spheres, the domestic sphere, where women officiate and men are scolded and ordered about and the nondomestic sphere, where men officiate and women are silent. Like men, who can be both competitive (outside-the-home) and compliant (inside-the-home), women can be both domineering (inside-the-home) and not domineering (outside-the-home), depending on the sphere of influence instantiated. What differentiates the Chinese from the U.S. speakers is the bilingualism of their genderlects and the ability to shift interactive styles between different social domains. Shifting to the domestic theme is not avoided by boys and men -- partly because the domestic sphere is not devalued, and partly because one's worth is locally defined by the current social group. The children in this study revealed this in their play.
In conclusion, the concept of gender, in terms of gender separateness, gender hierarchy, and display of gendered styles of interacton, is constructed differently in the U.S. and China. In order to understand the cross-cultural differences, we had to consider gender construction in the larger context of cultural meanings -- the different values placed on the family and the different construals of the individual's self identity in the two cultures. With this conclusion, we have come around to two important messages carried in the work of Susan Ervin-Tripp. The first is that gender is a functional social construction deeply rooted in a rich system of cultural meanings. We must understand these functions and meanings in order to see why gendered pattern arises in particular contexts and hence be in a better position to promote gender equity. The second is that in order to understand the meaning of microanalytic discourse-analytic factors, one must consider them in the broader cultural context.
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