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by Jo Freeman

This article was written the fall of 1968 as a term paper for a course in Social Psychology. It was published in Roles Women Play: Readings Towards Women's Liberation ed. by Michele Garskof, Belmont, California: Brooks/Cole, 1971, pp. 123-41, after "pre-publication" (without notes or citations) under the title "Growing up Girlish", Trans-Action, November/December 1970, pp. 36-44. It was frequently reprinted in various textbooks for several years.

"The passivity that is the essential characteristic of the "feminine" woman is a trait that develops in her from the earliest years. But it is wrong to assert a biological datum is concerned; it is in fact a destiny imposed upon her by her teachers and by society."
Simone de Beauvoir

During the last thirty years social science has paid scant attention to women, confining its explorations of humanity to the male. Research has generally reinforced the sex stereotypes of popular mythology that women are essentially nurturant/expressive/passive and men instrumental/active/aggressive. Social scientists have tended to justify these stereotypes rather than analyze their origins, their value, or their effect.
In part this is due to the general conservatism and reluctance to question the status quo which has characterized the social sciences during this era of the feminine mystique. In part it is attributable to the "pervasive permeation of psychoanalytic thinking throughout American society."1 The result has been a social science which is more a mechanism of social control than of social inquiry. Rather than trying to analyze why, it has only described what. Rather than exploring how men and women came to be the way they are, it has taken their condition as an irremediable given and sought to justify it on the basis of "biological" differences.
Nonetheless, the assumption that psychology recapitulates physiology has begun to crack. Masters and Johnson shattered the myth of woman's natural sexual passivity -- on which her psychological passivity was claimed to rest. Research is just beginning into the other areas. Even without this new research new interpretations of the old data are being explored. What these new interpretations say is that women are the way they are because they've been trained to be that way. As the Bems put it: "We overlook the fact that the society that has spent twenty years carefully marking the women's ballot for her has nothing to lose in that twenty-first year by pretending to let her cast it for the alternative of her choice. Society has controlled not her alternatives, but her motivation to choose any but the one of those alternatives."2

