Entries in gender roles (10)


Too Macho for the Middle? Why Guys Don’t Compromise

Imagine you and your romantic partner are purchasing a new car together. You both prioritize safety and fuel efficiency, and you’ve identified 3 cars that you mutually like. The first car is extremely fuel-efficient. The second has superior safety ratings. And the third car is in the middle – it scores reasonably on both factors. Which are you most likely to buy – the car that dominates in one desirable category or the middle-of-the-road option?

A recent study1 indicates that your choice of car (and other things) likely depends on whether one of the decision makers in the couple is female.  

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From Bratz to Natural Beauties

In a previous article, I wrote about how both men and women prefer those who display neotenous (i.e., baby-like) features over adult features and rate those who exhibit them as more attractive.So what happens when toymakers manipulate these baby-like features to give off a sexualized vibe? Enter, the Bratz dolls.

Bratz, owned by MGA Entertainment, is a line of dolls that is very popular with today’s children. Bratz have seen a great deal of controversy in their time on the market, as they are often scantily clad and heavily made up.

The American Psychological Association (APA) formed the Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls in response to public concern over the growing problem of sexualization of children and adolescent females. Researchers have found that it is often females upon which sexuality is imposed, especially in the media.

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The Marriage Proposal Ritual

You have likely seen some variation of this scene before: you’re out in public or watching TV, and you see someone bend down on one knee, pull out a ring, and ask the person they’re with, “Will you marry me?” Odds are you knew what was taking place the moment the person got down on one knee and pulled out the box. This is because proposing marriage is a ritual that has a fairly standard script that people often follow. Of course, there are some variations on the script, but generally people seem to include some or most of the elements. This post describes those script elements and what people sometimes think when that script is not followed.

Rituals involve intentional and often formal behaviors that communicate social information.1 For example, people in some cultures wear torn clothing to communicate their grieving.2 Rituals provide people with a sense of control because they provide a script.3 To give you an example of what I mean by a script, I’d like you to imagine that you are at a restaurant. When you enter the restaurant, the hostess brings you to a table, a waitress greets you and you order drinks and food, and when the meal is over you receive and pay the bill. There may be variations to this script depending on the type of restaurant, but generally you know what to expect because the experience is similar from restaurant to restaurant and there are a few elements of the script that are stable across restaurants (e.g., ordering and paying for food). If the restaurant script isn’t followed (e.g., if you are asked if you want the bill right when you enter the restaurant), then you’ll likely be thrown off. Thus, the restaurant script helps you to anticipate what is about to happen and facilitates smooth interactions. Rituals also communicate values, are a way to bond with others, and help perpetuate and encourage socially agreed upon ways of behaving.1 In other words, following a ritual tells others a bit about you and helps to perpetuate the ritual and its script.

Proposing marriage is one common ritual that involves a well-known script. How people go about proposing marriage can vary quite a bit, with some proposals being quite showy and others being more low-key, but there are a few elements of the proposal script that are relatively stable across proposals.

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A Feminist Valentine

In my previous relationships, more than one partner on more than one occasion spat out the following emotional expletive at me:  

“Your feminism has ruined you!”

I have explicitly self-identified as a feminist since my undergraduate days and enacted this feminism in my social and personal relationships. My strong feminist identification led me to to political activism and vocal critiques of women’s place in society.1 This created some tense situations in my twenties when I took pleasure in loud arguments about women’s issues and the importance of being a self-professed feminist. My close college friends and I named ourselves feminists, cursed loudly in public, flirted with insults instead of hair flips, gave one another dead roses for Valentine’s Day, and even penned a poster for our apartment that read “The Hairy-Leg Café” to play with the negative stereotypes of feminists we knew some of our peers held.2 For me, using the F-word as a proud marker of my belief in equality means that I hear subtle and not so subtle put-downs when I’m critical of sexual double standards, traditional heterosexual marriage, differences in pay and prestige, and who cleans the bathroom. I’ve been called a feminazi, dyke, man-hater, and ugly bitch by students, random men at bars, and peers when I’ve voiced my views. Fortunately, it seems that self-ascribing oneself as a feminist is not as argument-provoking or unfashionable as in the past. In fact, popular women’s magazines such as Glamour and websites like Jezebel.com claim that calling oneself a feminist is “The New Do.”3

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Sexuality Is Complicated...So Here's A Summary


Karney & Bradbury - Gender Roles and Relationships

Relationship researchers Drs. Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury discuss gender roles in relationships (from the PBS series This Emotional Life). Read more about gender roles here.


The Flip Side: Hooking-Up in the Bizarro World

It's like "White Man's Burden", but set in Relationship World.


Direct is Best: Forget About Playing Hard to Get

Traditional flirting strategy tells us that a woman attracts a man’s attention by impersonating an immovable object and smiling in his direction. Smiling is good. Smiling is an approachability signal that beckons “come hither”1 to the object of our desires and is perceived as being attractive.2 Unsurprisingly, women smile more when interacting with a man they find attractive.3 While she displays her expensive dentistry, what is his modus operandi? Again, traditional flirting strategy would dictate that he saunters over to her and says, “You must be a parking ticket, because you’ve got fine written all over you” But, do men and women have such different ways to show interest and attraction?

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Bring Home the Bacon. And Cook It. 

A number of theories attempt to explain why married women tend to do more housework than their husbands (note: none of them are called the “Men Are Lazy Theory”). Among the explanations offered is the “power,” or “bargaining,” perspective. Here, so the argument goes, people who make more money outside the home can essentially get by with doing less inside the home because their extra income ‘allots’ them that luxury (i.e., I bring home the bacon. You cook it. Even-Steven). It’s an interesting theory, but one that has received only mixed support…until now.

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How are Gay and Heterosexual Relationships Different?

In a recent Q&A, we addressed whether the type and amount of relationship conflict differs for gay and heterosexual couples. Aside from level of conflict, though, how do same- and opposite-sex couples stack up?

Contrary to popular belief, relationship health and quality is quite similar across gay, lesbian, and heterosexual partnerships. For example, partners in each of these relationship types report almost identical levels of satisfaction with and commitment to their romances on average. Relatively few differences have been discovered, and most are rather small.

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