Category Archives: Gender

J. Crew Ad Met with Harsh Words from a Hack Psychiatrist: Dr. Ablow Exposes his Ignorance of Gender Socialization and LGBT Outcomes.

By P Getty

Recently, an uproar in the media erupted after J. Crew put out an online ad featuring Jenna Lyons and her young son. The picture portrays a loving mother and son smiling and caring on—they seem like a lovely pair. Some however, like Fox News contributor and hack psychiatrist, Dr. Keith Ablow, only saw the Devil in the details. Rather than seeing it for what it is—a warm expression of a happy family—all he could see is that the young lad has neon pink nail polish. Ablow, in his reaction to the piece stated that “it may be fun and games now, Jenna, but at least put some money aside for psychotherapy for the kid—and maybe a little for others who’ll be affect by your ‘innocent’ pleasure.”

Boggling my mind the most is the fact that this ignorant statement comes from a psychiatrist, a professional who should be up on the literature of gender-role and LGBT socialization and their outcomes. Rather than getting in to the nuts and bolts of gender development (this is not an undergraduate development course), I do what to tackle his suggestion that a lack of strict adherence to sexual and gender roles lead to negative psychological outcomes. What he seems to have forgotten is that any negative outcomes associated with LGBT folks is not because of who they are, it is because of the lack of acceptance from their families and other ignorant fools who cannot seems to realize that their own beliefs are not shared by others. In fact, recent evidence presented by Doctors Ryan, Russell, Huebner, Diaz and Sanchez (2010) in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatirc Nursing, suggests that when LGBT youths are respected and accepted by their families, positive outcomes are predicted. They can expect to have higher self-esteem and general health. They are also less likely to experience depression, substance abuse and thoughts of suicide.

What is ironic about this whole thing is that the outcomes Dr. Ablow predicts come about because of intolerant behavior like Dr. Ablow’s. God save the child that comes from Dr. Ablow’s loins that happens to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered—hopefully he will have set aside money for their psychotherapy to un-warp any damage his intolerant behavior might cause.

Follow link to Ryan et al.’s (2010) article on acceptance and positive outcomes for LGBT youth

Follow link to Dr. Ablow’s Hackery!

Reshaping reality by reshaping social perceptions: the power of talk in promoting equality

By: Christopher C. Duke, Ph.D.

If you have taken an introductory social psychology class, you have probably heard of stereotype threat. This is a phenomenon where making people aware of a stereotype that could refer to the self increases the chance that the stereotype will come true. For example, on math tests where the students’ gender is made salient, women tend to perform worse than men. When the researchers emphasized to participants that gender scores on the test tended to be equal, their scores became equal. The same difference has been found on tests between black and white students; when the students’ race was emphasized, black students’ scores were lower than white students, but when equality was emphasized, the scores were the same.

While there are still competing explanations for why stereotype threat occurs, it is a very well documented phenomenon that can help to explain demographic achievement gaps. Fortunately, there are ways to counter the negative effects of stereotype threat and reduce demographic inequalities. One of the earliest ways discovered is to emphasize the expected positive outcomes on a task for under-achieving groups. While this does work, it is not always practical in real-world situations. An ideal solution would be a brief intervention with long-lasting effects that could work across many different situations. Smith and Postmes (2011) found that allowing small groups to discuss and challenge the validity of the stereotype can also reduce stereotype threat, though the duration of this promising positive effect was not fully known. This suggests groups can use discussion to reinterpret negative group stereotypes in a way that can empower the group and overcome negative effects.

