Skip to main content

Engendering Culture: The Relationship of Gender Identity and Pressure for Gender Conformity with Adolescents’ Interests in the Arts and Literature

Abstract

Research indicates that women are more interested in highbrow culture (i.e., the arts—art, music, and theatre—and literature) than men are. Current explanations for women’s higher involvement in highbrow cultural activities primarily focus on adults; overemphasize class-, work- and cultural capital-related explanations; and do not uncover the identity-related and interactional mechanisms behind the gendering of taste during socialization. In the present paper we use gender identity theory and a “doing gender” perspective to understand cultural taste differences between male and female adolescents. Using multilevel analyses on a random sample of 5227 Flemish 7th graders (M age = 12.18) who completed a survey in their classrooms, we find that higher gender typicality (i.e., identification as a typical male or female) and higher pressure to conform to gender stereotypes are associated with slightly higher interests in arts-, theatre-, and literature-related activities for young women, but with much lower highbrow interests for young men. This difference indicates that identity-related processes and interactional conformity pressures are important mechanisms reinforcing the gendering of cultural tastes. Implications for research on gender, class, and cultural capital, as well as potential ways to make schools safe environments for the expression of gender non-stereotypical cultural tastes, are discussed.

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

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  • Anthias, F. (2004). Social stratification and social inequality: Models of intersectionality and identity. In F. Devine, M. Savage, J. Scott, & R. Crompton (Eds.), Rethinking class. Culture, identities & lifestyle (pp. 24–45). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bihagen, E., & Katz-Gerro, T. (2000). Culture consumption in Sweden: The stability of gender differences. Poetics, 27, 327–349. doi:10.1016/S0304-422X(00)00004-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bos, H., & Sandfort, T. G. M. (2010). Children's gender identity in lesbian and heterosexual two-parent families. Sex Roles, 62, 114–126. doi:10.1007/s11199-009-9704-7.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–260). New York: Greenwood Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bourdieu, P. (2001). Masculine domination. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cann, V. (2014). The limits of masculinity: Boys, taste and cultural consumption. In S. Roberts (Ed.), Debating modern masculinities: Change, continuity, crisis? (pp. 17–34). Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cann, V. (2015). Girls and cultural consumption: 'Typical girls', fangirls' and the value of femininity. In H. Savigny & H. Warner (Eds.), The politics of being a woman: Feminism, media and twenty-first century popular culture (pp. 154–174). Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cherland, M. R. (1994). Private practices: Girls reading fiction and constructing identity. London: Taylor & Francis.

