The Psychology of Women and Gender: Half the Human Experience + - Nicole M. Else-Quest, Janet Shibley Hyde 2018
Retrospect and Prospect
“Standing on the ground of common sense and the constitution of the human mind, I deny that anyone knows, or can know, the nature of the two sexes, so long as they have only been seen in their present relation to one another. . . . What is now called the nature of woman is an eminently artificial thing—the result of forced repression in some directions, unnatural stimulation in others.”
John Stuart Mill (1869), The Subjection of Women
The great philosopher and feminist John Stuart Mill, quoted here, lived in an era in which there was no science of psychology. He believed that no one could understand the true nature of women and men. Nearly 150 years—and a great deal of psychological research—later, how can one respond to Mill?
Certainly, scientists would not claim to know the “true nature” of women and men any more than Mill did. But we would argue that it is not the right question to ask. Rather than trying to establish the “true nature” of women and men, we would do better to try to understand how gender—as a construct much more complex than the male/female binary—contributes to our psychological functioning across cultures and history.
This book has focused particularly on trying to understand how gender contributes to our psychological functioning in our contemporary culture, focusing especially on women and, when data are available, trans and nonbinary people. To do this, we have reviewed the existing scientific theories and research evidence. They provide some reasonable ideas that further research will continue to refine.
Several important themes have cropped up repeatedly in this book. One is gender similarities, the notion that women and men are more similar to each other than they are different (Hyde, 2005a). A second theme is the pervasiveness of androcentrism, cisgenderism, and heteronormativity in everything from children’s storybooks to psychological theories. A third theme is the inadequacy of the gender binary—it is increasingly clear to many of us that gender is much more than male/female. And a fourth theme is the importance of intersectionality and how multiple social categories (gender, ethnicity, social class, and so on) shape our identities and status.
In 1974, when the first edition of this book was published (and NEQ was not yet born), research on the psychology of women was in its infancy. However, as we write these chapters on the heels of the most recent (2017) convention of the American Psychological Association, we feel that enormous progress has been made in the psychology of women and gender. Research and theory have become truly sophisticated and innovative. We have a deeper understanding of the ways in which sexism (as well as racism and heterosexism) can interfere with the psychological research process, and we have some ways to correct it. There are a few well-documented gender differences in psychological characteristics, we have a better sense of what those differences mean for our lives, and we know that the general pattern is gender similarities. And research is uncovering ways to make our society more equal and equitable. Principles of feminist research and therapy are more than a twinkle in some feminist’s eye—they are widely practiced and, in some cases, have become conventional. And so the list goes.
Yet there is so much more to learn! What do you think are the most important questions for future research in the psychology of women and gender? Here are a few of the topics we think are most important.
Perhaps the most important need is to use an intersectional approach. This means going beyond research that studies one social category at a time—as in a study of psychological gender differences that does not consider how ethnicity or social class are simultaneously involved. It means reframing our research questions and thinking about gender in more complex ways. In particular, we must do more to study gender among people of color. The psychology of women and gender has focused too much on the psychology of White middle-class women. We need to know far more about how gender is constructed among African American, Asian American, Latinx, American Indian, and multiethnic people. For example, how are gender roles and socialization practices shaped by ethnicity and culture? We need to know more about those who have persisted and thrived despite contexts of oppression and disadvantage, and we need to know more about how to most effectively help those who have been less fortunate. We must also remember that intersectionality isn’t simply about finding all the ways in which we are different—it’s also about respecting our common humanity and empowering those from marginalized groups.
Photo 17.1 Far more research on women of color is needed in psychology.