This motivation is controlled through the socialization process. Women are raised to want to fill the social roles in which society needs them. They are trained to model themselves after the accepted image and to meet as individuals the expectations that are held for women as a group. Therefore, to understand how most women are socialized we must first understand how they see themselves and are seen by others. Several studies have been done on this. Quoting from one of them, McClelland stated that "the female image is characterized as small, weak, soft and light. In the United States it is also dull, peaceful, relaxed, cold, rounded, passive and slow."3 A more thorough study which asked men and women to choose out of a long list of adjectives those which most closely applied to themselves showed that women strongly felt themselves to be uncertain, anxious, nervous, hasty, careless, fearful, dull, childish, helpless, sorry, timid, clumsy, stupid, silly, and domestic. On a more positive side, women felt that they were understanding, tender, sympathetic, pure, generous, affectionate, loving, moral, kind, grateful, and patient.4
This is not a very favorable self-image but it does correspond fairly well with the social myths about what women are like. The image has some nice qualities, but they are not the ones normally required for that kind of achievement to which society gives its highest social rewards. Now one can justifiably question both the idea of achievement and the qualities necessary for it, but this is not the place to do so. Rather, because the current standards are the ones which women have been told they do not meet, the purpose here will be to look at the socialization process as a mechanism to keep them from doing so. We will also need to analyze some of the social expectations about women and about what they define as a successful woman (not a successful person) because they are inextricably bound up with the socialization process. All people are socialized to meet the social expectations held for them, and it is only when this process fails to do so (as is currently happening on several fronts) that it is at all questioned.
Let us further examine the effects on women of minority group status. Here, an interesting parallel emerges, but it is one fraught with much heresy. When we look at the results of female socialization we find a strong similarity between what our society labels, even extols, as the typical "feminine" character structure and that of oppressed peoples in this country and elsewhere.
In his classic study on The Nature of Prejudice, Allport devotes a chapter to "Traits Due to Victimization." Included are such personality characteristics as sensitivity, submission, fantasies of power, desire for protection, indirectness, ingratiation, petty revenge and sabotage, sympathy, extremes of both self and group hatred and self and group glorification, display of flashy status symbols, compassion for the underprivileged, identification with the dominant group's norms, and passivity.5 Allport was primarily concerned with Jews and Negroes, but compare his characterization with the very thorough review of the literature on sex differences among young children made by Terman and Tyler. For girls, they listed such traits as sensitivity, conformity to social pressures, response to environment, ease of social control, ingratiation, sympathy, low levels of aspiration, compassion for the underprivileged, and anxiety. They found that girls compared to boys were more nervous, unstable, neurotic, socially dependent, submissive, had less self-confidence, lower opinions of themselves and of girls in general, and were more timid, emotional, ministrative, fearful, and passive.6 Girls' perceptions of themselves were also distorted. Although girls make consistently better school grades than boys until late high school, their opinion of themselves grows progressively worse with age and their opinion of boys and boys' abilities grows better. Boys, however, have an increasingly better opinion of themselves and worse opinion of girls as they grow older.7
These distortions become so gross that, according to Goldberg, by the time girls reach college they have become prejudiced against women. He gave college girls sets of booklets containing six identical professional articles in traditional male, female, and neutral fields. The articles were identical, but the names of the authors were not. For example, an article in one set would bear the name John T. McKay and in another set the same article would be authored by Joan T. McKay. Each booklet contained three articles by "women" and three by "men." Questions at the end of each article asked the students to rate the articles on value, persuasiveness and profundity and the authors on writing style and competence. The male authors fared better in every field, even such "feminine" areas as Art History and Dietetics. Goldberg concluded that "Women are prejudiced against female professionals and, regardless of the actual accomplishments of these professionals, will firmly refuse to recognize them as the equals of their male colleagues."8
This combination of group self-hate and distortion of perceptions to justify that group self-hate are precisely the traits typical of a "minority group character structure."9 It has been noted time and time again. The Clarks' finding of this pattern in Negro children in segregated schools contributed to the 1954 Supreme Court decision that outlawed such schools. These traits, as well as the others typical of the "feminine" stereotype, have been found in the Indians under British rule,10 in the Algerians under the French,11 and in black Americans.12 There seems to be a correlation between being "feminine" and experiencing status deprivation.
This pattern repeats itself even within cultures. In giving TATs to women in Japanese villages, De Vos discovered that those from fishing villages where the status position of women was higher than in farming communities were more assertive, not as guilt-ridden and were more willing to ignore the traditional pattern of arranged marriages in favor of love marriages.13
In Terman's famous 50-year study of the gifted, a comparison in adulthood of those men who conspicuously failed to fulfill their early promise with those who did fulfill it showed that the successful had more self-confidence, fewer background disabilities, and were less nervous and emotionally unstable. But, they concluded "the disadvantages associated with lower social and home status appeared to present the outstanding handicap.14
The fact that women do have lower social status than men in our society and that both sexes tend to value men and male characteristics, values, and activities more highly than those of women has been noted by many authorities.15 What has not been done is to make the connection between this status and its accompanying personality.
The failure to extensively analyze the effects and the causes of lower social status is surprising in light of the many efforts that have been made to uncover distinct psychological differences between men and women to account for the tremendous disparity in their social production and creativity. The Goldberg study implies that even if women did achieve on a par with men it would not be perceived or accepted as such and that a woman's work must be of a much higher quality than that of a man to be given the same recognition. But these circumstances alone, or the fact that it is the male definition of achievement which is applied, are not sufficient to account for the lack of social production. So research has turned to male/female differences.
Most of this research, in the Freudian tradition, has focused on finding the psychological and developmental differences supposedly inherent in feminine nature and function. Despite all these efforts, the general findings of psychological testing indicate that: (1) Individual differences are greater than sex differences; i.e. sex is just one of the many characteristics which define a human being. (2) Most differences in ability in any field do not appear until elementary school age or later. "Sex differences become more apparent with increasing education even if it is co-education."16
An examination of the literature of intellectual differences between the sexes discloses some interesting patterns. First, the statistics them selves show some regularity. Most conclusions of what is typical of one sex or the other are founded upon the performances of two thirds of the subjects. For example, two thirds of all boys do better on the math section of the College Board Exam than the verbal, and two thirds of the girls do better on the verbal than the math. Bales' studies show a similar distribution when be concludes that in small groups men are the task-oriented leaders and women are the social-emotional leaders.17 Not all tests show this two-thirds differential, but it is the mean about which most results of the ability test cluster. Sex is an easily visible, differentiable and testable criterion on which to draw conclusions; but it doesn't explain the one third that doesn't fit. The only characteristic virtually all women seem to have in common, besides their anatomy, is their lower social status.
Second, girls get off to a very good start. They begin speaking, reading, and counting sooner. They articulate more clearly and put words into sentences earlier. They have fewer reading and stuttering problems. Girls are even better in math in the early school years. Consistent sex differences in favor of boys do not appear until high-school age.18 Here another pattern begins to develop.
During high school, girls' performance in school and on ability tests begins to drop, sometimes drastically. Although well over half of all high school graduates are girls, significantly less than half of all college students are girls. Presumably, this should mean that a higher percentage of the better female students go on to higher education, but their performance vis-a-vis boys' continues to decline.
Girls start off better than boys and end up worse. This change in their performance occurs at a very significant point in time. It occurs when their status changes, or to be more precise, when girls become aware of what their adult status is supposed to be. It is during adolescence that peer-group pressures to be "feminine" or "masculine" increase and the conceptions of what is "feminine" and "masculine" become more narrow.19 It is also at this time that there is a personal drive for conformity.20
One of the norms of our culture to which a girl learns to conform is that only men excel. This was evident in Lipinski's study of "Sex-Role Conflict and Achievement Motivation in College Women," which showed that thematic pictures depicting males as central characters elicited significantly more achievement imagery than female pictures.21 One need only recall Asch's experiments to see how peer-group pressures, armed only with our rigid ideas about "femininity" and "masculinity" could lead to a decline in girls' performance. Asch found that some 33 percent of his subjects would go contrary to the evidence of their own senses about something as tangible as the comparative length of two lines when their judgments were at variance with those made by the other group members.22 All but a handful of the other 67 percent experienced tremendous trauma in trying to stick to their correct perceptions.
When we move to something as intangible as sex-role behavior and to social sanctions far greater than the displeasure of a group of unknown experimental stooges, we can get an idea of how stifling social expectations can be. It is not surprising, in light of our cultural norm that a girl should not appear too smart or surpass boys in anything, that those pressures to conform, so prevalent in adolescence, should prompt girls to believe that the development of their minds will have only negative results. The lowered self-esteem and the denigration of their own sex noted by Smith23 and Goldberg24 are a logical consequence. These pressures even affect the supposedly unchangeable IQ scores. Corresponding with the drive for social acceptance, girls' IQs drop below those of boys during high school, rise slightly if they go to college, and go into a steady and consistent decline when and if they become full time housewives.25
These are not the only consequences. Negative self-conceptions have negative effects in a manner that can only be called a self-fulfilling prophecy. They stifle motivation and channel energies into those areas that are likely to get some positive social rewards. Then those subject to these pressures are condemned for not having strived for the highest social rewards society has to offer.
A good example of this double bind is what psychologists call the "need for achievement." Achievement motivation in male college sophomores has been studied extensively. In women it has barely been looked at; women didn't fit the model social scientists set up to explain achievement in men. Girls do not seem to demonstrate the same consistent correlation between achievement and scores on achievement tests that boys do. For example, Stivers found that "non-motivated for college" girls scored higher on achievement motivation exams than "well-motivated for college" girls.26 There has been little inquiry as to why this is so. The general policy followed by the researchers was that if girls didn't fit, leave them out. Nonetheless some theories have been put forward.
Pierce postulated that part of the confusion resulted from using the same criteria of achievement for girls that were used for boys-achievement in school. Therefore, be did a study of marriage vs. career orientation in high-school girls which did show a small but consistent correlation between high achievement motivation scores and marriage orientation.27 In 1961 be did another study which showed a very strong correlation between high achievement scores and actual achievement of marriage within a year of high-school graduation. Those who went on to college and/or did not get married had low achievement scores.28
