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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 for Research in Child Development April 25, 2003. Previous Conceptions of Gender Identity.

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gender identity among african american and european american adolescents

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

previous conceptions of gender identity
Previous Conceptions of Gender Identity
  • Categorization of oneself and others as female or male (Golombok & Fivush, 1994)
  • Gender knowledge and behavior viewed as separate and distinct (Burn, 1996)
gender identity as socially constructed
Gender Identity as Socially Constructed
  • Recent approaches view gender behavior as socially negotiated (Beall, 1993).
  • Representations of gender derive from the social structure.
  • Gender identity is historically and culturally relative, dependent on social, economic, and political structures.
discursive psychology and gender identity
Discursive Psychology and Gender Identity
  • The image of the self is dependent on the language used in everyday life
  • Identify respondents’ patterns of language and related practices
  • Language enables and constrains expression of ideas and behavior – “language culture”
power and gender identity
Power and Gender Identity
  • Gender and power are closely connected and power is inequitably distributed
  • 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.
positioning theory conceptual
Positioning Theory - Conceptual
  • Individuals are subjected to and produced by societal ideologies
  • 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.
positioning theory methodological
Positioning Theory - Methodological
  • Who is implied? What does a statement say about the respondent?

Examination of three basic features:

  • The subject positions in relation to socially prescribed rights and actions
  • The context in which respondents construct their position and others
  • The ideologies that shape interpretations and understandings of groups
research questions
Research Questions
  • 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?
data analysis
Data Analysis
  • “Voice of authority” framework associated with the construction of a national identity (Berman, 1999)
  • Allowed categories to emerge from the data
  • Focused on the inconsistency and diversity within and across respondents’ accounts
  • Used individual and team analysis
  • Considered alternative interpretations and our own biases and experiences
slide11

White female

Black female

Black male

White male

Dominance and Marginalization Positions

of Black and White females and males

dominance
Manipulation 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 gender

“top of the corporate ladder is generally a white male.” – Carl, White male

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

Dominance
slide13

White female

Black female

Black male

White male

Provider/Protector and Protected Positions

of Black and White females and males

provider protector
Adopting 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 nurturer

“I have to be there for my boyfriend and support him and take care of him.” – Ann, White female

Protected

Provider/Protector
  • 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
slide15

White female

Black female

Black male

White male

Individual Agency and Group Constraints Positions

of Black and White females and males

individual agency
Emphasizing 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 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

Individual Agency
  • 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
slide17

White female

Black female

Black male

White male

Virtuous Status and Presumed Guilty Status Positions

of Black and White females and males

virtuous status
Entitlement through experience

“It’s more acceptable for a girl my age to have babies.” – Ann, White female

Autonomy

“I hate for a person to approach me wrong.” – Stacy, Black female

Apportion blame to others

“silly” for girls to have sex to keep boyfriends – Colette, Black female

Presumed Guilty Status

Virtuous 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
slide19

Black female

White female

Black male

White male

Subject Positions of Black and White females and males

summary of findings
Summary of Findings

Empowered representations of gender were shaped by:

  • Positioning the person as “an individual” and emphasizing a common humanity
  • Ascribing personal responsibility to the individual
  • Renouncing historical and institutional restraints associated with constraining gender roles
  • Endorsing positions that were situated in the traditional discourses of power
conclusion
Conclusion
  • Representations 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 identity
  • Possible to understand how adolescents’ representations of power create both opportunities and barriers
thank you
Thank you!
  • For more information about this paper and other research projects, please visit

http://rcgd.isr.umich.edu/garp/

language culture
Language Culture
  • Although there is a number of available discourses, some discourses are more privileged than others
  • Variation in discourses allows for fluidity of gender-related identities
sample and procedure
Sample and Procedure
  • 16 (11 = female, 5 = male) African American adolescents
  • 8 (4 = female, 4 = male) European American adolescents
  • Semi-structured interviews at the end of 11th grade by matched interviewers
  • Interview protocol: Meaning and salience of race/ethnicity, gender, and spirituality