- resent a severe underrepresentation for Latinos/Latinas and an overrepresentation of White characters. African American characters are underrepresented by being less likely to be a leading character than Whites or Latinos. Within each ethnic group, female characters appear less frequently than male characters (Smith et al., 2013).

Ethnic stereotyping has decreased over the past decade in some ways but persists in some aspects (Monk-Turner et al., 2010). For example, no differences appeared among characters from the different ethnic groups in terms of grooming or dress, but Latino/Latina characters spoke with heavier accents than those from other eth- nic groups. The intelligence of characters varied by ethnicity: African American and Latino/Latina characters were sometimes portrayed as the most intelligent but also as the least intelligent character. White characters were very rarely depicted as least intelligent.

The combination of these stereotypical characterizations of gender and ethnicity place White men in dominant positions throughout television.

Gender Stereotypes 57

According to the Research . . . Biased Media Portrayals Perpetuate Stereotyping

When people see women and ethnic minorities portrayed in stereotypical ways, those presentations infl uence the way they think about and judge individuals from those groups: “Most viewers do not just consume the images and storylines in the media and just walk away untouched” (Eschholz et al., 2002, p. 301). Rather, media por- trayals infl uence people’s perceptions of women and ethnic minorities. That is, biased portrayals perpetuate stereotyping (Brescoll & Lafrance, 2004) and encourage women and men to behave in stereotypical ways (Hundhammer & Mussweiler, 2012). Several studies using the “priming” technique demonstrated this effect. In one study (Murphy, 1998), participants read a fake autobiography about an African American man who was aggressive, lazy, unintelligent, and criminal—the most prominent of the negative characteristics associated with this ethnic group. This presentation primed participants to accept negative views of African American men, affecting their later judgments of Rodney King (receiving a beating from police) and Magic Johnson (being infected with HIV). Participants who read neutral or counterstereotypical stories made judg- ments that differed signifi cantly. Later studies (Dixon, 2008; Dixon & Azocar, 2007; Hundhammer & Mussweiler, 2012) showed similar effects. Another priming study (Brown Givens & Monahan, 2005) demonstrated that negative video portrayals of African American women affected subsequent judgments about an African American woman in a job interview.

Another view of the power of stereotyping on television (and in other media) occurs through its representation of various groups (Harwood & Anderson, 2002). This position holds that the way ethnic groups, women, children, and older people appear in the media refl ects their power and vitality in society. Groups that are minimized, distorted, or marginalized are at risk because these portrayals make the groups seem less signifi cant than they really are. Thus, media content is important not only for the power that it exerts on individuals’ views and behavior but also for how it refl ects and shapes cultural values.

Concerning gender stereotypes on television, there is bad news and good news. The bad news is that stereotypical portrayals of women and ethnic minorities abound on television, and these presentations have the power to do harm. Regard- less of people’s knowledge that “it’s only on television,” these messages are per- suasive and powerful (Eschholz et al., 2002; Ward & Harrison, 2005). The good news is that the media can also work to counteract stereotyping. Commercials and programming that present counterstereotypical information can counteract stereo- types. These presentations can offer models who behave in ways contrary to stereo- types and open behavioral possibilities (Browne, 1998). Therefore, the media tend to perpetuate negative stereotypes, but programming can—and sometimes does— counteract stereotyping.

58 Gender Stereotypes

Table 3.2 Stereotypical Traits of Men and Women Matched to Descriptions from Rosenkrantz et al. (1968)

Male Gender Role Identity Component

Men Women

Stereotypic Traits in Study Cult of True Womanhood Component

Stereotypic Traits in Study

Give ’Em Hell Aggressive Pious Religious

Not uncomfortable about being aggressive



Sturdy Oak Unemotional Submissive Aware of feelings of others

Hides emotions Gentle

Not excitable in a minor crisis Tactful

Able to separate feelings from ideas Quiet

Big Wheel Dominant Domestic Neat in habits

Skilled in business Strong need for security

Knows the ways of the world

Acts as a leader

Self-confi dent



No Sissy Stuff Never cries Purity Does not use harsh language

Not dependent


Thinks men are superior to women

Not conceited about appearance

Source: Based on “Sex-Role Stereotypes and Self-Concepts in College Students” by P. Rosenkrantz, S. Vogel, H. Bee, I. Broverman, and D. M. Broverman, 1968, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 32, p. 291. Adapted by permission of Helen Bee.

changes in the stereotypes for women than for men. Other research indicated a liberalization of gender roles over the past 30 years (Bolzendahl & Myers, 2004). A study that examined age and endorsement of stereotypical personality traits (Strough, Leszczynski, Neely, Flinn, & Margrett, 2007) found that women who were adolescents during or after the feminist move- ment of the 1960s endorsed more masculine personality traits than older women did. A study of gender stereotyping (Lopez-Zafra & Garcia-Retamero, 2012) showed that gender stereotypes among adolescents and adults in Spain included fl exible dimensions, especially for the stereotypes of women. Therefore, these studies show that attitudes toward women have become more egalitarian and less biased, which signals some changes in the traditional stereotypes of women, but attitudes toward men have not shown parallel changes.

The stereotype for men seems to be more stable, and men may be the victims of more stringent stereotyping than women. As Douglas Todd’s (2013) headline article pointed out, the stereotyping applied to men possibly surpasses that applied to women. However, this pattern of thought is not new. College students who described their views of women and men applied more stereotypical terms to men than to women more than two decades ago (Hort, Fagot, & Leinbach, 1990). Masculinity is also viewed as more diffi cult to maintain

Gender Stereotypes 59

and more easily threatened (Vandello, Bosson, Cohen, Burnaford, & Weaver, 2008) and more strongly determined by biology (Smiler & Gelman, 2008).

In addition, men are the targets of some negative attitudes. Assessments of women’s attitudes toward men have revealed that women hold ambivalent (Glick & Fiske, 1999; Glick et al., 2004) and negative (Stephan, Stephan, Demitrakis, Yamada, & Clason, 2000) attitudes toward men. The ambivalence includes feelings of hostility toward men and their gender role combined with admiration and attraction. The disapproving attitudes originate with women’s negative contacts with men more than with the infl uence of negative stereotypes of men. Indeed, the results of a study of evaluations of same- and other-gender individuals (Edmonds & Cahoon, 1993) showed that women tended to believe that men held higher degrees of bias concerning women than the men expressed. That is, women showed negative stereotyping of men.

Gendered Voices: The Problem Disappeared

“Our car was having some problem, and my wife took it to be repaired,” a man said. “She called me from the auto repair place, furious with the treatment she had received. The men there were stonewalling her—failing to listen to what she was telling them and treating her as though she couldn’t possibly be capable of relating problems concerning an automobile. She was steamed.

“I went down there, and the problem disappeared. I was a man and apparently privy to the innermost secrets of automobiles. They treated me as though I would understand everything perfectly. Both my wife and I thought it was really absurd.”

“One of my friends was upset that it cost $3.20 to get her shirt dry-cleaned,” a woman told me. “She asked them why it was so much—the shirt was a tailored, plain shirt. They told her that women’s blouses cost more than men’s shirts, regardless of the style, because women’s clothes don’t fi t on the standard machine for pressing and must be hand-pressed. She wondered if that was really true, and she gave the shirt to a male friend to take to the same dry cleaners. The problem apparently disappeared, because they charged him $1.25 for the very same garment. Isn’t that beyond stereotyping?”

Some evidence suggests that a process moderates the application of gender stereotypes: Men and women may not apply stereotypes to themselves as strictly as they apply these stereotypes to others. U.S. college students hold stereotypical beliefs about gender, but they have also shown that they are willing to exempt themselves from these stereotypes (Williams & Best, 1990). That is, these students rated themselves as varying from the stereotype. By allowing such personal exceptions as routine, people decrease the power of stereotypes to control and restrict their lives.

Therefore, some of the positive attitudes about men and negative attitudes about women found in earlier studies seem to show some changes. More recent studies have shown a shift toward greater acceptance of gender role fl exibility for women and an increase in positive attitudes toward women. But how—and when—do these stereotypes develop? And how do they change over the lifespan?

Stereotypes over the Lifespan

In order to develop gender stereotypes, children must have gender knowledge, which begins to develop during the fi rst years of their lives. By age 2, children apply gender labels, which predict future behavior based on gender (Zosuls et al., 2009). Children as young as 3 years old start to show signs of gender stereotyping (Martin & Little, 1990). This development

60 Gender Stereotypes

is not uniform or simple; 6-year-old children showed a pattern of selective stereotyping in which they made gender-stereotypical judgments about children whose toy interests were similar to their own but failed to make stereotypical judgments for children whose interests were different from their own. This behavior probably refl ected a more complete develop- ment of knowledge about self and others like self, which extended to gender. As they get older, children’s gender stereotyping becomes stronger (Martin, Wood, & Little, 1990). By age 4 some strong gender stereotyping appears, such a girl’s fondness for pink, frilly dresses (Halim, Ruble, & Amodio, 2011). Between ages 8 and 10 , children’s judgments of both genders tend to be stereotypical (Martin et al., 1990).

This pattern of stereotype development appears in Table 3.3 . Children in the fi rst stage have learned characteristics and behaviors associated directly with each gender, such as the toy preferences of each. However, in this stage, children have not learned the many indirect associations with gender, associations that are essential for the formation of stereotypes. In the second stage, children have begun to develop the indirect associations for behaviors associated with their own gender but not yet for the other gender. In the third stage, children have learned these indirect associations for the other gender as well as their own, allowing them to make stereotypical judgments of both women and men.

A specifi c cognitive process called illusory correlation allows children (and adults) to form and maintain stereotypes (Sherman et al., 2009). This process may be described as “the erroneous perception of covariation between two events when no correlation exists, or the perception of a correlation as stronger than it actually is” (Meehan & Janik, 1990, p. 84). The cognitive process of category accentuation also aids stereotyping, exaggerating existing differences (Sherman et al., 2009). Gender fi ts into this conceptualization; people perceive that relationships exist between gender and various behaviors when no relationship exists or when the relationship is not as strong as their perception indicates, and people accentuate the existing differences to sharpen the categories.

Illusory correlation operates in second- and fourth-grade children in a way that is con- sistent with developing gender stereotypes (Meehan & Janik, 1990; Susskind, 2003). Fur- thermore, children’s tendency to gender stereotype creates distortions in their memory for gender-related information. The perception of correlations can be an important factor in maintaining stereotypes for both children and adults; when people believe that activities are related to one or the other gender, they feel comfortable thinking in terms of these catego- rizations. This perceptual bias acts to maintain stereotypes. However, one study (Susskind, 2003) indicated that children do not ignore counterstereotypical information, and the pre- sentation of such information may be a way to diminish gender stereotyping. Thus, when children see fathers cooking and mothers performing home repairs, these observations may act to decrease stereotyping by breaking down illusory correlations.

Table 3.3 Stages of Gender Stereotype Development

Stage Gender Knowledge Status of Gender Stereotypes

1 Behaviors and characteristics directly associated with gender


2 Beginnings of indirect associations with gender for own sex but not other sex

Self-stereotype but none for other sex

3 Complex, indirect gender-related associations for same and other sex

Stereotypes for self and other sex

Source: Based on data from “The Development of Gender Stereotype Components,” by C. L. Martin, C. H. Wood, and J. K. Little, 1990, Child Development, 61, pp. 1891–1904.

Gender Stereotypes 61

Gender stereotyping follows age-related trends similar to the development of other gen- der knowledge. That is, young children show less gender stereotyping than older children (Durkin & Nugent, 1998), men are subject to harsher stereotyping than women, and girls stereotype less strongly than boys. Younger children look for male–female differences and try to understand and categorize such differences (Martin & Ruble, 2004; Miller et al., 2009), whereas older children are more acceptant of deviations from gender stereotypes. Studying gender stereotyping in individuals ranging from kindergarten children to college students showed that the gender stereotyping increases to a point between ages 5 and 7 and then becomes more fl exible with age (Biernat, 1991; Trautner et al., 2005).

Another period of infl exibility occurs during adolescence, followed by greater fl exibility that begins to develop during young adulthood (Lobel, Nov-Krispin, Schiller, Lobel, & Feldman, 2004). However, gender stereotyping does not disappear; some adults stereotype more strongly than others. The tendency for girls to stereotype less than boys extends into adulthood; women show less strict gender stereotyping than men in many countries, including Great Britain (Sweeting, Bhaskar, Benzeval, Popham, & Hunt, 2014) and Ghana (Akotia & Anum, 2012). However, both children and adults show a tendency to attribute gender-stereotypical traits to women, men, and children, including a reluctance to attribute feminine characteristics to males and a tendency to associate femininity with being childlike (Powlishta, 2000).

Older adults may seem to have a stronger tendency to stereotype on the basis of gender than younger adults, but this difference may not be as strong as many people imagine or may be due to the process of aging. In a study that compared gender stereotyping by contrasting the responses of younger and older adults (Robertson et al., 2002), strong gender stereotypes appeared for both age groups. The apparent strength of gender stereotyping among older people may refl ect a generational rather than age difference; these older adults grew up dur- ing a time before the changes in gender roles that occurred over the past 40 years. Thus the tendency for younger adults to show less gender stereotyping than older adults may refl ect their experience more than their age.

In summary, the development of gender stereotypes begins early, with 3-year-old children knowing about gender-related differences in behavior. As children acquire information about gender, they become capable of forming and maintaining elaborate stereotypes for men and women, including a conceptualization of masculinity and femininity. Even when adults become less tied to gender stereotypes, those stereotypes may not lose their power to infl u- ence attitudes and behavior.

Negative Effects of Stereotyping

Overt prejudice and discrimination are obvious negative effects of stereotyping, but the decreas- ing acceptability of such expressions have diminished their expression. However, implicit ste- reotyping continues, which opens the possibility that the negative effects of stereotyping may be taking more subtle forms. Stereotype threat and benevolent sexism are two effects of gender stereotyping that are negative but less obvious than explicit prejudice and discrimination.

Stereotype Threat

Stereotypes have the power to prompt prejudice and discrimination from others. In addition, members of stereotyped groups may handicap themselves by accepting the negative evalua- tions of others. In 1995, Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson reported on a study that showed how the existence of negative stereotypes affects those who are part of the stereotyped groups. They proposed that people feel threatened when they believe that their performance will identify them as examples of their group’s negative stereotype. Steele and Aronson labeled

62 Gender Stereotypes

this situation stereotype threat because the presence of these negative stereotypes threatens performance and self-concept. Even if the person does not believe or accept the stereotype, the threat of being identifi ed with a negative stereotype can be an ever-present factor that puts a person in the spotlight and creates tension and anxiety about performance.