Although he unfortunately did not describe the class origins and other relevant characteristics of his study it does seem clear that the real situation is not that women do not have achievement motivation but that this motivation is directed differently from that of men. In fact, the achievement orientation of both sexes goes precisely where it is socially directed -- educational achievement for boys and marriage achievement for girls. Pierce suggested that "achievement motivation in girls attaches itself not to academic performance, but rather to more immediate adult status goals. This would be a logical assumption in that academic success is much less important to achievement status as a woman than it is for a man."29
He goes on to say that "girls see that to achieve in life as adult females they need to achieve in non-academic ways, that is, attaining the social graces, achieving beauty in person and dress, finding a desirable social status, marrying the right man. This is the successful adult woman.... Their achievement motivations are directed toward realizing personal goals through their relationship with men.... Girls who are following the normal course of development are most likely to seek adult status through marriage at an early age."30
Achievement for women is adult status through marriage, not success in the usual use of the word. One might postulate that both kinds of success might be possible, particularly for the highly achievement-oriented woman. But in fact the two are more often perceived as contradictory; success in one is seen to preclude success in the other.
Horner just completed a study at the University of Michigan from which she postulated a psychological barrier to achievement in women. She administered a TAT word item to undergraduates that said "After first term finals Anne finds herself at the top of her medical school class." A similar one for a male control group used a masculine name. The results were scored for imagery of fear of success and Horner found that 65% of the women and only 10% of the men demonstrated a definite "motive to avoid success." She explained the results by hypothesizing that the prospect of success, or situations in which success or failure is a relevant dimension, are perceived as having, and in fact do have, negative consequences for women. Success in the normal sense is threatening to women. Further research confirmed that fear of social rejection and role conflict did generate a "motive to avoid success."31
Ability differences correlate strongly with interest differences32 and women have a definite interest in avoiding success. This is reinforced by peer and cultural pressures. However, many sex differences appear too early to be much affected by peer groups and are not directly related to sex-role attributes. One such sex difference is spatial perception, or the ability to visualize objects out of their context. This is a test in which boys do better, though differences are usually not discernible before the early school years.33 Other tests, such as the Embedded Figures and the Rod and Frame tests, likewise favor boys. They indicate that boys perceive more analytically, while girls are more contextual. This ability to "break set" or be "field independent" also does not seem to appear until after the fourth or fifth year.34
According to Maccoby, this contextual mode of perception common to women is a distinct disadvantage for scientific production. "Girls on the average develop a somewhat different way of handling incoming information -- their thinking is less analytic, more global, and more preservative -- and this kind of thinking may serve very well for many kinds of functioning but it is not the kind of thinking most conducive to high-level intellectual productivity, especially in science."35
Several social psychologists have postulated that the key developmental characteristic of analytic thinking is what is called early "independence and mastery training," or "whether and how soon a child is encouraged to assume initiative, to take responsibility for himself, and to solve problems by himself, rather than rely on others for the direction of his activities."36 In other words, analytically inclined children are those who have not been subject to what Bronfenbrenner calls "oversocialization,"37 and there is a good deal of indirect evidence that such is the case. Levy has observed that "overprotected" boys tend to develop intellectually like girls.38 Bing found that those girls who were good at spatial tasks were those whose mothers left them alone to solve the problems by themselves, while the mothers of verbally inclined daughters insisted on helping them.39 Witkin similarly found that mothers of analytic children had encouraged their initiative, while mothers of nonanalytic children had encouraged dependence and discouraged self-assertion.40 One writer commented on these studies that "this is to be expected, for the independent child is less likely to accept superficial appearances of objects without exploring them for himself, while the dependent child will be afraid to reach out on his own, and will accept appearances without question. In other words, the independent child is likely to be more active, not only psychologically but physically, and the physically active child will naturally have more kinesthetic experience with spatial relationships in his environment."41
The qualities associated with independence training also have an effect on IQ. Sontag did a longitudinal study in which he compared children whose IQs had improved with those whose IQs had declined with age. He discovered that the child with increasing IQ was competitive, self-assertive, independent, and dominant in interaction with other children. Children with declining IQs were passive, shy, and dependent.42
Maccoby commented on this study that "the characteristics associated with a rising IQ are not very feminine characteristics. When one of the people working on it was asked about what kind of developmental history was necessary to make a girl into an intellectual person, he replied, "The simplest way to put it is that she must be a tomboy at some point in her childhood."43
Likewise Kagan and Moss noted that "females who perform well on problems requiring analysis and complex reasoning tend to reject a traditional feminine identification."44 They also observed that among the children involved in the Fels study "protection of girls was associated with the adoption of feminine interests during childhood and adulthood. Maternal protection apparently 'feminized' both the boys and the girls."45 However, analytic abilities are not the only ones that are valued in our society. Being person-oriented and contextual in perception are very valuable attributes for many fields where, nevertheless, very few women are found. Such characteristics are also valuable in the arts and some of the social sciences. But while women do succeed here more than in the sciences, their achievement is still not equivalent to that of men. One explanation of this, of course, is the Horner study that established a, "motive to avoid success." But when one looks further it appears that there is an earlier cause here as well.
The very same early independence and mastery training that has such a beneficial effect on analytic thinking also determines the extent of one's achievement orientation.46
Although comparative studies of parental treatment of boys and girls are not extensive, those that have been made indicate that the traditional practices applied to girls are very different from those applied to boys. Girls receive more affection, more protectiveness, more control and more restrictions. Boys are subjected to more achievement demands and higher expectations.47 In short, while girls are not always encouraged to be dependent per se, they are usually not encouraged to be independent and physically active. "Such findings indicate that the differential treatment of the two sexes reflects in part a difference in goals. With sons, socialization seems to focus primarily on directing and constraining the boys' impact on the environment. With daughters, the aim is rather to protect the girl from the impact of environment. The boy is being prepared to mold his world, the girl to be molded by it."48 The pattern is typical of girls, Bronfenbrenner maintains, and involves the risk of "oversocialization."
He doesn't discuss the possible negative effects such oversocialization has on girls, but he does express his concern about what would happen to the "qualities of independence, initiative, and self-sufficiency" of boys if such training were applied to them. "While an affectional context is important for the socialization of boys, it must evidently be accompanied by and be compatible with a strong component of parental discipline. Otherwise, the boy finds himself in the same situation as the girl, who, having received greater affection, is more sensitive to its withdrawal, with the result that a little discipline goes a long way and strong authority is constricting rather than constructive."49
That these variations in socialization result in variations in personality is corroborated by Schachter's studies of first and later-born children. Like girls, first children tend to be better socialized but also more anxious and dependent, whereas second children, like boys, are more aggressive and self-confident.50
Bronfenbrenner concludes that the crucial variable is the differential treatment by the father and "in fact, it is the father who is especially likely to treat children of the two sexes differently." His extremes of affection, and of authority, are both deleterious. Not only do his high degrees of nurturance and protectiveness toward girls result in "oversocialization," but "the presence of strong paternal power is particularly debilitating. In short, boys thrive in a patriarchal context, girls in a matriarchal one."51
His observations receive indirect support from Douvan who noted that "part-time jobs of mothers have a beneficial effect on adolescent children, particularly daughters. This reflects the fact that adolescents may receive too much mothering."52
The importance of mothers, as well as mothering, was pointed out by Kagan and Moss. In looking at the kinds of role models that mothers provide for developing daughters, they discovered that it is those women who are looked upon as unfeminine whose daughters tend to achieve intellectually. These mothers are "aggressive and competitive women who were critical of their daughters and presented themselves to their daughters as intellectually competitive and aggressive role models. It is reasonable to assume that the girls identified with these intellectually aggressive women who valued mastery behavior."53
There seems to be some evidence that the sexes have been differentially socialized with different training practices, for different goals, and with different results. If McClelland is right in all the relationships he finds between child-rearing practices (in particular independence and mastery training), achievement-motivation scores of individuals tested, actual achievement of individuals, and indeed, the economic growth of whole societies,54 there is no longer much question as to why the historical achievement of women has been so low.In fact, with the dependency training they receive so early in life, the wonder is that they have achieved so much.
But this is not the whole story. Maccoby, in her discussion of the relationship of independence training to analytic abilities, notes that the girl who does not succumb to overprotection and develop the appropriate personality and behavior for her sex has a major price to pay: a price in anxiety. Or, as other observers have noted: "The universe of appropriate behavior for males and females is delineated early in development and it is difficult for the child to cross these culturally given frontiers without considerable conflict and tension."55
Some anxiety is beneficial to creative thinking, but high or sustained levels of it are damaging, "for it narrows the range of solution efforts, interferes with breaking set, and prevents scanning of the whole range of elements open to perception."56 This anxiety is particularly manifest in college women,57 and of course they are the ones who experience the most conflict between their current -- intellectual -- activities, and expectations about behavior in their future -- unintellectual -- careers.
Maccoby feels that "it is this anxiety which helps to account for the lack of productivity among those women who do make intellectual careers." The combination of social pressures, role-expectations and parental training together tell "something of a horror story. It would appear that even when a woman is suitably endowed intellectually and develops the right temperament and habits of thought to make use of her endowment, she must be fleet of foot indeed to scale the hurdles society has erected for her and to remain a whole and happy person while continuing to follow her intellectual bent."58
The reasons for this horror story must by now be clearly evident. Traditionally, women have been defined as passive creatures, sexually, physically, and mentally. Their roles have been limited to the passive, dependent, auxiliary ones, and they have been trained from birth to fit these roles. However, those qualities by which one succeeds in this society are active ones. Achievement orientation, intellectuality, and analytic ability all require a certain amount of aggression.
As long as women were convinced that these qualities were beyond them, that they were inferior in their exercise and much happier if they stayed in their place, they remained quiescent under the paternalistic system of Western civilization. Paternalism was a pre-industrial scheme of life, and its yoke was partially broken by the industrial revolution.59 With this loosening up of the social order, the talents of women began to appear.

