What is gender, anyway: a review of the options for operationalising gender

Our latest scientific article has recently been published in Psychology & Sexuality:

In the social sciences, many quantitative research findings as well as presentations of demographics are related to participants’ gender. Most often, gender is represented by a dichotomous variable with the possible responses of woman/man or female/male, although gender is not a binary variable. It is, however, rarely defined what is meant by gender. In this article, we deconstruct the concept ‘gender’ as consisting of several facets, and argue that the researcher needs to identify relevant aspects of gender in relation to their research question. We make a thorough exposition of considerations that the researcher should bear in mind when formulating questions about each facet, in order to exemplify how complex this construct is. We also remind the researcher that gender is not a binary category and discuss challenges in the balance between taking existing gender diversity into account and yet sorting participants into gender categorisations that function in statistical analyzes. To aid in this process, we provide an empirical example on how gender identity may be categorised when using a free-text response. Lastly, we suggest that other measurements than participants’ gender might be better predictors of the outcome variable.

Four Dimensions of Criticism Against Gender-Fair Language

Our latest article has been published in Sex Roles:

The gender-neutral third-person pronoun singular hen was recently introduced in Swedish as a complement to she (hon) and he (han). The initiative to add hen initially received strong criticism. In the present study, we analyzed 208 arguments from 168 participants with critical attitudes toward hen. We used Blaubergs’ (1980) and Parks and Roberton’s (1998) taxonomies of critical arguments against past gender-fair language reforms in English in the 1970s and 1990s as a basis for coding the arguments. A majority of arguments (80.7%) could be coded into existing categories, indicating that criticisms of gender-fair language initiatives are similar across different times and cultural contexts. Two categories of arguments did not fit existing categories (19.3%): gender-neutral pronouns are distracting in communication and gender information is important in communication. Furthermore, we established four overarching dimensions that capture assumptions and beliefs underlying gender-fair language criticism: (a) Defending the Linguistic Status Quo (39.4%), (b) Sexism and Cisgenderism (27.4%), (c) Diminishing the Issue and Its Proponents (26.9%), and (d) Distractor In Communication (6.3%). These dimensions of criticisms should be considered and addressed in different ways when implementing gender-fair language.

 

 

Hen receives international attention

During the last days, international media has picked up on hen, and several members from our project group have been interviewed. We are very happy that our Swedish gender-neutral pronoun receives attention!

Marie Gustafsson Sendén has been interviewed about hen and our research in Wired.
Sabine Sczesny has been interviewed about gender-fair language in The Guardian.
Anna Lindqvist and Erik van Berlekom have been interviewed about our research and non-binary gender identities in the Dutch newspaper Trouw (in Dutch).

International Convention of Psychological Science

Several of us in the project group have been to the large psychological conference International Convention of Psychological Science in Paris to present our research.

Amanda presented the poster Perception of Gender Equality Statements – The Moderating Effect of Gender Identification on Organisation Appeal. Download the poster as pdf.

Hellen presented the poster Swedish Gender-Neutral Pronoun Has No Gender Bias in Reading. Download the poster as pdf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Anna
 represented the project group in a symposium with the talk Gender-neutral
pronouns as promoters of gender equality and diversity
, where she presented the results from our article in Sex Roles. She also presented some new data which indicates that “he/she” is associated with normative women and men, while hen also is associated with individuals with non-normative gender expressions.

The (Not So) Changing Man: Dynamic Gender Stereotypes in Sweden

Our latest research article entitled The (Not So) Changing Man: Dynamic Gender Stereotypes in Sweden has just been published in Frontiers in Psychology.

Abstract. According to Social Role Theory, gender stereotypes are dynamic constructs influenced by actual and perceived changes in what roles women and men occupy (Wood and Eagly, 2011). Sweden is ranked as one of the most egalitarian countries in the world, with a strong national equality discourse and a relatively high number of men engaging in traditionally communal roles such as parenting and domestic tasks. This would imply a perceived change toward higher communion among men. Therefore, we investigated the dynamics of gender stereotype content in Sweden with a primary interest in the male stereotype and perceptions of gender equality. In Study 1, participants (N = 323) estimated descriptive stereotype content of women and men in Sweden in the past, present, or future. They also estimated gender distribution in occupations and domestic roles for each time-point. Results showed that the female stereotype increased in agentic traits from the past to the present, whereas the male stereotype showed no change in either agentic or communal traits. Furthermore, participants estimated no change in gender stereotypes for the future, and they overestimated how often women and men occupy gender non-traditional roles at present. In Study 2, we controlled for participants’ actual knowledge about role change by either describing women’s increased responsibilities on the job market, or men’s increased responsibility at home (or provided no description). Participants (N = 648) were randomized to the three different conditions. Overall, women were perceived to increase in agentic traits, and this change was mediated by perceptions of social role occupation. Men where not perceived to increase in communion but decreased in agency when change focused on women’s increased participation in the labor market. These results indicate that role change among women also influence perceptions of the male stereotype. Altogether, the results indicate that social roles might have stronger influence on perceptions of agency than perceptions of communion, and that communion could be harder to incorporate in the male stereotype.