By manipulating the expectations of the implications of taking a test, Steele and Aronson showed that those expectations affected participants’ performance. Steele and Aronson’s early research focused on African Americans and academic achievement, but Steele (1997) drew on the stereotype of women and math to expand the scope of stereotype threat. He demonstrated a decrease in math performance in women who believed that the test they were taking was a test of mathematics ability; these women performed worse than women who thought the test was just another test. African Americans and women performed more poorly than White men, who are not threatened by negative stereotypes of their abilities in math. Women who accepted the negative stereotype about women and math ability showed greater susceptibility to stereotype threat than women who were less accepting of the stereo- type, which affected math performance and career expectations for the two groups of women (Schmader, Johns, & Barquissau, 2004).

How infl uential is stereotype threat? A meta-analysis of experimental studies on stereo- type threat (Nguyen & Ryan, 2008) indicated a small to moderate effect overall, but the infl uence was stronger for some groups and some situations. For example, women expe- rienced more of a performance decrease when the cues concerning their group member- ship were subtle rather than blatant. Minority ethnic groups are even more infl uenced by stereotype threat than are women, but some people get a double dose of stereotype threat, such as Latina women, who were affected by stereotype threat on a test of mathematical and spatial ability (Gonzales, Blanton, & Williams, 2002).

Photo 3.1 Stereotype threat can cause people to fear confi rming a stereotype, and thus they perform more poorly than they otherwise might.

Gender Stereotypes 63

Stereotype threat applies to a variety of people in many situations. The critical elements include the perception that one is a member of a stereotyped group and a situation that evokes the stereotype. For example, White men can be threatened by stereotypes of math ability when reminded that Asians are superior at math (Smith & White, 2002). Men’s per- formance on a social sensitivity task decreased after being reminded that men tend not to be socially sensitive (Koenig & Eagly, 2005). The threat can be very subtle but still infl uential; for example, women who fi lled out a questionnaire about menstruation before taking a math test did more poorly on the math than women who received positive information about menstruation (Wister, Stubbs, & Shipman, 2013).

Speculations concerning the mechanisms through which stereotype threat functions include an effect on working memory (Schmader, 2010). If individuals in the stereotyped groups think about the negative information presented to them, this cognitive activity would diminish a resource that is important to solving the task and thus decrease perfor- mance. Other speculation about how stereotype threat works involves motivation (Forbes & Schmader, 2010): Stereotype threat can also have negative effects on motivation (Thoman, Smith, Brown, Chase, & Lee, 2013), which persist long after the delivery of the threat. Table 3.4 summarizes some of the conditions of stereotype threat.

Children begin to be subject to stereotype threat when they become aware of the stereo- typing that others do (between ages 6 and 10 years). Individuals from stigmatized groups (such as African American and Latino children) became aware of others’ stereotyping before children from more privileged groups (McKown & Weinstein, 2003). This knowledge builds the basis for stereotype threat, and children with knowledge of the stereotyping process from stigmatized groups were more likely to exhibit the negative performance effects of stereotype threat than other children.

Stereotype threat appears to be easily summoned, but research also suggests that nullify- ing stereotype threat may not be too diffi cult. Just the suggestion that men and women perform equally well on a test was enough to avert the effects of stereotype threat on a math test (Smith & White, 2002) and so was a request for the critical information after rather than before people complete the test (Kirnan, Alfi eri, Bragger, & Harris, 2009; Wister et al., 2013). Notifying women about stereotype threat is not suffi cient ( Tomasetto & Appoloni, 2013), but discussing the existence of stereotype threat diminished its effects for women’s performance on a math test (Johns, Schmader, & Martens, 2005). Research on brain function (Krendl, Richeson, Kelley, & Heatherton, 2008; Wraga, Helt, Jacobs, & Sullivan, 2007) has revealed that a certain area of the brain is activated by stereotype threat, and different areas become more active when stereotype threat is nullifi ed. Therefore,

Table 3.4 Conditions and Results of Stereotype Threat

Targets Threatening Statement Lower Performance if Targets Believed the Test Assessed

African American college students African Americans perform worse Academic aptitude

Women Women perform worse Math ability

African Americans and women African Americans and women perform worse

Math ability

Latina women Latinas perform worse Math ability

Women Filling out a questionnaire about menstruation

Math test

White men Men are not socially sensitive Social sensitivity task

64 Gender Stereotypes

stereotypes that individuals carry around with them may threaten their performance in situations that match the stereotyped ones, but nullifying those stereotypes may avoid these negative effects.

Benevolent Sexism

Psychology’s traditional view of prejudice holds that people within a group (the in-group) form negative feelings about those in another group (the out-group) (Allport, 1954). The identifi cation of the out-group may include stereotyping that sharpens the difference between the two groups and erases the individual differences of those people in the out-group. The results of prejudice include a combination of increased feelings of worth for people in the in- group and a devaluation of those in the out-group. For example, women and people of color are frequent targets of derogatory public remarks based on ethnicity and gender (Nielsen, 2002). Every one of the African Americans in this study reported that he or she had been the target of offensive racist remarks made by a stranger in public. Does gender fi t into this model? Are men and women in-groups and out-groups to each other?

Listening to the conversations of groups of women or men saying terrible things about the other may seem to confi rm this view, but research results do not support it. Although women are the targets of various types of discrimination in terms of economic, political, educational, and professional achievement, attitudes about women are not uniformly nega- tive. Indeed, one line of research from Alice Eagly and her colleagues (Eagly, Mladinic, & Otto, 1991) showed that women as a category receive more favorable evaluations than men. Results from a meta-analysis (Feingold, 1998) indicated that women received slightly more favorable ratings than men. Thus, people in general have positive feelings about the char- acteristics stereotypically associated with women, which is not consistent with an overall prejudice against women.

Peter Glick, Susan Fiske, and their colleagues (Fiske, 2012; Fiske, Cuddy, Glick, & Xu, 2002; Glick & Fiske, 2001; Glick et al., 2000) have researched this puzzle in gender ste- reotyping and formulated an answer that demonstrates another negative yet subtle effect of stereotyping. Their focus has been on separating positive from negative aspects of sex- ism (prejudice based on sex or gender). They call the negative aspects hostile sexism , which includes negative attitudes toward women. They also proposed the concept of benevolent sexism , which they defi ned as positive attitudes that nonetheless serve to belittle women and keep them subservient. Benevolent sexism is represented in the attitudes that women deserve special treatment, should be set on a pedestal, and should be revered. Despite the positive nature of these beliefs, people who hold such attitudes tend to see women as weaker, more in need of protection, and less competent than men (Fiske, 2012; Fiske et al., 2002).

Ironically, it may be the favorable traits stereotypically associated with women that serve to perpetuate their lower status (Fiske, 2012; Glick & Fiske, 2001). When people see women as warm and caring but less competent than men, they may give women positive evaluations but still feel that women need men to protect and take care of them, which justifi es women’s subservience. When women accept these stereotypes, they endorse prejudice against them- selves and help to perpetuate negative stereotyping (Jost & Kay, 2005; Sibley, Overall, & Duckitt, 2007). These stereotypes are consistent with romantic chivalry and thus are attrac- tive to both women and men (Viki, Abrams, & Hutchinson, 2003). This type of benevolent prejudice may rationalize racism as well as sexism, casting the dominant group as benevolent protectors rather than oppressors.

Research on the contents of stereotypes (Eckes, 2002; Fiske, 2012; Fiske et al., 2002; Wade & Brewer, 2006) has shown that combinations of two dimensions—competence and warmth—capture many beliefs about stereotyped groups. The mixed values of low

Gender Stereotypes 65

competence–high warmth and high competence–low warmth have been of most interest to researchers, but the two other combinations of high warmth–high competence and low warmth–low competence also occur. Figure 3.4 shows these combinations, the feelings asso- ciated with each, and examples. Research on this stereotype content model (Eckes, 2002; Fiske, 2012; Fiske et al., 2002) confi rmed that people evaluated a number of lower-status groups (women, ethnic minority groups, older people, disabled people) as less competent but warm and thus rated them positively. People from some high-status groups were not so well liked; they were respected and judged as competent but not warm. Indeed, fi nding examples of women who receive ratings high in both warmth and competence is diffi cult (Cikara & Fiske, 2009). Therefore, this view promotes a complex analysis of the components of stereotypes as well as a broad view of the effects of such stereotyping as it applies to gender and other stereotyped categories.

Men are not exempt from ambivalent sexism; the stereotypic characteristics of men can also be analyzed into hostile and benevolent components that are analogous to those that apply to women (Glick & Fiske, 1999; Glick et al., 2004). However, hostile attitudes toward men do not erase men’s dominant status because men are “bad but bold.” These characteris- tics are not necessarily consistent with men as kind but signal that they should be in charge (Glick & Whitehead, 2010).

Considering Diversity

Gender stereotypes affect how women and men think of themselves and how they evaluate their own behaviors as well as the behaviors of others. “Although every individual belongs to at least one sexual, racial, and social class category simultaneously, such categories do not have an equal social meaning” (Unger, 1995, p. 427). How do different societies construct masculinity and femininity? Do cultures around the world stereotype gender-related behav- iors in ways that are similar to those in North America?

Figure 3.4 Combinations of the Two Dimensions of the Stereotype Content Model and Examples of Each Combination

66 Gender Stereotypes

Stereotypes exist for ethnicity as well as for gender, and these stereotypes may interact. Evidence exists that African American and White women hold similar conceptualizations of womanhood (Settles, Pratt-Hyatt, & Buchanan, 2008). But whether ethnic or gender stereotypes are more important varies according to situation. For example, young Hispanic American women were able to use their ethnic identity as a positive factor in becoming successful students, but young Hispanic men often found that their ethnic identity was a handicap in becoming a good student (Lasley Barajas & Pierce, 2001). For African American college students, the situation of attending a predominantly White or predominantly African American campus contributed more heavily to the feeling of being stereotyped than gender did (Chavous, Harris, Rivas, Helaire, & Green, 2004).

Cross-cultural investigations of gender stereotypes have often sought universals but have found both similarities and differences in the concepts of masculinity and femininity. One extensive investigation (Williams & Best, 1990) took place in 30 different countries in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. College students in these countries rated a list of 300 adjectives according to the extent to which each was more frequently (and thus stereotypically) associated with men or women. The results revealed more similarities than differences in these gender stereotypes. Six adjectives were associated with males in all of the cultures— adventurous , dominant , forceful , independent , masculine , and strong —and three adjectives were identifi ed with females in all cultures— sentimental , submissive , and superstitious . In addition, a long list of adjectives appeared as male-associated or female-associated in a large majority of the cultures, and only a few adjectives were male- associated in one culture and female-associated in another. These fi ndings furnish evidence for similarities in gender stereotypes across cultures, but the similarities were far short of being universal.

A reanalysis of some of these data in terms of the Five Factor Model of personality (Wil- liams, Satterwhite, & Best, 1999) revealed even more similarities across cultures than the original analysis. Using averages for 25 countries, differences in gender stereotypes appeared in all fi ve factors. Participants scored the male stereotype higher in Extraversion, Conscien- tiousness, Emotional Stability, and Openness to Experience and placed the female stereotype higher on Agreeableness. Not all countries adhered to this pattern, and individuals within the countries did not necessarily believe they fi t the stereotypes. Later research using the Five Factor Model of personality (Costa, Terracciano, & McCrae, 2001; Löckenhoff et al., 2014) confi rmed a pattern of cross-cultural gender differences that match gender stereotypes in many ways but also reported that these stereotypical gender differences were small.

Despite cross-cultural similarities of gender stereotypes, not all cultures hold the same views of what traits, characteristics, and patterns of behavior men and women should exhibit. One cross-cultural review (Gibbons, Hamby, & Dennis, 1997) found that no single gender distinction applied to all cultures.

Japan was one of the cultures that showed a different pattern of gender stereotypes than many others (Williams & Best, 1990; Williams et al., 1999). Research on gender roles in Japan (Sugihara & Katsurada, 2002) showed that the characteristics that differentiate women and men in the United States, such as independent, assertive, and self-reliant, do not do so in Japan. Indeed, these characteristics are not considered desirable for either Japanese women or men. As Richard Nisbett (2003) discussed, Asian culture promotes the development of strong family ties and obligations, making conformity and obedience valued traits for every- one. In the United States and Europe, these characteristics would be considered feminine, but in Japan, they are not gendered.

In China, another Asian culture, the ideal man is a warrior but also a cook, a teacher, an artist, and a musician (Chia, Moore, Lam, Chuang, & Cheng, 1994). People in both Japan (Sugihara & Katsurada, 2002) and China (Hong, Veach, & Lawrenz, 2003) exhibit gender

Gender Stereotypes 67

stereotyping, and there is some indication (Pugsley, 2010; Tan, Shaw, Cheng, & Kim, 2013) that the global media are changing Asian views of masculinity in a direction more consis- tent with Western standards. However, this transition is not yet complete: A cross-cultural study with participants from Korea and the United States (Cuddy et al., 2015) found that the cultural values of each society affected the evaluation of whether a trait was masculine or feminine. In Korea, collectivism was rated as masculine, whereas in the United States, collectivism was viewed as a feminine trait.

Other cross-cultural research on gender stereotypes has shown that some of those stereo- types are inaccurate. For example, many people in the United States believe that people in their society are less guilty of gender stereotyping than others. Research comparing Italian and American men (Tager & Good, 2005) showed that Italian male students endorsed tra- ditional masculinity less than American male students. Another misconception about gender applies to Arab women, whom many see as veiled, passive, and secluded within the home. Research on Arab women in the United States (Read, 2003) showed that Arab women are more diverse and less traditional than the stereotype suggests, especially Arab women who are Christian rather than Muslim.

Going beyond variation in specifi c gender-related characteristics, some scholars have asked questions concerning how gender stereotyping creates gender-related attitudes that are com- mon over many cultures. The prevalence of male dominance has prompted a broader ques- tion: Are men dominant and women subordinate in all cultures? Is this pattern universal and thus the basis for most gender stereotyping?

The answer from anthropology to the question of universal male dominance is “no” (Bol- ger, 2010; Bonvillain, 2000; Marler, 2006; Salzman, 1999). Some societies have included equal access to resources and power for both women and men. But egalitarian cultures tend to be simple, pastoral societies rather than complex, industrialized cultures. Many more societies have placed men rather than women in positions of power and control; few have enacted egalitarian arrangements. A possible reason for this dominance is men’s tendency to a social dominance orientation versus women’s greater emphasis on forming relationships (Pratto, Sidanius, & Levin, 2006; Sidanius, Pratto, & Bobo, 1994). Research on sexist atti- tudes (Christopher & Mull, 2006; Sibley, Wilson, & Duckitt, 2007) confi rmed the relation- ship between social dominance orientation and sexist attitudes among men.

