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Gender and Culture Best and Williams

Gender and Culture Best and Williams

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Gender and CultureIn Matsumoto ed.
 Handbook of Cultural Psychology
Deborah Best and John E. WilliamsUsed with permission of the author All cultures of the world must deal with the division of labor between the sexes, and exactly how they dothis has been the topic of much research and debate. Like culture, the awareness and recognition of sexand gender differences, and of course similarities, have played a prominent role in the development of contemporary knowledge in psychology. This recognition is complemented by an abundance of studies incross-cultural psychology and anthropology that have been concerned with the relationship betweenculture and gender, which forms the basis for much of the work reviewed here.In this chapter, Best and Williams provide a comprehensive overview of the current state-of-the-artknowledge that exists concerning culture and gender. After first defining key terms, they describeresearch that examines gender at the individual adult level, including their own and others' research onsex role ideology, gender stereotypes, and self-concept. They go on to describe research on relations between women and men, including mate preferences, love and intimacy, harassment and rape, and work-related values. Using these findings as a platform, they discuss different factors that may contribute to thedevelopment of differences between genders, including biological determinism, sociobiological factors,sexual dimorphism, cultural influences, and socialization practices.Best and Williams also review contemporary research that has examined gender differences in four  psychological constructs: nurturance, aggression, proximity to adults, and self-esteem. They then presentan excellent and detailed analysis of factors that contribute to the development of differences on thecultural level, including gender roles and stereotypes, theories of gender-related learning, and cultural practices that influence the behaviors of males and females. Their discussion of the interplay of social, psychological, cultural, political, historical, and economic forces reveals the depth and complexity of gender differences across cultures.Given the vast number of areas in which gender has been studied and the rather complex relationship between multiple factors that contributes to its ontogeny, how can future research help develop modelsthat will improve our understanding of how qualitative differences in the lives of males and femalesoccur? Best and Williams suggest that improvements in our theories and methods for studying gender andculture need to occur. In particular, previous simplistic theories of gender will need to becomemultifactorial, recognizing the complexities of gender and the factors that influence it across cultures invarious sociocultural systems. The incorporation of new and old methods of inquiry from other subfields of psychology, such as the five-factor model from personality research and the semanticdifferential in psychocultural linguistics, may also be important to broadening our understanding of culture and gender. Refining and improving our understanding of culture itself promises to be a key toimproving our understanding of cultural influences on gender, especially in relation to the continuedcontextualization of culture and psychology. And, the examination of gender-related concepts acrosstime and age in longitudinal studies will need to be given strong consideration.The suggestions of Best and Williams for future research and theory strike a constant chord with themessages of the other authors of this volume. The integration of theories and methods from other  branches of psychology is important to begin to put the fragmented pieces of psychology back together 
 