And it’s time for psychology to examine gender more critically and move beyond the gender binary. We all need to be willing to question what we think we know about gender. A critique of the gender binary is a logical extension of the gender similarities hypothesis; after all, if gender similarities are the rule for most psychological characteristics, what sense is there in being so fixated on essentialist notions of binary gender categories in the first place? Thinking about the steps in the research process described in Chapter 1, what does a critique of the gender binary entail? In some cases, it might mean categorizing participants not by birth-assigned gender but by gender identity or doing away with gender categories altogether. In other cases, it might mean examining sexist discrimination in more nuanced ways that incorporate attention to cisgenderism and heteronormativity. Much more psychological research is needed on the experiences of trans and nonbinary people. So much of what we think we know about gender is deeply rooted in the socially constructed gender binary. We are optimistic that psychology will figure this out, but it will take a persistent and diverse team of researchers to get it right.
The psychological study of men and masculinity has flourished in recent years, and this work needs to continue. As the male gender role continues to evolve, more research will be needed on how men adapt to these changes and perform their roles. Consider, for example, how much more time fathers spend with their children today than in previous generations (Parker & Wang, 2013; see Chapter 16). Still, new research demonstrates how fathers’ parenting behaviors may still perpetuate traditional gender roles. One recent study found a number of subtle ways in which fathers treat sons and daughters differently. For example, fathers were more engaged, talked more openly about emotions, and sang more with daughters, but engaged in more rough-and-tumble play and used more achievement language with sons (Mascaro et al., 2017). In addition, fathers’ brains demonstrated different neural responses to images of sons compared with images of daughters. If mothers and fathers continue to perceive and treat daughters and sons as though they are vastly different, can we ever achieve gender equality?
A deep, intersectional investigation of gender incorporates analysis of masculinity. It examines the ways in which boys’ and men’s psychological development and functioning are shaped by masculinity norms, which include cisgenderism and heteronormativity. Although it is true that male privilege is pervasive, the male role does not promote psychological well-being. Thus, we must be careful not to assume that, because men have more power, men are always functioning better. The male gender role, with its emphasis on power, dominance, and independence, can be isolating and limiting. In her book Feminism Is for Everybody, Black feminist author bell hooks (2000) articulates this tension clearly:
Males as a group have and do benefit the most from patriarchy, from the assumption that they are superior to females and should rule over us. But those benefits have come with a price. In return for all the goodies men receive from patriarchy, they are required to dominate women, to exploit and oppress us, using violence if they must to keep patriarchy intact. Most men find it difficult to be patriarchs. Most men are disturbed by hatred and fear of women, by male violence against women, even the men who perpetuate this violence. But they fear letting go of the benefits. . . . So they find it easier to passively support male domination even when they know in their minds and hearts that it is wrong. (p. ix)
In sum, as the psychology of women and gender becomes more intersectional and moves beyond the binary, we must consider how gender matters for everyone.
Related to this point, we also need to know more scientifically about feminism and its place in science. What leads people to become feminists? What happens to people psychologically when they become feminists? How can feminism be more intersectional and foster positive social change for everyone? As one popular saying has it, gender equality isn’t pie. Equal rights for others doesn’t mean fewer rights for any of us.
In Chapter 1, we offered a definition of feminism that deviated from the one that is often found in popular media. A feminist is “a person who favors political, economic, and social equality of all people, regardless of gender, and therefore favors the legal and social changes necessary to achieve gender equality.” Your understanding of feminism is now much more complex than that. We hope that your view of feminism has been transformed in reading this book. Feminism offers a substantially different view of the world, and specifically of psychology, than the one traditional science has offered (see Focus 17.1). Feminism says that we are all of equal value and dignity, regardless of our gender, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, religion, and so on. It says that the focus of psychology should be about more than just issues that matter to men. Issues traditionally thought of as “women’s issues” (e.g., rape, sexism, reproductive health, work—family balance) should be understood as “human issues” and given research attention. Scientists must be careful in interpreting outcomes; for example, when they investigate intimate partner violence, they must not automatically blame it on the victim. We all need to be conscious of the power of gender roles in our lives. And so on. We could continue the list for pages. The point is that feminism provides a new view in psychology, a new set of questions, a fresh set of hypotheses. We find that exciting and optimistic, and we hope you do, too.
