A New Psychology of Women
Gender, Culture and Ethnicity ~ Third Edition

Feminist Studies Display

Art: U. of Canterbury



Art: U. of Canterbury

"Peering into the Kaleidoscope"
Cross-cultural Perspectives in the Psychology of Women & Gender
by
Professor Hilary M. Lips, Ph.D.

1999 Fulbright NZ-U.S. Award Recipient
at the
University of Canterbury
Copyright © 1999 H. Lips. All rights reserved
March 13th, 1999
Presentation 
                           Summary:
       
 
Thank you, Dr. Jaber for your introduction. Let me begin by saying how very pleased and honored I am to be here and to be a part of the process of looking at the very important issues surrounding women in education. I offer my thanks to Dorothy Meyer, who spearheaded this visit, and to all of you for your hospitality. I'll begin my talk today, with a brief overview of four very remarkable women.

   Dr. Lips Introduction by Dr. Nabila Jabber:
   Feminist Studies -- University of Canterbury

* Amelia Edwards
          In 1873, Amelia Edwards, a redoubtable Englishwoman, published an account of her travels through the Dolomites. The book, Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys, documents her journey with another woman -- on foot and on horseback -- through terrain that was rough and uninviting to travelers, particularly women travelers. At a time when most English gentlewomen led sheltered, even uneventful lives, Amelia Edwards craved and found adventure in her explorations of the world around her. Not content with the vision of the world that she had inherited as a white Victorian woman of comfortable means, she traveled the globe with her women friends to gain and communicate new perspectives.
          Ms. Edwards was an ardent advocate of women's rights. She correctly intuited that women needed to step out from the protective shelter of their own families -- even their own country and culture -- to undertake their own journeys and gather their own experiences, if they were to develop a sense of independence and strength. Amelia Edwards followed her own advice: she forged an exciting life as an adventurer, travel writer, and archeologist. She journeyed to remote corners of the world, wrote well-received novels and travel books, rose to prominence as a lecturer in Egyptology. As one of the very few women of her times to try to gain a "global perspective," surely she is an appropriate pioneer to place at the beginning of this lecture.

* Bessie Coleman
          In 1921, Bessie Coleman earned her pilot's license. Born, not to privilege, but to poverty, she had spent the early years of her life picking cotton and living in a three-room shack in east Texas -- an unlikely start, perhaps, for the world's first African-American female aviator. It was while she was working as a manicurist in Chicago that she began to dream of flying. When no one in that city would teach her to fly, she raised the money to travel to France. There she studied at one of the best flight schools. She became a glamorous and daring flyer, drawing large crowds when she performed in air shows. She died tragically at the age of thirty-four when she fell from her plane as it nosedived toward the ground. She had been preparing for a flying exhibition in Jacksonville, Florida.
          Bessie Coleman, who could barely write, left few records of her accomplishments or of her thoughts and feelings about her flying career. Because she was African-American, mainstream newspapers of the day gave her exploits little coverage. After her death, her accomplishments faded into obscurity for many years. In 1996, she was recognized again after many years of invisibility, and was featured on a 32-cent U.S. postage stamp. As a woman who insisted on seeing the world from a new perspective, in defiance of the restrictions associated with her race, class, and gender, Bessie Coleman too is an appropriate ground-breaker to place at the opening of this talk.

*Mae Jemison
          In 1992, Mae Jemison blasted off on the space shuttle "Endeavor," becoming the first African-American woman to travel into space. As a child growing up on the south side of Chicago, she had watched the stars in awe, dreaming that someday she would visit them. Her route to the stars took her through a host of high school science projects, university training as a chemical engineer, training in choreography and dance, a medical degree, a stint in the Peace Corps in Thailand. Through it all, she learned to think of her life as a journey, and not to limit herself because of anyone else's limited imagination.
          Jemison, a modern-day explorer who now spends a good deal of her energy encouraging young women to expand their horizons, sees the world as a small and interconnected place. Viewed from space, the earth presents a face that inexorably calls forth a global perspective. As one of the few women who has seen that face, Mae Jemison too is a good model for the beginning of this lecture.

* Rigoberta Menchú
          In 1992, at the age of 33, Rigoberta Mench£ was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, praised by the Committee for standing "as a uniquely potent symbol of a just struggle." A Mayan Indian of the Quich‚ people, Rigoberta grew up in Guatemala, a member of a family in which her mother was a midwife and healer and her father was a community leader and organizer. As a child she picked cotton and coffee beans, and later worked as a maid in Guatemala City. Before the age of 20, she was involved in her father's organization, the Committee of Peasant Unity, traveling with him around the countryside and urging Native American peoples to resist the appropriation of their land and villages. The struggle proved to be a tragic one for her family: her younger brother was tortured and burned alive by government soldiers because of his political activities. In 1980, her father and 39 others were killed when government troops attacked the Spanish embassy which they were occupying in a peaceful protest. Three months later her mother was kidnapped and raped, tortured and killed by soldiers.
          Menchú was literally forced into the international arena by these events. In memory of those killed at the embassy, she formed the "31 January" organization a group of peasants, students and workers who organized demonstrations and labor stoppages to protest government policies. Soon she was wanted for "subversive activities" and fled to Mexico. She told the world about the conditions in Guatemala through her autobiography, Rigoberta Menchú, an Indian woman in Guatemala (1983), and joined international efforts to protest human rights abuses by the Guatemalan government. As a woman who was forced by events to move beyond her own culture and whose activism has encouraged many others to look beyond their own borders, Rigoberta Menchú, too is an appropriate symbol to place at the beginning of a talk about multicultural perspectives on women and gender.