In the 18th Century it was held that no woman had ever produced anything worthwhile in literature with the possible exception of Sappho. But in the first half of the 19th Century, feminine writers of genius flooded the literary scene.60 It wasn't until the end of the 19th Century that women scientists of note appeared, and it was still later that women philosophers were found.
Only since the industrial revolution shook the whole social order have women been able to break some of the traditional bounds of society. In pre-industrial societies, the family was the basic unit of social and economic organization, and women held a significant and functional role within it. This, coupled with the high birth and death rates of those times, gave women more than enough to do within the home. It was the center of production and women could be both at home and in the world at the same time. But the industrial revolution, along with decreased infant mortality, increased life-span and changes in economic organization, have all but destroyed the family as the economic unit. Technological advances have taken men out of the home, and now those functions traditionally defined as female are being taken out also.61 For the first time in human history women have had to devote themselves to being full-time mothers in order to have enough to do.62
Conceptions of society have also changed. At one time, authoritarian hierarchies were the norm and paternalism was reflective of a general social authoritarian attitude. While it is impossible to do retroactive studies on feudalistic society, we do know that authoritarianism as a personality trait does correlate strongly with a rigid conception of sex roles, and with ethnocentrism.63 We also know from ethnological data that there is a "parallel between family relationships and the larger social hierarchy. Autocratic societies have autocratic families. As the king rules his subjects and the nobles subjugate and exploit the commoners, so does husband tend to lord it over wife, father rule over son."64
According to D'Andrade, "another variable that appears to affect the distribution of authority and deference between the sexes is the degree to which men rather than women control and mediate property."65 He presented data which showed a direct correlation between the extent to which inheritance, succession, and descent-group membership were patrilineal and the degree of subjection of women.
Even today, the equality of the sexes in the family is often reflective of the economic equality of the partners. In a Detroit sample, Blood and Wolfe found that the relative power of the wife was low if she did not work and increased with her economic contribution to the family.66
"The employment of women affects the power structure of the family by equalizing the resources of husband and wife. A working wife's husband listens to her more, and she listens to herself more. She expresses herself and has more opinions. Instead of looking up into her husband's eyes and worshipping him, she levels with him, compromising on the issues at hand. Thus her power increases and, relatively speaking, the husband's falls.67
Goode also noted this pattern but said it varied inversely with class status. Toward the upper strata, wives are not only less likely to work but when they do they contribute a smaller percentage of the total family income than is true in the lower classes.68 Hill went so far as to say "Money is a source of power that supports male dominance in the family. . . . Money belongs to him who earns it, not to her who spends it, since he who earns it may withhold it."69 Hallenbeck feels more than just economic resources are involved but does conclude that there is a balance of power in every family which affects "every other aspect of the marriage -- division of labor, amount of adaptation necessary for either spouse, methods used to resolve conflicts, and so forth."70 Blood feels the economic situation affects the whole family structure.