Every semester, our students tell us how their psychology of women and gender course has changed them. Some students tell us how they are thinking differently about negative events in their lives, understanding the role of the situation and context much more and blaming themselves much less. Others tell us how they are trying to be less sexist in their daily lives—for example, to stop judging women on their appearance or to stop referring to adult women as “girls.” For us, the psychology of women and gender has deepened our appreciation for science as a tool that can promote gender equality and improve people’s lives.
Some students develop a feminist identity through their course work. For example, in one relevant study, researchers evaluated the impact of gender and women’s studies (GWS) courses on the students who take them (Bargad & Hyde, 1991; Hyde, 2002). They looked particularly at the development of feminist identity in women taking the courses compared with a group of women not taking GWS courses. According to one theory, feminist identity develops in five stages, shown in Table 17.1.
The researchers developed a scale, the Feminist Identity Development Scale, to measure women’s scores on each of the stages and administered the scale at the beginning and end of the semester. The research indicated that women taking GWS courses, compared with the control group, showed significant declines in their degree of passive acceptance. That is, those in GWS courses decreased significantly in Passive Acceptance from the beginning to the end of the semester. At the same time, they increased significantly in their scores on Revelation, Embeddedness, and Active Commitment. GWS courses do seem to have an impact on students who take them.
Just as we must press forward with new research, so must we continue to revise androcentric theories in psychology. Carol Gilligan’s (1982) revision of moral development theory is often trotted out as a good example, but that work is now more than 35 years old, and many, many more theories need to be revised. The process of theory revision must continue.
One of the best and most productive examples of contemporary feminist revision of theory is UCLA psychologist Shelley Taylor’s major challenge to classical theories of stress and her proposed alternative (Taylor, 2006; Taylor et al., 2000). Classical stress theory, originally proposed by Walter Cannon in 1932 and taught as fact in many psychology courses today, maintains that the standard human (and animal) response to stress is the fight-or-flight response. The body reacts physiologically in ways that help the person stay and fight the attacker or flee with lightning speed. Specifically, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, and the HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis is stimulated, which initiates a cascade of hormone production including especially cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Classical stress theory describes a biobehavioral response to stress: In the biological component, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, thereby facilitating the behavioral response, which is fight-or-flight.
Taylor examined the research exploring classical stress theory and noted that most of it was conducted on male rats. Moreover, in human research prior to 1995, women comprised only 17% of the participants in laboratory studies of physiological responses to stress. And yet, classical stress theory has been accepted as a theory that applies to all of us. That’s a glaring example of the error of overgeneralization. While fighting or fleeing might be very adaptive for males of various animal species, it may not be for females, who are most often responsible for protecting not only themselves but also their young. The fight-or-flight response would leave vulnerable babies unprotected. That doesn’t seem adaptive.
Taylor proposed an alternative to the androcentric fight-or-flight—known as tend-and-befriend—which describes females’ biobehavioral response to stress. In tend-and-befriend, the female behavioral response is to tend to one’s young and affiliate with (befriend) a social group that, collectively, provides protection from threats. This behavioral response is facilitated by the biological response, which involves secretion of oxytocin.
Focus 17.1 Paradigms, Science, and Feminism
Thomas Kuhn’s (1970) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions has become a modern classic in the philosophy of science. Kuhn’s analysis can be used to help us understand science, and specifically how feminism fits into science.
The general public tends to view science as continually advancing in small steps by accumulating facts. Yet one of Kuhn’s fundamental points is that the history of science demonstrates that science doesn’t advance in this way at all. Instead, science proceeds in occasional revolutionary leaps that disrupt calm periods of data collection. Each of these revolutionary leaps involves a shift from an old paradigm to a new paradigm. As he defines it, a paradigm refers to the set of beliefs, underlying assumptions, values, and techniques shared by a particular community of scientists. In a sense, a paradigm is a worldview, or at least a view of the piece of the world that is the focus of the particular scientific specialty. Usually, a new paradigm is dramatically different from the old one. Scientists support the new paradigm because it solves problems that the old one couldn’t handle. And paradigms are sufficiently open-ended that they create an entirely new set of questions that stimulate new scientific research.