    Google Scholar 

  • Christin, A. (2012). Gender and highbrow cultural participation in the United States. Poetics, 40, 423–443. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2012.07.003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Collins, R. (1988). Women and men in the class-structure. Journal of Family Issues, 9, 27–50. doi:10.1177/019251388009001003.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Covay, E., & Carbonaro, W. (2010). After the bell: Participation in extracurricular activities, classroom behavior and academic achievement. Sociology of Education, 83, 20–45. doi:10.1177/0038040709356565.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43, 1241–1299.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cvencek, D., Meltzoff, A. N., & Greenwald, A. G. (2011). Math-gender stereotypes in elementary school children. Child Development, 82, 766–779. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01529.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Davis, S. N., & Pearce, L. D. (2007). Adolescents' work-family gender ideologies and educational expectations. Sociological Perspectives, 50(2), 249–271. doi:10.1525/sop.2007.50.2.249.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DiMaggio, P. (1982). Cultural capital and school succes: The impact of status culture participation on the grades of US high school students. American Sociological Review, 47, 189–201.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DiMaggio, P. (2004). Gender, networks, and cultural capital. Poetics, 32, 99–103. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2004.02.004.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DiMaggio, P., & Mohr, J. (1985). Cultural capital, educational attainment, and marital selection. American Journal of Sociology, 90, 1231–1261.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dumais, S. A. (2002). Cultural capital, gender, and school success: The role of habitus. Sociology of Education, 75, 44–68. doi:10.2307/3090253.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • Erikson, R., & Goldthorpe, J. H. (1992). The constant flux: A study of class mobility in industrial societies. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Evans, G. (1992). Testing the validity of the Goldthorpe class schema. European Sociological Review, 8(3), 211–232.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Falk, M., & Katz-Gerro, T. (2016). Cultural participation in Europe: Can we identify common determinants? Journal of Cultural Economics, 40, 127–162. doi:10.1007/s10824-015-9242-9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Forsman, J. A., & Barth, J. M. (2016). The effect of occupational gender stereotypes on men’s interest in female-dominated occupations. Sex Roles. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s11199-016-0673-3.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frønes, I. (2009). Childhood: Leisure, culture and peers. In J. Qvortrup, W. A. Corsaro, & M. S. Honig (Eds.), The Palgrave handbook of childhood studies (pp. 273–286). Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Galambos, N. L., Almeida, D. M., & Petersen, A. C. (1990). Masculinity, femininity, and sex role attitudes in early adolescence: Exploring gender intensification. Child Development, 61, 1905–1914. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.1990.tb03574.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Harris, J. (1995). Where is the child's environment? A group socialization theory of development. Psychological Review, 102, 458–489. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.102.3.458.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Heyder, A., & Kessels, U. (2013). Is school feminine? Implicit gender stereotyping of school as a predictor of academic achievement. Sex Roles, 69, 605–617. doi:10.1007/s11199-013-0309-9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hill, J. P., & Lynch, M. E. (1983). The intensification of gender-related role-expectations during early adolescence. In J. Brooks-Gunn & A. C. Petersen (Eds.), Girls at puberty: Biological and psychosocial perspectives (pp. 201–228). New York: Plenum Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Hox, J. J. (2010). Multilevel analysis: Techniques and applications. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jackson, C. (2006). Lads and ladettes in school: Gender and a fear of failure. Buckingham: Open University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kane, E. W. (2006). "no way my boys are going to be like that!" Parents' responses to children's gender nonconformity. Gender & Society, 20, 149–176. doi:10.1177/0891243205284276.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Katz-Gerro, T., & Jaeger, M. M. (2015). Does women's preference for highbrow leisure begin in the family? Comparing leisure participation among brothers and sisters. Leisure Sciences, 37, 415–430. doi:10.1080/01490400.2014.995326.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kaufman, J., & Gabler, J. (2004). Cultural capital and the extracurricular activities of girls and boys in the college attainment process. Poetics, 32, 145–168. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2004.02.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lareau, A. (2003). Unequal childhoods: Class, race and family life. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leaper, C., Farkas, T., & Brown, C. S. (2012). Adolescent girls' experiences and gender-related beliefs in relation to their motivation in math/science and English. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41, 268–282. doi:10.1007/s10964-011-9693-z.