A new study in Science advances our knowledge of the positive potential stereotype threat interventions (Walton & Cohen, 2011). The researchers theorized that stereotype threat occurs in part when people construe feelings of social adversity as an indictment of their social belonging. If social adversity can be portrayed by students themselves as universal to all students but temporary, then the negative effects of stereotype threat might be reduced. In the experiment, black and white first-year college students were subtly encouraged to generate such messages in the hopes that it would have long-lasting positive effects throughout their university career. This is indeed what happened, and the effects were powerful and long-lasting: compared to a control group, black students who received the intervention as freshmen achieved higher grades. Not only were their academic scores better, but they reported better health and they visited the doctor less, too. These effects were mediated by the students’ subjective construal of adversity; this means that feelings of social belonging are likely to be a key part of the process in reducing stereotype threat. Interestingly, students did not attribute these positive effects to the brief intervention they experienced three years earlier. Considering the brevity of the intervention, and the durability of its effects, this appears to be a very powerful tool in reducing demographic achievement gaps. More research is needed to better understand the processes behind and effects of the intervention, but it speaks to the power of social expectations to cripple our accomplishments, and yet also of our power to take steps to consciously reshape the social landscape in a way that leads to real and lasting change for the better. People often lament that we talk too much about problems instead of taking action; in some cases, talking may be one of the best actions we can take.

Smith, L. G. E., & Postmes, T. (2011). Shaping stereotypical behaviour through the discussion of social stereotypes. British Journal of Social Psychology, 50, 50-74.

Walton, G. M., & Cogen, G. L. (2011). A brief social-belonging intervention improves academic and health outcomes of minority students. Science, 331, 1447-1451.

Affirmative action for women in Iraq

Iraqi Minister for the Environment Narmin Othman, at a women’s conference in Ramadi, 29 March 2008. Othman is one of the few women in Iraq who has reached the post of Minister. Photo by: Cpl. Erin A. Kirk

A recent Human Rights Watch report outlines ways in which women’s rights became more limited in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.  According to the report, women had a better place in politics and society during the 1970s than at present.  Similarly, an article in yesterday’s New York Times explains how the current struggle for power in the political arena has curtailed women’s rights despite a 25% quota for women in parliament.  Some people think there should be a quota for women in the ministries as well, while others feel women are not qualified or do not belong in politics.

In social psychology research, the study of attitudes about affirmative action has expanded to include gender inequality.  A survey study conducted by Boechmann and Feather (2007) examined attitudes about affirmative action for women in Australia.  For male participants, they found that unfair male advantage was negatively associated with a belief in women’s entitlement to affirmative action. However, when men’s perceptions of personal responsibility and guilt were entered into the model, unfair male advantage was positively related to women’s entitlement and deservingness.

In Iraq, efforts to secure more basic human rights for women might be advanced not just by pushing for more quotas but also by complimentary efforts to increase civic-mindedness and awareness among men.

Boeckmann, R. J. & Feather, N. T. (2007). Gender, discrimination beliefs, group-based guilt, and responses to affirmative action for Australia women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31, 290 – 304.

Iraqi women feel shunted despite election quota by Michael S. Schimdt and Yasir Ghazi, published March 12, 2011

At a crossroads: Human rights in Iraq eight years after the US-led invasion, Human Rights Watch, February 2, 2011.  See Section I. Rights of women and girls

I’m Back with a New Identity: Baby Daddy!

by P. Getty

I want to begin this entry with a short apology to my loyal readers—all ten of you—for taking some time away from the blog. I understand if you are upset, what with being without your biweekly fix of weird thoughts and rants that I proudly contribute to the psychological community. I understand that I have slacked in this charge. I will, unless environmental influences shift even more drastically than they already have, continue to provide that service. Still, I feel that I owe you, my loyal reader, an explanation for my absence. Well, if the picture that accompanies this entry and the title above doesn’t give it away, the reason for my absence was that my son, Lucas Kinan (which means danger in Japanese if you are interested) was born on February 2nd, 2011, at 21:20 hrs.  So I was away becoming baby daddy! Strangely, since then, my demeanor has shifted slightly to that of a sleep-deprived zombie. Despite this, however, I’m confident in my new role as baby daddy and look forward to this new adventure while getting back to the blogin’.  Weirdly, my positive attitude seems to be in contrast to what is expected from a person in my shoes, according to the relevant literature.