Paradigm: A set of beliefs, underlying assumptions, values, and techniques shared by a particular community of scientists.
One example that demonstrates and clarifies the concepts of a paradigm shift and revolutionary leaps in science is the Copernican revolution in astronomy. At the beginning of the 15th century in Europe, everyone, scientists included, believed that the earth was the center of the universe and that the sun revolved around the earth, a view known as the geocentric (earth-centered) or Ptolemaic view. Copernicus (1473—1543) proposed a new view, or paradigm, known as the heliocentric view—namely, that the sun was the center around which the earth rotated yearly, while the earth spun on its own axis daily. Copernicus’s heliocentric view solved some problems that existed with the old, geocentric view. One of these was that in order for geocentrism to be correct, the other planets must be traveling at irregular speeds around the earth, darting ahead and then slowing down. Yet, in the Copernican view, the planets could be seen as moving at constant speed, while the earth (with the astronomer on it) moved simultaneously. Copernicus’s ideas were opposed by the Catholic Church as erroneous and possibly heretical; such opposition or resistance is often the case with new scientific paradigms. As you know, eventually his ideas were widely accepted by astronomers, who then used them as the basis for their research. Kuhn’s point is clear: Science proceeds in occasional revolutionary leaps as new paradigms, representing radically different ideas, arise.
The general public, as well as many scientists, tends to view science as fundamentally objective. Kuhn disputed this notion as well. He argued that there is no such thing as a pure fact in science; rather, there are only facts that exist within the context of a particular paradigm. Once a new paradigm has taken over, the old “facts” will seem wrong or downright stupid. For example, if we had lived before the time of Copernicus, we would naturally have observed the “fact” that the sun rises in the east every morning and sets in the west every evening. We would have taken this as ample evidence of the “fact” that the sun is revolving around the earth. From our modern, post-Copernican perspective, these do not seem to be facts at all. This illustrates Kuhn’s argument that there are no objective facts in science; facts exist only from the point of view of a particular paradigm.
How does all this relate to psychology? Psychology has had several paradigms, the actual number depending on how broad or narrow one wants to be in identifying paradigms. For example, learning theory has been a dominant paradigm in psychology. And experimentalism has been a dominant paradigm in social psychology, within which the tightly controlled laboratory experiment has been understood as the best, and perhaps only, way to get good “facts” on people’s social behavior. Yet experimentalism faces a crisis in that experimenter effects and observer effects (discussed in Chapter 1) threaten the quality of data that scientists collect in their experiments. In such situations, data are likely to conform to scientists’ own biases.
Feminists point out that the paradigms of psychology have long been androcentric in coming from a male perspective and framing men’s experiences as the norm or standard.
Based on Kuhn’s analyses, feminism is a paradigm in the science of psychology. Feminism fits the definition of a paradigm in that it comprises a set of beliefs, values, and techniques that are shared by a community of scientists. And feminism provides a new worldview, with new questions and new tools. Traditional psychology could be viewed as seeing the world revolving around men (androcentrism), just as the pre-Copernicans saw the sun revolving around the earth. Feminists do not want to shift to viewing the world as revolving around women. Rather, the feminist desire is to view the world as revolving around our collective humanity, without sexist bias.