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Leaper, C., & Friedman, C. K. (2007). The socialization of gender. In J. E. Grusec & P. D. Hastings (Eds.), Handbook of socialization: Theory and research (pp. 561–587). New York: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leaper, C., & Van, S. R. (2008). Masculinity ideology, covert sexism, and perceived gender typicality in relation to young men's academic motivation and choices in college. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 9, 139–153. doi:10.1037/1524-9220.9.3.139.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leib, A. Y., & Bulman, R. C. (2009). The choreography of gender: Masculinity, femininity, and the complex dance of identity in the ballroom. Men and Masculinities, 11, 602–621. doi:10.1177/1097184X07306730.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lizardo, O. (2006a). How cultural tastes shape personal networks. American Sociological Review, 71, 778–807. doi:10.1177/000312240607100504.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lizardo, O. (2006b). The puzzle of women's "highbrow" culture consumption: Integrating gender and work into Bourdieu's class theory of taste. Poetics, 34, 1–23. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2005.09.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lopata, H. Z., & Thorne, B. (1978). On the term sex roles. Signs, 3, 718–721.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lovell, T. (2001). Thinking feminism with and against Bourdieu. Feminist Theory, 1, 11–32. doi:10.1177/14647000022229047.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Martin, C. L., Fabes, R. A., & Hanish, L. D. (2014). Gendered-peer relationships in educational contexts. In L. S. Liben & R. S. Bigler (Eds.), Advances in child development and behavior: The role of gender in educational contexts and outcomes (pp. 151–187). London: Elsevier.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Martino, W. (1999). 'Cool boys', 'party animals', 'squids' and 'poofters': Interrogating the dynamics and politics of adolescent masculinities in school. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 20, 239–263. doi:10.1080/01425699995434.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McHale, S. M., Ji-Yeon, K., Whiteman, S., & Crouter, A. C. (2004). Links between sex-typed time use in middle childhood and gender development in early adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 40, 868–881. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.40.5.868.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • McRobbie, A. (2000). Feminism and youth culture. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nagel, I., & Verboord, M. (2012). Reading behavior from adolescence to early adulthood: A panel study of the impact of family and education on reading fiction books. Acta Sociologica, 55, 351–365. doi:10.1177/0001699312456858.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nosek, B. A., Banaji, M. R., & Greenwald, A. G. (2002). Math = male, me = female, therefore math ~ = me. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 44–59. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.83.1.44.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Nosek, B. A., & Smyth, F. L. (2011). Implicit social cognitions predict sex differences in math engagement and achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 48, 1125–1156. doi:10.3102/0002831211410683.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pascoe, C. J. (2007). Dude you're a fag: Masculinity and sexuality in high school. Berkley: University of California press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Perry, D. G., & Pauletti, R. E. (2011). Gender and adolescent development. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 61–74. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00715.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Peterson, R. A. (2005). Problems in comparative research: The example of omnivorousness. Poetics, 33, 257–282. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2005.10.002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Prieur, A., & Savage, M. (2013). Emerging forms of cultural capital. European Societies, 15, 246–267. doi:10.1080/14616696.2012.748930.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Purhonen, S., Gronow, J., & Rahkonen, K. (2011). Highbrow culture in Finland: Knowledge, taste and participation. Acta Sociologica, 54, 385–402. doi:10.1177/0001699311422092.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reay, D. (2002). Shaun's story: Troubling discourses of white working-class masculinities. Gender and Education, 14, 221–234. doi:10.1080/0954025022000010695.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Risman, B. J. (2004). Gender as a social structure: Theory wrestling with activism. Gender & Society, 18, 429–450. doi:10.1177/0891243204265349.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Risman, B. J., & Davis, G. (2013). From sex roles to gender structure. Current Sociology, 61, 733–755. doi:10.1177/0011392113479315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roose, H. (2015). Signs of ‘emerging’ cultural capital? Analysing symbolic struggles using class specific analysis. Sociology, 49, 556–573. doi:10.1177/0038038514544492.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schmutz, V., Stearns, E., & Glennie, E. J. (2016). Cultural capital formation in adolescence: High schools and the gender gap in arts activity participation. Poetics, 57, 27–39. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2016.04.003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scott, J. (2004). Family, gender, and educational attainment in Britain: A longitudinal study. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 35, 565–589.

