Attitudes and Opinions

By Stuart Oskamp; P. Wesley Schultz | Go to book overview

17
Gender-Role Attitudes

Women are our property They belong to us, just as a tree that bears fruit belongs to a gardener.—Napoleon Bonaparte.

God put both sexes on earth and each has its own purpose. I'd hate like hell to wake up next to a pipefitter.—Barry Goldwater.

The only position for women in SNCC is prone.—Stokeley Carmichael, head of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

Both men and women have one main role—that of a human being.—Edmund Dahlstrom.

The disparaging quotes above could be paralleled scores of times, but positive ones are rare. A predominant theme in reference to women throughout history is that women are different from, less than, and subordinate to men. A German proverb states, “A woman has the form of an angel, the heart of a serpent, and the mind of an ass. Because women have been viewed in these stereotyped ways, their place in society has been prescribed on the basis of their sex rather than individual characteristics. At the same time, the range of allowable behavior for men has also been limited by related stereotypes of appropriate masculine conduct.

Research and writing related to sex and gender have been expanding at a rapid pace since the late 1960s (Deaux & LaFrance, 1998; Swann, Langlois, & Gilbert, 1999; Unger, 2001). Questions about sex and gender differences have attracted much research in recent years, with an estimated 2, 000 new publications on the topic per year (Kimball, 2001). Two journals specifically covering these topics were founded in the mid-1970s, Sex Roles and Psychology of Women Quarterly. Women's studies curricula have been established on many college and university campuses, and interdisciplinary contributions to understanding of women's roles have been published in countless popular books and magazine articles. Subsequently, a parallel but much smaller resurgence of interest in men's roles also developed (e.g., Good & Sherrod, 2001; Addis & Mahalik, 2003). In 1997, the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity (Division 51 of the American Psychological Association) was created, and several scientific journals devoted to the psychology of men have also been established. Social science findings about changing male and female roles have influenced public policy debates and decisions in our government and judicial systems (Russo & Denmark, 1984; Schreiber, 2002).

Usage of the terms sex and gender has also changed over the years, and there is still variability in different authors' use of the terms (Unger, 1998; Ruble & Martin, 1998; Eckes & Trautner, 2000). For our purposes, we will use the term sex to refer to genetically based biological differences between males and females. We will use the term gender to refer to the socially determined psychological and behavioral characteristics that are typical of males and females, and we will consider gender roles as social expectations—learned cultural prescriptions for sex-appropriate personality and behavior.

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