Another view is based on the confl icts that come from women and men living in male- dominated societies that depend on and value women. This situation sets up attitudes that demean women yet still include positive components. Peter Glick et al. (2000) have delin- eated the concepts of benevolent and hostile sexism toward women, which relate to the stereotypically positive (warm, nurturing) and negative (incompetent, need to be cared for) characteristics of women. These researchers demonstrated the implications of these two components of gender stereotypes in a large (more than 15,000 people) cross-cultural study in 19 countries around the world. They found a positive relationship between hostile and benevolent sexism in every one of the 19 nations: Higher hostile sexism scores were related to higher benevolent sexism scores. They explained the connection as being a result of the relationships between men and women in male-dominated cultures, which create both women’s subordination and their value as sexual and domestic companions and caregivers. For such systems to remain stable, both women and men must hold attitudes that support the system, and some research (Connelly & Heesacker, 2012; Roets, Van Hiel, & Dhont, 2012) indicates that they do. These ideologies form a complementary system that main- tains societies in which men dominate, and research from Belgium (Delacollette, Dumont, Sarlet, & Dardenne, 2013) has shown that men understand their advantage in this respect. Thus, gender stereotypes seem to perpetuate sexist discrimination in many cultures (Désert & Leyens, 2006).

68 Gender Stereotypes

Similar research on hostile and benevolent attitudes about men (Glick et al., 2004) revealed similar patterns across 16 nations. Ratings of men were not as positive as ratings of women; participants saw men as more ruthless, unfeeling, and self-centered than women. However, both female and male participants tended to see men as more powerful and bold. Ratings of men as “bad but bold” are consistent with their dominant position in societies (Glick & Whitehead, 2010).

Results from these studies on benevolent and hostile attitudes toward women and men show that both men and women hold these attitudes. Although women and men were likely to have more positive opinions of their own sex, both endorsed beliefs of hostility and benevolence. Furthermore, the degree of acceptance of hostile and benevolent sexism predicted the level of gender inequality in these societies. Thus, these stereotypes are related to the continuance of gender inequality in many countries.

As the Glick et al. (2000) results showed, women often hold more egalitarian views of women and women’s roles than men endorse, but even this difference is not universal. No differences in attitudes toward women appeared in a study (Gibbons et al., 1997) of people in Malaysia or Pakistan, and men in Brazil expressed more liberal views of women than women did. The distinction between traditional beliefs and beliefs concerning equal opportunity and equal power might apply to all cultures, but the specifi cs of what constitutes traditionalism vary. The division of activities and behaviors into male and female domains is universal, without worldwide agreement about what those activities and characteristics are. Such divisions of activities, however, form the basis for gender roles and furnish the potential for gender stereotyping.


The term gender stereotype refers to the beliefs associated with the characteristics and per- sonalities appropriate to men and women. Current stereotypes of women and men have been infl uenced by historical views of women and men. The Cult of True Womanhood that arose during Victorian times held that women should be pious, pure, submissive, and domestic. For men, several models of masculinity show gender role stereotypes. One of these is the Male Gender Role Identity, which holds that to be successful as men, males must identify with the elements of that role, including the need to avoid all femi- nine activities and interests, have an achievement orientation, suppress emotions, and be aggressive and assertive.

The concepts of masculinity and femininity have a long history in the fi eld of psychol- ogy as personality traits measured by various psychological tests. The fi rst such test was the Attitude Interest Analysis Survey, which conceptualized masculinity and femininity as opposite poles of one continuum. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory still uses this unidimensional approach. A more recent approach to the measurement of mas- culinity and femininity includes the concept of androgyny. Several tests have adopted this strategy, including the Bem Sex Role Inventory and the Personal Attributes Questionnaire. These tests include separate scales for masculinity and femininity, allowing the classifi cation of people as not only masculine or feminine but also as androgynous. These assessments focus on the explicit components of stereotyping that people are aware of, but stereotyping also includes implicit components that are unconscious. Assessment of implicit stereotypes reveals that even people who say that they reject gender stereotypes may accept them on an unconscious level.

Gender stereotypes have four different aspects—physical characteristics, traits, behav- iors, and occupations. Each aspect may vary independently, but people make judgments about one based on information about another, to form an interdependent network of

Gender Stereotypes 69

associations. People use this network of information in making deductions about gender- related characteristics.

Gender stereotyping begins early in development and results in simplifi ed cognitive pro- cessing that allows children to make easier decisions and judgments but also leads children to hold rigid rules for gender-related behavior. Stereotyping is maintained by the illusion that more activities and characteristics are associated with gender than actually are. Children become more fl exible in applying gender rules after about age 7, allowing themselves more exceptions for individual variation. Adolescents go through another period of rigid stereo- typing, followed by greater fl exibility during adulthood. Stereotyping may not be necessary for adults, but the process continues during adulthood, along with its negative implications.

Negative aspects of stereotyping include not only prejudice and discrimination but also stereotype threat and benevolent sexism. Stereotype threat occurs when people feel that their performance in certain situations will identify them as examples of their group’s negative stereotype. This perception may negatively affect their performance. Invoking stereotype threat is easy, but dispelling it may also be easy. Benevolent sexism consists of positive atti- tudes that nonetheless serve to belittle women and keep them subservient. Hostile sexism and benevolent sexism are related, and both women and men hold such attitudes.

Cross-cultural research on gender roles and gender stereotyping indicates that all cultures delegate different roles to men and women, but what traits are associated with each show some cultural variation. Gender stereotypes have more similarities than differences across cultures, with the male stereotype fi tting the instrumental, or agentic, model and the female stereotype fi tting the expressive, or communal, model.


androgyny a blending of masculinity and femininity, in which the desirable characteristics associated with both men and women are combined within individuals.

benevolent sexism positive attitudes that nonetheless serve to belittle women and keep them subservient.

gender stereotype the beliefs about the characteristics associated with, and the activities appropriate to, men or women.

illusory correlation the incorrect belief that two events vary together, or the perception that the relationship is strong when little or no actual relationship exists.

implicit attitudes attitudes that people hold on an unconscious level, which may differ from their explicit, conscious attitudes.

stereotype threat a phenomenon that occurs in situations in which the presence of negative stereotypes affects the performance of those to whom the stereotype applies.

validation the process of demonstrating that a psychological test measures what it claims to measure; the procedure that demonstrates the accuracy of a test.

Suggested Readings

Fiske, Susan T. (2012). Managing ambivalent prejudices: Smart-but-cold and warm-but-dumb stereotypes. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 639 (1), 33–48. Fiske reviews the research on ambivalent sexism and integrates that concept and its components into the

dynamics of several types of prejudice.

Hoffman, Rose Marie. (2001). The measurement of masculinity and femininity: Historical perspective and implications for counseling. Journal of Counseling and Development, 79 , 472–485. This review traces psychologists’ attempts to measure masculinity and femininity, including a critique of

criticism by others.

70 Gender Stereotypes

Kite, Mary E. (2001). Changing times, changing gender roles: Who do we want women and men to be? In Rhoda Unger (Ed.), Handbook of the psychology of women and gender (pp. 215–227). New York: Wiley. Kite reviews gender belief systems, gender stereotypes and their measurement, and what men and women

think of men and women. In addition, she carefully considers the cost of violating these gender stereotypes.

Yong, Ed. (2013). Armor against prejudice. Scientifi c American, 308 (6), 76–80. This article presents an up-to-date and easy-to-read review of the extensive research on stereotype threat.

Suggested Websites

Explore some of the subtleties of stereotyping at Project Implicit ( This website is an extension of the research on implicit associations, which reveal stereotypes that people may not recognize that they have. This website allows visitors to take a variety of implicit associations assessments, includ- ing gender-career and gender-science.

Understanding Prejudice is an organization that maintains an extensive website with many resources, includ- ing a section on ambivalent sexism ( Take the Ambivalent Sex- ism Inventory and see how subtle sexism can be.

The Let Toys Be Toys-For Girls and Boys campaign (, which originated in Great Britain, urges toymakers and children’s book publishers to eliminate the gendering of toys and books as a way to diminish the rampant gender stereotyping in those infl uential materials.


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Headline: “Venus and Mars Collide,” New Scientist, March 5, 2011

John Gray’s (1992) metaphor of women from Venus and men from Mars encouraged people to think that differences between the sexes are astronomical. Those differences should be most obvious in biology; chromosomes and hormones should produce clear differences in building female and male bodies. But as Laura Spinney’s (2011) headline article pointed out, some of those differences are not as clear as most people imagine.

Spinney consulted gender researchers in physiology and psychology, some of whom expressed frustration with media reports of their fi ndings, which tend to focus on the biological bases of all gender differences. These researchers know that this representation is wrong: A growing body of research shows a complex interaction of biological and social infl uences in molding body and behavior. In addition, researchers complained that media reporting fails to highlight the biological gender differences that are well established, leaving the impression that social factors determine all behavioral differences between the sexes. This impression is also incorrect. The complex interaction of biological and social infl uences that affects bodies also applies to behavior. That complexity yields important questions: What roles do hormones and chromosomes play in the behavior of men and women? How do these biological factors interact with environment to produce gender differences and similarities?

This chapter begins to answer these questions with an exploration of the contribution of biology—chromosomes and hormones—on human development from conception through- out prenatal development and again during puberty. Additional questions about the infl u- ence of hormones appear in an examination of individuals who fail to develop according to a clear female or male pattern of physiology. Finally, this chapter examines the role of hormones in adult behavior, including an examination of PMS and the role of testosterone in behavior.

The Endocrine System and Steroid Hormones

Hormones are substances released from endocrine glands to circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream. Receptors on various organs are sensitive to specifi c hormones, which produce many different actions throughout the body. Although the body contains many endocrine glands that secrete a variety of hormones, steroid hormones are the ones that relate to reproduction and differences between the sexes. The reproductive organs, the ovaries and testes, are the gonads . These organs are obviously among the physical characteristics differentiating the sexes and are also essential to reproduction, but the ovaries and testes are not the only endocrine glands that are important for sexual development and functioning. Two brain structures, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, begin a cascade of hormone

Hormones and Chromosomes 4

78 Hormones and Chromosomes

release that results in the regulation of hormone release by the gonads. Figure 4.1 summarizes the action of these glands and hormones.

Gonadal hormones are called steroid hormones and consist of two main classes, andro- gens and estrogens . Although people tend to think of androgens as male hormones and estrogens as female hormones, that belief is inaccurate—each sex produces both types of hormones. The most common of the androgens is testosterone , and the most common of the estrogens is estradiol . Men typically produce a greater proportion of androgens than estrogens, and women typically produce a greater portion of estrogens than androgens. The gonads also secrete a third type of hormone, the progestins . The most common progestin is progesterone, which plays a role in preparing a woman’s body for pregnancy. Men also secrete progesterone, which has a variety of regulatory functions in the endocrine system (Oettel & Mukhopadhyay, 2004).

The gonads are not the only glands that produce steroid hormones; the adrenal glands also produce small amounts of both classes of steroid hormone. These hormones are important in developing the differences between male and female.

Figure 4.1 A Summary Model of the Regulation of Gonadal Hormones

Source: From Biopsychology by John Pinel, 2nd ed., ©1993. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York.

Hormones and Chromosomes 79

Sexual Differentiation

Humans (and most other animals) are sexually dimorphic; that is, they come in two different physical versions—female and male. This sexual dimorphism is the result of development that begins with conception and ends at puberty, resulting in men and women who are capable of sexual reproduction.


The development of sexual differences starts at conception—the fertilization of an ovum by a sperm cell. Most cells in the human body contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, but ova and sperm carry half that amount of chromosomal material. The combination of the two into the fertilized ovum furnishes the full amount of genetic material, with half coming from the mother’s ovum and half from the father’s sperm.

Of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes, pair number 23 is the one that is critical. Although most chromosomes are X shaped, only those in pair 23 are called X chromo- somes . An individual who inherits two of these X chromosomes (one X from the mother and the other X from the father) will have the genetic endowment to develop according to the female pattern. Individuals who inherit one X and one Y chromosome (the X from the mother and the Y from the father) will have the genetic information to develop according to the male pattern. Therefore, the normal female pattern is XX in chromosome pair 23, and the normal male pattern is XY.

The presence of the XY chromosome constellation is only the fi rst factor that produces male physiology, and its presence is not suffi cient to make a male. Other confi gurations are possible for pair 23, but those patterns are considered abnormalities, discussed later, in the section titled “Variations in Sexual Development.”

Prenatal Development of Male and Female Physiology

After conception, the fertilized ovum starts to grow, fi rst by dividing into two cells, then four, and so on. The ball of cells becomes larger and starts to differentiate, forming the basis for different structures and organs. Within the fi rst 6 weeks of prenatal development, no differ- ence exists between male and female embryos, even in their gonads. Both the embryos with the XX pattern and those with the XY pattern have the same structures, and this replication signifi es that both types of embryos have the potential to develop into individuals who look like and have the internal reproductive organs of either boys or girls.

The Reproductive Organs

Both male and female embryos have a Wolffi an system , which has the capacity to develop into the male internal reproductive system, and a Müllerian system , which has the capacity to develop into the female internal reproductive system. About six weeks after conception, two processes typically begin in fetuses with the XY chromosome pattern to further the developing male pattern.

The fi rst involves the production of androgens. A gene on the Y chromosome prompts the development of fetal testes, which produce androgens (Hiort, Thyen, & Holterhus, 2005). The presence of androgens stimulates the development of the Wolffi an system, which further increases production of testosterone and stimulates development of the male pattern. The second process that prompts male development is the production of Müllerian-inhibiting substance, which causes the Müllerian system to degenerate. Therefore, one type of secre- tion prompts the Wolffi an system to develop into the male internal reproductive organs

80 Hormones and Chromosomes

(masculinization), and the other causes the female Müllerian system to degenerate (defemi- nization). These actions result in male internal reproductive organs in the fetus. Figure 4.2 shows how the male reproductive system develops from the Wolffi an system, creating testes, vas deferens, and seminal vesicles. This fi gure also illustrates how both male and female reproductive structures originate from the same prenatal structures.

