Laura Van Berkel, University of Cologne – Men and Masculinity are Seen as American

Is America seen as a masculine country?

Laura Van Berkel, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Cologne, determines if citizens feel gender inequality is ingrained in our national identity.

Laura Van Berkel is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Cologne in Cologne, Germany. She earned her doctorate from the University of Kansas in 2016. Her research examines gender in conceptions of national identity and the ideological consequences of fundamental cognitive processes, including support for hierarchy and the status quo.

Men and Masculinity are Seen as American

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Men and women can both be American citizens. But there are clear differences in political representation. For example, women comprise only about 20% of the United States Congress, and universal women’s suffrage in the US was only achieved within the last 100 years.

Men have greater control and status in society, as seen in their overrepresentation in politics. We thought that, as result, men would be more likely to feel greater ownership of and identification with the nation.

To examine whether people see men as more American, American adults rated stereotypically masculine and feminine traits on how “American” the traits were. Participants also listed five examples of Americans, like Oprah or JFK.

People rated masculine traits as more American and listed over seven times more men as examples of Americans than women.

To examine whether men feel more American, male and female participants reported national identification, gender identification, and nationalism (or the belief the US is superior to other countries).

Men felt more American than women. For men, the importance of being male was tied to the importance of their identity as being American. This relation was weaker for women. Men were also more nationalistic. Women’s nationalism depended on how masculine they viewed the US—the more masculine the US, meant the lower their sense of nationalism

Results suggest equal legal citizenship does not guarantee that citizenship is viewed equally. Men and masculinity are seen as more American and more important to American identity.

Gender inequality in national identity possibly means male political candidates have an advantage over female candidates—they may be seen as more patriotic and American. Greater gender equality in politics, media coverage of leaders, and society in general may help create greater gender equality in national identity.

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