Who is a better role model? A man or a woman? While you can probably think of role models in both genders, there is incredible research that suggests that men are viewed as cultural ideals more than women. That means that when we think of successful people or culturally sound people, we tend to think more of men than of women and more importantly, we view men as more culturally ‘good’ than women.
Sound unfair? Definitely. Sounds biased? Not really. For centuries, men have been the ones to dominate our social and cultural spaces. While women dominated the domestic spaces. It makes sense then that men made the rules and so when the norms carried forward and down the generations, the ideals were male dominated. There is incredible research that shows us that this idea that men are the cultural models have carried forward even today.
Who did what – Professors from Harvard University, Lawrence University, Zayed University and Asian center for theological studies and Mission, Korea joined together to investigate this very phenomenon.
What they did – They conducted four studies. In study 1 the researchers asked the American and Korean participants to rate the extent to which their societies viewed collectivism and individualism as a male or female trait.
In study 2, the researchers looked at the extent to which behaviors ( individualism and collectivism) are reflected in men and women. 100 Korean and 100 American students completed the questionnaire.
In study 3, the researchers looked at how cultural context influenced participants assessments, in order to check for any biases. Some participants were chosen at random to complete a questionnaire in Korean and some in English.
In study 4, the researchers reanalyzed the data collected by William and Best in 1990.
What they found – Across the studies, men were viewed as more close to the society’s cultural norms that they came from. American men were viewed as more individualistic ( a positive trait in America) that American women and Korean men were viewed as more collective ( a positive trait in Korea) than Korean women.
What this means for us – Well, to put it simply, we think men are ‘better’ than women. More successful, more accomplished. While changing attitudes doesn’t happen in one day, it sure is a good thing to be aware of. And in doing so, we can begin challenging what it means to be ‘good and successful’ woman.
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Image by Volkan Olmez