Femininity and masculinity are not innate, permanent, or universally defined. The particular cultural context in which racial/ethnic minority groups live their daily lives gives unique meaning to conceptions of femininity and masculinity. Culture and gender work jointly to affect the attitudes, feelings, characteristics, and behaviors experienced by such groups. Knowledge and appreciation of such cultural definitions are as important to effective assessment and treatment of mental health issues with racial/ethnic minority groups as clinical training. African American, American Indian, Asian American, and Latino cultures each have unique perspectives on the meaning of being a woman and being a man. Their perspectives are influenced not only by the worldview of their racial/ ethnic minority group but also by the history of their political, economic, and social relationships with the majority culture. For example, although minority men have tried to be effective providers and protectors, they have been severely blocked in their efforts because of racism. In their frustration, they have developed unique survival strategies, for example, Cool Pose in the case of African American men. Modifications, like Cool Pose and others, to majority culture notions of masculinity and femininity, must be taken into consideration by mental health professionals working on gender-role conflicts with women and men who are members of racial/ethnic minority groups.
African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, and Latinas/os possess distinctive, rich cultural backgrounds. However, they share many important cultural values that enable them to survive in the racist environments in which they live their everyday lives. The values they have in common include the importance of the extended family, interdependence, cooperation, and spirituality. These are values that every therapist can acknowledge and respect in the therapeutic setting. Doing so can only enhance the interaction between client and therapist as well as promote the goals of assessment and treatment.
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