    Google Scholar 

  • Silva, E. B. (2005). Gender, home and family in cultural capital theory. The British Journal of Sociology, 56, 83–103. doi:10.1111/j.1468-4446.2005.00048.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Siongers, J., & Lievens, J. (2014). Genderverschillen in cultuurparticipatie bij jongeren [gender differences in cultural participation among adolescents]. In B. Spruyt & J. Siongers (Eds.), Gender(en). Over de constructie en deconstructie van gender bij Vlaamse jongeren. [(Doing) gender. The construction and deconstruction of gender among Flemish adolescents] (pp. 59–80). Acco: Leuven.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tepper, S. J. (2000). Fiction reading in America: Explaining the gender gap. Poetics, 27, 255–275. doi:10.1016/S0304-422X(00)00003-6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thorne, B. (1997). Children and gender: Constructions of difference. In M. M. Gergen & S. N. Davis (Eds.), Toward a new psychology of gender: A reader (pp. 185–201). New York: Routlege.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tobin, D. D., Menon, M., Menon, M., Spatta, B. C., Hodges, E. V. E., & Perry, D. G. (2010). The intrapsychics of gender: A model of self-socialization. Psychological Review, 117, 601–622. doi:10.1037/a0018936.

  • Van Maele, D., Michalek, N., Engels, N., Laevers, F., Lombaerts, K., & Van Houtte, M. (2015). Gender op school: Meer dan een jongens-meisjeskwestie [Gender in school: More than a boys-girls matter]. Tielt: Lannoo Campus.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vantieghem, W. (2015). Gender goes to school: The influence of gender norms on early adolescents’ school functioning (unpublished doctoral dissertation). Ghent: Ghent University. Retrieved from https://biblio.ugent.be/record/7023823.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vantieghem, W., & Van Houtte, M. (2015). Are girls more resilient to gender-conformity pressure? The association between gender-conformity pressure and academic self-efficacy. Sex Roles, 73, 1–15. doi:10.1007/s11199-015-0509-6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vantieghem, W., Vermeersch, H., & Van Houtte, M. (2014a). Transcending the gender dichotomy in educational gender gap research: The association between gender identity and academic self-efficacy. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 39, 369–378. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.10.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vantieghem, W., Vermeersch, H., & Van Houtte, M. (2014b). 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 

  • Vermeersch, H., T'sjoen, G., Kaufman, J. M., Vincke, J., & Van Houtte, M. (2010). Gender ideology, same-sex peer group affiliation and the relationship between testosterone and dominance in adolescent boys and girls. Journal of Biosocial Science, 42, 463–475. doi:10.1017/S0021932010000106.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • West, C., & Fenstermaker, S. (1995). Doing difference. Gender & Society, 9, 8–37. doi:10.1177/089124395009001002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

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

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • West, C., & Zimmerman, D. H. (2009). Accounting for doing gender. Gender & Society, 23, 112–122. doi:10.1177/0891243208326529.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Willekens, M., & Lievens, J. (2014). Family (and) culture: The effect of cultural capital within the family on the cultural participation of adolescents. Poetics, 42, 98–113. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2013.11.003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Willis, P. E. (1977). Learning to labour: How working class kids get working class jobs. Aldershot: Gower.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2009). Gender identity. In R. H. H. Leary (Ed.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 109–125). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Young, R., & Sweeting, H. (2004). Adolescent bullying, relationships, psychological well-being, and gender-atypical behavior: A gender diagnosticity approach. Sex Roles, 50, 525–537. doi:10.1023/B:SERS.0000023072.53886.86.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yuval-Davis, N. (2006). Intersectionality and feminist politics. European Journal of Women's Studies, 13, 193–209. doi:10.1177/1350506806065752.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This research is supported by the Research Foundation-Flanders with a personal grant awarded to Susan Lagaert (grant number FWO14/ASP/149). We would also like to acknowledge the project ‘Teaching in the bed of Procrustes’, financed by IWT, the Flemish Government Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (project number: SBO 110020), which made the data collection for this research possible.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Susan Lagaert.

Ethics declarations

In this study, survey data on adolescents (7th graders) is used. The use of child assent was approved by the schools and the Belgian Commission for the Protection of Privacy, based on the minimal risk of the study. Anonymity was guaranteed.

Conflicts of Interest

None of the authors report potential conflicts of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Lagaert, S., Van Houtte, M. & Roose, H. Engendering Culture: The Relationship of Gender Identity and Pressure for Gender Conformity with Adolescents’ Interests in the Arts and Literature. Sex Roles 77, 482–495 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0738-y

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0738-y

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Arts
  • Arts participation
  • Cultural capital
  • Gender
  • Gender gap
  • Gender identity
  • Highbrow cultural tastes
  • Pressure for gender conformity