"Daughters of working mothers are more independent, more self-reliant, more aggressive, more dominant, and more disobedient. Such girls are no longer meek, mild, submissive, and feminine like 'little ladies' ought to be. They are rough and tough, actively express their ideas, and refuse to take anything from anybody else.... Because their mothers have set an example, the daughters get up the courage and the desire to earn money as well. They take more part-time jobs after school and more jobs during summer vacation."71

Barry, Bacon and Child did an ethnohistoriographic analysis that provides some further insights into the origins of male dominance. After examining the ethnographic reports of 110 cultures, they concluded that large sexual differentiation and male superiority occur concurrently and in "an economy that places a high premium on the superior strength and superior development of motor skills requiring strength, which characterize the male."72 It is those societies in which great physical strength and mobility are required for survival, in which hunting and herding, or warfare, play an important role, that the male, as the physically stronger and more mobile sex, tends to dominate. This is supported by Spiro's analysis of sex roles in an Israeli kibbutz. There, the economy was largely unmechanized and the superior average strength of the men was needed on many jobs. Thus, despite a conscious attempt to break down traditional sex-roles, they began reasserting themselves, as women were assigned to the less strenuous jobs.73
Although there are a few tasks which virtually every society assigns only to men or women, there is a great deal of overlap for most jobs. Virtually every task, even in the most primitive societies, can be performed by either men or women. Equally important, what is defined as a man's task in one society may well be classified as a woman's job in another.74 Nonetheless, the sexual division of labor is much more narrow than that dictated by physical limitations, and what any one culture defines as a woman's job will seldom be performed by a man and vice versa. It seems that what originated as a division of labor based upon the necessities of survival has spilled over into many other areas and lasted long past the time of its social value. Where male strength and mobility has been crucial to social survival, male dominance and the aura of male superiority has been the strongest. The latter has been incorporated into the value structure and attained an existence of its own.
Thus, male superiority has not ceased with an end to the need for male strength. As Goode pointed out, there is one consistent element in the assignment of jobs to the sexes, even in modern societies: "Whatever the strictly male tasks are, they are defined as more honorific (emphasis his) . . . . Moreover, the tasks of control, management, decision, appeals to the gods -- in short the higher level jobs that typically do not require strength, speed or traveling far from home -- are male jobs.75
He goes on to comment that "this element suggests that the sexual division of labor within family and society comes perilously close to the racial or caste restrictions in some modern countries. That is, the low ranking race, caste, or sex is defined as not being able to do certain types of prestigious work, but it is also considered a violation of propriety if they do it. Obviously, if women really cannot do various kinds of male tasks, no moral or ethical prohibition would be necessary to keep them from it."76


