Sexual Stereotypes Essay, Research Paper
The belief that women are more emotional than men is one of the most common findings in gender stereotype research. Women are thought to experience more frequent and more intense emotions, whereas men are thought to be emotionally inexpressive and to have less intense emotional experiences. Although earlier research tended to assess differences in the global characteristic of emotionality, recent efforts have taken a multidimensional approach, by examining whether stereotypes about emotionality are emotion-specific. The present research takes this approach one step further and explores whether gender-emotion stereotypes vary according to situational factors, such as the contextual nature of the emotional event. A growing body of research has consistently shown that not all types of emotions are invariably associated with the female stereotype. Specifically, adults tend to associate happiness, sadness, and fear with girls and women, whereas they tend to associate anger with boys and men. Even preschool children hold emotion-specific stereotypes that are similar to those held by adult.
Findings, however, suggest that emotionality stereotypes do vary with the age of the target person. Evidence was found that gender-emotion associations tend to be stronger for adult targets than for children. Geer and Shields argue that the stereotype of men as unemotional is more accurate for adult targets than for child targets because males learn to control their emotions as they get older. They suggest that the explanation for this stronger association lies in the difference between the experience of the underlying emotion and the expression of the emotion. Both women and men may experience happiness in a similar way, but women have been taught that they can strongly express the emotion of happiness, whereas men have been taught to control it. The impact of socialization practices accumulate over time, and thus these stereotypes are likely to apply more strongly to adult populations.
Researchers have argued that it is the differences in the expression of an emotion, and not the experience of an emotion, that underlie the gender-emotion stereotype. In support of this argument, findings indicated that adults could distinguish between men’s and women’s emotional expressions and emotional experiences and that the documented gender-differentiated perceptions occurred for emotional expressions only. Specifically, their participants perceived women as expressing their emotions more often than men, but no differences were found between perceptions of men’s and women’s emotional experience.
Numerous studies have been conducted comparing the reported emotional experiences of women and men. Recent reviews seem to suggest that the pattern of gender differences in emotional experience can be accounted for by differences in the methods by which these experiences are assessed. Specifically, methods that assess emotional experience using physiological measures or using experiential methods, such as diary studies, tend to report fewer gender differences. Women and men tend to describe their emotional experiences in similar ways, using similar language, for similar person-context interactions. For example, both women and men are likely to feel grief over the loss of a loved one and joy over a well-deserved reward.
In contrast, studies that involve retrospective self-reports of one’s own emotional experiences find differences that support the stereotype. Women self-report that their own emotional experiences are more frequent and more intense than men report. These differences in self-reports are also more likely to occur in contexts that support more general stereotypes about men and women. Researchers have concluded that women generally report that they are more emotional when methods of assessment involve public expression rather than private experience, when self-report measures are used, and in contexts that emphasize gender roles. Thus, the gender difference is most striking when situational factors make gender more salient, such that women tend to report greater emotional experiences than men in situations that involve interpersonal rather than impersonal emotion elicitors.
Kelly, Janice R. Gender-emotion stereotypes are context specific. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research. http://www.articles.com Jan 1999.