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Gender Identity among African American and European American Adolescents Susan A. O’Neill Melanie H. Overby Oksana Malanchuk University of Michigan Society.

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Presentation on theme: "Gender Identity among African American and European American Adolescents Susan A. O’Neill Melanie H. Overby Oksana Malanchuk University of Michigan Society."— Presentation transcript:

1 Gender Identity among African American and European American Adolescents Susan A. O’Neill Melanie H. Overby Oksana Malanchuk University of Michigan Society for Research in Child Development April 25, 2003

2 Previous Conceptions of Gender Identity Categorization of oneself and others as female or male (Golombok & Fivush, 1994)Categorization of oneself and others as female or male (Golombok & Fivush, 1994) Gender knowledge and behavior viewed as separate and distinct (Burn, 1996)Gender knowledge and behavior viewed as separate and distinct (Burn, 1996)

3 Gender Identity as Socially Constructed Recent approaches view gender behavior as socially negotiated (Beall, 1993).Recent approaches view gender behavior as socially negotiated (Beall, 1993). Representations of gender derive from the social structure.Representations of gender derive from the social structure. Gender identity is historically and culturally relative, dependent on social, economic, and political structures.Gender identity is historically and culturally relative, dependent on social, economic, and political structures.

4 Discursive Psychology and Gender Identity The image of the self is dependent on the language used in everyday lifeThe image of the self is dependent on the language used in everyday life Identify respondents’ patterns of language and related practicesIdentify respondents’ patterns of language and related practices Language enables and constrains expression of ideas and behavior – “language culture”Language enables and constrains expression of ideas and behavior – “language culture”

5 Power and Gender Identity Gender and power are closely connected and power is inequitably distributedGender and power are closely connected and power is inequitably distributed Differences in the discourses available to males and females (Gergen, 1984)Differences in the discourses available to males and females (Gergen, 1984) Experimental psychology has been limited in its ability to explain the dynamics of power relations.Experimental psychology has been limited in its ability to explain the dynamics of power relations.

6 Positioning Theory - Conceptual Individuals are subjected to and produced by societal ideologiesIndividuals are subjected to and produced by societal ideologies Ideology creates “subjects” by drawing people into particular positions or identities (Althusser, 1971)Ideology creates “subjects” by drawing people into particular positions or identities (Althusser, 1971) Individuals interpret their own and others’ actions from the vantage point of their subject position.Individuals interpret their own and others’ actions from the vantage point of their subject position.

7 Positioning Theory - Methodological Who is implied? What does a statement say about the respondent?Who is implied? What does a statement say about the respondent? Examination of three basic features: 1.The subject positions in relation to socially prescribed rights and actions 2.The context in which respondents construct their position and others 3.The ideologies that shape interpretations and understandings of groups

8 Research Questions How do African American and European American female and male adolescents negotiate and formulate their gender identities?How do African American and European American female and male adolescents negotiate and formulate their gender identities? Where do adolescents position themselves in relation to different and opposing power ideologies?Where do adolescents position themselves in relation to different and opposing power ideologies?

9 Data Analysis “Voice of authority” framework associated with the construction of a national identity (Berman, 1999)“Voice of authority” framework associated with the construction of a national identity (Berman, 1999) Allowed categories to emerge from the dataAllowed categories to emerge from the data Focused on the inconsistency and diversity within and across respondents’ accountsFocused on the inconsistency and diversity within and across respondents’ accounts Used individual and team analysisUsed individual and team analysis Considered alternative interpretations and our own biases and experiencesConsidered alternative interpretations and our own biases and experiences

10 Subject Positions of Gender Representations of Empowerment and Disempowerment EMPOWEREDDISEMPOWERED DominanceMarginalization Provider/ProtectorDependent Individual Agency Group Constraints Virtuous Status Presumed Guilty Status

11 DominanceMarginalization FemalesMalesFemalesMales TracyClarenceTracyLeon AnthonyBelinda HenryLakeisha LeonKendra TravisKatrina GeorgeAntoinette CarlCrystal Dominance and Marginalization Positions of Black and White females and males White female Black female Black male White male

12 Dominance Manipulation and authorityManipulation and authority  “We rule the world…God created women to be in subjection to the male.” – Anthony, Black male Occupational prestige associated with race and genderOccupational prestige associated with race and gender  “top of the corporate ladder is generally a white male.” – Carl, White male Sexuality as a means of empowerment:Sexuality as a means of empowerment:  “You can get boys to do whatever you want. Boys are stupid.” – Tracy, Black female Inequality between the sexes  “We’re not characterized as equals. I don’t think we will be for a long time, if ever.” – Crystal, White female Differential treatment  “I have to talk a little louder to be seen or heard” – Belinda, Black female Marginalization