Kuhn noted that another characteristic of a paradigm is that it provides answers to a set of problems that could not be solved by the old paradigm and were creating a crisis. A number of such problems have not been solved by traditional psychology. For example, consider the gender role identity paradigm (Pleck, 1981; discussed in Chapter 16), which held that optimal personality development depended on a gender role identity that matches one’s gender assigned at birth. The traditional view of masculinity—femininity in psychology held that gender typing was essential to mental health and that the highly masculine man and the highly feminine woman were supposed to be the most well adjusted. As we saw, the data don’t actually support this paradigm. For example, highly masculine men are prone to risky behaviors and die younger than their less masculine peers (Lippa et al., 2000). Traditional psychology’s paradigm cannot handle that result, but feminism provides a framework that addresses that difficulty. The feminist paradigm points out that people can be androgynous and that the androgynous person would be able to adapt to different situations and, thus, be the most well adjusted.
According to Kuhn, paradigms also create an entirely new set of research questions precisely because they offer a new perspective. The feminist paradigm has created a new set of research topics that had not been possible within the paradigm of traditional psychology: gender-based violence, sexual harassment of women in the workplace, the construction of gender roles across different ethnic groups, and sexism in psychotherapy, to name a few. And as intersectionality has been incorporated into feminism, we can see how it represents a similar shift in research questions (Else-Quest & Hyde, 2016).
Feminist psychology, then, fits Kuhn’s definition of a paradigm nicely. One final comment is in order, however. It is sometimes argued that feminism has no place in scientific psychology because feminism consists merely of a set of political biases, and these biases do not permit objective research. Concerning this point, recall that Kuhn argued that science is not truly objective and that facts are facts only in the context of a particular paradigm. Thus, feminist psychology is neither more nor less objective than other paradigms in psychology. What it does is provide a set of “facts” that make sense in the feminist context.
Figure 17.1 Taylor’s tend-and-befriend captures the female stress response and is an alternative to fight-or-flight.
Source: From Taylor (2006). Tend and befriend: Biobehavioral bases of affiliation under stress. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 273—277, Figure 1, p. 274. Copyright 2006 by the Association for Psychological Science.
In the fight-or-flight biological response to stress, the amygdala detects a threat or danger and sends signals to the hypothalamus, which secretes corticotropin-releasing hormone, which in turn stimulates the adrenal gland to secrete cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Taylor noted that the “fight” effects of epinephrine (also called adrenaline) are magnified by testosterone, which occurs at higher levels in males and is stimulated by stress.
While females have the same sympathetic nervous system response, paired with increased cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, the hypothalamus also secretes oxytocin in response to stress. Oxytocin has two important effects. First, it interacts with estrogen to reduce epinephrine levels, which reduces fear and increases feelings of calm, thereby heading off the risky tendency to fight or flee. Second, it stimulates maternal behavior (tending) and affiliative behavior (befriending).
Taylor’s revision has been productive—research on hormones and behavior continues to draw on her tend-and-befriend theory. For example, a recent field study examined the affiliative behaviors of men and women after winning or losing a competition (Sherman et al., 2017). Participants were dog handlers in a dog agility competition. The handler—dog teams were videotaped for the 3 minutes immediately following their completion of the agility course. Researchers coded video for handlers’ affiliative behaviors (the behavioral response), such as playing with the dog or petting the dog on its ears, chin, and head. They also measured the handlers’ cortisol secretion (the biological response) before and after the competition. Overall, male and female handlers showed the same amount of affiliative behaviors and similar changes in cortisol secretion. Yet when the researchers took into account whether handlers had won or lost the competition (that is, whether they had a score that allowed them to proceed to the next level of competition), they found striking gender differences in the biobehavioral response. Consistent with tend-and-befriend, women were more affiliative with their dogs after the stress of losing the competition. By contrast, men were more affiliative with their dogs after winning the competition. In addition, changes in cortisol levels accounted for these behavioral responses—when women’s cortisol levels increased, they were more affiliative, but when men’s cortisol levels increased, they were less affiliative. This is one example of innovative research that has been prompted by Taylor’s feminist re-visioning of theory.
Classical stress theory is fundamental in psychology and physiology. Taylor innovatively recognized that women may respond differently to stress than men do and that this different response is adaptive. She provided a coherent and plausible biological account of the response, which has prompted new research questions and findings. Her alternative approach is an exciting example of feminist revision of psychological theory.
