|Why Women Faced With Gender Inequality Can Support Authoritarian Values|
|Living - Society|
|TS-Si News Service|
|Thursday, 05 July 2012 09:00|
Chicago, IL, USA. Women in countries with great gender inequality are more likely than men to support authoritarian values, according to a new study of 54 countries.
The shift away from beliefs in independence and freedom is the result, social psychologists say, of authoritarianism helping such women cope with a threatening environment.
"If a person is authoritarian, they are more likely to follow what group leaders ask them to do, and to follow the crowd more generally," says Mark Brandt of DePaul University, a co-author of a paper that appears in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Prior research has found that adopting authoritarian beliefs gives people a sense of connection to others and protection against threats. "It might be one way to compensate for the social devaluing that is associated with being a member of a disadvantaged group."
Brandt and his co-author P.J. Henry thus predicted that the greater the gender inequality in a country, the greater the endorsement of authoritarianism by women compared to men. They investigated this relationship by analyzing survey data from 54 countries, from Argentina to Vietnam.
As predicted, they found a link between high gender inequality and a support of authoritarian values among women. "I think many people will be surprised to find out that women can be more authoritarian than men," Brandt says. Most past research on authoritarianism has failed to show gender differences, perhaps, Brandt says, because these data were collected in the United States and other developed nations with lower levels of gender inequality. "Step outside that cultural zone to locations of greater gender inequality, and you will find greater gender differences."
Countries such as Morocco, Turkey, and Malta all rank in the top 12 of most gender unequal countries in the sample and so they have a higher probability that women will be more authoritarian than men, the researchers found. In comparison Sweden, Norway, and Finland have the least amount of gender inequality. The United States ranks 38th out of 54 in gender inequality.
The relationship does not hold across every country in the world, however. "Countries that are more collectivist seem to be exempt from this inequality-authoritarianism relationship for women," Brandt says. Collectivist countries are those where people find themselves largely dependent on their families and social groups and include Indonesia, Colombia, and Venezuela, among others.
The researchers additionally found that men are more authoritarian than women when there are lower levels of gender inequality. "One possible, though speculative, explanation is that men in these countries feel threatened by the additional economic and political competition from women and become authoritarian to deal with these changes," Brandt says.
The research is important, Brandt says, in understanding the effects of gender inequality on psychological processes. "Inequality has psychological consequences, not just economic and health consequences," he says. "People's brains are not passive receptacles to being devalued and disadvantaged in a society; people adjust, adapt, and otherwise deal with devaluing in ways that they may not even be aware of."
"People often do not think of authoritarian values as being something that could be psychologically attractive for everyday people, and especially psychologically attractive to women," Brandt says, noting that people most often associate authoritarianism with oppressive regimes such as those of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. "Our research shows that, given the right environment of inequality and devaluing, you actually will see women endorse these values more than men."
CitationGender Inequality and Gender Differences in Authoritarianism. Mark J. Brandt and P. J. Henry. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 2012. doi:10.1177/0146167212449871
Authoritarianism may be endorsed in part as a means of managing and buffering psychological threats (e.g., Duckitt & Fisher, 2003; Henry, 2011). Building on this research, the authors postulated that authoritarianism should be especially prevalent among women in societies with high levels of gender inequality because they especially face more psychological threats associated with stigma compared with men. After establishing that authoritarianism is, in part, a response to rejection, a psychological threat associated with stigma (Study 1), the authors used multilevel modeling to analyze data from 54 societies to find that women endorsed authoritarian values more than men, especially in individualistic societies with high levels of gender inequality (Study 2). Results show that the threats of stigma for women are not uniform across different cultures and that the degree of stigma is related to the degree of endorsement of psychologically protective attitudes such as authoritarianism.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 05 July 2012 09:04|