Gender in Context: Considering Variability in Wood and Eagly’s Traditions of Gender Identity

Abstract

This paper was written in response to Wood and Eagly’s (2015) feminist forum paper that proposes two traditions for gender identity research, a tradition based on gender-typed attributes and a tradition based on gender self-conceptualization. The present paper expands on Wood and Eagly’s (2015) framework by proposing, in line with social constructivist models, that both traditions of gender identity may be variable and context dependent. Specifically, the present paper reviews research conducted in the U.S.A. that suggests that gender-typed attributes and components of gender self-conceptualization may change based on contextual factors such as the gender of people in a person’s immediate context and the salience of gender in a given situation. The paper also reviews ways in which variation in gender-typed attributes and components of gender self-conceptualization has been measured previously, and suggests the use of experience sampling methodology for future research. Finally, the paper encourages researchers to consider Wood and Eagly’s (2015) suggestion of using the principle of compatibility when selecting trait or state measures of gender identity, and proposes that beliefs in gender essentialism (that gender differences are due to innate traits) may be reduced by understanding how contextual factors influence gender identity.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  1. Anselmi, D. L., & Law, A. L. (1998). Questions of gender, perspectives and paradoxes. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Berenbaum, S. A., & Beltz, A. M. (2011). Sexual differentiation of human behavior: Effects of prenatal and pubertal organizational hormones. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 32, 183–200. doi:10.1016/j.yfrne.2011.03.001.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Brewer, G., & Hamilton, V. (2014). Female mate retention, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 8, 12–19. doi:10.1037/h0097245.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Cota, A. A., & Dion, K. L. (1986). Salience of gender and sex composition of ad hoc groups: An experimental test of distinctiveness theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 770–776. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.50.4.770.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Deaux, K., & Major, B. (1987). Putting gender into context: An interactive model of gender-related behavior. Psychological Review, 94, 369–389. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.94.3.369.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Deaux, K., & Major, B. (1998). Gender behavior in a social context a social-psychological model of gender. In D. L. Anselmi & A. L. Law (Eds.), Questions of gender, perspectives and paradoxes (pp. 367–376). New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Dinella, L. M., Fulcher, M., & Weisgram, E. S. (2014). Sex-typed personality traits and gender identity as predictors of young adults' career interests. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 493–504. doi:10.1007/s10508-013-0234-6.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Drury, K., Bukowski, W. M., Velásquez, A. M., & Stella-Lopez, L. (2013). Victimization and gender identity in single-sex and mixed-sex schools: Examining contextual variations in pressure to conform to gender norms. Sex Roles, 69, 442–454. doi:10.1007/s11199-012-0118-6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Egan, S. K., & Perry, D. G. (2001). Gender identity: A multidimensional analysis with implications for psychosocial adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 37, 451–463. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.37.4.451.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Fleeson, W. (2004). Moving personality beyond the person-situation debate: The challenge and the opportunity of within-person variability. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 83–87. doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2004.00280.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Funder, D. C. (2006). Towards a resolution of the personality triad: Persons, situations, and behaviors. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 21–34. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2005.08.003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hyde, J. (2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60, 581–592. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.60.6.581.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Jones, K. D., & Heesacker, M. (2012). Addressing the situation: Some evidence for the significance of microcontexts with the gender role conflict construct. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 13, 294–307. doi:10.1037/a0025797.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Larson, R., & Richards, M. H. (1994). Divergent realities: The emotional lives of mothers, fathers, and adolescents. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Leaper, C. (2000). Gender, affiliation, assertion, and the interactive context of parent–child play. Developmental Psychology, 36, 381–393. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.36.3.381.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Leszczynski, J. P. (2009). A state conceptualization: Are individuals' masculine and feminine personality traits situationally influenced? Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 157–162. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2009.02.014.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Leszczynski, J. P., & Strough, J. (2008). The contextual specificity of masculinity and femininity in early adolescence. Social Development, 17, 719–736. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9507.2007.00443.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Lippa, R., & Connolly, S. (1990). Gender diagnosticity: A new Bayesian approach to gender-related individual differences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 1051–1065. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.59.5.1051.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Maccoby, E. E. (1990). Gender and relationships: A developmental account. American Psychologist, 45, 513–520. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.45.4.513.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Mehta, C.M., & Dementieva, Y (2015a). The contextual specificity of gender: Femininity and masculinity in same- and other-sex contexts. Manuscript submitted for publication.

