August 6, 2013

In 1993, "50% of the women were scoring as masculine" on the Bem Sex Role Inventory...

... "a 1971 survey that uses gender stereotypes to classify personalities as masculine, feminine or otherwise," which surprised Jean M. Twenge, who was a student at the University of Chicago and — we're told in this NYT article — a "Minnesota native and a childhood tomboy" who "had once planned on a career in gender studies."
Dr. Twenge decided to dig up as many old studies using the Bem survey that she could find, average out their scores by year and chart them over time. “I found that across all the studies from the ’70s to the ’90s, there was a very clear upward trend in women scoring higher on this measure of stereotypically masculine traits,” she said.
Twenge went on to use this method of studying generation change to focus on issues of self-esteem and narcissism, not masculinity and femininity. The article seems to attribute this shift on her happening to perceive that theme in the data. Much of the article is about critics of her methodology and what the negative dimension of narcissism really is. (Personally, I suspect that survey-takers get a higher score on a narcissism test because we used to get a stronger message that it's wrong to be selfish and "self-centered," so we self-assessed differently in the old days.)

I'm putting up this post because of the connection to the previous post, which I ended with a recommendation against seeing one's masculinity/femininity balance as any kind of a problem. Twenge took her research in another direction, and I wonder why she may have seen a career advantage in not delving into masculine and feminine stereotypes. In the constitutional case law that I teach, there's a very strong rejection of the use of sex stereotypes, but in the general culture, at least among elites, there's a lot of empathy for those who claim that their body doesn't match their psyche. But I think it's risky to point to that discrepancy. Who wants to step into that crossfire?

By the way, when I got to college, at the University of Michigan in 1969, we were given a bunch of tests, one of which gave a masculine/feminine score, and we were told all the scores but that one. The scores were reported on computer punchcards. We figured out how to read the holes on the punchcards and found our secret scores. I don't remember what I got, but the questions were such that the test was referred to as something like the "cooked carrots test," because a typical true/false statement was: "I like cooked carrots."


n.n said...

Other than certain characteristics and behaviors which are determined by our reproductive roles, most are gender-neutral. We must be careful to properly discern objective (e.g. natural, merit-based) standards for distinguishing and discriminating between one individual and another.

Sam L. said...

So many people cannnot or will not admit that all people are different,and fit different aspects of stereotypes. Not for themselves, though.

William R. Hamblen said...

I used to dislike cooked carrots, but now I like them. What does that mean?