- What do these individuals have in common? They are women .... They are extraordinary...
- What do they have in common with less remarkable or famous women?
- Do they share more than female biology?
- Do they share certain kinds of restrictions or expectations ....


          One of the things that women may have in common is the quality of the barriers they face. Different groups of women may vary in the ways in which they experience and interpret those barriers, in the strategies they adopt for overcoming them, in how successful they are at transcending them. For instance, the four women described here shared certain barriers, despite the dramatic differences in their lives. All faced cultures in which men were traditionally the leaders, the great explorers, the adventurers. Women, with fewer resources and surrounded by an ideology that they should be home-centered, were supposed to wait and worry while men went out into the world. These obstacles are different in degree, but perhaps not in kind, from those facing many women of many different backgrounds.

- What kind of a psychology of women would address the experiences of all these and other women?

We can look for commonalities and themes, but the differences are also interesting. Currently, we look mainly at white, middle-class U.S. women and men in our courses on the psychology of women and gender. How can we separate what goes with being female or male from what goes with being white, middle-class, American? We cannot. And this makes it look as though certain qualities or behaviors that correlate with being female or male in this culture are inevitably linked to sex or to gender. The title for this talk was suggested by a quote from Australian literary scholar Sneja Gunew: In trying to grasp the experiences of women from a variety of times and places, "we should perhaps use the image of a kaleidoscope, where each turn produces different patterns and no single element dominates" Sneja Gunew (1991).

Let's take a look into this kaleidoscope:

Examples: Hima women being fattened up for marriage:
          Among the Hima people of western Uganda, fat is beautiful -- at least for women. Men measure a woman's attractiveness by her obesity, and a young woman is prepared for marriage in ways guaranteed to "fatten her up": the least possible activity and the most possible food. By the time of her marriage, the young woman may be so fat that she cannot walk, only waddle. At the wedding, onlookers then will comment on how beautiful she is, noting with approval the cracks in her skin caused by the fatness and the difficulty with which she walks. Once married, a wife is kept fat by consuming surplus milk from the herd -- often coerced to do so by her husband when she has long past the point of satiation. The wife leads a life of "leisure." She is assigned no heavy physical work, rarely leaves home, spends her days in sexual liaisons with a variety of men approved by her husband. These sexual relationships cement economic ones: the obese, conspicuously consuming wife is both a symbol and an instrument of her husband's economic prosperity (Tiffany, 1982).

Chinese women having their feet bound:
In China, and in the Chinese-American community in the United States, until the early part of this century, it was common for young girls to have their feet tightly bound. Small feet, "golden lilies," were considered a sign of beauty and refinement, so the purpose of binding them at such a young age was to keep them from growing to full size. The binding deformed the feet and kept them from developing the normal strength and flexibility needed for walking -- making it difficult or impossible for a woman to walk unassisted. However, these women were not necessarily being prepared for a life of leisure. The average young Chinese woman looked forward only to an arranged marriage in which she would hold little status until she produced male heirs, a marriage in which she would be expected to serve her mother-in-law and submit to her husband. Her life revolved around the necessity for obedience -- as a daughter, to her parents; after marriage, to her husband; in widowhood, to her son (Pascoe, 1990).

Women in North America signing up for surgery:
During the 1980s, cosmetic surgery had become the fastest-growing medical specialty in North America. At the end of that decade, more than 2 million U.S. women (1 in 60, according to Faludi, 1991) had had surgical breast implants. More than 100,000 had undergone liposuction surgery. According to one survey, these women were not rich about half made less than $25,000 per year, and took out loans to pay their surgery bill. Many women undertook the dangers and heavy costs of surgery in order to achieve or try to maintain a standard of beauty they felt necessary for attracting or holding a man. Where did they get the idea that such drastic measures might be necessary? From millions of magazine advertisements featuring impossibly-shaped women, and from the countless "personal" ads in which men specified that they were looking for a woman who was "attractive and thin" (Smith, Waldorf, & Trembath, 1990). A representative survey of more than 800 adult U.S. women in 1995 showed that women held substantially higher levels of dissatisfaction with their bodies than had been observed in a similar survey a decade before and nearly half the women reported overall negative evaluations of their appearance (Cash & Henry, 1995).