Differentiation of the ovaries also occurs through the action of genes (Hiort et al., 2005), but the fetal ovaries produce few estrogens, suggesting that no surge of fetal hormones is necessary to produce ovaries. In female embryos, the Wolffi an system degenerates and the Müllerian system develops, resulting in ovaries, uterus, Fallopian tubes, and the upper part of the vagina. Figure 4.2 also shows how the female reproductive system develops from the Müllerian system.

Figure 4.2 Development of Internal Reproductive Systems

Source: From Biopsychology by John Pinel, 2nd ed., ©1993. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York.

Hormones and Chromosomes 81

Until the ninth week after conception, the external genitalia of male and female fetuses are also identical, with the potential to develop into either. The structures that will become the penis and scrotum in males and the clitoris, outer and inner labia, and vaginal opening in females have not yet differentiated but begin to do so after that time. Again, the presence of androgens, especially testosterone, is important. Figure 4.3 shows the development of the external genitalia for both the male and female patterns.

Prenatal production of androgens generates the male pattern, but a surge of estrogens does not seem to be essential to development of the female pattern. Until recently, development

Figure 4.3 Development of Male and Female External Genitalia

Source: From Biopsychology by John Pinel, 2nd ed., ©1993. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York.

82 Hormones and Chromosomes

of the female pattern was often described as a “default” option, but an update (Parma et al., 2006) pointed out that this view is wrong. For example, a gene on chromosome 1 produces a protein that is essential to the development of ovaries. Indeed, genes on the X, Y, and other chromosomes are important in the development of male and female reproductive organs. Efforts to formulate a simple view of chromosomal sex have been inaccurate and misleading (Richardson, 2012). The same warning applies to the role of hormones: A simple view will never be accurate.

The Nervous System

Several possibilities exist for hormones to infl uence the nervous system and thus to affect brain organization during prenatal development and brain functioning through the lifes- pan. This hypothesis has gone from an intriguing possibility to an underlying assumption of much of the neuroscience research on sex differences (Jordan-Young & Rumiati, 2012). Many brain structures contain receptors that are sensitive to androgens and estrogens, creat- ing the possibility for infl uence not just during prenatal development but also later in the lifespan, especially during puberty (Ahmed et al., 2008; Peper et al., 2009). This latter pos- sibility has begun to switch the focus of this line of research, suggesting that sex differences in the brain and nervous system are not “hard-wired” by exposure to prenatal hormones. Rather, hormone exposure later in life may be more infl uential (Jordan-Young & Rumiati, 2012; Wade, 2013).

Another widely researched possibility for sex differences in the brain comes from dif- ferences between the two cerebral hemispheres (Springer & Deutsch, 1998; Wade, 2013). Figure 4.4 presents a drawing of the brain. The concept of lateralization holds that the left and right hemispheres are each specialized for different functions; the left hemisphere is spe- cialized for language and speech, and the right hemisphere for spatial abilities. A great deal

Figure 4.4 Cerebral Commissures and the Hemispheres of the Human Brain

Source: From Biopsychology by John Pinel, 2nd ed., ©1993. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York.

Hormones and Chromosomes 83

of research and theory have explored gender differences in the lateralization of the cerebral hemispheres, but a meta-analysis (Sommer, Aleman, Bouma, & Kahn, 2004) and a critical review (Wallentin, 2009) indicated that lateralization of function does not differ signifi cantly for women and men.

The evidence for sexual dimorphism in the brain is strongest for a small section of the hypothalamus called the sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN). This structure is larger in male rats and in men than in female rats and in women (Gorski, 1987; Swaab & Fliers, 1985). Although its function is not well understood, that function may be related to sexual behavior or gender identity (Garcia-Falgueras & Swaab, 2008). This nucleus is very sensitive to testosterone and estrogen, so the presence or absence of these hormones infl uences its development. In humans, gender differences in this structure do not exist at birth but develop between birth and ages 2 to 4 years (Swaab, Gooren, & Hofman, 1995). Otherwise, the differences in structure between female and male brains are small. Table 4.1 summarizes the results of studies on structural differences between women’s and men’s brains.

Gonadal, hormonal, genital, and brain organization are not suffi cient to produce sexually interested and sexually active people capable of reproduction. Such changes depend on the activating effects of hormones during puberty.

Changes during Puberty

The levels of circulating hormones are low during infancy and childhood, but these levels increase before puberty, the onset of sexual maturity. The changes that occur during this period include not only fertility but also the characteristic adolescent growth spurt and the development of secondary sex characteristics. These characteristics constitute the differ- ences between male and female bodies other than reproductive ones (see Figure 4.5 ). Both sexes experience the growth of body and pubic hair and the appearance of acne. Young men experience the growth of facial hair, larynx enlargement, hairline recession, and muscle development, whereas young women experience breast development, rounding of body contours, and menarche—the beginning of menstruation. All of these changes are prompted by changes in the release of hormones.

The adolescent growth spurt is the result of muscle and bone growth in response to increased release of growth hormone by the pituitary. Increased production of tropic hor- mones by the pituitary act on the adrenal glands, and the gonads increases the production of gonadal and adrenal hormones. These hormones stimulate the gonads to increase their pro- duction of estrogens and androgens. Increased circulation of these gonadal hormones results

Table 4.1 Summary of Brain Differences between Men and Women

Structure Difference

Cerebral hemispheres Men may be more lateralized than women for language and spatial functions

Sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN) of hypothalamus SDN in men is 2.5 times larger than in women

Splenium of corpus callosum Early studies indicated larger and more bulbous splenium in women; later studies found an interaction with age and gender

Anterior commissure Evidence for sexual dimorphism is sketchy

Massa intermedia of the thalamus Evidence for sexual dimorphism is sketchy

84 Hormones and Chromosomes

in maturation of the genitals, that is, the development of fertility as well as the development of secondary sex characteristics.

In adolescent boys and adult men, the production of androgens is proportionately higher than their production of estrogens; in adolescent girls and in women, the production of estrogens is proportionately higher than their production of androgens. The changes in repro- ductive and secondary sex characteristics associated with puberty occur through the action of estrogens and androgens. In girls, these changes produce cyclic variations in hormone levels that are associated with the maturation and release of an ovum approximately every month. If a sperm fertilizes this ovum, and the fertilized ovum implants in the uterus, pregnancy occurs. If no fertilization occurs, the lining of the uterus is shed in menstruation, and the process will reoccur. In boys, the changes during puberty produce the growth of the penis and maturation of the internal reproductive system, which will allow them to produce and ejaculate sperm.

Again, it would be inaccurate to think of androgens as “male” hormones and estrogens as “female” hormones. An example of the infl uence of one hormone on both sexes is the

Figure 4.5 Changes Occurring in Males and Females during Puberty

Source: From Biopsychology by John Pinel, 2nd ed., ©1993. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York.

Hormones and Chromosomes 85

growth of pubic and underarm hair; the androgen produced by both boys and girls results in the growth of pubic and underarm hair in both.

Hormones are also important for the development of sexual interest in humans (Bancroft, 2002), but sexual interest usually precedes puberty (Hyde & Jaffee, 2000). Around age 10, many children begin to show great curiosity (and perhaps even feelings) concerning sex. One possible mechanism for this development is the maturation of the adrenal glands, which occurs at this time and produce both androgens and estrogens. Nevertheless, people who do not undergo puberty generally fail to develop much interest in sexual activity (Meyer- Bahlburg, 1980), so hormonal events during preadolescence and puberty may form a cascade of circumstances crucial for the development of sexual interest. The development of sexual interest and fertility sets the stage for adult fertility and thus reproduction.

Changes during Adulthood

Hormones are clearly important for sexual activity but more important in some animals than others. In rats, for example, the cyclic production of hormones by the females relates to sexual receptivity, and male rats respond to that receptivity. Hormone levels are also important for the development and maintenance of sexual interest. Rats that have their gonads removed before puberty fail to develop any interest in sexual activity. If their gonads are removed after puberty, their sexual interest fades.

In humans, the relationship between hormonal levels and sexual interest is less clear-cut. However, some fl uctuations in sexual desire in women show a relationship to periods of fer- tility, but these effects are small (Giles, 2008). In addition, the normal range of sex hormones varies substantially within men and within women, creating a less than clear relationship between hormone levels and sexual interest. Testosterone seems to be more important for sexual interest than the estrogens, even for women (Giles, 2008), but adults produce both estrogens and androgens, including testosterone.

The story is even more complex concerning the maintenance of sexual activity in humans who experience a decline of hormone levels. Such declines can occur for a number of reasons, including removal of the gonads or decreased hormone production associated with aging. For men, removal of the testes tends to produce a decrease in sexual activity, but the extent and rate of decrease varies enormously from person to person (Bancroft, 2002). Some men experience the signifi cant and rapid loss of either ability to get erections or ability to ejaculate or both. Other men experience a slowly decreasing interest in sexual activity, followed by diffi culty in ejaculating, and then by a loss of ability to achieve erections. Few men remain unaffected by loss of androgens, but the popularity of drugs for erectile problems are strong evidence that sexual interest declines more slowly than sexual performance. Replacement testosterone can reverse the decline in sexual interest and possibly in sexual performance. Testosterone replacement therapy increased with the creation of the testosterone patch and testosterone gel, and its short-term effects are clear (Sullivan, 2003), but safety concerns have arisen (Bassil, Alkaade, & Morley, 2009).

Women’s sexual interest seems less affected by the removal of ovaries. Indeed, some women report increased sexual motivation after such surgery. The most likely explanation is that the hormones important for the maintenance of sexual interest in women are androgens, and so a decrease in estrogen is not critical. Adrenal androgens may be suffi cient to maintain sexual interest. Another possibility is that human sexuality is infl uenced by learned and sexual factors as well as hormones, and thus drastic physical changes in sexually mature adults are mediated by experience and expectation.

Table 4.2 summarizes sexual development, beginning with the critically important pre- natal period. For a clear pronouncement of “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl,” a great many prenatal

86 Hormones and Chromosomes

events must occur in a coordinated sequence. When this complex process fails to follow the typical sequence, the result is a baby whose sex may be ambiguous, combining characteristics of male and female. These cases are rather rare, but their existence is revealing because they provide a means of understanding the necessary elements of typical development.

Variations in Sexual Development

A number of events relating to the development of the reproductive system can, but usually do not, vary from the typical patterns during prenatal development. Problems can originate at several points, beginning before conception with the formation of the mother’s ovum or the father’s sperm. Yet other problems can arise when the prenatal hormones are not consistent with the genetic confi guration of the developing fetus. These variations provide contrasts to typical development and highlight the complexities of defi ning male and female.

Beginning with the single cell that is the fertilized ovum, males differ from females in their chromosomes, but the presence of the XX or XY sex chromosome pattern does not guarantee the development of a normal boy or girl. Variations sometimes occur in the assortment of chromosomes carried by the sperm and ova. Instead of the typical 23, sometimes chromo- somes are missing, or extra ones appear. Several types of chromosomal variations have direct effects on the development of the internal reproductive system, the external genitalia, or both, with resulting hormonal differences.

Variations in Number of Sex Chromosomes

Variations from the typical number of sex chromosomes produce syndromes that often affect reproductive organs, genitalia, hormone production, fertility, growth, cognitive abilities, and

Table 4.2 Effects of Sex Hormones over the Lifespan

Age Span Results of Hormone Action Effects for Men Effects for Women

During Prenatal Development

Development of internal and external genitalia

6 weeks after conception Embryos develop testes, which produce androgens; Wolffi an system develops; Müllerian system deteriorates

Embryos do not produce androgens; Müllerian system develops; Wolffi an system deteriorates

3–4 months into gestation

Androgens prompt development of male pattern external genitalia

Without androgens, external genitalia develop the female pattern

During Puberty Development of secondary sex characteristics; development of sexual interest; beginning of fertility

Growth of body and pubic hair; appearance of acne; larynx enlargement; hairline recession; muscle enlargement

Growth of body and pubic hair; appearance of acne; breast development; rounding body contours; beginning menstruation

During Young Adulthood

Fertility and Reproduction Sperm production depends on specifi c hormone action

Maturing and releasing ova and implantation of fertilized ova depend on specifi c hormone action

During Older Adulthood

Hormone production falls Lower testosterone decreases but does not end fertility and affects erectile ability

Menopause ends fertility; lower hormone production affects sexual interest

Hormones and Chromosomes 87

other aspects of development. Turner syndrome (or Turner’s syndrome ) occurs when the fertilized ovum has only one chromosome of pair 23—that is, one X. This syndrome is usu- ally described as X0, where the zero stands for the missing chromosome (Ranke & Saenger, 2001). Individuals with Turner syndrome appear female at birth, because their external geni- tals develop according to the female pattern. Their prenatal development begins normally, but their Müllerian systems degenerate, producing individuals with no functioning ovaries, and their brains vary in small ways from those of other women (Cutter et al., 2006). At birth the appearance of the external genitalia prompts identifi cation as female, but without ovaries, they produce no estrogens, so they do not undergo puberty or produce ova. With hormone supplements, they appear female. They do not produce ova, but donated ova and medical assistance can allow them to bear children.

Another mistake in chromosome number is the presence of an extra X chromosome— the XXX confi guration (Harmon, Bender, Linden, & Robinson, 1998). Individuals with the XXX confi guration develop prenatally as female, but women with the XXX pattern may have normal intelligence or may have developmental disabilities that affect cognitive ability. They also may have problems that affect their reproductive ability, including menstrual irregularities or amenorrhea (absence of menstrual periods) that results in sterility, but they may not. Women with this chromosomal pattern have been known to have children. Individuals with the XXXX pattern and XXXXX pattern have also been identifi ed (Linden, Bender, & Robinson, 1995). These individuals tend to have more severe developmental problems and are very likely to be seriously develop- mentally disabled as well as sterile.

Klinefelter syndrome is characterized by the XXY confi guration, and this variation is the most common of the sex chromosome abnormalities, occurring in 1 case per 1,000 male births (Wattendorf & Muenke, 2005). Individuals with Klinefelter syndrome have male internal and external genitalia, but their testes are small and usually cannot produce sperm, resulting in sterility. They may also fail to develop the body shape typical of men; during puberty, they may develop breasts and wider hips. Alternatively, these individuals may expe- rience much less serious symptoms, with only slight variations from the characteristic male body shape (Richardson, 2012). Like other people with extra chromosomal material, indi- viduals with Klinefelter syndrome have an increased chance of developmental disabilities. Other confi gurations of chromosomes are similar to Klinefelter syndrome, including XXXY and XXXXY, which produce more severe problems in the skeletal and reproductive systems as well as severe developmental disabilities.