Sex roles originated in economic necessities but the value attached to any one role has become a factor of sex alone. Even cross-culturally, these roles, and the attitudes associated with them, are ingrained by common socialization practices. Barry, Bacon, and Child discovered that "pressure toward nurturance, obedience and responsibility is most often stronger for girls, whereas pressure toward achievement and self-reliance is most often stronger for boys."77 These are the same socialization practices traditionally found in Western society. As the Barry, Bacon, and Child study showed, these socializations serve to prepare children for roles as adults that require women to stay near the home and men to go out and achieve. The greater emphasis a society places on physical strength, the greater the sex-role differentiation and the sex differences in socialization.
These sex-role differences may have served a natural function at one time, but it is doubtful that they still do so. The characteristics we observe in women and men today are a result of socialization practices that were developed for survival of a primitive society. The value structure of male superiority is a reflection of the primitive orientations and values. But social and economic conditions have changed drastically since these values were developed. Technology has reduced to almost nothing the importance of muscular strength. In fact, the warlike attitude which goes along with an idealization of physical strength and dominance is proving to be positively destructive. The value of large families has also become a negative one. Now we are concerned with the population explosion and prefer that our society produce children of quality rather than quantity. The result of all these changes is that the traditional sex-roles and the traditional family structures have become dysfunctional.
To some extent, patterns of child-rearing have also changed. Bronfenbrenner reports that at least middle-class parents are raising both boys and girls much the same. He noted that over a 50-year period middle-class parents have been developing a "more acceptant, egalitarian relationship with their children.78 With an increase in the family's social position, the patterns of parental treatment of children begin to converge.79 He likewise noted that a similar phenomenon is beginning to develop in lower-class parents and that equality of treatment is slowly working its way down the social ladder.
These changes in patterns of child-rearing correlate with changes in relationships within the family. Both are moving toward a less hierarchical and more egalitarian pattern of living.
As Blood has pointed out,

"today we may be on the verge of a new phase in American family history, when the companionship family is beginning to manifest itself. One distinguishing characteristic of this family is the dual employment of husband and wife.... Employment emancipates women from domination by their husbands and, secondarily, raises their daughters from inferiority to their brothers.... The classic differences between masculinity and femininity are disappearing as both sexes in the adult generation take on the same roles in the labor market.... The roles of men and women are converging for both adults and children. As a result the family will be far less segregated internally, far less stratified into different age generations and different sexes. The old asymmetry of male-dominated, female-serviced family life is being replaced by a new symmetry."80