Young women starving themselves in Argentina:
          Maria, an 18-year old Argentine high school student, became obsessed with being thin after an ex-boyfriend called her "fatso" in front of her friends. She starved herself for weeks, and wrapped nylon stockings and plastic bags around her body to "sweat off" weight. Soon she appeared gaunt and pale, with sunken cheeks and protruding ribs. She developed black patches under her eyes from malnutrition, stopped menstruating, and could not tolerate the sight of food. Finally, she says, "After three months, people began asking if I had AIDS--I was so glad then. I thought, that means I'm as thin as a model now. Now I'm beautiful." (Faiola, 1997, p. A24).
          Maria's case is an example of an eating disorder called anorexia nervosa: an obsession with thinness and a distorted body image that leads to self-starvation. People who suffer from anorexia tend to "feel fat" even when severely underweight, so they starve themselves in order to achieve the thinness they crave. A related eating disorder, bulimia, is characterized by a pattern of binge overeating followed by self-induced purging through dieting, vomiting, or the use of laxative. This disorder too revolves around an obsession with food and with body weight. Both disorders have, according to media reports, reached epidemic proportions in Argentina, where they are jointly known as "fashion model syndrome" and may have the highest incidence in the world (Faiola, 1997). They are most common among young, middle-to-upper class women, although the percentage of male cases has increased in recent years from 5 to 12 percent.
          If I were teaching my psychology of women course now, I would ask my students to look for the common threads that link these examples. Here are some things I hope they would notice [OVERHEAD: Slide not available]:
          *These very different cultures all include strong ideas about what it means to be feminine.
          *The notions of femininity have overlapping themes:
                    --subservience to and dependence on men (especially the husband),
                    --the importance of beauty,
                    --restrictions on movement, strength (and other freedoms).
A course that incorporates multiple cultural perspectives can:
                   --show how certain issues are shared for women in many cultures
                   --show how certain issues are structured or interpreted or coped with differently in different times and places.
                   --help students to understand how interpretations can become "real";
                   --help us and our students to break out of habits of thought and become open to new ways of thinking about issues.
So by incorporating multicultural perspectives, we may discover/define/construct some kind of balance between cultural universals and particulars in the psychology of women and gender, and provide students with a appreciation of diversity and a wider knowledge of the world.
          I am going to give you examples of how this approach can be used in four areas. These are areas in which a reasonable amount of data from different cultures exist, and which are obvious topics for courses on the psychology of women or Gender:
          *what is meant by gender categories
          *gender stereotypes and ideologies
          *violence against women
          *power and gender

A. What do we mean by gender categories?
-We usually use 2 mutually exclusive categories to define gender and we divide everyone into one or the other: female or male.
- e.g., what happens when a baby is born with ambiguous genitalia ...
          Nothing puts the social construction of gender in to such sharp relief for us as looking at societies in which gender in discussed, not in terms of two categories (feminine or masculine) but in terms of three or more categories. For those of us who have grown up thinking of gender as a fixed, binary concept, it may be difficult to imagine a third gender, or to imagine a society in which an individual's gender is considered fluid or changeable, or to imagine gender as a continuum instead of distinct categories.
          These difficulties of imagination are exactly the ones that encumbered anthropologists and other chroniclers of North American Indian societies. When these anthropologist outsiders encountered individuals in Indian societies who apparently had an "intermediate" gender status, accomplished by combining or mixing the attributes and behaviors of females and male, they tried to fit these individuals into their own culturally-based understanding of gender. Thus, they used terms such as "man-woman" and "halfman-halfwoman" to translate the Indian terms for such individuals: nadle, winkte, heemaneh. Yet it now appears that these translations were misleading, limited by the anthropologists' own notions of gender. Instead, the terms seem to describe a distinct third gender -- one that is not simply a mixture of masculine and feminine, but defined separately from them (Callender & Kochems, 1983; Fulton & Anderson, 1992). The person is not a man dressing and acting like a woman, nor a woman dressing and acting like a man, but a man or woman who has adopted a third role -- that is neither feminine nor masculine.
          These individuals were not simply "cross-dressing" (i.e. men or women dressing in the clothing of the other gender) but were wearing clothing appropriate to their third gender status: clothing that was a mixture of the items usually worn by women and men. More important than sexuality seems to be the adoption of particular forms of work, social habits, dress.
          For example, anthroplogist John Honigman (1954) notes that among the Kaska Indians of the Canadian subarctic, gender transformations were ometimes necessitated by the division of labor. They depended on large game hunting to survive. If a couple had no sons to help them with this task, the performed a ceremony of gender transformation on their youngest daughter. They tied the dried ovaries of a bear to a special belt for her, to prevent her from menstruating or becoming pregnant. These girls grew up developing exceptional hunting skills, participated as men in the male-only sweat baths, and were accepted by men on the basis of their activities.
          Some anthropologists now feel that individuals of the third gender, by adopting a role that bridged the categories of female and male, became regarded as intermediaries for dangerous passages between categories. Thus, these third gender individuals often presided over transformational events such as birth, marriage and death and were highly valued by their communities as arbiters of continuity in a precarious world (Fulton & Anderson, 1992).
          The idea that there can be more than two genders is not limited to North American Indian societies. In Samoa, for example, there is a third gender category of person called fa'afafíne, meaning "the way of women." These are males who dress in women's clothing and are often included in female activities. However, these individuals do not "pass" for women, nor do they follow the rules that are understood to be in place for "proper" women. Rather, they act as jesters who mock certain gender restrictions and can violate them with impunity. For instance, a Samoan girl may whisper some suggestive remark about a passing boy -- perhaps a sexual comment about some feature of his anatomy -- to a fa'afafíne. The fa'afafíne not bound by the same restrictions of propriety as the girl, will then make a loud joke out of her comments, attracting the attention of the boy (Mageo, 1992).
          Other examples of third, or even fourth, gender categories exist (the hijras of India, the "manly-hearted women" of some North American Indian groups). Some good references are included in the list I have give you.
          For students, it is interesting to note not only the diversity in thinking about gender and in the institutionalization of gender across cultures, but also the ways in which anthropologist-outsiders reacted to these differences. What did they see? What did they fail to notice? How was their "seeing" influenced by their own culturally-based assumptions? For example, anthropologist Martha Ward (1996) notes that virtually nothing is known about the women who became the wives of the female chiefs or "manly hearted women" they were simply taken for granted and ignored by male anthropologists who "assumed" that anyone taking on the role of a man needed a wife.