Reducing a Male Bias in Language?

Our latest research article entitled Reducing a Male Bias in Language? Establishing the Efficiency of Three Different Gender-Fair Language Strategies was just published in the journal Sex Roles. Download the article as pdf here.

Abstract. Different strategies of gender-fair language have been applied to reduce a male bias, which means the implicit belief that a word describing an undefined person describes a man. This male bias might be caused by the words themselves in terms of generic masculine or masculine forms or by androcentrism (the conflation of men with humanity). In two experiments, we tested how different gender-fair strategies used as labels of an unknown social target (an applicant in a recruitment situation) could eliminate the male bias. The three types of gender-fair strategies tested were: (a) paired forms (he/she), (b) traditional neutral words (e.g., singular they, “the applicant”), or (c) gender-neutral third-person pronouns actively created to challenge the binary gender system (ze, Swedish hen). The two experiments were performed in Swedish with 417 undergraduates in Sweden and in English with 411 U.S. participants recruited online. In Swedish, the third-person gender-neutral pronoun singular (hen) was used. In English, several forms of such gender-neutral pronouns have been suggested (e.g., ze). In both experiments, results indicated that paired forms and actively created gender-neutral pronouns eliminated the male bias, whereas traditional neutral words contained a male bias. Thus, gender-fair language strategies should avoid using traditional words. Consequences of using paired forms and creating new gender-neutral words are discussed. We argue that an actively created gender-neutral pronoun is of highest value because it is more inclusive.

The Science of Gender Differences

The 27-28th June was Amanda at the Future Sex conference in Surrey where she presented the results from her master thesis.

The Science of Gender Differences: Gender Essentialism as System Justification

Gender lay theory is a lay person theory which is used as a framework for interpreting information related to gender categorization. The present study investigated how individuals’ gender lay theory is affected by exposure to scientifically framed explanations for gender differences between women and men. It also investigated if gender essentialism functions as a system justifying mechanism by decreasing discrimination attribution, a situational rather than dispositional attribution, in response to a discriminatory situation. The 413 Swedish speaking participants were recruited from web forums and exposed to either a biologically focused (N = 133), or a social-constructivist focused (N = 125) scientifically framed text explaining gender differences, or not exposed to any text (N = 155). Compared to the control group, only exposure to social-constructivist gender discourse impacted gender lay theory by increasing endorsement of a gender as a socially constructed category. The group exposed to the biological text did not differ from the control group, indicating that an essentialist view of gender is the population norm. Discrimination attribution was indirectly affected by exposure to social-constructivist explanations for gender differences through gender lay theory, by increasing endorsement of a social gender lay theory which predicted a higher degree of discrimination attribution. These results point to a connection between exposure to scientific gender discourse, gender essentialism, and a situational attribution in response to a discriminatory situation. This study expands previous research in this field by showing that this connection also applies to an individual rather than general situation of gender discrimination.

 

Measuring gender in surveys

Anna, Emma and Marie have been at the Gender Diversity in Survey Research conference in Gothenburg, to present our thoughts on how one could/should include the gender variable in social sciences. You can download our conference paper Measuring gender in surveys as a pdf here.

Understanding the Constraints on Women’s Career Decisions

Amanda, Hellen and Marie have been to the conference Context, Identity and Choice: Understanding the Constraints on Women’s Career Decisions in London to present our research about hen
Hellen presented the study Gender-neutral pronouns as promoters of gender equality in the work place.

Abstract: The gender-neutral pronoun ‘hen’, has been introduced in Swedish as an addition to the gendered pronouns ‘hon’ [she] and ‘han’ [he]. It can be used in a generic way to refer to someone when not knowing a person’s gender, when gender is irrelevant, or to refer to someone who does not identify with the binary categories. 

Proponents of ‘hen’ have argued that the pronoun can reduce stereotyping in language. In previous research, ‘hen’ has been found to have no male bias when people try to determine whose job application they are reading. Reading a job application from ‘hen’, participants judged the person to be equally likely to be female or male in comparison with “the applicant” or “the candidate”, which were much more frequently imagined to be male (Bäck et al., 2015). 

In this presentation, I present the first eye tracking data on how ‘hen’ affects the way we imagine others when reading about them, and discuss the implications this has for understanding how gender-neutral language may work as a gender-fair language strategy. 

Amanda presented the study The (not so) Changing Man: Dynamic Gender Stereotypes in Sweden. Download the poster as pdf here.