Friday, October 11, 2013

Masculinity vs. Femininity

I was completely going to skip this dimension, but it just keeps coming up in discussion, so here is the background on Hofstede's dimension of masculinity vs. femininity.  Please bear in mind that these associations are, at least in my mind, hopelessly conservative.  There may be differences between men and women, but the fact that entire cultures can subscribe to these ideals indicates, in my mind, that the ideals can be espoused by either gender.  In the end, what I disagree with is the naming of the dimension and also the tendency to associate moral values to cultural norms--a problem endemic in anthropology of all kinds.

According to Hofstede, masculine cultures tend to be competitive, valuing achievement,heroism, and the like.  Feminine cultures, on the other hand, tend to value social peace, rewarding behaviors that contribute to overall amity rather than individual distinction.  I have severely curtailed discussion of this dimension, but you can read more about it (officially) or  Importantly, Hofstede and other social psychologists claim that this dynamic is about emotional roles within a culture (high emotion by all=feminine tendency; low emotion by all=masculine tendency).  Further studies have taken the idea of a masculine/feminine societal tendency and expanded it to gender roles within the culture.  I'm not sure of the validity of such research unless all cultural tendencies are likewise split, but that's neither here nor there.

Several questions that inform our stories strike me when I review this dimension, and I will just pose a few of them here:

Points on gender:
  • How does the idea of labeling "masculine" and "feminine" affect our relationships with our same-gender and/or opposite-gender parents?
  • To what extent to identification with the opposite-gender parent cause you to doubt your (or his/her) status as masculine or feminine?
Points on consensus:
  • How difficult was it for you to show assertiveness and/or be competitive?  How were your efforts received by your family?
  • How difficult was it for you to maintain social peace?  How were your efforts received by your family?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Indulgence versus Restraint

The final dimension of Geert Hofstede's analysis of national culture is indulgence versus restraint.  Once again, as I do with so much anthropological work, I find all of these terms loaded and inherently judgmental, so if you notice that in my synopsis, I ask you to forgive me.  But I'm still going to go through this dimension because, once again, I think that it offers some big insights into our stories.

Cultures that favor indulgence choose not to judge basic human drives for enjoyment and fun while cultures that favor restraint shun these desires.  On the other hand, cultures which favor restraint often advocate advanced planning and saving while sometimes shunning the needs of others in the community in the process.  On the opposite side, those favoring indulgence are often generous to those around them but may not have any resources when they are needed at a later date.

In reality, most cultures are a mixture of the two extremes, and, in fairness, Hofstede recognizes that these impulses lie on a continuum, even if his terms to describe them tend toward the judgmental.  But when I say that cultures are a mix of these ideals, I mean more than that they are a continuum.  Many theorists (I think Bakhtin was one, but it's been a long time since I have reviewed the theories) maintain that periods of sanctioned indulgence in a society make it possible for the society to maintain periods of restraint.  Examples would include Mardi Gras and Lent and Ramadan and Eid.  In reality, however, to indulge in one area requires restraint in another.  For example, girls who like to party frequently spend most of their time dieting.  Men who like to watch big games in person often save for months for those season tickets.  These cycles of indulgence and restraint reveal a great deal about pleasures and priorities.

What is an indulgence that you or your family have?  In what ways did you or your family need to restrain yourself in order to indulge?