B. Gender stereotypes and ideologies
          In Japan, girls are taught from an early age that femininity involves modesty in speech. The appropriate and natural speaking style for females, they learn, involves softness of voice, reticence, extreme politeness, and covering the mouth when talking or laughing. So well do they learn these lessons that, as adult women, their speech is often characterized by deference and accommodation. For example, when one researcher studied the speaking style of popular television cooking show hosts in Japan, she found striking gender differences in speaking style. The male host tended to give authoritative directives to his television underlings, telling them to "add this to the bowl," or "stir this now." The female host, on the other hand, was likely to phrase her directive in a more deferential way, such as "if you would now do me the favor of stirring this" (Smith, 1992).
          Every cultural group has its own version of gender stereotypes: socially shared beliefs that certain qualities can be attributed to individuals, based on their membership in a gender category, and gender role ideologies, prescriptive beliefs about how females and males should behave.
- There is quite a bit of cross-cultural data on these topics, so it makes a good example and allows us to raise some interesting questions
- U.S. research: More than two decades ago, researchers found that American university students, asked to categorize 300 adjectives as being typically associated with women or men, agreed strongly on a cluster of 30 adjectives for women and 33 for men (Williams & Bennett, 1975). Women were, for instance, described as dependent, dreamy, emotional, excitable, fickle, gentle, sentimental, and weak; Men were thought to be adventurous, aggressive, ambitious, boastful, confident, logical, loud, rational, and tough.
-Cross-cultural comparisons: Researchers in Canada (Edwards & Williams, 1980) and Britain (Burns, 1977) found similar patterns, and a study of gender stereotyping in thirty countries showed considerable cross-cultural uniformity in the patterns of adjectives associated with women and men (Williams & Best, 1982). Studies of adults in 25 countries showed that six (out of a possible 300) items were associated with men in every country: adventurous, dominant, forceful independent, masculine, and strong (Williams & Best, 1990). Only three were associated with women in every country: sentimental, submissive, and superstitious. These overheads show the adjectives that were associated with men and with women in at least 75% (i.e., 19) of the 25 countries studies by Williams and Best.