as a whole. Integration is not limited to other branches of psychology; indeed, Best and Williamssuggest that anthropologists and psychologists must learn more from each other, a message that is alsoconsistent with the message of many others in this volume. Future research will need to befundamentally different from the past, including bridges between cultural and cross-cultural psychology, if it is to help knowledge in this area of culture and psychology to continue to evolve in a progressive fashion. Although Best and Williams suggest that it is reasonable to think in terms of a pancultural model of culture and gender, they also recognize the lack of adequate pancultural theoriesin the area, and the surprising fact that much gender-related cross-cultural work is not theory driven.The ideas presented here, however, promise to alleviate that concern.One of the more striking variations observed when traveling in different countries is that some societiesemphasize the differences between women and men, while other societies show less interest in suchdiversity. Highlighting sex differences leads to the expectation that gender must be an importantdeterminant of human behavior. However, it is essential to remember that, anatomically and physiologically, human males and females are much more similar than different. Consequently, theyare mostly interchangeable with regard to social roles and behaviors, with childbearing being thefundamental exception. As recent cross-cultural research related to gender is reviewed, the reader may be surprised to see how little difference gender makes when considered against the broad backgroundof variability in psychological characteristics across cultural groups.This chapter concerns gender in the crosscultural context; it extends from the individual to the culturallevel and examines topics such as gender roles and stereotypes, relationships between men and women,the roles of biology and socialization, and theories of gender role development. The focus is on thegeneral areas of developmental, personality, and social psychology that deal with how males andfemales view themselves and one another, as well as the way they should and do interact. Beforereviewing the literature, some basic gender related terms are defined to avoid conceptual confusion.
Definitions of Gender-Related Concepts
Sex refers to the anatomical and physiological differences between males and females and theimplication of those differences in procreation.Gender is also used to distinguish the male and female members of the human species, but withemphasis on social, rather than biological, factors.Gender roles refer to the social roles, including familial, occupational, and recreational activities,that men and women occupy with differential frequency.Sex role
ideology
designates beliefs concerning appropriate relationships between the genders andvaries along a dimension ranging from a traditional, male-dominant or antifemale view to a modernor egalitarian view.Gender stereotypes refer to the psychological traits and behaviors that are believed to occur withdifferential frequency in the two gender groups (i.e., men are more "aggressive," women are more"emotional").Stereotypes provide support for traditional sex role assignments and may serve as socialization models for children. Masculinity/femininity (M/F) represents the degree to which men and women have incorporatedtraits into their self-perceptions that are considered in their culture to be "womanlike" or "manlike."With these definitions in mind, the discussion now turns to the individual and the role of gender in the cross-cultural context. Crosscultural studies of gender are concerned with both the degree to which psychological processes and behaviors are relatively invariant across cultures and how they vary systematically withcultural influences.
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Gender at the Individual Adult Level
Sex Role Ideology
In virtually all human groups, women have greater responsibility for "domestic" activities, while men havegreater responsibility for "external" activities. These pancultural similarities originate, primarily, in the biological differences between the sexes, particularly the fact that women bear and, in most societies, nursethe offspring (Williams & Best, 1990b). However, recently in many societies these socially assigned dutiesare being shared, with men engaging in more domestic activities and women in more external, particularlyeconomic, activities. The gender division of labor is reviewed below, while here the beliefs and attitudesabout appropriate role behaviors for the two sexes are discussed.Most researchers classify sex role ideologies along a continuum ranging from traditional to modern.Traditional ideologies assert that men are more "important" than women, and that it is proper for men tocontrol and dominate women. In contrast, modern ideologies represent a more egalitarian view, sometimeslabeled a feminist position, in which women and men are equally important, and dominance of one gender over the other is rejected.Sex roles have been studied extensively in India, where contemporary Indian culture juxtaposes traditionaland modern ideologies. When male and female Indian and American university students were asked whatqualities women in their culture should and should not possess, Indian students expressed more traditionalviews than American students. Women in both groups were more modern, or liberal, than were men(Agarwal, Lester, & Dhawan, 1992; Rao & Rao, 1985). University women with nontraditional sex roleattitudes came from nuclear families, had educated mothers, and were in professional or career-orienteddisciplines (Ghadially & Kazi, 1979).Similarly, education and professional managerial work are strong predictors of sex role attitudes for bothJapanese and American women (Suzuki, 1991). American women with jobs, no matter what sort, had moreegalitarian attitudes than women without jobs. In contrast, Japanese women with career-oriented professional jobs were more egalitarian than all other women, with or without jobs.Gibbons, Stiles, and Shkodriani (1991) capitalized on a unique research opportunity and studied attitudestoward gender and family roles among adolescents from 46 different countries attending schools in the Netherlands. Countries of origin were grouped into two categories based on Hofstede's cultural values: thewealthier, more individualistic countries and the less wealthy, more collectivistic countries. Students fromthe second group of countries had more traditional attitudes than students from the first group of countries,and girls generally responded less traditionally than boys.In a number of sex role ideology studies, Americans served as a reference group and were usually found to be more liberal, suggesting that Americans may be unusual in this respect. However, Williams and Best(1990b) did not find this to be true in their 14-country study of sex role ideology with university students.The most modern ideologies were found in European countries (the Netherlands, Germany, Finland,England, Italy). The United States was in the middle of the distribution, and the most traditional ideologieswere found in African and Asian countries (Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Japan, Malaysia). Generally, womenhad more modern views than men, but not in all countries (e.g., Malaysia and Pakistan). However, there washigh correspondence between men's and women's scores in a given country. Overall, the effect of culturewas greater than the effect of gender.
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