13 Provider/ProtectorProtected FemalesMalesFemalesMales AnnBrianAnn Henry Leon Carl Provider/Protector and Protected Positions of Black and White females and males White female Black female Black male White male

14 Provider/Protector Adopting the traditional role of primary bread winnerAdopting the traditional role of primary bread winner  “What I believe to be a male is, I guess, should be in charge, take care of his home and family, stuff like that.” – Carl, White male Female as nurturerFemale as nurturer  “I have to be there for my boyfriend and support him and take care of him.” – Ann, White female Protected Supported  “ I don’t have a problem if my husband was my provider and I didn’t work and I raised the kids.” – Ann, White female

15 Individual Agency Group Constraints FemalesMalesFemalesMales AntoinetteJamesBrian LakeishaMalcolmCarl MarjorieLeon KendraJoanTravis Individual Agency and Group Constraints Positions of Black and White females and males White female Black female Black male White male

16 Individual Agency Emphasizing humanityEmphasizing humanity  “I feel that to be a person, period, you have to be responsible, regardless of whether you’re male or female.” – James, Black male Overcoming gender constraintsOvercoming gender constraints  “I have to keep focused on what I want to do with my life and I can’t let people, or things like boys and stuff, get in my way.” - Lakeisha, Black female Group Constraints Male stereotypes  Males are viewed as “corrupt”, “wild and crazy” – Travis, White male Intersectionality and stereotypes  “You get blamed for stuff that you didn’t even do. It’s a double negative when you’re a black male teenager.” – Brian, Black male

17 Virtuous Status Presumed Guilty Status FemalesMalesFemalesMales StacyBelinda ColetteColette AnnKatrina JaneJane Virtuous Status and Presumed Guilty Status Positions of Black and White females and males White female Black female Black male White male

18 Virtuous Status Entitlement through experienceEntitlement through experience  “It’s more acceptable for a girl my age to have babies.” – Ann, White female AutonomyAutonomy  “I hate for a person to approach me wrong.” – Stacy, Black female Apportion blame to othersApportion blame to others  “silly” for girls to have sex to keep boyfriends – Colette, Black female Presumed Guilty Status Guilt by association –  “It’s amazing how you tell people where you go to school, and they find out it’s all girls, and especially boys, and they’re like, what are you all lesbians or something?” – Belinda, Black female

19 EMPOWERMENTDISEMPOWERMENT FemalesMalesFemalesMales Dominance TracyClarence Marginalization TracyLeon AnthonyBelinda HenryLakeisha LeonKendra TravisKatrina GeorgeAntoinette CarlCrystal Provider/Protector AnnBrian Dependent Ann Henry Leon Carl IndividualAgency AntionetteJames GroupConstraints Brian LakeishaMalcolmCarl MarjorieLeon KendraJoan VirtuousStatus Stacy PresumedGuiltyStatus Belinda ColetteColette AnnKatrina JaneJane Black female White female Black male White male Subject Positions of Black and White females and males

20 Summary of Findings Empowered representations of gender were shaped by: 1.Positioning the person as “an individual” and emphasizing a common humanity 2.Ascribing personal responsibility to the individual 3.Renouncing historical and institutional restraints associated with constraining gender roles 4.Endorsing positions that were situated in the traditional discourses of power

21 Conclusion Representations of power were apparent in adolescents’ accounts of what their gender means to themRepresentations of power were apparent in adolescents’ accounts of what their gender means to them Findings are intended to open new avenues for exploring the complexity of gender identityFindings are intended to open new avenues for exploring the complexity of gender identity Possible to understand how adolescents’ representations of power create both opportunities and barriersPossible to understand how adolescents’ representations of power create both opportunities and barriers

22 Thank you! For more information about this paper and other research projects, please visitFor more information about this paper and other research projects, please visithttp://rcgd.isr.umich.edu/garp/

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24 Language Culture Although there is a number of available discourses, some discourses are more privileged than othersAlthough there is a number of available discourses, some discourses are more privileged than others Variation in discourses allows for fluidity of gender-related identitiesVariation in discourses allows for fluidity of gender-related identities

25 Sample and Procedure 16 (11 = female, 5 = male) African American adolescents16 (11 = female, 5 = male) African American adolescents 8 (4 = female, 4 = male) European American adolescents8 (4 = female, 4 = male) European American adolescents Semi-structured interviews at the end of 11 th grade by matched interviewersSemi-structured interviews at the end of 11 th grade by matched interviewers Interview protocol: Meaning and salience of race/ethnicity, gender, and spiritualityInterview protocol: Meaning and salience of race/ethnicity, gender, and spirituality


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