Women and Sex Roles: A Social Psychological Perspective

By Irene H. Frieze; Jacquelynne E. Parsons et al. | Go to book overview
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15

Women and
Interpersonal Power

*Our society has fixed ideas about how men and women are and are not supposed to use power to influence each other. Many of these ideas have persisted from earlier times (e.g., Ellis, 1913). Power and influence are part of everyday life, from the small requests we make of other people to the big demands made by government. How power is expected to be used by men and women can certainly affect both their everyday relationships and the kinds of positions they have in society.

Many of the ideas people have about power and influence are part of the sex-role expectations society has developed. Since these expectations regulate both how we behave and how we evaluate the behavior of others, they affect how people use power and how people react to power used by others. For example, the stereotypes of women as less competent and aggressive and more warm and emotional than men have implications for our expectations of sex-role appropriate behaviors. According to these stereotypes any behavior like aggression or competitiveness is out of role for a woman. These expectations and the differing opportunities for power acquisition and use produce actual sex differences in influence behavior. Furthermore, some react to the behavior of others partially in terms of how well they play their male or female roles. If these roles are not played out according to expectation, the reaction may be quite negative. These differential expectations and opportu‐

____________________
*
Paula Johnson was the primary author of this chapter.

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