          When Williams and Best scaled the items for affective meaning, along the dimensions of favorability, strength, and activity, they found the following [OVERHEAD: Slide not available]:
          - no cross-cultural consistency in the relative favorability of the female-and male-associated traits. In some countries, such as Japan, South Africa, Nigeria, Malaysia, and Israel, the male stereotype was associated with considerably more favorability than the female stereotype. However, in other countries, such as Italy, Peru, Australia, Scotland, and India, the female stereotype was most favorable
          - in all countries, the male stereotype items were more active and stronger, and the females stereotype items were more passive and weaker. These strength and acitivity differences were greater in countries that were:
          - socioeconomically less developed
          - literacy was low
          - the percentage of women attending university was low
          - when overall differentiation scores were calculated for the three affective meaning dimensions combined, there was a lot of variation among countries in this differentiation. The countries in which the female and male stereotypes seemed to be perceived as most different were Nigeria, South Africa, Malaysia, and Japan; they were seen as least different in France, India, Finland, and Trinidad.
          How can we help our students make sense of the similarities and differences in gender stereotypes and ideologies across cultures? As students try to form a "right" answer to the question about the universality of gender stereotypes, I try to encourage them to step back from that question and the need for closure on it, and focus instead on how the way we ask research questions affects the shape of the answers.
For instance some of the possible reasons for cross-cultural similarity: [OVERHEAD: Slide not available]
          Some of the apparent similarity across cultures may be due to the use of university students -- a privileged group, often not particularly representative of cultural attitudes, and often more influenced than others in the culture by "modern" thought -- in each culture to complete the questionnaires.
          Also, university students may be less representative of the population in some countries than others as university education is much more available in certain countries than others, and differentially available to women and men in some cultures.
          Another factor contributing to the similarity across cultures may be the status difference between women and men that is common to most of them.. In most cultures, men are accorded somewhat higher status than women--and researchers have shown that high-status people are usually judged to be more agentic (self- and individual achievement-oriented), while low-status people are judged to be more communal (relationship-oriented; Conway, Pizzamiglio, & Mount, 1996). This difference parallels stereotypical gender differences.
Some of the things that could contribute to cross-cultural differences: [OVERHEAD Slide not available]
Domains
          Judith Gibbons, Beverly Hamby and Wanda Dennis (1997) point out that cultures vary in the domains in which women's and men's roles differ or in the settings in which such roles are relevant (e.g., marriage, family, employment, education, politics). If we ask about certain domains we may find cultural differences but not if we ask about others. And in some cultures we may not know enough about these domains to ask the right questions. "In order to develop an instrument with a high level of salience, one would first need to describe the domains relevant for a particular culture's gender toles, and then assess beliefs using these ... constructs"
(Overhead: Tibetan example, not available)
Settings.
          Some settings are simply irrelevant in some cultures. For example, as Gibbons and her colleagues (1997) note, it is no use asking "On a date, the boy should be expected to pay all expenses" (AWS item) in a setting such as Iran, where dating does not exist.
Meaning
          Setting aside the problem of translation, which is a major one in cross-cultural research, even within a language, the same terms may have different meanings for different ethnic groups.
[OVERHEAD: not available]-e.g. Hope Landrine, Elizabeth Klonoff and Alice Brown-Collins (1995) asked White women and Women of Color to rate themselves on adjectives taken from the Bem Sex Role Inventory. The two groups did not differ on their self-ratings on these items. However, they apparently meant different things by at least some of the items. For instance, by "passive" the largest percentage of European American women said they meant "am laidback/easy-going", while the largest percentage of Women of Color said they meant "don't say what I really think". And by "assertive" White women were more likely to mean "stand up for myself" while Women of Color were more likely to mean "say whatever's on my mind".
          Judith Gibbons and her colleagues (1993) report another example of different meanings assigned to the same concept. In their research, adolescents from Guatemala, the Philippines, and the U.S. depicted the ideal woman as working in an office. However, further analysis revealed that "in the Philippines office work was associated with glamour, in the United States with routine and boredom, and in Guatemala with the betterment of the family".
          And if the item is not meaningful at all to the respondent? Gibbons, Hamby and Dennis (1997) have shown that the less meaningful an item is to respondents, the less extreme is the response to it on a scale. Thus, "meaningless" items may contribute to "no-difference" findings. Conversely, they note that adding items or scales that are developed to be particularly meaningful to the cultural group under study is likely to result in more findings of differences.
          Besides the similarities across cultures in the content of gender stereotypes, there are also some interesting similarities in the variables with which these stereotypes correlate [OVERHEAD: Slide not available] :
          For one things, across a wide range of cultures, many researchers find that girls hold fewer traditional gender attitudes than boys do. Is this a universal phenomenon? Not necessarily, according to a review by Gibbons, Hamby and Dennis (1997). Researchers have found no gender differences in gender-role ideology in Malyasia, Pakistan or Spain, and have even found more liberal attitudes among men than women in samples from Brazil and Dublin.

  Judith Gibbons, Deborah Stiles, and their colleagues have also demonstrated that adolescent daughters and sons of mothers who work outside the home hold less conservative gender role attitudes in societies as diverse as Mexico, Spain, Iceland, the U.S. Similarly, John Williams and Deborah Best have shown, in their 14-country study of gender ideology, that idealized gender roles are less differentiated in societies in which a higher percentage of women work outside the home and are university-educated (Williams & Best, 1990). Gibbons, Stiles and Shkodriani (1991) showed that adolescents from wealthier, more individualistic cultures report less traditional gender role attitudes than adolescents from poorer, more collectivist countries.


          Why might such correlations exist? What variables are confounded here? Scales were developed in wealthy developed individualistic countries for the most part. These variables are often confounded with each other and with literacy, education, employment of women outside the home.
          So, what I am trying to show my students is that researchers have provided some important beginnings of an answer to the question about cross-cultural variation in ideas about gender, but that it is important to keep paying attention to the way that questions are being asked.

C. Violence against women
          Agnes, a teacher whose husband was also a teacher "said the violence began a few years after she got married, when she caught her husband in bed with a teenage girl. He began to beat her every evening. He forced her to give him her paycheck. He called her his slave. For about two years, the violence eased, but alcoholic rages and financial irresponsibility again became the norm. And the beatings got worse." Nonetheless, Agnes did not tell anyone about the beatings, even those closest to her because, she said, "I was so scared, and I was feeling so embarrassed. I did not want people to know about it." (Buckley, 1996, p. A26).
          Where in the world did this story happen? In what country are women so vulnerable to violence from their husbands that they bear it for years without leaving and without telling anyone about it? This particular story happened in the African country of Kenya. However, a perusal of the research on wife abuse will show that it could have happened absolutely anywhere that this is a very common story in almost every country of the world. While it is very difficult to obtain accurate estimates of the frequency of domestic violence, surveys in various countries suggest that the percentage of women reporting physical abuse by a male partner may range from a minimum (!) of about 17 to 25 percent (e.g., studies in New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway) to a high of 55 to 60 percent or more (e.g., studies in Japan, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, some parts of Mexico and of India) (Neft & Levine, 1997).
          While there is a disheartening universality to the statistics on violence against women worldwide, the violence can take different forms in different cultures, and I think it is worth looking at these differences. For example, I spend some time focusing on the institutionalization of wife-murder in certain cultures:

Institutionalized wife-murder
          *for money: dowry deaths in India. One country in which the notion of marriage as an economic arrangement is still strong is India, where parents may sometimes literally bribe men to marry their daughters. It is socially shameful and often economically distressing to have a daughter for whom a suitable husband cannot be found, so parents entice potential bridegrooms with promises of dowries of cash and/or household goods. Frequently, in fact, parents go deeply into debt to marry off their daughters. However, even after the marriage has taken place, a husband's family may be unsatisfied with the dowry. They may pressure the new wife to get more goods from her parents, making her life miserable with insults and harassment if she is unwilling or unable to do so (Narasimhan, 1994). The young woman must endure the suffering because she cannot leave the marriage without bringing severe disgrace on her family and herself.
          Such situations often end with the death of the new bride. Sometimes, in desperation because the mistreatment has become unbearable, she commits suicide. Often, however, she is murdered: doused with kerosene by her in-laws and set on fire. The death is reported to authorities as a "kitchen accident"-- an explanation that has some surface plausibility because middle-class homes often use kerosene stoves for cooking. In 1995, the Indian government reported 7,300 such "dowry deaths" (Neft & Levine, 1997).
          A 1961 law prohibiting dowries appears to have had little effect in the face of strong traditions and the difficulty of proving what happened. A more stringent law, passed in 1986, states that, in every unnatural death of a woman during the first seven years of marriage, the husband or in-laws must be presumed responsible by the courts. Yet convictions under this law are rare, and dowry deaths continue to increase.
          *for "honor": "honor killings": A strong tradition exists, discernible in many societies, that if a woman "dishonors" her husband (or sometimes her father) by becoming sexually involved with man to whom she is not married, it is legitimate for her to be killed. The buried remnants of such a tradition can be found in North America, where a husband who kills his wife in a "jealous rage" after discovering her adultery may in some communities be regarded with more sympathy than outrage. The tradition is more obvious, and reflected in the legal system, in certain other countries.
          In a famous case in Brazil, a man arrived at a hotel where his wife was staying with another man and asked the bellman to bring him to the couple's room. When the wife's lover opened the door at the bellman's request, the husband stabbed him repeatedly in the chest, killing him. The wife ran naked from the room and into the street, where she was pursued by her husband, caught, and stabbed to death.
          An all-male jury accepted the argument that the husband in this case had acted in legitimate defense of his wounded honor and acquitted him of the double murder. The decision , after being upheld by an appeals court, was later overturned by Brazil's highest court, the Superior Tribunal of Justice. The Tribunal ordered a new trial, noting that murder could not be considered a legitimate response to adultery and that "what is being defended in this type of crime is not honour but 'self-esteem, vanity and the pride of the lord who sees his wife as property'." (Thomas, 1994, p. 33).
          Feminist activists in Brazil, who had for decades been fighting to de-legitimate the "honor defense" and the proprietary attitudes toward women underlying it, were buoyed by this decision. However, when the new trial was conducted in 1991, the husband was once again acquitted of the double killing on the grounds that he had been legitimately defending his honor. Thus, in Brazilian culture, wife murder was still considered an appropriate response to alleged unfaithfulness; a husband could kill his wife with impunity under such circumstances.
          "Honor killings" to wipe away the shame brought to a husband, father or brother by a female relative's premarital or extramarital sex are a part of life in certain parts of the Islamic world. In Palestinian villages, according to some estimates, about 40 women a year die at the hands of a male relative who then becomes a hero for clearing his family name. This type of killing is not necessarily done in a rage, but is planned and premeditated. An errant daughter or wife may be lured home with the promise that all is forgiven, then cold-bloodedly murdered. Such killings also happen in other Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan, and even sometimes among families who have emigrated to non-Muslim countries (Brooks, 1995). Furthermore, although they are not legally sanctioned, wife-murders that arise from jealousy, outraged pride, or wounded egos, certainly happen with some frequency in most countries, including the United States and Canada. In both countries, wives are the most frequent victims of fatal violence in families and such fatal violence is most likely to occur when the woman tries to leave an abusive husband.
          Other forms of violence against women can also be discussed in a global framework; for example, there is widespread evidence of the prevalence of rape in many countries. [OVERHEADS: Not available}

Common themes?
          While some stories of male violence against the women in their families are more horrific than others, I try to get my students to see some common themes that run through them:

  -the woman is considered the man's property;
-the man is believed entitled to wield authority over the woman and to punish her if she defies this authority;
-the family is viewed as a private institution where the man rules and outsiders should not interfere;
-the woman is regarded as inferior to the man.


          These patriarchal cultural attitudes emerge in the courtship violence documented in certain countries, in the wife-beatings that occur all over the world, in dowry deaths and honor killings. These attitudes are woven into the fabric of many cultures, although their expression is more subtle in some times and places than others and some individuals have been socialized with a stronger "dose" of them than others in their culture. The point of exposing students to the variety of forms that anti-female violence can take is not to illustrate how bad "other" cultures are, but to show how social-environmental factors can shape such behavior, and how some of the same themes can be identified in various guises.
          From a global, multicultural examination of violence against women, students can learn that suchbehavior is possible anywhere, but that it is shaped by culture. The social and culturalenvironment, through the promulgation of particular attitudes and values about families, shape the likelihood that children will be raised in families where they witness or are victims of violence. Similarly, culture shapes attitudes about the legitimacy of male domination and female subordination, and about the social acceptability of using violence in many situations. Will thepolice respond to and take seriously a charge of spousal violence? If not, the abuser has more power. As well, the availability of alternatives in the social environment affects the power that the victim of violence has to leave the relationship. Are there shelters for victims of abuse? Can a woman live safely on her own? If not, the abuser has more power. Thus, power in interpersonal relationships is, to some extent, shaped by the values and attitudes promoted in the sociopolitical and cultural environment.

