Dynamic Stereotypes about Women and Men in Latin America and the United States

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To describe the dynamic versus static stereotype for men or women within a particular country, we report the simple linear trends for each dimension of the stereotypes within the target sex and country. To determine whether these trends differed between specific coun- tries, each between-country contrast took the form of a Country × Year linear interaction for a dimension within a target sex. The overall Country × Year interaction that took all three countries into account simultaneously was also calculated but is not reported. To test the hypothesis that a group undergoing social change is believed to adopt traits associated with its new roles, this study examined perceptions of women and men of the past, present, and future in Brazil, Chile, and the United States. These dynamic stereotypes, which are present-day beliefs about a group as changing its characteristics, followed the specific profile of role change in each nation. The perception of men as increasing in masculine characteristics, which was found only in Chile and Brazil, cohered with changes in their roles following industrialization and democratization. The perception of women as increasing in masculine characteristics, which was found in all three nations, cohered with their increasing participation in public roles.

Consistent with our findings and the effect sizes, citizens of each country perceived increases in women’s masculine characteristics and decreases in women’s positive feminine personality characteristics. The largest perceived changes occurred on women’s positive masculine personality characteristics. However, the countries differed in their perceptions of how men’s characteristics have changed over time. The U.S. participants perceived stability in men’s positive masculine personality, masculine cognitive, and masculine physical characteristics, whereas the Latin American participants per- ceived increases in these characteristics. Furthermore, the Latin American participants were less likely than the U.S. participants to perceive increases in men’s feminine cognitive and feminine physical traits. Participants from the three countries perceived women as adopting masculine personality, cognitive, and physical characteristics at a rapid rate from the past to the future. In the recent past of all these societies, women have greatly increased their participation in public roles, such as the paid work force and the government. Although this change has occurred through a somewhat different route in Brazil and Chile from the United States, women’s entry into traditionally male-dominated spheres leads to beliefs that women are gaining masculine characteristics.

The perception of more extreme dynamism of women in the Latin American countries, especially Brazil, corresponds to more extreme change in the roles within these countries than the United States. Urban population, fertility, and women’s labor force participation have all changed more dramatically in the Latin American nations, especially Brazil, than in the United States (see Table 1). These differing degrees of role change parallel the estimates of role nontraditionalism: Latin American participants, especially those from Brazil, estimated more traditional roles in the past and more nontraditional roles in the future than U.S. participants. As indicated by the path analyses, these beliefs about the gendered division of labor formed the basis of beliefs about the adoption of counterstereotypic characteristics. Observers thus appear to be sensitive to even subtle differences in the extremity of role change that has occurred in their nations.

The largest cultural divergence appeared in beliefs about the dynamism of men. In the United States, participants generally perceived men as remaining stable in their attributes, without much increase or decrease in masculine or feminine characteristics. In contrast, par- ticipants in Chile and Brazil perceived men to be gaining masculine characteristics from the past to the future: Men were perceived as increasing in their stereotypically masculine characteristics, such as independence, assertiveness, quantitative skills, and muscular strength. One possible interpretation of the Latin American projection of increased masculinity in men is that the machismo ideology leads to the optimistic projection that men of the future will have increasingly high levels of these highly favored masculine qualities. However, projections resting solely on machismo/marianismo ideologies should also include predictions that women will become more feminine and less masculine—patterns not reflected in these data. 


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