Photo 17.2 How will this dog handler behave toward her dog if they win their agility competition? What will happen if they lose?
Matt Cardy/Getty Images News/Getty Images.
The Continuing Feminist Revolution and Backlash
Backlash, written by Pulitzer Prize—winning author Susan Faludi, helped to energize the third wave of feminism. The feminist movement that began in the 1960s is now referred to as the second wave (the first wave being the suffragettes who won the right to vote for women in the early 1900s), and a third wave of feminism became vigorous in the 1990s. Today we are in the fourth wave of feminism. Although Faludi’s book was written in 1991, it is remarkably prescient and relevant today.
Faludi’s basic argument was that these waves of feminism have fostered legal, economic, and political progress in the United States. That is, to some extent, feminists have been effective in promoting a more equal and equitable society. However, in response to this progress, a counterassault of antifeminism and modern sexism has been launched. This is the backlash against women, feminism, and gender equality.
What does this backlash look like? In some cases, it is subtle and couched in the language of modern and benevolent sexism. The backlash forces argue that women have made progress yet they are still unhappy, so their unhappiness must be the fault of feminism. The alternative explanation—that women’s unhappiness may be related to continued sexism in every place from the bedroom to the boardroom—is ignored. For example, many women express their frustration and exhaustion with role overload, struggling to make ends meet as they work full-time and pay half their wages to child care providers. The backlash frames this as a sad result of feminists’ fight for women to have access to paid employment, but they don’t fault men’s lack of involvement in child care, our country’s dearth of paid family leave or child care subsidies, or the swelling inequality in today’s economy.
What evidence did Faludi provide to support her argument? Much of it came from analyses of media reports of stories and flawed research that feed women’s anxiety and undermine their goals to be treated as equals. For example, Faludi described the intense publicity about a study that seemed to show that a single, college-educated woman over the age of 30 had only a 20% chance of ever marrying, and a single, college-educated woman over the age of 40 had only a 1.3% chance. The messages were clear: “If you’re a single woman with some education, you’re going to end up a miserable old spinster!” and “There’s a shortage of men! Better treat them as precious resources.”
But that wasn’t the full story. It turns out that the story originated when a newspaper reporter spoke to Neil Bennett, a sociologist at Yale, and got preliminary, unpublished results from recently completed data analyses. These results, which had not even been reviewed by a scientific journal, spread like wildfire. The Associated Press picked up the story, and the results were discussed in magazines ranging from Mademoiselle to Cosmopolitan. As it turned out, Bennett’s statistics were seriously flawed. A better study by Jeanne Moorman of the U.S. Census Bureau indicated that the reality was far less pessimistic: at 30, a never-married college-educated woman had a 58% to 66% chance of marriage, and at 40, she had a 17% to 23% chance. Moorman’s findings received only muted publicity, were in fact attacked in op-ed articles in places such as the New York Times, and were suppressed by her superiors at the Census Bureau under the Reagan administration.
Faludi also provided evidence that went beyond just the overpublicized, flawed research. She analyzed images of women on TV and in high fashion, the New Right, the men’s movement, and much more. In all cases, the effort is to reverse the trends set in motion by the women’s movement, and the messages are often quite frightening.
In laboratory experiments, social backlash (i.e., the negative evaluation of people for violating the norms of their gender role) has been documented. Social psychologist Laurie Rudman has actually been able to document and study backlash in laboratory experiments (Rudman & Fairchild, 2004). Her research shows that women who violate gender stereotypes are often sabotaged by the other person in the experiment and that this other person’s self-esteem increases as a result. The sabotage, of course is a powerful force discouraging women from violating stereotypes. Whereas Faludi’s research focused on the media and other institutional sources of backlash, Rudman’s research documents interpersonal backlash, which is just as powerful and just as meaningful.
