Gender-role conflict may occur for racial and ethnic minority groups in trying to live up to the definitions of traditional femininity and masculinity proposed by the majority culture. The word traditional is used to differentiate between the former and the more expansive, flexible notions of femininity and masculinity for both women and men since the women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
African American men, like their White male counterparts, have valued and tried to meet the requirements of the traditional male role: being a protector, provider, and breadwinner. Racism, however, in every domain of their lives has prevented African Americans from successfully fulfilling their roles as men. In addition, racism, historically and today, has assaulted their very worth as human beings. To cope, Black men have developed a psychological strategy known as "Cool Pose" (Majors & Billson, 1992) which is a facade of postures, gestures, language, and demeanor used to hide their true feelings of fear, hurt, and rage. Cool Pose is the appearance of being emotionless, calm, and detached in the face of pain and atrocities. Cool Pose is beneficial to Black men in that it provides them with dignity, self-worth, and strength. However, it is not without costs. To the extent that Cool Pose becomes deeply internalized, it can be difficult to discard when necessary, for example, in relationships with women. Routinely having to hide their feelings, their needs, and their weaknesses may prevent them from letting down the facade in order to achieve intimacy with women.
Bowman (1992) studied gender-role strain in Black men who were both husbands and fathers. Specifically, Bowman assessed provider role strain, which was operationally defined to include such domains as father-role discouragement, husband-role discouragement, primary provider discouragement, objective employment barriers, and familial subsistence anxiety. The results showed that provider role strain reduced the men's global family satisfaction. Interestingly, two cultural resources were found to mitigate the negative impact of provider role strain, namely, family closeness and religious belief. That is, husband-fathers whose families were very close reported greater global family satisfaction compared to those whose families were less close. Similarly, husband-fathers who were very religious reported greater global family satisfaction than those who were less religious.
B. Gender-Role Conflict Related to Differences between the Majority Culture and Racial and Ethnic Minorities in Their Conceptions of Femininity and Masculinity
Although the masculine gender role of African American men includes characteristics found in the masculine gender role of majority culture men, the former also includes characteristics that the majority culture tends to view as more feminine. For example, African American men endorse competition, ambition, and providing for their families; however, they also endorse such characteristics as spirituality, communalism, and emotional sensitivity (Cazenave, 1984; Hunter & Davis, 1992). The differences in the two conceptions of masculinity may create conflict to the extent that Black men may wish to fulfill the masculine gender role as defined by the majority culture, but may also wish to live up to the expectations of the masculine gender role as specified by the African American culture. As Lazur and Majors (1995) point out, all minority men must examine their culture's dictates surrounding masculinity and those of the majority culture in order to arrive at an integrated sense of self that allows them to determine their unique place in society. (In an important chapter on the strains of the masculine gender role for minority men, the authors examine each of the four major racial/ethnic minority groups and its particular gender-role conflict.
LaFromboise, Berman, and Sohi (1994) discuss American Indian sociocul-tural beliefs and values with respect to a number of areas, including gender roles, family relationships, and developmental stages. They explain American Indians' beliefs concerning wellness and unwellness. Wellness exists when spirit, mind, and body are in balance and harmony. An individual who violates a sacred taboo risks unwellness not only for herself or himself, but for any member of the extended family. One such taboo is for a female to expose her body to others. Thus, a young woman at a non-Indian school who is expected to undress and shower in a locker room as part of the requirements for a physical education class experiences gender-role conflict. She may resolve this conflict by failing the class.
Another source of conflict for the Indian woman may be the opposing demands of school, work, and tribe. Attending to professional or school-related responsibilities may cause her to be absent from important ceremonies. Her absence may have a negative impact on her well-being because participation in sacred tribal rituals is critical in promoting balance and harmony of spirit, mind, and body.
Historically, in their definitions of appropriate gender roles for women, American Indians differed from the majority culture. Interestingly, the majority of Indian women enjoyed far more flexible gender roles and exercised far more power as women, prior to European conquest over indigenous peoples, than did their European female counterparts. There is extensive documentation that, before the conquest, numerous tribes were characterized by a system of egalitarian relations between Indian women and men and power was shared equally (LaFromboise et al., 1994; LaFromboise, Heyle, & Ozer, 1990).
Some tribes gave a great deal of power to women and were matrilineal and matrifocal. Indeed, the institutionalization of alternative roles for women existed among Plains tribes. For example, "manly-hearted women" were independent and aggressive (LaFromboise et al., 1990, p. 458); "crazy women" were sexually adventurous (LaFromboise et al., 1990, p. 458). In many tribes, females could actually assume masculine social and occupational roles. This practice was institutionalized through the "berdache" (LaFromboise et al., 1990, p. 459), which sometimes included marriage to a same-sex partner. In other tribes, there was acceptance of uninhibited sexual expression, and there was social acceptance of nontraditional women and men, lesbian women, and homosexual men.
Gender-role conflict occurred for Indian women from such tribes with flexible gender roles because White European culture was far less tolerant of such flexibility, and many Indian women, accustomed to serving as tribal leaders and participating in tribal councils, lost their right to contribute to the lives of their communities.
American Indian women continue to experience gender-role conflict today. The legacy of European conquest, in some tribes and to varying degree, has been dominance and control over Indian women by Indian men with all the strains that accompany hierarchical relations. In addition, Indian women have had to reassert their rightful place as tribal leaders politically, economically, and socially.
Traditional Latino culture emphasizes expressive (feminine) traits over instrumental (masculine) traits among Latinas, whereas, the majority culture, relatively speaking, is more rewarding of instrumentality in women. Thus, a low degree of instrumentality may place Latinas at greater risk for poor mental health. The results of research on employed Hispanic women provide some support for such a speculation. Using the BSRI (previously described in section I) with a group of professional Hispanic women, Long and Martinez (1994) found a positive correlation between psychological masculinity and both self-esteem and self-acceptance. In other words, the higher the degree of her masculine characteristics, the higher her self-esteem and self-acceptance; conversely, the lower the degree of her masculine characteristics, the lower her self-esteem and self-acceptance. Napholz (1994) reported a negative correlation between depression and both instrumentality and self-esteem among Hispanic working women.
Napholz (1995) also found similar results in a study of midwestern, American Indian working women. Specifically, depression was significantly higher in women with a feminine gender-role orientation than women with an androgynous or a masculine gender-role orientation.
Was this article helpful?