The XYY chromosome pattern was the subject of a great deal of publicity during the 1960s. Articles appeared linking the XYY gene pattern to “aggressive tendencies” and “crimi- nality” (Hubbard & Wald, 1993). These sensational reports were largely unfounded; the early association of XYY with imprisonment was based on faulty research. The large majority of XYY men are not aggressive or criminal. They tend to be very tall and may be more likely to be in prison than men with the XY chromosome pattern (Witkin et al., 1976). However, their offenses were no more likely to be violent than other inmates. Thus, the presence of an extra Y chromosome produces an increased risk for developmental disabilities but not a tendency to higher levels of aggression.

In summary, missing or extra sex chromosomes often affect the development of the sexual organs and more often affect other areas of development, especially cognitive abilities. Both missing chromosomes (Turner syndrome) and extra chromosomes (Klinefelter syndrome) result in sterility, but individuals with the XXX pattern and the XYY pattern may be fertile. This extra chromosomal material does not make individuals “hypermasculine” or “superfemi- nine.” Indeed, extra chromosomes produce developmental problems rather than enhance- ments. Table 4.3 summarizes characteristics of these variations in number of sex chromosomes.

88 Hormones and Chromosomes

Problems Related to Prenatal Hormone Exposure

The presence of the XY chromosome pattern is not necessary (or suffi cient) for the develop- ment of male internal or external genitalia; the hormone testosterone is the key to these devel- opments. Therefore, a fetus that is genetically female (XX pattern) can be masculinized by the addition of testosterone during the period of the third and fourth months of prenatal develop- ment. Typically, female fetuses do not produce testosterone during this important period, but prenatal exposure to androgens may occur, either through the action of tumors in the adrenal gland or through the pregnant woman’s inadvertent or intentional exposure to androgens.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH, also called adrenogenital syndrome ) occurs when the adrenal gland decreases its production of the hormone cortisol, which prompts an increase in adrenal androgens. For a male fetus, relatively few problems occur; for a boy, increased androgen production accelerates the onset of puberty. For a developing female fetus, however, the presence of excessive androgens produces masculinization of the exter- nal genitalia during prenatal development. The excess androgens occur too late to affect the internal genitals, which are usually normal, but these girls are born with a clitoris that may look very much like a small penis. If their genitals appear atypical at birth, physicians often recommend to parents surgical intervention to alter the genitals toward a more typical female appearance. This procedure has become very controversial (Cohen-Kettenis, 2005b; Meyer-Bahlburg et al., 2004), partly because the surgery may damage nerves to the clitoris, producing permanent problems in sexual responsiveness.

These girls interest researchers because their brains were exposed to androgens during prenatal development, which may affect their behavior, gender identity, and even sexual orientation. However, hormone exposure is not their only difference—the early medical and parental attention focused on their genitals makes these girls different from others. Research has suggested that CAH is associated with play activities more typical of boys than girls; that is, these girls are more likely to be “tomboys” (Berenbaum, 2006; Hines, Brook, & Conway, 2004). As adults, women affected by CAH are more likely than other women to show reduced heterosexual interest, but as girls (Meyer-Bahlburg et al., 2004) and as women (Berenbaum, 2006), those affected by CAH showed neither gender confusion nor dissatisfac- tion. Indeed, the majority of women affected by CAH become heterosexual women with no doubts about their female gender identity.

Androgen insensitivity syndrome occurs in XY male fetuses whose body cells are insensitive to androgens. The androgens produced by their fetal testes will not induce masculinization because the androgen receptors in their bodies do not function nor- mally (Mazur, 2005; Simpson, 2001). These fetuses will develop as though no androgens were present, and at birth the XY baby will appear to be a girl. The internal genita- lia are not female, however, because the presence of the Y chromosome prompted the development of testes (that remain within the abdominal cavity) and the production of

Table 4.3 Types and Effects of Variations in Number of Sex Chromosomes

Syndrome/Description Chromosome Confi guration Effects Individuals Identifi ed as

Turner syndrome Missing chromosome—X0 Incomplete internal reproductive organs; no fertility


Klinefelter syndrome Extra X chromosome— XXY, XXXY, XXXXY

Feminized male; no fertility Male

Extra X XXX, XXXXX, XXXXX Uncertain fertility or no fertility; developmental disabilities


Extra Y XYY Very tall individuals Male

Hormones and Chromosomes 89

Müllerian-inhibiting substance caused the normal degeneration of the Müllerian system. Thus, these individuals have undescended testes and incomplete female internal repro- ductive systems, but their external genitalia appear female.

Individuals with androgen insensitivity syndrome (and their families) can be completely unaware of the disorder. Complicating the diagnosis, their testes produce suffi cient estrogen to prompt breast development during puberty, increasing their feminine appearance. They have no ovaries, Fallopian tubes, or uterus, so they will not reach menarche , the begin- ning of menstruation. Nor will they grow pubic hair, a characteristic under the control of the androgens, to which they are insensitive. No amount of added androgens will reverse this condition, because their body cells are insensitive to it. Indeed, the levels of androgens circulating in their bloodstream are within the normal range for men, but their bodies are “deaf” to these hormones.

Individuals with androgen insensitivity syndrome are identifi ed as girls at birth, raised as girls, and have no reason to doubt their gender identifi cation for years. At puberty they grow breasts and begin to look like young women, giving them no reason to imagine they are anything but women. Typically, few suspicions arise concerning any abnormality until they fail to grow pubic hair and fail to reach menarche. Even then these symptoms may be discounted for several years due to the variability of sexual development.

When gynecological examination reveals the abnormality of their internal genitalia, these individuals and their families learn that they are male at the chromosomal and hormonal levels. This information contradicts years of gender role development. Not surprisingly, some of these individuals have diffi culty adjusting to this information. No treatments exist to masculinize these individuals, so no attempt is made to change them. A longitudinal study of individuals with androgen insensitivity syndrome (Hines, Ahmed, & Hughes, 2003) indicated that they are similar to other women in gender identity, esteem, and well-being. Despite their male chromosomes, these individuals are women in terms of gender identity, physical appearance, and behavior.

All of these examples of variation in sexual development illustrate individuals born with characteristics of both sexes. The modern term for these conditions is intersexuality or disorders of sexual development ( DSD ). The traditional diagnosis for these individuals was hermaphroditism , now called gonadal intersexuality . This description refers to individuals who have both ovarian and testicular tissue—either an ovary on one side of the body and a testicle on the other side, or both types of tissue combined into a structure called an ovotestis. This condition is extremely rare, with no more than 60 cases being identifi ed in Europe and North America within the last century (Money, 1986).

Another provocative example of intersexuality comes from individuals with a genetic enzyme (5-alpha-reductase) defi ciency that prevents chromosomal males from developing male external genitalia during the prenatal period (Cohen-Kettenis, 2005a; Herdt, 1994). Like individuals with androgen insensitivity syndrome, these babies may appear more female than male at birth and are often identifi ed as girls. The appearance of their external genitals is ambiguous, not truly female but defi nitely not male. Unlike people with androgen insensitiv- ity syndrome, these individuals respond to androgens during puberty and develop masculine characteristics. That is, their voice deepens, their muscles develop, their testes descend into the scrotum, and their penis enlarges. For those identifi ed as girls, they no longer fi t into that category. However, most of these individuals do not clearly fi t into the category of male, either.

An early study of these intersex individuals (Imperato-McGinley, Guerrero, Gautier, & Peterson, 1974) indicated that the majority had made at least fairly successful transitions to the male role, but an analysis of studies on this topic (Berenbaum, 2006; Cohen-Kettenis, 2005a) indicated that about 40% of individuals with this syndrome retained a female gender identity. A few individuals identifi ed themselves as men but dressed and lived the social role of women, not clearly fi tting either role. Indeed, the New Guinea culture in which this form

90 Hormones and Chromosomes

of intersexuality is relatively common acknowledges the existence of individuals who do not fi t either sex by devising a third category of sex to describe them (Herdt, 1981). Table 4.4 summarizes the characteristics of these intersex conditions.

A third sex or some continuum for sex seems a better choice than the gender binary that most people assume (Fausto-Sterling, 2000). The intersex individuals represent cases in which chromosomal, hormonal, gonadal, and genital sex are not consistent. As Sheri Beren- baum (2006) pointed out, the determination of sex does not necessarily require complete consistency. For example, individuals with androgen insensitivity syndrome have a male chromosome confi guration and normal levels of androgens for men, but they look and feel female—they are female in their own opinion and in the opinion of society (Mazur, 2005). Although individuals with 5-alpha-reductase defi ciency usually identify as either male or female, some experience diffi culties. If hormones and chromosomes were the determining factors in gender identity, then these individuals should all become male, and individuals with androgen insensitivity syndrome would be male. Such is not the case. If exposure to prenatal androgens were the determining factor for gender identity, girls with CAH would experience many problems. They do experience more problems with their gender identity than other girls, but a majority of them have no gender confusion or dissatisfaction (Beren- baum, 2006). Although hormones play a very important role in determining reproductive physiology, sex and gender are more than the function of hormones.

Hormones and Behavior Instability

In addition to their role in sexual development and activity, many people consider hormones to affect a wide range of other behaviors. The concept of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and its many negative effects have received wide publicity, as has the relationship between testos- terone and aggression. People tend to attribute unstable, problem behavior to “raging hor- mones,” but how accurate is this belief? How powerful are hormones in affecting behavior?

Premenstrual Syndrome

The notion that women’s reproductive systems affect their mood is ancient (Chrisler & Caplan, 2002), but the concept of premenstrual syndrome is quite modern—it can be traced to the 1960s. During this time, Katharina Dalton published research (reviewed by Parlee, 1973) suggesting that women experience a wide variety of negative emotional, cognitive,

Table 4.4 Intersex Conditions Produced during Prenatal Development

Syndrome Cause Effect Individual Identifi ed as

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia

Genetic defect causes increased androgen production

In XX fetuses— Masculinization of external genitalia In XY males— Minimal prenatal effects; early puberty

Female Male

Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome

Genetic defect in androgen receptors

Androgens fail to masculinize XY fetus


5-alpha Reductase Defi ciency

Insensitivity to androgens during prenatal development

Ambiguous external genitalia

Female, which changes to male during puberty

Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome

Genetic defect in androgen receptors

Androgens fail to masculinize XY fetus


Hormones and Chromosomes 91

and physical effects due to the hormonal changes that precede menstruation. These effects became known as a syndrome , although the list of symptoms extended to over 150, and some of the symptoms were mutually exclusive (such as elevated mood and depression ).

The symptoms associated with the premenstrual phase of the cycle include headache; backache; abdominal bloating and discomfort; breast tenderness; tension or irritability; depression; increased analgesic, alcohol, or sedative use; decreased energy; and disrup- tion in eating, sleeping, sexual behavior, work, and interpersonal relationships (Dickerson, Mazyck, & Hunter, 2003). The most common among these symptoms are tension and irritability, and the widespread belief is that hormones are the underlying cause.

The cyclic variation of hormones in the menstrual cycle affects the release of estrogens and progesterone. In the middle of the cycle, the follicles produce larger amounts of one of the estrogens (estradiol) than during other times of the cycle. With the release of the matured ovum, and the remainder of the follicle from which it was released then starts to produce progesterone. Therefore, during the ovulatory phase of the cycle, estrogen levels are higher than progesterone levels. During the premenstrual phase of the cycle, both estradiol and progesterone fall, and progesterone is at a higher level than estradiol. During the menstrual phase, the levels of both hormones are relatively low.

All of the hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle have been candidates for the underlying cause of premenstrual syndrome (Dickerson et al., 2003). The possibilities include an excess of estrogens, falling progesterone levels, and the ratio of estrogens to pro- gesterone. However, hormonal differences show no consistent relationship with symptoms (Hsiao, Liu, & Hsiao, 2004), and one recent study (Ziomkiewicz et al., 2012) showed a relationship of high progesterone levels to decreased (rather than increased) irritability and fatigue. This failure to tie any pattern of hormonal changes to the symptoms of PMS is a major problem for the concept of PMS.

Photo 4.1 Although the diagnosis of PMS is controversial, many women are willing to label their symptoms as this disorder.

92 Hormones and Chromosomes

The lack of relationship between hormone levels and the experience of PMS also presents a problem for diagnosis; there is no hormone or laboratory test for PMS (Freeman, 2003), and the diagnostic criteria have presented problems for researchers (O’Brien et al., 2011; Weisz & Knaapen, 2009). Women from a variety of cultures report premenstrual symptoms, with some saying that the symptoms are serious enough to interfere with their lives. In France, about 12% of women reported problems serious enough to interfere with their lives (Potter, Bouyer, Trussell, & Moreau, 2009). In the United States, almost 19% of women said they experienced menstrual-related problems (Strine, Chapman, & Ahluwalia, 2005), but these problems include menstrual symptoms—heavy fl ow and cramping—as well as symptoms associated with PMS—anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. In China, 21% showed symptoms of PMS (Qiao et al., 2012), whereas in India, only 4.7% of women reported severe symptoms associated with the premenstrual period (Joshi, Pandey, Galvanker, & Gogate, 2010). Even women who experience no troublesome problems associated with menstruation still report premenstrual symptoms (Gonda et al., 2008).

The existence of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) makes the diagnosis of PMS even more confusing. PMDD was added to an appendix of the fourth edition of the Diag- nostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the offi cial guidelines for diagnosing mental disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association, and moved into the body of the DSM in its fi fth edition as one of the depressive disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). PMDD is a more severe version of PMS; its treatment includes prescrip- tion antidepressant drugs.

According to the Media . . . PMS Is a Joke

For many years, television did not mention any type of menstrual process, either in its entertainment programming or in advertising. Even before PMS could be mentioned by name on television, it was a topic in sitcoms (Parsons, 2004). In 1973, the charac- ter of Gloria in the sitcom All in the Family expressed unreasonable irritation clearly attributable to premenstrual tension.

Over the next 30 years, PMS continued to be the topic of humor on television, and it began to be named (Parsons, 2004). Menarche, the beginning of menstruation, and meno- pause, the ending of menstrual periods, were portrayed on dramas as well as comedies in ways that educated as well as entertained (Kissling, 2002). PMS, on the other hand, appeared only as a comedy ploy. Women in sitcoms such as Taxi, Married with Children, Roseanne, and Everybody Loves Raymond showed symptoms of PMS—always the emotional rather than physical ones. In these sitcoms, the male characters suffer more than the female characters from the female characters’ PMS (Parsons, 2004). These puzzled men bear the brunt of angry outbursts, crying spells, mood swings, and temper tantrums, without any suggestion in the script that the men’s behavior might contribute to their partners’ irritation.