For example, recall that we discussed the phenomenon of social backlash in Chapter 9. Meta-analysis indicates that women’s hireability and likability are substantially reduced when they express dominance, assertiveness, or agentic behavior, such as asking for a raise (Williams & Tiedens, 2016). Men aren’t negatively impacted in the same way because, for them, such behaviors are in line with the norms of their gender role.
Writing in 2001 and again in 2006, Faludi updated her account of threats to feminism. She argued that the latest threat to feminism is hyperconsumerism, which has commercialized feminism. Advertisers promoted the idea that “liberation” meant earning lots of money and buying lots of stuff with it, and that this would make women feel happy and satisfied with their lives. In 2006, Faludi noted, “We have used our gains to gild our shackles, but not break them.” Modern feminism as defined by popular culture involves buying designer shoes that are about as good for one’s health as footbinding was. The freedom to choose became the freedom to choose expensive and risky cosmetic surgery. Feminists, according to Faludi, must challenge the commercialization of feminism and reemphasize the core values of feminism: the right of all people, regardless of gender, to act responsibly in the world, to build a society that recognizes that caring—not more “stuff”—is what’s important.
Today, we are in the midst of feminism’s fourth wave. It is an increasingly intersectional movement that critiques the gender binary and fights for gender equality in new and innovative ways. Feminism is not just more inclusive; it is also more accessible. The fourth wave uses Web 2.0 and user-generated content to reach more people and invite more perspectives, expanding the scope of feminist activism.
Yet, as we witnessed the stunning results of the 2016 presidential election, the precariousness of the fight for gender equality stood out in stark relief. Some have proposed that the election of Donald Trump was part of a backlash against the feminist gains of recent years (e.g., Goldberg, 2016; Moore, 2016). They point out that a man who was accused of sexual harassment by numerous women and who described his privilege to “grab ’em by the pussy” won the presidency, while his female opponent—a self-identified feminist—was routinely labeled “shrill” and a “bitch” during the campaign. If it is true that Trump’s election was part of a backlash against feminist gains, what does this mean for the future of feminism? And what role does the science of psychology play in that future?
It is also possible that we are in the midst of a resurgence of feminism. The day after President Trump’s inauguration, millions of people—many in pink “pussy” hats—gathered for Women’s Marches across all seven continents to affirm their support for gender equality. Marchers diverse in gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, and age demonstrated that, unified, they could resist the backlash against feminism and ultimately achieve gender equality. In that spirit, we are reminded of the persistence and courage of the women’s rights activist Alice Paul, who observed, “I always feel the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone, and then you get a great mosaic at the end.” Will you put in a stone?
Photo 17.3 Are we in the midst of a feminist resurgence?
Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images.
Experience the Research: Feminist Identity
Think about the stages of feminist identity development described in the Bargad and Hyde (1991) study (see page 398). They go from Stage 1, Passive Acceptance, to Stage 5, Active Commitment. You have just taken a psychology of women and gender course. Do you think that you passed through one or several of those stages as the course progressed? What stage would you say you are in now?
Suggestions for Further Reading
Gay, Roxane. (2014). Bad feminist. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Gay provides sharp, intersectional feminist critique and humor on culture and politics.
Solnit, Rebecca. (2017). The mother of all questions: Further reports from the feminist revolutions. Chicago, IL: Haymarket. In this collection of essays, Solnit follows up her feminist book Men Explain Things to Me with humor and insight on the gender binary and the need for men to be involved in feminism.
Taylor, Shelley. (2002). The tending instinct: Women, men, and the biology of nurturing. New York, NY: Times Books. Taylor expands on her tend-and-befriend theory of women’s response to stress, discussed in the current chapter.
Traister, Rebecca. (2016). All the single ladies: Unmarried women and the rise of an independent nation. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Traister, a journalist who interviewed women around the United States for this book, argues that, across history, tremendous social change occurs when women postpone or forgo heterosexual marriage.