All these data indicate that several trends are converging at about the same time. Our value structure has changed from an authoritarian one to a more democratic one, though our social structure has not yet caught up. Social attitudes begin in the family; only a democratic family can raise children to be citizens in a democratic society. The social and economic organization of society which kept women in the home has likewise changed. The home is no longer the center of society. The primary male and female functions have left it and there is no longer any major reason for maintaining the large sex-role differentiations which it supported. The value placed on physical strength which reinforced the dominance of men, and the male superiority attitudes that this generated, have also become dysfunctional. It is the mind, not the body, which must now prevail, and woman's mind is the equal of man's. The "pill" has liberated women from the uncertainty of childbearing, and with it the necessity of being attached to a man for economic support. But our attitudes toward women, and toward the family, have not changed concomitantly with the other developments. There is a distinct "cultural lag." Definitions of the family, conceptions of women and ideas about social function are left over from an era when they were necessary for social survival. They have persisted into an era in which they are no longer viable. The result can only be called severe role dysfunctionality for women.
The necessary relief for this dysfunctionality must come through changes in the social and economic organization of society and in social attitudes which will permit women to play a full and equal part in the social order. With this must come changes in the family, so that men and women are not only equal, but can raise their children in a democratic atmosphere. These changes will not come easily, nor will they come through the simple evolution of social trends. Trends do not move all in the same direction or at the same rate. To the extent that changes are dysfunctional with each other they create problems. These problems must be solved not by complacency but by conscious human direction. Only in this way can we have a real say in the shape of our future and the shape of our lives.




1 Rossi, Alice, "Equality between the sexes: An immodest proposal," in Robert J. Lifton, ed., The Woman in America, Boston: Beacon Press, 1965, pp. 102-103.

2 Bem, Sandra and Bem, Daryl, "We're all nonconscious sexists," Psychology Today, 1970, 4(6), p. 26.

3 McClelland, D., "Wanted: A new self-image for women," in Robert J. Lifton, ed., The Woman in America, Boston: Beacon Press, 1965, p. 173.

4 Bennett, E. M. & Cohen, L. R., "Men and women: Personality patterns and contrasts," Genetic Psychology Monographs, 1959, 59, pp. 101-155.

5 Allport, Gordon, The Nature of Prejudice, Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1954, pp. 142-161.

6 Terman, L. M. & Tyler, L., "Psychological sex differences," in Leonard Carmichael, ed., Manual of Child Psychology. New York: Wiley & Sons, 1954, pp. 1080-1100.

7 Smith, S., "Age and sex differences in children's opinion concerning sex differences," Journal of Genetic Psychology, 1939, 54, pp. 17-25.

8 Goldberg, P., "Are women prejudiced against women?" Transaction, April 1969, p. 28.

9 Clark, K. & Clark, M., "Racial identification and preference in Negro children," in T. M. Newcomb and E. L. Hartley, eds., Readings in social psychology, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1947.

10 Fisher, L., Gandhi, New York: Signet Key, 1954.

11 Fanon, Franz, The Wretched of the Earth, New York: Grove Press, 1963.

12 Myrdal, Gunnar, An American Dilemma, New York: Harper, 1944.

13 De Vos, G., "The relation of guilt toward parents to achievement and arranged marriage among the Japanese," Psychiatry, 1960, 23, pp. 287-301.

14 Miles, C. C., "Gifted children," in Carmichael, op. cit., p. 1045.

15 See: Brown, R., Social Psychology, New York: The Free Press. p. 162; Reuben Hill and Howard Becker (Eds.), Family, Marriage and Parenthood, Boston: D. C. Heath, 1955. p. 790; Goldberg, op. cit., p. 28; Myrdal, op. cit., Appendix V; and Goode, W. J., The Family, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1965. p. 70.

16 Tyler, L., "Sex differences," Under "Individual differences" in the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 1968, New York: The Macmillan Co., vol. 7, pp. 207-213.

17 Bales, R. F., "Task roles and social roles in problem-solving groups," in T. M. Newcomb, E. Maccoby, and E. L. Hartly, eds., Readings in Social Psychology (3rd ed.). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1958.

18 Maccoby, Eleanor, "Sex differences in intellectual functioning," in Eleanor Maccoby, ed., The Development of Sex Differences, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966, pp. 26 ff.

19 Neiman, L. J., "The Influence of Peer Groups Upon Attitudes toward the Feminine Role," Social Problems, 1954, (2), pp. 104-111.

20 Milner, E., "Effects of sex-role and social status on the early adolescent personality," Genetic Psychological Monographs, (40), pp. 231-325.

21 Lipinski, B., Sex-role Conflict and Achievement Motivation in College Women, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Cincinnati, 1965.

22 Asch, S. E. "Studies of independence and conformity. A minority of one against a unanimous majority," Psychological Monographs, 1956, 70, No. 9.

23 Smith, op. cit.

24 Goldberg, op. cit.

25 Bradway, K. P. & Thompson, C. W., "Intelligence at adulthood: A twenty-five year follow up," Journal of Educational Psychology, 1962, (53) 1-14.

26 Stivers, E. N., Motivation for College of High School Boys and Girls, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 1959.

27 Pierce, J. V. & Bowman, P. H., "The educational motivation patterns of superior students who do and do not achieve in high school," U.S. Office of Education Project #208, Co-operative Research Monograph No. 2, U.S. Printing Office, Washington, 1960, pp. 33-66.