D. Gender and Political Power
          Women have occasionally headed countries as monarchs: for instance, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria of England, Catherine the Great of Russia. However, the first woman elected to lead a nation appears to have been Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who became prime minister of what is now Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) in 1960. From 1960 until 1997, 31 women around the world were elected or appointed as heads of state (Neft & Levine, 1997). If you have not heard of many of them, it is because, for some, their terms of office were extraordinarily short. For example, Kim Campbell, Sylvie Kinigi, Edith Cresson and Ertha Pascall-Trouillot were, respectively, Prime Ministers of Canada, Bolivia, France and Haiti for less than a year.
          Women have been an increasing presence in national legislatures worldwide. However, there is no nation in which women hold half of such posts. Currently, the countries in which women hold the highest percentage of seats in national legislatures are Sweden (41%), Norway (39%), Finland (34%) and Denmark (33%). Canada (19%) and the United States (11%) are far lower; many other countries are lower still (e.g., France and Singapore have 5%; Iran and Kenya have 4%; Somalia and Kuwait have none). [OVERHEAD - WOMEN IN MINISTERIAL LEVEL POSITIONS - Slide Not available]
          I have been doing some cross-cultural research on women's perceptions of their possible selves as political leaders and holders of other powerful positions, and one of the things that is clear from this research is that young women in the United States and in other countries feel that power and femininity do not go together easily there is a tension between the two.
          This is not surprising, given the literature on gender stereotypes that we have just examined, and given the shortage of female leaders who are available to act as role models. Young women in countries such as the United States, Spain, and Argentina are apparently aware of the tension between the requirements of femininity and power. When asked to describe what they would be like if they held powerful positions such as political leadership or corporate presidencies, many female university students in these countries viewed political leadership as an unlikely possibility for them. They also stressed that, should they ever hold such a position, they would try to balance the requirements of femininity and power: they would be compassionate even though powerful, kind to subordinates even though demanding, nice even though tough (Lips, 1996; Lips, de Verthelyi, & Gonzalez, 1996). Some worried that others would not like them in these roles a worry that, given the media reactions to female politicians, seems well-founded. A sampling of their comments appears in the OVERHEAD.
          When respondents in the United States and Spain were asked for men's thoughts about powerful women, those from both countries listed negative attributes: "more obsessed [than men] in reaching power," "pedantic and authoritarian," "[they] try to have power like men do, but without doing it like real women" (Diaz Zuniga, Sattler, & Lips, 1997).
          Whereas our research shows commonalities among samples of women in different cultures, it also shows differences. For example, women in our U.S. sample anticipated more relationship problems associated with being a political leader than their male counterparts did. However, in our sample from Spain, the women did not anticipate any more problems than the men did and were significantly less likely than U.S. women to mention the possibility of such problems (Back, Diaz & Lips, 1996). In a comparison of another mainland U.S. (Virginia) sample with a sample of women from Puerto Rico, we found that, while the women from both samples anticipated the same level of relationship problems associated with powerful positions, only for the Virginia sample was such anticipation linked to a stated lower likelihood that they could achieve such a leadership position (Lips, 1998).
          It is not surprising that women in different cultures share, to some extent, ambivalent feelings about becoming political leaders. But what cultural factors may influence the differences the ways women react to this possibility?
          We have postulated that some of the differences between the mainland U.S. samples and those in Spain and Puerto Rico may be related to cultural differences on the dimension of independence-interdependence (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Mainstream U.S. culture is apparently one of the most independence-oriented cultures, emphasizing a notion of the self as unique and separate. Latin American cultures and Spain, on the other hand, are sometimes found to be more interdependence-oriented, emphasizing a sense of self that encompasses various communities of which the individual is a part: family, work groups, friendship groups. In the more independence-oriented culture of the U.S. mainland, then, women may be likely to feel more individually responsible for making their relationships work, and to feel pressure and blame when they do not. In the more interdependence-oriented cultures of Spain and Puerto Rico, however, women may be more secure in certain of their core relationships, allowing them to contemplate conflict that may occur in others.
          Erica Apfelbaum (1993) investigated some ways in which the particular form taken by women's experience of occupying a leadership position is shaped by her culture and her times. Apfelbaum conducted in-depth interviews with 50 women leaders in France and Norway. She discovered that in these two western European countries, powerful women reported very different experiences. Here are some of the differences she found between the two samples;
          In France, the women leaders spoke of their lives as difficult, burdensome and filled with conflict and suffering. In Norway, by contrast, the women spoke of their roles positively and with jubilation, ETC. It appears that leadership and power mean different things to the women in these tow countries.           What could account for the differences in tone between powerful women in these two countries? [OVERHEAD: Not Available] Part of it can be explained by the differing history of the two countries. Power for women is a much older and more established idea in Norway than in France. Norwegian women obtained the vote in 1913, had women representatives in local assemblies beginning in 1967, and have consistently had the support of major political parties in their push to gain equality. It is a country in which a woman has been Prime Minister in three different governments and in which 39 percent of cabinet posts are held by women. In France, women did not win the right to vote until 1944, and they still hold only a small proportion of legislative seats and 13 percent of cabinet posts. The few token women in high positions are used as examples to "prove" that women are represented at all levels and to discourage further claims.
          Clearly, the presence of women who have broken ground as pioneers and role models changes the social landscape for the women who come later, providing them with a legacy of increased confidence and legitimacy. In France, Apfelbaum noted that the women leaders who had obtained their positions in the 1980s were more optimistic and less lonely than those who had obtained their positions in the previous decade. In Norway, where women had a longer history of role models on which to draw, the women "expressed a deeply anchored sense of legitimacy that was totally alien to French women of the first generation and just evolving for the second" (Apfelbaum 1993, p. 419).
          Cultural attitudes about power may also help to explain the differing experiences of Norwegian and French women in leadership positions. In Norway, political life apparently revolves around the idea of "turnover" the idea that power is transitory, and that a leader easily "passes the torch" to a successor. The power built into a leadership position is not a core part of the leader's identity. Thus, men may not be very threatened by the notion of sharing leadership with women. In France, on the other hand, the political power structure is strongly identified with men, and there is no comparable notion of easy turnover (Apfelbaum, 1993).
          Perhaps as a result of the sociohistorical differences between their two countries, Norwegian and French women leaders differed dramatically in two other ways: their allegiance to feminist movements, and the ease with which they combined their high-profile positions with marriage. Norwegian women leaders of all political persuasions consistently paid tribute to feminist movements as "the foundation from which emerged the means to fight for the integration of women in the public arena" (Apfelbaum, 1993, p. 421). The French women, on the other hand, did not mention feminist movements except for the purpose of denying any connection with them. Congruent with these differing emphases on feminism, Norwegian women were much more likely than French women to actively promote their female colleagues, to respond actively and combatively to sexual harassment and everyday sexism, and to place high importance on the friendship and support provided by informal networks of other women.
          The casual observer might think that these combative, feminist-oriented Norwegian women would be less likely than their French counterparts to be able to maintain their close relationships with men. Nothing, found Apfelbaum (1993), could be further from the truth. While 18 of the 20 Norwegian women were married when interviewed, only five of the 30 French women were. Most of the Norwegian women claimed to have had few problems balancing marriage with their high-powered career, except for the logistical ones involving time management. However, the French women were less sanguine about their private lives. "Almost without exception, they spontaneously raised the issue of their private life as a problematic one and spoke at length about the burdens, the tensions and the difficulty of keeping a harmonious balance in their interpersonal relations with their companions. In this domain, they seemed vulnerable and insecure: The danger of losing a companion was omnipresent, and deep down they knew that being single was the price they might have to pay. French men still seem unable to cope with the social comparison involved once their wives become too visible." (Apfelbaum, 1993, p. 423). Apfelbaum notes that the French tradition of male-female intimate relationships is strongly based on romance, seduction, chivalry, and game-playing all of which involve notions of conquest and dominance and of unequal positions between women and men. Perhaps, she speculates, such cultural traditions mitigate against the easy acceptance in France of relationships in which the woman is visibly more powerful than the man.
          The contrast between the leadership experience for women in Norway and France suggests that holding power is likely to involve major social and personal sacrifices for women unless it is done within a cultural context where female leadership is not unusual and female political participation is strong. It also suggests, however, that such a context may be more difficult to achieve in some cultures than in others. Given the discrepancies in the leadership experiences of women from two western, European democracies, we can only begin to glimpse the possible differences in the experiences of women whose cultures diverge even more widely.

