Psychological Perspective) Essay, Research Paper
Gender Differences and Gender Stereotypes
Gender differences and gender stereotypes are fascinating in that one must sift through the theories, assumptions and inevitable confusion to distinguish the reality from the assumption. Men and women are obviously different, especially inherently, but how? And why? And which differences are more individualized than generalized? Even more interesting is to observe how the differences between men and women have evolved, especially over the past 30 years- since the sexual revolution. A generous amount of research has been done since then, and this research is continually updated as men and women evolve themselves. Our understanding of the innate gender differences as opposed to the acquired one is still growing, yet it still seems tainted by such misunderstanding.
There is a lot of research regarding stereotypical views of men and women, and psychological testing has helped integrate and differentiate the documented “real” behavior. Even through the sexual revolution, there still exists gender-role stereotypes, although the stereotyping has decreased in recent years. Surprisingly, stereotypes are adhered to by people of every status, educated or not. Americans generally believe that men are aggressive, independent, unemotional, dominant, active, and overly self-confident. On the other hand, women are thought of to be gentle, religious, neat and dependent. Americans in general seem to believe that males and females have distinguishing opposing characteristics.
Aggressiveness is one behavior which is consistently noted in psychological gender differences. The majority of people seem to believe that males are more aggressive than females. Aggression, is defined as “behavior intended to harm another person.” Aggression can be found in physical behavior and verbal behavior. The difference in the degree of aggression between the two genders seems much more obvious in people’s youth. Young boys are known to fight a lot, but there aggression seems to fade as they mature. There have been many studies involving gender differences in aggressive behavior. What causes this behavior? Is it environmental or inborn?
Some believe that aggression is caused by “nature,” while others believe that it is caused by “nurture.” Those who argue that aggression is caused by the “nature” theory argue that the level of aggressiveness differs in the two sexes because of the difference in the level of sex hormone, testosterone. In rebuttal, the “nurture” side argues that aggressiveness is largely caused by the social structure in which we live. This team believes that as soon as a child recognizes his/her gender, he/she becomes either passive or aggressive, thinking that that is what they are expected to be. Such behavior is encouraged by the media, the parents whom they follow, and other important factors in their lives. In an effort to prove whether the aggressiveness of gender is caused by nature or nurture, some information has been collected. However, even with the data it is hard to come to a conclusion.
Self-confidence is another major issue, concerning genders. Psychologists say that women have less self-confidence than men do. When a male student and a female student are both asked to predict their performance on a test, their predictions usually differ in that the female is more pessimistic. Interestingly, the stereotype that females always expect a lower performance in their work than males is inaccurate. Females’ predictions differ depending on the subject matter involved. Their predictions also differed, depending on the amount of feedback they obtained regarding their performance. From the feedback, it seems that most women tend to believe that they are only good at certain tasks, but not capable of being good at everything. This sort of self-confidence evolved from social influences. For centuries, women were allowed to do only certain tasks which were approved by men, and not allowed to compete with men. Living in a male dominated society has greatly affected the way women think and perform.
A study on gender differences in “helping behavior” by Eagly and Crowley caught me by surprise. Their study concluded that men are more likely to help than women. This conclusion was surprising, because one of women’s major roles in the past has been nurturing, helping to raise children and families. Eagly and Crowley’s study also had some interesting facts on men. Men were more likely to help out if the situation involved danger, and if there were witnesses to their heroic action. This observation brought an interesting question to mind. Do males actually help out because they are concerned about the victim’s danger or because of their interest in looking good themselves? Realizing that the study by Eagly and Crowley excluded the women’s daily role as a helper in the family also made me think about how the male society defines “helping” in general.
It also has been noted in studies that women are more fearful and anxious than men. This study was made by men’s and women’s own reporting of their respective situations. According to the results, women admitted to feeling fearful and anxious, more than men did. On the contrary, the conclusion of women being more fearful and anxious than men is worthy of doubt. According to our society, men are supposed to be fearless and brave. On the other hand, women are allowed to admit that they are feeling fearful and anxious.
Ever since the era of the sexual revolution, feminists have been looking for a way to overcome gender stereotypes. The feminists thought of an androgynous outlook to be one chief solution. Androgyny is “the combination of masculine and feminine psychological characteristics in an individual.” To avoid and to counter the traditional gender stereotypes, it has been suggested that we all possess masculine and feminine traits, so that no one is “100% masculine” or “100% feminine.”
There is no argument about men and women being physically different, yet there has been much debate involving the intangible differences between the two differences. Over the centuries, stereotyping of men’s and women’s intangible aspects has evolved. This stereotyping has influenced our society so much. The studies which are done refuting the fact that stereotyping of a gender is not always valid turns out to be invalid, since the studies themselves have been influenced by stereotyping. It is hard to argue whether the stereotypes traits of each gender are true or not. However, it is important for us to overlook the stereotyping of the two genders and focus on each individual and respect their individuality, whether they demonstrate more masculinity, femininity, or either, which may or may not fit their gender stereotyping.