28 Pierce, J. V. "Sex differences in achievement motivation of able high school students," Co-operative Research Project No. 1097, University of Chicago, December 1961.

29 Ibid. p. 23.

30 Ibid. p. 42.

31 Horner, Matina, "Femininity and successful achievement: A basic inconsistency," in Bardwick, et al., Feminine Personality and Conflict, Belmont: Brooks/Cole, 1970.

32 Terman & Tyler, op. cit., p. 1104.

33 Maccoby, 1966, op. cit., p. 26.

34 Ibid., p. 27.

35 Maccoby, Eleanor, "Woman's intellect," in Farber and Wilson, eds., The Potential of Women, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963, p. 30.

36 Ibid., p. 31. See also: Sherman, J. A. "Problems of sex differences in space perception and aspects of intellectual functioning," Psychological Review, July 1967, Vol. 74, No. 4, pp. 290-299; and Vernon, P. E., "Ability factors and environmental influences," American Psychologist, Sept. 1965, Vol. 20, No. 9, pp. 723-733.

37 Bronfenbrenner, U., "Some familial antecedents of responsibility and leadership in adolescents," in Luigi Petrullo and Bernard M. Bass, eds., Leadership and Interpersonal Behavior, New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1961, p. 260.

38 Levy, D. M., Maternal Overprotection, New York: Columbia University Press, 1943.

39 Maccoby, 1963, op. cit., p. 31.

40 Witkin, H. A., Dyk, R. B., Paterson, H. E., Goodenough, D. R., & Karp, S. A., Psychological Differentiation, New York: Wiley, 1962.

41 Clapp, James, "Sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability," unpublished paper, 1968.

42 Sontag, I. W., Baker, C. T., & Nelson, V. A., "Mental growth and personality development: A longitudinal study," Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 1953, Vol. 23, No. 68.

43 Maccoby, 1963, op. cit., p. 33.


44 Kagan, J. & Moss, H. A., Birth to maturity: A study in psychological development, New York and London: John Wiley and Sons, 1962. p. 275.

45 Ibid., p. 225.

46 Winterbottom, M., "The relation of need for achievement to learning experiences in independence and mastery," in Harold Proshansky and Bernard Seidenberg, eds., Basic Studies in Social Psychology, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1965. pp. 294-307.

47 Sears, R. R., Maccoby, E., & Levin, H. Patterns of Child Rearing, Evanston, Ill.: Row, Peterson, 1957.

48 Bronfenbrenner, op. cit., p. 260.

49 Ibid.

50 Schachter, S., The Psychology of Affiliation, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1959.

51 Bronfenbrenner, op. cit., p. 267.

52 Douvan, E., "Employment and the adolescent," in F. Ivan Nye and Lois W. Hoffman, eds., The Employed Mother in America, Chicago: Rand McNally, 1963.

53 Kagan and Moss, op. cit., p. 222.

54 McClelland, D. C., The Achieving Society, Princeton: Van Nostrand, 1961.

55 Kagan and Moss, op. cit., p. 270.

56 Maccoby, 1963, op. cit., p. 37.

57 Sinick, D., "Two anxiety scales correlated and examined for sex differences," Journal of Clinical Psychology, 1956, Vol. 12, pp. 394-395.

58 Maccoby, 1963, op. cit., p. 37.

59 Myrdal, op. cit., p. 1077.

60 Montagu, A., "Anti-feminism and race prejudice," Psychiatry, 1946, Vol. 9, pp. 69-71.

61 Keniston, E. & Keniston, K., "An American anachronism: The image of women and work," American Scholar, Summer 1964, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 355-375.

62 Rossi, op. cit.

63 Adomo, T. W., et al., The Authoritarian Personality, New York: Harper, 1950.

64 Stephens, W. N., The family in Cross-Cultural Perspective, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1963.

65 D'Andrade, R., "Sex differences and cultural institutions," in Maccoby (Ed.), 1966, op. cit., p. 189.

66 Blood, R. 0., & Wolfe, D. M., Husbands and Wives, Glencoe: The Free Press, 1960.

67 Blood, R. 0., "Long-range causes and consequences of the employment of married women," Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1965, Vol. 27, No. 1, p. 46.

68 Goode, op. cit., p. 76.

69 Hill and Becker, op. cit., p. 790.

70 Hallenbeck, P. N., "An analysis of power dynamics in marriage," Journal of Marriage and the Family, May 1966, Vol. 28, No. 2, p. 203.

71 Blood, op. cit., p. 47.

72 Barry, H., Bacon, M. K., & Child, I. L., "A cross-cultural survey of some sex differences in socialization," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1957, Vol. 55, pp. 330.

73 Spiro, M. E., Kibbutz: Venture in Utopia Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956.

74 D'Andrade, op. cit., p. 191.

75 Goode, op. cit., p. 70.

76 Ibid.

77 Barry, Bacon, & Child, op. cit., p. 328.

78 Bronfenbrenner, U., "Socialization and social class through time and space," in Maccoby, Newcomb and Hartly, op. cit.

79 Bronfenbrenner, U., "The effects of social and cultural change on personality," Journal of Social Issues, 1969, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 6-18.

80 Blood, op. cit., p. 47.