In Conclusion:
          I have tried to show how the incorporation of different cultural perspectives can help students to understand, on many levels, that gender is to a large extent what societies make it and that cultures construct the meanings that individuals attribute to their experiences. The point is not to have students learn everything about gender or women in every culture, but to get a feel for the range of similarities and differences that exist across cultures.
          In closing, I would like to make one final recommendation: that students in these courses be exposed to first-person accounts, or life stories, of women (and men, for courses on gender) in a variety of cultures. The stories make the issues real, provide touchstones for remembering some of the points and principles, and perhaps most important, help them to see the world from alternative points of view in ways that few of us can accomplish in the classroom. I've provided a list of possible sources of such first person accounts, and I hope you will find them useful.
          If we try to teach with an eye to multicultural perspectives, we will never be satisfied that we have given completely adequate treatment to any issue, we will never be done with broadening our own horizons. Each turn of the kaleidoscope, after all, provides a new vision, a new combination of shapes, colors, and designs. Our challenge is to stay open to many different visions, to resist our own desire for closure, that impatient desire for the quick "right answer" that we find so frustrating in our students. The rewards for doing so are a psychology of women and gender indeed, an entire field of psychology that focuses on the world instead of only a small part of it, and students who are aware that their worldview is not the only one possible. The women that I described at the beginning of this talk Amelia Edwards, Bessie Coleman, Mae Jemison, Rigoberta Menchú-- took enormous physical and emotional risks to leave behind their cultural blinders. Surely, we can take some intellectual ones.


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