Other media have followed in the steps of TV sitcoms by portraying PMS as a joke. An analysis of over 2,000 tweets on Twitter (Thornton, 2013) on the subject of menstruation revealed comments about PMS featuring moody, irrational women and victimized, suffering men. A California advertising fi rm formulated a campaign for milk focused around the notion that the calcium in milk can help with PMS (Elliott, 2011). The ads were intended to be humorous, showing desperate husbands buying gallons and gallons of milk and even raiding milk delivery trucks in their desperate attempts to relieve their wives’ PMS. Many people failed to fi nd this portrayal funny. The ads provoked a storm of controversy and were discontinued quickly.

Hormones and Chromosomes 93

According to the Research . . . PMS is not so Funny

About 19% of women in the United States between the ages of 18 and 55 report some type of distress associated with menstruation (Strine et al., 2005). Many of these unpleas- ant symptoms are not associated with PMS but rather with the menstrual period, such as heavy bleeding or painful cramping. However, PMS was among the problems mentioned by these women. The list of symptoms associated with PMS is extensive, numbering over 100 (Chrisler & Caplan, 2002). The most commonly mentioned symptom is fl uid retention, especially in the breasts and abdomen, rather than the emotional symptoms portrayed on sitcoms (Parsons, 2004). Other symptoms include additional physical man- ifestations such as acne, headaches, aches or pain in the muscles or joints, fatigue, sleep problems, alterations in sex drive, cravings for sweet or salty food, and constipation or diarrhea, as well as emotional symptoms such as bursts of energy, sadness, depression, anxiety, tension, moodiness, and feeling out of control. To present such symptoms as amusing requires substantial insensitivity to the women who experience these symptoms.

Television sitcoms portray men as the victims of women’s PMS, but some research (Skatssoon, 2005) suggested that men may be more than innocent bystanders: Women who lived with men were more likely to report PMS than women who lived with other women. Consistent with portrayals on television, research indicates that women often experience problems during the premenstrual period that involve relationship issues. PMS researcher Jane Ussher (Ussher & Perz, 2013) reported that relationship issues were often the source of stress and problems that become the focus of confl ict during the premenstrual period. An alternative explanation to women’s irrationality and oversensitivity is that women’s anger may be justifi ed, but they (and their male partners) are willing to blame themselves and PMS for women’s reactions. This interpretation is quite consistent with television sitcoms but may not be best for women’s health or, in the long run, for their relationships.

Distinguishing among premenstrual symptoms, PMS, and PMDD presents a challenge for researchers and clinicians (O’Brien et al., 2011; Weisz & Knaapen, 2009; Yonkers, Pearl- stein, & Rosenheck, 2003). About half the women seeking treatment from a gynecology practice reported that they experienced symptoms of PMS, but about a third of that group did not meet the criteria for PMS. In other studies (McFarlane, Martin, & Williams, 1988; McFarlane & Williams, 1994), about half the women who met and about half who failed to meet diagnostic criteria consistent with PMS reported that they had it. A random survey of women (Deuster, Adera, & South-Paul, 1999) indicated that only 8.3% experienced PMS. A recent review of studies that followed women through at least one menstrual cycle and col- lected data on mood during each phrase (Romans, Clarkson, Einstein, Petrovic, & Stewart, 2012) came to the conclusion that there is no evidence for the association of negative mood and the premenstrual phase of the cycle.

These results suggest that the belief in PMS is more widespread than PMS. What has contributed to the widespread belief that most women are victims of their hormones and suffer not only during their menstrual periods but also during the two or three weeks before (which totals three out of four weeks of the month)? Media publicity may be one answer (see According to the Media and According to the Research), but researchers have explored some additional possibilities.

Two longitudinal studies by Jessica McFarlane and her colleagues (McFarlane et al., 1988; McFarlane & Williams, 1994) offer some insight into beliefs about PMS. Both studies

94 Hormones and Chromosomes

involved instructing women (and men) to keep records of their daily moods without know- ing that the menstrual cycle was the focus of the study (to avoid bias by alerting participants to the topic of the study). Both studies included women who were cycling normally, women who were taking oral contraceptives and thus not ovulating, and men. The main result of the study by McFarlane et al. (1988) was that no differences in mood stability appeared when comparing the young men and the young women who participated in the study. All participants experienced similar mood changes within a day as well as from day to day. Also, the men and women reported similar variability in mood during the 70 days of the study. These results offer no support for the existence of PMS.

A second study (McFarlane & Williams, 1994) recruited participants who were older than the typical college students and lasted at least 12 weeks to cover more menstrual cycles. The analysis for this study included an evaluation of each participant’s cyclic mood variation over time. This study also revealed that people experienced cyclic mood variations—but not in the PMS pattern. In comparing women who were cycling normally to women taking oral contraceptives and to the men, the women who were cycling normally reported more pleas- ant moods during and immediately after their periods than in the ovulatory or premenstrual periods (McFarlane et al., 1988), and few reported emotional symptoms consistent with PMS (McFarlane & Williams, 1994). A recent review of menstrual cycle research (Romans et al., 2012) supports these fi ndings: There is no consistent pattern of negative mood associ- ated with the premenstrual period.

Why do so many women believe that they have PMS? One reason is perception of the signals that predict the onset of menstruation. Women around the world experience pre- menstrual symptoms, recognizing their bodies’ signals that their periods are going to start (Adewuya, Loto, & Adewumi, 2009; Lee, So-Kum Tang, & Chong, 2009; Miller, 2002). Some people are more responsive to body signals than others. Comparing women who showed higher sensitivity to bodily cues to those who showed less revealed that women with high body sensitivity reported more emotional responses during the premenstrual periods than women less sensitive to their bodies’ changes (Schnall, Abrahamson, & Laird, 2002). Indeed, the experience of physical symptoms is a major factor in accepting PMS (Kiesner, 2009). However, about half of the women reported positive emotional changes, including greater energy and happiness.

Recognizing symptoms of an impending menstrual period also allows women to attribute negative moods to PMS rather than to some other source (such as stress, pressure at work or school, or relationship confl icts). This cognitive process of attribution allows for distortion of cognitive processes that maintain beliefs in PMS, even if an individual’s experience does not. For example, by imagining that all women have PMS and by believing that one’s own symptoms are less severe than the norm, a woman can feel superior to the average woman (Chrisler, Rose, Dutch, Sklarsky, & Grant, 2006). Women (and the men around them) may be more comfortable in attributing negative emotions to PMS rather than accepting those negative emotions as part of the self (Chrisler, 2008; Chrisler & Caplan, 2002). After all, women are supposed to be sweet, kind, and nurturant; if they behave otherwise, PMS is a good excuse.

Both women and men are willing to attribute moody behavior to PMS (Koeske & Koeske, 1975). When furnished with information about a woman’s cycle, both men and women tended to use this information as a partial explanation for the woman’s emotional behavior. If people believe that these symptoms are associated with the premenstrual period as well as menstruation, they can apply this explanation at least half the time—the week (or two) before and the week during menstruation. When they experience the same situations and reactions at other phases of their cycle, they seek other explanations. In

Hormones and Chromosomes 95

this way, premenstrual syndrome can become a self-perpetuating myth for the women who react to problems, stresses, and irritations in their lives as well as for the people who observe the reactions.

Does this explanation of PMS mean that the syndrome is not “real”? Are women imagin- ing all their premenstrual symptoms? And what about those women who experience very serious symptoms that meet the diagnosis of PMDD? None of the fi ndings on expectancy and attribution of symptoms indicates that the symptoms are not real; women are not imag- ining their discomfort, irritation, anxiety, bloating, sleep problems, and cramps. They may, however, be misattributing these symptoms to PMS when other explanations would be more accurate. For example, anxiety varies across the menstrual cycle in some women (Szollos, Thyrum, & Martin, 2006), and those women often show symptoms consistent with PMS. A recent study (Hoyer et al., 2013) showed that women diagnosed with PMS exhibited higher stress and more physiological indicators of a stress response when they worked on resolving an emotional confl ict during the premenstrual phase of their cycle. A survey of women in the United States (Strine et al., 2005) indicated that women who reported severe menstrual problems also reported problems with depression, anxiety, and stress. Perhaps the concept of PMS provides a convenient label—it is more acceptable to label women’s distress as PMS rather than to consider and address more complex sources for problems, such as work and relationships that produce tension, stress, anxiety, and depression (Chrisler et al., 2006; Chrisler & Caplan, 2002).

Gendered Voices: People Believe That Hormones Make People Crazy

People tend to attribute too much power to hormones, often confusing the action of hormones with neurotransmitters, which are neurochemicals that guide the activity of the brain and nervous system. I became aware of this confusion due to a class activity in which I asked students to survey people about what behaviors hormones control. Some of the responses:

21-year-old male lab technician: “I believe that hormones control about 70% of emo- tion and behavior, especially when the hormone levels aren’t balanced.”

18-year-old female student: “Women have periods, which makes their hormones crazy, and men have raging hormones that makes them a bit crazy.”

20-year-old female college student : “I cry all the time because of my hormones. I liter- ally cry over the smallest things all because of my hormones.”

51-year-old man: “High levels of hormones can make people crazy.” 68-year-old grandmother: “Hormones infl uence young men the most because all they

think about is sex.” 15-year-old female student: “A girl on her period, she may want to kill somebody.” 20-year-old male college student: “I would think that hormones dictate everything

about behavior. I would think that they would completely guide a person’s behav- ior. For everybody.”

One insightful student’s analysis of the responses she heard: “It seems as though people let stereotypes trump actual science, and that’s pretty sad.”

96 Hormones and Chromosomes

But what about premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is a more serious ver- sion of PMS and classifi ed as a psychiatric disorder? Thousands of women have received that diagnosis, but might PMDD also be subject to misattribution? That diagnosis has been the center of continuing controversy oriented around that possibility. Proponents claim that the disorder has a physiological basis and requires pharmacological treatment (Epperson et al., 2012). Opponents claim that the diagnosis creates the impression of pathology where none exists (Ussher, 2013) and offers unwarranted opportunities for prescribing drugs (Cosgrove & Wheeler, 2013). Women diagnosed with PMS and PMDD respond favorably to antidepres- sant drugs (Steiner & Li, 2013), but the possibility exists that these women may actually experi- ence depression that is exacerbated by hormonal variations (Miller & Miller, 2001). As some researchers contend, PMDD may be a created disorder with little validity as a separate diagnosis (Flora & Sellers, 2003). Despite the arguments against this diagnosis, PMDD moved from the appendix of the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2000) to the section on depressive disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), guaranteeing that the controversy will continue.

In summary, PMS has received wide publicity and wide acceptance, but research has failed to confi rm a clear biological basis, and emotional symptoms are subject to expectation and attribution. It may be convenient to explain women’s negative moods in terms of PMS or even PMDD, but it is probably not accurate to do so.

Testosterone and Aggression

The collision between Mars and Venus was not the only confl ict discussed in Spinney’s (2011) headline article, which also touched on confl ict and aggression between men. Spin- ney cited statistics about confl ict and competition between men, saying that it is common to 90% of human societies, but the form and severity of male aggression varies enormously among those societies. The widespread assumption is that men’s higher levels of testosterone are the source of all this aggression. Do men’s hormones prepare them to be warriors? And how does testosterone affect women’s behavior?

What is the role of testosterone in aggression? This relationship has three possibilities: (1) Testosterone may cause increases in aggression, (2) aggressive behavior may cause increases in testosterone levels, or (3) levels of testosterone and aggression may be mediated through some other biological or social mechanism (Mazur, 2009; Ramirez, 2003). Although many people assume the fi rst view, research has provided more evidence for the second and third possibilities.

The relationship between testosterone levels and aggression is complex rather than a sim- ple, linear relationship. James Dabbs and his colleagues (Dabbs, 2000) conducted dozens of studies on hormone levels and behavior in both men and women. These studies revealed that high testosterone levels were related to impulsive and antisocial (what Dabbs called “rambunctious”) behaviors, but few studies found a link to aggressive or violent behaviors.

Within the normal range of testosterone (which varies by a great deal), testosterone may not be a major factor in behavior. However, for men with the highest levels of testosterone, problems appeared in a variety of behaviors. For example, U.S. military veterans showed a positive relationship between testosterone level and drug and alcohol abuse, antisocial behavior, and affective disorders (Dabbs, Hopper, & Jurkovic, 1990). Men whose testoster- one fell within the upper 10% of testosterone levels had a history of trouble with parents, teachers, and classmates as well as a history of drug use and more instances of going Absent Without Leave (AWOL) while in the military (Dabbs & Morris, 1990). Men with high lev- els of testosterone also tend to have lower-status occupations, which may indicate that high

Hormones and Chromosomes 97

testosterone levels are related to behaviors that make success less likely, such as impulsiveness and antisocial behavior (Dabbs, 1992, 2000).

Dabbs and his colleagues found relationships between testosterone levels and a variety of problem behaviors, including delinquency (Banks & Dabbs, 1996), membership in a “rowdy” fraternity (Dabbs, Hargrove, & Heusel, 1996), and a greater likelihood of quit- ting or being fi red from a job (Heusel & Dabbs, 1996). A more specifi c example of the relationship between testosterone and violence appeared in a study of male prisoners who had committed crimes against individuals involving sex and violence and those who had committed property crimes (Dabbs, Carr, Frady, & Riad, 1995). Table 4.5 summarizes the fi ndings from research by Dabbs and his colleagues. Confi rming this body of research, meta- analyses (Archer, Graham-Kevan, & Davies, 2005; Book & Quinsey, 2005) have shown a small relationship between testosterone levels and aggression in men, in delinquent boys (van Bokhoven et al., 2006), and in adolescent girls with conduct disorder (Pajer et al., 2006).

Women also produce testosterone, and Dabbs and his colleagues investigated the rela- tionship between testosterone levels and aggression in women. This research yielded even more complex relationships between testosterone levels and behavior. For women in prison (Dabbs, Ruback, Frady, Hopper, & Sgoutas, 1988), the highest levels of testosterone corre- lated with incidents of unprovoked violence. However, women who had committed violence in protecting themselves, such as those who had murdered an abusive spouse, had the lowest levels of testosterone in the prison group. Interestingly, the mean levels of testosterone were similar for the inmates and the college students used as the comparison group, and both averages fell within the normal range for women.

The failure to fi nd differences between women convicted of crimes and female students indicates that aggression and violence are infl uenced by factors other than testosterone level,

Photo 4.2 Contrary to its popular image, testosterone may play a role in preparing men to be nurturant fathers.

