Academic journal article College Student Journal

Racial Differences in Perceptions of Women and Men *

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Racial Differences in Perceptions of Women and Men *

Article excerpt

Two-hundred-and-sixty undergraduates at a two large eastern universities (who self identified as black or white) completed a confidential anonymous twenty-two-item questionnaire designed to assess perceptions of women and men. In general, while both races tended to view women and men of their own and the other race positively, there was a pronounced tendency to view women and men of one's own race more positively and members of the other race more negatively. Social network analysis and the contact hypothesis were used to explain the findings- the races tend to self-select into their own groups and such selection is not conducive to understanding other races and questioning stereotypes. Limitations and implications of the data are suggested.


Coverage of the tenth anniversary of the O.J. Simpson trial in the summer of 2004 emphasized that racial differences played a significant role in the verdict of "not guilty." Reporters suggested that the elements of a black ex-husband, white ex-wife, and new white male friend in Nicole Brown Simpson's house elicited different perceptions in the racially mixed jury (10 blacks, 2 whites). But what are the racial differences (if any) of the perceptions of women and men? While the jurors are out of reach, this study attempted to identify how black and white college students differ in their perceptions of women and men. While previous race research has included intergender relationships (Lawrence-Webb et al. 2004), racial socialization experiences (Constantine and Blackmon, 2003), and television stereotypes (Patton, 2001), data specific to how the respective races view women and men of their own and the other race is either old (Turner and Turner, 1974) or nonexistent. This study attempted to provide current data on the influence of race on gender perceptions.

Data, Analysis, Demographics

A nonrandom sample of 283 undergraduates enrolled at two large eastern/southeastern universities completed a confidential anonymous twenty-two-item questionnaire. Of the total sample, 260 self-identified as either black or white (those who listed themselves as "other," "biracial," or "oriental" were dropped from the analysis). Respondents were asked to select a number from 1 to 5 on a continuum from "strongly disagree" (1), "mildly disagree" (2), "neither disagree nor agree" (3), "mildly agree" (4) to (5) "strongly agree" to identify the degree to which they felt various beliefs about black women/white women and black men/white men were true. These beliefs included ideas about being faithful, sexually experienced, romantic, sexually aggressive, promiscuous, moody, and motivated. The responses were collapsed into the categories of agreement and disagreement, cross-classified with race of respondent and assessed for significance using chi-square.

Among the respondents, 68.6% were women; 31.4% were men. The median age was 19 with a range from 16 to 37. Racial identification of the 260 who could be included in the respective white/black categories was 36% white and 64% black.

In regard to current relationship, about a third of the respondents (31.8%) were not dating or were not involved, about one in five (17.9%) were casually dating different people, about a third (31.1%) were emotionally involved in a relationship with one person and about one in five (18.9%) were in a committed future relationship.

Religion was important to many of these students with almost a quarter (24.1%) reporting that they were "very religious" and 53.5% reporting that they were "somewhat religious." Only five percent reported that they were "not religious at all" with 17.4% reporting that they were "not very religious."

In regard to labeling themselves as being "liberal" or "conservative," over half (54.5%) reported that they were liberal 36.6% as "somewhat liberal" and 17.9% as "very liberal." Of the 45.4% who viewed themselves as "conservative," 37% saw themselves as "somewhat conservative," 8. …

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