  21. Mehta, C.M., & Dementieva, Y. (2015b). Associations between location and reported femininity and masculinity. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Psychology, Emmanuel College, Boston, Massachusetts.

  22. Mehta, C. M., & Strough, J. (2010). Gender segregation and gender-typing in adolescence. Sex Roles, 63, 251–263. doi:10.1007/s11199-010-9780-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Mehta, C. M., Walls, C., Blood, E. A., & Shrier, L. A. (2014). Associations between affect, context, and sexual desire in depressed young women. Journal of Sex Research, 51, 577–585. doi:10.1080/00224499.2012.753026.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Musto, M. (2014). Athletes in the pool, girls and boys on deck: The contextual construction of gender in coed youth swimming. Gender and Society, 28, 359–380. doi:10.1177/0891243213515945.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Oosterwegel, A. (2001) Commentary: The self-concept is dead, long live... which construct or process? Differentiation and organization of self-related theories. In H. A. Bosma, E. S. Kunnen, H. A. Bosma, & E. S. Kunnen (Eds.), Identity and emotion: Development through self-organization. (pp. 33–38). New York: Cambridge University Press.

  26. Pickard, J., & Strough, J. (2003). The effects of same-sex and other-sex contexts on masculinity and femininity. Sex Roles, 48, 421–432. doi:10.1037/t00748-000.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Rawlins, W. (2009). The compass of friendship: Narratives, identities, and dialogues. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Reisner, S. L., Greytak, E. A., Parsons, J. T., & Ybarra, M. L. (2015). Gender minority social stress in adolescence: Disparities in adolescent bullying and substance use by gender identity. Journal of Sex Research, 52, 243–256. doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.886321.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Shields, S. A. (1993). Speaking from the heart: Gender and the social meaning of emotion. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Shields, S. A. (1998). Gender in the psychology of emotion: A selective research review. In D. L. Anselmi & A. L. Law (Eds.), Questions of gender, perspectives and paradoxes (pp. 376–390). New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Shields, S. A. (2013). Gender and emotion: What we think we know, what we need to know, and why it matters. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 37, 423–435. doi:10.1177/0361684313502312.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Shields, S. A., & Dicicco, E. C. (2011). The social psychology of sex and gender: From gender differences to doing gender. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35, 491–499. doi:10.1177/0361684311414823.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Shrier, L. A., Shih, M. C., Hacker, L., & de Moor, C. (2007). A momentary sampling study of the affective experience following coital events in adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40, e1–e8. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2006.10.014.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Smith, C. J., Noll, J. A., & Bryant, J. B. (1999). The effect of social context on gender self-concept. Sex Roles, 40, 499–512. doi:10.1037/t00748-000.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Van der Meulen, M. (2001). Developments in self-concept theory and research: Affect, context, and variability. In H. A. Bosma, E. S. Kunnen, H. A. Bosma, & E. S. Kunnen (Eds.), Identity and emotion: Development through self-organization (pp. 10–32). New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Vantieghem, W., Vermeersch, H., & Van Houtte, M. (2014). Why 'gender' disappeared from the gender gap: (Re-)introducing gender identity theory to educational gender gap research. Social Psychology of Education, 17, 357–381. doi:10.1007/s11218-014-9248-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. West, C., & Zimmerman, D. H. (1987). Doing gender. Gender and Society, 1, 125–151. doi:10.1177/0891243287001002002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. White, J. B., & Gardner, W. L. (2009). Think women, think warm: Stereotype content activation in women with a salient gender identity, using a modified stroop task. Sex Roles, 60, 247–260. doi:10.1007/s11199-008-9526-z.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2015). Two traditions of research on gender identity. Sex Roles. doi:10.1007/s11199-015-0480-2.

  40. Yoon, H. J., & Kim, Y. (2014). The moderating role of gender identity in responses to comedic violence advertising. Journal of Advertising, 43, 382–396. doi:10.1080/00913367.2014.880390.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank Yulia Dementieva for creating the figures presented in this manuscript.

Ethics Statement

IRB approval was granted for unpublished data presented in this paper. This unpublished data was collected in accordance with APA ethical guidelines.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Clare M. Mehta.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Mehta, C.M. Gender in Context: Considering Variability in Wood and Eagly’s Traditions of Gender Identity. Sex Roles 73, 490–496 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-015-0535-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Gender identity
  • Social constructionism
  • Context
  • Gender-typed traits
  • Femininity
  • Masculinity