98 Hormones and Chromosomes

including SES, which moderates the relationship between testosterone and problem behavior in men. A more recent study (Ellis & Das, 2013) found that androgen level was related to delinquency, but so was the relationship that adolescents had with their parents. Thus, the evidence is weak that testosterone is the underlying cause of aggression.

Although the evidence that testosterone causes aggression is lacking, a causal relation- ship might still exist in the other direction—aggression may cause increases in testosterone. Although this relationship is not what most people imagine, both laboratory experiments and descriptive fi eld studies have demonstrated this effect. In two laboratory studies (Carré & McCormick, 2008; Carré, Putnam, & McCormick, 2009), no initial relationship appeared between testosterone level and aggressive behavior, but men who behaved aggressively showed raised testosterone levels. Another laboratory study showed that symbolic aggres- sion produce an effect—handling a gun increased testosterone levels in men (Klinesmith, Kasser, & McAndrew, 2006).

A number of fi eld studies have examined the relationship between testosterone level and winning versus losing in sports competitions. An early study (Booth, Shelley, Mazur, Tharp, & Kittok, 1989) is representative: Tennis players showed increases of testosterone on days when they played, and their hormone levels were highest before the game. The effects of winning and losing were complex, moderated by players’ evaluations of their performance; players who felt positively about their performance tended to have higher testosterone levels after games.

Later research has produced fi ndings consistent with this early study. Competition boosts testosterone levels, and the effects apply to both women and men. For example, athletic competition increased testosterone levels in both male and female soccer players (Edwards, Wetzel, & Wyner, 2006). For female rugby players, testosterone levels were higher on the days of matches and increased during the matches (Bateup, Booth, Shirtcliff, & Granger, 2002). An examination of hormone levels among male and female rowing competitors also showed effects of competition (Kivlighan, Granger, & Booth, 2005). Both of the studies that included male and female athletes showed different patterns of testosterone changes for women and men that related to social relationships with teammates, but a later study

Table 4.5 Relationship of Testosterone to Various Behaviors in Men and Women

In Men In Women

Behaviors Associated with Higher Testosterone Levels

Lower-status occupations Unprovoked violence among prisoners Drug and alcohol abuse among veterans Antisocial disorders among veterans Affective disorders among veterans Trouble getting along with parents, teachers, and classmates among veterans Delinquent behaviors while young Membership in a “rowdy” fraternity Job loss Incarceration for crimes involving sex or violence Rule violations and personal confrontations among prisoners

Behaviors Not Associated with Higher Testosterone Levels Personality traits among students Violent criminal acts

Prisoner versus student status

Hormones and Chromosomes 99

(Jimémez, Aguilar, & Alvero-Cruz, 2012) found similar patterns of testosterone change for male and female athletes.

Competition, winning, and losing are not the only circumstances that prompt changes in testosterone levels. For male soccer players, playing on the home fi eld increased testosterone levels signifi cantly more than playing “away” games (Wolfson & Neave, 2004). Watching a fi lm of an earlier hockey victory boosted testosterone levels among players (Carré & Putman, 2010). Therefore, research evidence suggests that competition raises testosterone, but the fi ndings also hint that other factors may be important in the equation.

Another possibility for a relationship holds that violence and aggression are the product of an interaction in which testosterone is only one component (Ramirez, 2003). A growing body of research and theory supports this view. In addition to testosterone, one model holds that cortisol (a stress-related hormone secreted by the adrenal gland) and the neurotransmitter serotonin (a neurotransmitter related to mood) interact with testosterone in complex ways to predispose various types of aggression (Montoya, Terburg, Bos, & van Honk, 2012). Situ- ations in which individuals are put into competition or strive to exert dominance tend to boost testosterone. High levels of cortisol occur when a person experiences threat or fear, and this model hypothesizes that this reaction should inhibit aggression, even with high levels of testosterone. When individuals experience the combination of high testosterone and low levels of cortisol, however, social aggression becomes more likely. When low levels of serotonin are added to this imbalance, the likelihood of aggression as a reaction to threat or insult increases (van Honk, Harmon-Jones, Morgan, & Schutter, 2010). This model also attempts to tie the effects of these chemicals to brain structures that mediate fear and aggression.

Most of the research on this model has focused on men (Montoya et al., 2012; van Honk et al., 2010), but some research has measured women’s aggression as a function of testos- terone and cortisol levels. One study (Denson, Mehta, & Ho Tan, 2013) found that high levels of both hormones were related to higher levels of retaliatory aggression in a laboratory task. Thus, this model has received support from a variety of studies and supports a complex interaction testosterone, cortisol, and serotonin in aggressive behavior.

Considering Diversity

“The polarity of male-female is taken to be an absolute in modern Western cultures” (Sell, 2004, p. 133). This point of view creates limited possibilities for cultural variations in sexual development; biological sex is a matter of chromosomes and hormones. However, non-Western cultures include a variety of possibilities in how they divide those categories, including a category for a third sex.

In Western cultures, individuals born with some intersex condition are evaluated as abnor- mal and in need of medical attention, but in some cultures, these individuals are considered special (Sell, 2004). For example, a defi ciency of 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme necessary in the body’s use of testosterone, produces individuals with normal male internal genitalia but with external genitals that more closely resemble a girl’s than a boy’s. These differences include a clitoris-like penis, an unfused scrotum that resembles labia, and undescended testes. At birth, these babies are sometimes identifi ed as boys but are more often identifi ed and reared as girls. At puberty they produce testosterone and become “masculinized”: Their penis grows, their testes descend, they grow facial hair, and their musculature increases. That is, they change from individuals who look more like girls to ones who look more like boys.

This rare disorder is more common in the Dominican Republic and New Guinea than in most other parts of the world (Herdt, 1981, 1994), and these two cultures have a term for a third sex, one that is neither male nor female but that starts out as female and becomes

100 Hormones and Chromosomes

male. Even after these individuals develop masculine characteristics, the Sambia culture of New Guinea does not grant them full male status, but they may gain prestige and power in their culture as healers or shamans.

More than 130 Native American societies identifi ed individuals whose “spirit” did not match the sex of their bodies. Modern anthropologists often classify these individuals as berdaches— men or women who adopted the gender-related behaviors of the other gender (Roscoe, 1993; Wieringa, 1994), but Native American societies had specifi c terms in their languages; contemporary Native American scholars prefer the term two-spirit people. These individuals were not intersex, but instead individuals who chose to blend masculine and feminine roles. The tradition of men who adopted characteristics of women was more com- mon, but both male and female two-spirit people existed. Lakota, Navajo, Crow, and Zuni societies all included two-spirit people who were not thought of as homosexual but as a merging of feminine and masculine spirits, which they attained through a blessing from the spirits, achieving high spiritual status in their societies. Not all Native American societies were acceptant of these individuals, but most accepted these departures from ordinary gender roles rather than viewing them as deviations.

India also has a “third sex,” the hijras , who are men who wish to become women (Nanda, 2000; Reddy, 2005). These men may be intersex (individuals whose genitals are not clearly male or female), transvestites (men who dress in women’s clothing), or transgendered men (who wish to or have undergone genital surgery to become female). The hijras trace their origin to Hindu mythology as men who worship the goddess Bedhraj Matá, sacrifi ce their genitals to her, and live without sexuality. Hijras are believed to have the power to confer fertility and thus are welcomed at weddings and births.

In several cultures, women can assume the male gender role (Nanda, 2000). For example, several African societies allow “female husbands.” These women assume the male role and receive recognition as men. They may have wives, but they may also be a wife, conferring a status that is neither male nor female. In northern Albania, women may also become men in the form of “sworn virgins,” who dress and behave as men but who do not form any type of sexual relationships with women or men (Littlewood, 2002).

Thus, some cultures have a category for a third sex, providing for individuals whose biol- ogy has not clearly designated them male or female and for those who choose to blend roles. In addition, some cultures designate a category for third sex as anyone who fails to fi t clearly within the two categories designated by their society. This classifi cation arose after 1900 with the movement of women into the workforce in Europe and North America (Murat, 2005). These “emancipated” women performed jobs that removed them from the female gender role but did not make them into men, resulting in a failure to fi t into either gender category. Many Western women are categorized as a third sex in Muslim countries, such as Saudi Ara- bia (Lagace, 2002), when they perform jobs that these cultures consider the domain of men and fail to wear the clothing considered proper for women. Thus women who hold jobs in business, law, medicine, journalism, and higher education fi t into this category.


Several steroid hormones are important to sexual development and behavior, including the androgens, the estrogens, and the progestins. Men and women produce all of these hor- mones, but women produce proportionately more estrogens and progestins, whereas men produce more androgens. The prenatal production of these hormones prompts the bodies and brains of fetuses to organize in either the male or the female pattern. During puberty, these hormones work toward developing fertility and prompt the production of secondary sex characteristics, such as facial hair for men and breasts for women. The role of hormones

Hormones and Chromosomes 101

in the activation and maintenance of sexual interest and activity is less clear in humans than in other species, but humans who do not experience the surge of hormones associated with puberty tend not to develop much interest in sex. Testosterone, one of the androgens, plays a role in maintaining sexual activity in men and possibly in women as well.

The fi rst step in creating a male or female body occurs through genes, the inheritance of either XX or XY chromosomes of pair 23. Although the inheritance of chromosomes occurs at conception, embryos are not sexually dimorphic until around 6 weeks into gestation, when those with the XY pattern develop testes. Androgens produced by the fetal testes mas- culinize the fetus. During the third month of gestation, androgens direct the development of external male genitalia.

The female pattern is not as dependent on the presence of estrogens as the male pattern is on androgens, but various genes on several chromosomes in addition to the Xs contribute to forming a female body. After the sixth week of gestation, the Müllerian structures begin to develop and become the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, uterus, and upper vagina. In addition, their Wolffi an structures start to degenerate. Without exposure to androgens, the external genitalia develop according to the female pattern.

Prenatal hormones also affect brain development, producing differences in the brains of males versus females. Several brain structures are affected, but the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the hypothalamus shows the biggest difference. Its function is not yet understood.

Variances from the typical female or male patterns may occur at any stage of sexual devel- opment, beginning with the inheritance of the X and Y chromosomes. A number of disorders exist that create individuals with fewer or more sex chromosomes than typical, and some of these confi gurations produce problems with the development of internal or external genita- lia. In addition, several of these disorders produce individuals with developmental disorders, especially lowered intelligence. Individuals with Turner syndrome (X0) appear to be female but lack ovaries; individuals with Klinefelter syndrome (XXY) appear to be male, often with feminized body contours, but have nonfunctional testes; XXX individuals are female and may vary little from XX individuals; XYY individuals are tall males who may be reproduc- tively normal but with low intelligence.

Even having 46 chromosomes does not guarantee typical development in subsequent stages, and several types of intersexuality exist. These cases of individuals who have the physiology of both males and females highlight the complexity of sexual development and suggest that many components contribute to gender identity and functioning.

Media reports tend to indicate a role for hormones in two areas of problem behavior— premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and aggression. Careful research has indicated that the pre- menstrual phase of the cycle often includes some physical symptoms, but it also suggests that expectation and attribution, not hormones, are the factors that underlie widespread reports of PMS. Both women and men may attribute behavioral symptoms to PMS and the more severe PMDD, when those symptoms may actually indicate other problems.

Research on the role of testosterone in aggression has revealed that the relationship is not a simple, linear one. Men with higher-than-average testosterone levels tend to engage in a wide variety of antisocial behaviors but usually not violence. Indeed, studies of competition and testosterone show that aggression increases testosterone rather than the other way around. Another possibility is that testosterone and aggression are mediated through some other fac- tor, and recent research has implicated the stress hormone cortisol and the neurotransmitter serotonin as interacting with testosterone to increases the chances of aggression.

The role of hormones in sexual development is not subject to cultural variation, but how culture delineates the sexes varies enormously. In addition to male and female, some cultures defi ne a third sex. In some non-Western cultures, intersex individuals may be considered to be a third sex. Another basis for a third sex was a belief common among Native American

102 Hormones and Chromosomes

societies that allowed for a melding of the two spirits, male and female, in an individual. The hijras in India are another group designated a third sex. Women who take the roles of men may vary from the female gender role so much that they are no longer considered women but some third sex.


androgen insensitivity syndrome a disorder in which body cells are unable to respond to androgens, resulting in the feminization of chromosomal males.

androgens a class of hormones that includes testosterone and other steroid hormones. Men typically produce a greater proportion of androgens than estrogens.

congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) a disorder that results in masculinization, produc- ing premature puberty in boys and masculinization of the external genitalia in girls; also called adrenogenital syndrome .

endocrine glands glands that secrete hormones into the circulatory system. estradiol the most common of the estrogen hormones. estrogens a class of hormones that includes estradiol and other steroid hormones. Women

typically produce a greater proportion of estrogens than androgens. external genitalia the reproductive structures that can be seen without internal examination:

clitoris, labia, and vaginal opening in women and penis and scrotum in men. gonads reproductive organs. hermaphroditism a disorder in which individuals have characteristics of both sexes. hormones chemical substances released from endocrine glands that circulate throughout

the body and affect target organs that have receptors sensitive to the specifi c hormones. intersexuality a more modern term for hermaphroditism. Klinefelter syndrome the disorder that occurs when a chromosomal male has an extra X

chromosome, resulting in the XXY pattern of chromosome pair 23. These individuals have the appearance of males, including external genitalia, but they may also develop breasts and a feminized body shape. Their testes are not capable of producing sperm, so they are sterile.

lateralization the concept that the two cerebral hemispheres are not functionally equal but rather that each hemisphere has different purposes.

menarche the fi rst menstruation. Müllerian system a system of ducts occurring in both male and female embryos that forms

the basis for the development of the female internal reproductive system—ovaries, fal- lopian tubes, uterus, and upper vagina.

progestins a group of steroid hormones that prepares the female body for pregnancy; their function for the male body is unknown.

sexual dimorphism the existence of two sexes—male and female—including differences in genetics, gonads, hormones, internal genitalia, and external genitalia.

sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN) a brain structure in the hypothalamus, near the optic chiasm, that is larger in male rats than in female rats and larger in men than in women.

steroid hormones hormones related to sexual dimorphism and sexual reproduction that are derived from cholesterol and consist of a structure that includes four carbon rings.

testosterone the most common of the androgen hormones. Turner syndrome the disorder that occurs when an individual has only one chromosome of

pair 23, one X chromosome. These individuals appear to be female (have the external genitalia of females) but do not have fully developed internal genitalia. They do not produce estrogens, do not undergo puberty, and are not fertile.

