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) http://geert-hofstede.com/dimensions.html or http://geerthofstede.com/dimensions-of-national-cultures.  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?


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