In a resent review of the literature on men transitioning to fatherhood, Genesoni and Tallandini (2009) identified three phases in this transition that coincide with the stages of their pregnant partners (i.e., prenatal, labor and birth; finally, postnatal). Each stage is accompanied by its own set of challenges and obstacles for the transitioning male. While I don’t want to give away the ending, I will point out that the authors suggest that the postnatal stage (the stage I’m in) has the potential to be the most inter- and intra-personally challenging in the sense of dealing with their our new identity as the baby daddy.  Not me! I’m lovin’ it! Of course, it could be the significant increase in caffeine I’ve consumed daily in order to combat the lack of Zs. Nevertheless, I’m sure this new caffeinated adventure will be full of the strange and the weird, like the rest of my life. With that, there should be interesting tales and experiences that will no doubt find their way into this blog.

With that, I would like to congratulate myself and the rest of the newly named baby daddies out their, and wish us good luck, we are going to need it.

Genesoni & Tallandini (2009)

“I” love “you”

By Erica Zaiser

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and so many couples may be reflecting on the status of their relationship. If you aren’t already over-thinking what every little thing your partner does (or doesn’t do) this season means, here is yet another way in which you can dissect the quality of your relationship during your romantic evening. Or, at the very least, this might give you something interesting to talk about with your date when you realize you have nothing in common but already paid for two overpriced three-course Valentine’s Day meals.

According to recent research on the language of couples, the words used when a couple discusses their relationship can be indicative of their satisfaction in the relationship and its longevity. In studies looking at daily Instant Messaging conversations between couples, researchers found that the pronouns used most could predict both satisfaction with a partner and the likelihood that the relationship would still be intact 6 months later. For women, their use of “I” was most related to satisfaction with their partner. But men’s use of “me” suggested a small negative relationship with their partner’s satisfaction with them. Although negative emotion words had no relation to satisfaction or stability, the use of positive emotion words by men was related to increased satisfaction for both partners and an increased chance of relationship survival.

There is other research suggesting that the use of “I” can be beneficial over “you” because “you” can be blaming while “I” is self-reflective, but this research shows that there may be gender differences between the perception of and meaning behind pronoun choice. Furthermore, the researchers suggest that word choice by couples is context dependent. Using “you” when discussing the relationship is very different from the use of “you” in normal everyday conversation.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Try not to spend the whole evening with your date (if you are lucky enough to have one) counting their “you”s and “I”s.

Read more: Am “I” more important than “you”

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Breast augmentation and female sexuality

The Daily Star and Daily Mail recently ran articles speculating whether Coleen Rooney had had a ‘boob job’. According to the Daily Star, apparently ‘Wayne splashed out £10,000 for his wife to have a breast enlargement as a present in the wake of allegations about him sleeping with prostitutes’. Whether Mrs Rooney has had cosmetic surgery on her breasts or not, breast augmentation tells us something about contemporary gender relations and specifically notions of femininity and female sexuality.

According to Bordo (1999: 283) the pornographisation of culture and changing media representations of girls’ and women’s bodies, since the 1950s, has meant that both girls/boys and wo/men have become socialized to expect to see female breasts as ‘glorious globes standing at attention even when supine’. She goes on to point out that ‘real breasts are the anomaly in visual culture today; it’s rather a shock when a naked actress lies down and her breasts flop off to the side. It doesn’t look right anymore’. What Bordo is arguing, is that the contemporary ‘idealised’ and ‘sexualised’ female body is one that doesn’t have ‘natural’ breasts, and as such, results in many girls and women being dissatisfied with their bodies. For some women at least, such dissatisfaction leads to breast augmentation. Indeed, statistics on plastic surgery in the UK (see link below) show many more women than men undergoing the surgeon’s knife, especially for breast enlargement.

Coleen’s £10k Boob Job

Plastic surgery in the UK

Cosmetic surgery