Hormones and Chromosomes 103

Wolffi an system a system of ducts occurring in both male and female embryos that forms the basis for the development of the male internal reproductive system—testes, seminal vesicles, and vas deferens.

X chromosome one of the possible alternatives for chromosome pair 23. Two X chromosomes make a genetic female, whereas genetic males have only one X chromosome in pair 23.

Y chromosome one of the possible alternatives for chromosome pair 23. One X and one Y chromosome make a genetic male, whereas genetic females have two X chromosomes in pair 23.

Suggested Readings

Berenbaum, Sheri A. (2006). Psychological outcome in children with disorders of sex development: Implications for treatment and understanding typical development. Annual Review of Sex Research, 17 , 1–38. Berenbaum’s thoughtful article evaluates variations of sexual development, exploring the complexity of the

biology and psychology of gender development.

Mazur, Allan. (2009). A hormonal interpretation of Collins’s micro-social theory of violence. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 39 (4), 434–447. Mazur’s article is not easy reading, but his careful translation of a sociological analysis of violence into terms

compatible with current hormonal theories provides a thorough review of this model of hormones and aggression.

Ussher, Jane M. (2013). Diagnosing diffi cult women and pathologising femininity: Gender bias in psychiatric nosology. Feminism & Psychology, 23 (1), 63–69. Ussher situates the controversy over PMS in historical context and takes the point of view that psychiatry has

a long history of interpreting women’s behavior as abnormal.

Wade, Lisa. (2013). The new science of sex differences. Sociology Compass, 7 (4), 278–293. This recent article on the genes, hormones, and social context of sexual development offers a good review of

the complexities of these interacting factors.

Suggested Websites

The website includes a variety of topics on health, including several sections on premenstrual syndrome ( “What is Premenstrual Syn- drome” and “Causes of Premenstrual Syndrome” are particularly informative.

The Intersex Society of North America is dedicated to developing an understanding of intersex conditions and ending the shame associated with such conditions. Their website ( provides information about the condition, including advice for parents of children with intersex conditions.

The Androgen Insensitivity Support Group’s website ( provides not only an online support group for individuals with and parents of children with androgen insensitivity syndrome, but it also provides information about androgen insensitivity syndrome and other intersex conditions. The Personal Stories page of the website humanizes this medical condition.


Adewuya, Abiodun O.; Loto, Olabisi M.; Adewumi, Tomi A. (2009). Pattern and correlates of premenstrual symptomatology amongst Nigerian university students. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 30 (2), 127–132.

Ahmed, Eman I.; Zehr, Julia L.; Schulz, Kalynn M.; Lorenz, Betty H.; DonCarlos, Lydia L.; & Sisk, Cheryl L. (2008). Pubertal hormones modulate the addition of new cells to sexually dimorphic brain regions. Nature Neuroscience, 11 (9), 995–997.

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., Text revision). Washington, DC: Author.

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Wash- ington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.

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Archer, John; Graham-Kevan, Nicola; & Davies, Michelle. (2005). Testosterone and aggression: A reanalysis of Book, Starzyk, and Quinsey’s (2001) study. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10 , 241–261.

Bancroft, John. (2002). Biological factors in human sexuality. Journal of Sex Research, 39 , 15–21. Banks, Terry; & Dabbs, James M., Jr. (1996). Salivary testosterone and cortisol in delinquent and violent urban

subcultures. Journal of Social Psychology, 136 , 49–56. Bassil, Nazem; Alkaade, Saad; & Morley, John E. (2009). The benefi ts and risks of testosterone replacement

therapy: A review. Journal of Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, 5 , 427–448. Bateup, Helen S.; Booth, Alan; Shirtcliff, Elizabeth A.; & Granger, Douglas A. (2002). Testosterone, cortisol,

and women’s competition. Evolution and Human Behavior, 23 , 181–192. Berenbaum, Sheri A. (2006). Psychological outcome in children with disorders of sex development: Implications

for treatment and understanding typical development. Annual Review of Sex Research, 17 , 1–38. Book, Angela S.; & Quinsey, Vernon L. (2005). Re-examining the issues: A response to Archer et al. Aggression

and Violent Behavior, 10 , 637–646. Booth, Alan; Shelley, Greg; Mazur, Allan; Tharp, Gerry; & Kittok, Roger. (1989). Testosterone, and winning

and losing in human competition. Hormones and Behavior, 23 , 556–571. Carré, Justin M.; & McCormick, Cheryl M. (2008). Aggressive behavior and change in salivary testosterone

concentrations predict willingness to engage in a competitive task. Hormones & Behavior, 54 (3), 403–409. Carré, Justin M.; & Putman, Susan K. (2010). Watching a previous victory produces an increase in testosterone

among elite hockey players. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 35 (3), 475–479. Carré, Justin M.; Putnam, Susan K.; & McCormick, Cheryl M. (2009). Testosterone responses to competition

predict future aggressive behaviour at a cost to reward in men. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34 (4), 561–570. Chrisler, Joan C. (2008). PMS as a culture-bound syndrome. In J. C. Chrisler, C. Golden, & P. D. Rozee (Eds.),

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Headline: “Code Pink,” Mother Jones, September/October, 2009

Journalist Lauren Sandler (2009) reported that when her daughter was born, she was inun- dated with pink gifts—clothing, toys, accessories—all pink. Sandler grew up during the 1970s, when the fashion was for baby clothes in primary colors that were appropriate for either sex. She was somewhat startled by the degree to which clothing for babies is currently so sharply gendered by the pinks and blues. Despite the current stereotypes, the fi rst associa- tion of color with gender was the opposite; until the 1930s, pink was associated with boys and blue with girls.

The problem is not the colors or which color is paired with which sex, it is the associa- tion of a color with a gender and the messages that this association conveys. With gender color-coding, a baby’s sex is apparent to everyone at a glance, and everyone is able to use gender stereotypes to treat male and female babies differently. Children also notice gender-related cues at a young age and internalize this information. By age 3 or 4, most boys will protest loudly if the possibility of a pink shirt comes along, but many girls have comparable tantrums if one of their pink, frilly dresses is not available (Halim, Ruble, & Amodio, 2011). Color becomes a visible signal of gender and a prominent association with gender roles.

The defi nition of a gender role is the socially signifi cant activities that men and women engage in with different frequencies. The origin of the concept of role was not within social science; the term can be traced to theater, where an actor’s part was printed on a roll of paper. The word role was French for roll, and this usage is particularly meaningful, if we consider that the role, or the part a person plays, differs from the person. Therefore, gender roles are like scripts that men and women follow to fulfi ll their appropriate masculine or feminine parts. Social scientists use the term role to mean expected, socially encouraged patterns of behavior exhibited by individuals in specifi c situations.

Does the color pink make that much difference in learning about gender? These images and their power to shape attitudes and behavior are important for social learning theory, one of the theories of gender development. But gender identity , which is how individuals come to identify themselves as male or female, is more complex than stereotypical associations. How that process occurs is unquestionably important but also controversial, and several very different theories attempt to explain how individuals come to accept themselves as female or male. Social learning theory emphasizes the importance of models and experiences, but the psychodynamic approach does not look to role models to explain the development of gender identity. Gender schema theory holds that the process involves much more than modeling. Each of these theories has advocates and supporting evidence, which requires an examination of the theories and the evidence.

Theories of Gender Development 5

110 Theories of Gender Development

The Psychodynamic Approach to Gender Development

Sigmund Freud, a Viennese neurologist, devised a theory that emphasizes the differences between personality development and functioning of men and women. Developed during the last part of the 19th century, Freud’s theory emphasized the dynamic forces that inter- act in forming personality, especially those originating in the unconscious , a region of the mind that functions beyond conscious personal awareness. His theory was controversial and remains so, partly because his theory casts women as inferior to men. However, his theory has also been extremely infl uential in Western society.

Freud’s View of Gender Identity Development

Freud hypothesized that personality development proceeds through a series of psychosexual stages . Starting at birth, these stages continue through adulthood in a sequence named according to the regions of the body that were most important for sexual gratifi cation. The early stages were the most important for personality development, and this emphasis was the basis of the belief that early childhood is a critical time for personality formation.

Freud termed the fi rst psychosexual stage the oral stage , during which babies receive sexual gratifi cation from oral activities. During the anal stage , the child receives pleasure from excre- tory functions. The phallic stage begins in children around 3 or 4 years and is the fi rst of Freud’s psychosexual stages that describes a different course of personality development for boys and girls (Freud, 1933/1964). Freud believed that the focus on genital activity resulted in a sexual attraction to the parent of the other sex and an increasing desire to have sex with this parent.

These dynamics occur on an unconscious level, outside of children’s awareness, and set the stage for the Oedipus complex . Freud used the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex as an analogy for the interactions that occur within families during the phallic stage. According to the story, the oracle prophesied that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother, and this prophecy came true. Freud hypothesized that all boys feel aggression directed toward their fathers and sexual longing for their mothers, which sets up a situation for the development of gender identity.

Boys in the phallic stage concentrate on their genitals and prize their penises. They notice the anatomical differences between girls and boys, which leads them to realize that everyone does not have a penis (Freud, 1925/1989). The realization that girls lack penises leads boys to believe that penises must be removable. This belief combines with their perception of their fathers’ growing hostility to create the castration complex , the belief that castration will be the punishment for their attraction to their mother. Boys believe that girls have suffered this punishment and are thus mutilated, inferior creatures.

To resolve these feelings, boys must end the competition with their fathers and deny their sexual wishes for their mothers. Both goals can be met through identifi cation with their fathers. This identifi cation accomplishes the goals of removing their sexual attraction to their mothers (thus removing castration anxiety) and replacing the feelings of hostility for their fathers with identifi cation with their fathers. Thus through identifi cation with their fathers, boys become masculine and develop a sexual identity that includes sexual attraction to women.

Freud hypothesized a slightly different resolution to the Oedipus complex in girls. Dur- ing the phallic stage, girls also notice the anatomical differences between the sexes. Aware that they do not have penises, girls become envious of boys and experience penis envy and feelings of inferiority (Freud, 1925/1989). Fathers become the object of their affection, but girls cannot experience the castration complex in the same way that boys do; girls have no

Theories of Gender Development 111

penises to lose. Furthermore, girls hold their mothers responsible for their lack of penises and develop feelings of hostility toward them. Girls must still surrender their sexual desires for their fathers and identify with their mothers, but the process is not as quick or as complete as it is for boys (Freud, 1933/1964).

After the resolution of the Oedipus complex, children enter the latency stage , during which little overt sexual activity occurs. This stage lasts until puberty, when physiological changes bring about a reawakening of sexuality and entry into the genital stage . During the genital stage, the regions of the body that have furnished sexual pleasure during childhood are now secondary to genital pleasure obtained through intercourse.

Table 5.1 shows Freud’s psychosexual stages and the types of gender-related differences that he hypothesized for these stages. Development is similar for girls and boys in several stages but differs drastically in the phallic stage. Freud also believed that women have a more diffi cult time achieving a mature sexual relationship than men. He described the sexuality of the phallic stage, with its emphasis on masturbation, as immature sexuality that should be replaced in the genital stage with mature, heterosexual intercourse. For men, such activity involves their penises, but women must redirect their sexual impulses away from their clitorises and toward their vaginas. Freud knew that his theory was uncomplimentary to women, because his female associates, such as Karen Horney, told him so (Gay, 1988).

Horney’s Theory of Gender

Horney was one of the fi rst German women to enter medical school, where she specialized in psychiatry. After completing a training analysis with one of Freud’s close associates, she began to attend seminars and to write papers on psychoanalysis (Feist, Feist, & Roberts, 2013). Soon, however, Horney became a vocal critic of Freud’s theory of personality, especially concerning gender differences in personality development. Horney reexamined Freud’s concepts of penis envy, inferiority feelings in women, the masculinity complex (the expression of masculine behavior and attitudes in women), and masochism (deriving pleasure from pain).

Table 5.1 Freud’s Psychosexual Stages and Gender-Related Differences in Each Stage

Stage Gender-Related Difference

Oral None

Anal None

Phallic Boys notice that they have penises and that girls do not Girls notice that boys have penises and that they do not Oedipus complex Boys experience extreme trauma connected with the Oedipus complex, undergo stronger identifi cation with their fathers, and develop a stronger sense of morality Girls experience less Oedipal trauma, undergo weaker identifi cation with their mothers, and develop a weaker sense of morality

Latency None

Genital Women must transfer their sexual pleasure from their clitorises to their vaginas, making mature sexuality more diffi cult for them Men’s penises remain the center of their sexuality, making mature sexuality easier for them

112 Theories of Gender Development

Horney also pointed out the masculine bias in psychoanalytic theory (Miletic, 2002; Quinn, 1987) but stayed within the framework of psychodynamic theory, as shown by her acceptance of the unconscious as a motivating force in personality, her emphasis on sexual feelings and events in personality development, and her belief in the importance of early childhood experiences for personality formation. She differed from Freud in her interpreta- tion of the signifi cance of the events of early childhood and her growing belief in the impor- tance of social rather than instinctual forces in personality development.

Part of Horney’s reinterpretation of psychoanalysis was an alternative view of the notion of penis envy, the feelings of envy that girls have when they discover that boys’ penises are larger than their own clitorises. Horney argued that penis envy was a symbolic longing for the social prestige and position that men experience, rather than a literal physical desire for penises. Indeed, she hypothesized that men envy women’s capability to reproduce and proposed the concept of womb envy . She interpreted the male strivings for achievement as overcompensation for their lack of ability to create by giving birth.

Horney believed that men fear and attribute evil to women because men feel inadequate when comparing themselves to women. To feel more adequate, men must see women as infe- rior, which keeps men from contending with their own feelings of inferiority. She explained that men still retain the feelings of inferiority that originated with the perception of the small size of their penises during childhood, when they initially noticed them. Therefore, men go through life needing to prove their masculinity, and failures make men constantly vulnerable to feelings of inferiority. This resentment can lead men to attempt to diminish women, and these attempts may succeed, leaving women with feelings of inferiority. Therefore, female inferiority originates with male insecurities rather than, as Freud hypothesized, with the female perception of inferior genitals. These female feelings of inferiority are perpetuated by men’s behavior toward women and by the masculine bias in society.

Table 5.2 shows the points of agreement and disagreement between Horney’s and Freud’s psychodynamic theories. As this table shows, both theories accept the importance of uncon- scious forces and early childhood experiences. However, the difference in their interpretations of the importance and causes of other events makes the two theories substantially different.

Table 5.2 Points of Agreement and Disagreement in Horney’s and Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theories

Concept Horney’s Theory Freud’s Theory

Existence of unconscious Yes Yes