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The intersection of race and gender may create unique experiences for Black and White women in terms of work, family, domestic roles, and interpersonal relationships. Dissimilar gender-role norms may foster different perceptions of gender for these two groups of women.
One additional theme, Inner Strength, emerged only for Black women. Although many of the broad perceptions of womanhood were similar for Black and White women, analysis of the content within each theme highlighted important differences. We discuss the in terms of how they may reflect socio-historical factors, gender discrimination, stereotypes, and gender-role norms. Gender is socially constructed, and how women conceptualize their own gender is shaped by numerous factors, such as gender-role socialization, interpersonal interactions, media messages, and personal experiences as women e.
Some of these external forces and personal experiences may create similar perceptions of gender for women of different backgrounds.
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One factor that may contribute to these differences is race. In addition to their importance singly, gender and race intersect to place individuals into unique positions based on the combination of these groups e. Another example of intersectionality is the finding that feminist attitudes buffered psychological outcomes for sexually harassed White women, but exacerbated psychological outcomes for sexually harassed Black women Rederstorff et al.
Thus, we regard gender and race as often internalized group memberships i. As a result, women of different ethnic backgrounds may face similar forms of gender-based mistreatment, such as gender discrimination and sexism.
Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, The ambiguity and subtlety of modern-day sexism may present additional challenges to women by creating uncertainty about whether they have been the target of mistreatment. These and other types of gender-based mistreatment of women are prevalent.
Although Black and White women are both devalued on the basis of their gender, double jeopardy theory Beal, ; King, suggests that Black women may face additional challenges because their race is also devalued. Consistent with the idea of double marginalization, man have found that, compared to White women, Black women experience higher rates of sexual harassment e. Within the United States, socio-historical factors have created differences in the gender-role norms typically held for Black and White women.
Many of these differences grew out of the cult of true womanhood Perkins, Lansing Welter,a notion of womanhood that emerged for White middle-class women in the mids. This ideal emphasized modesty, purity, and domesticity for White women and identified wife and mother as woman primary and most important roles.
Historically, Black women dating viewed in contrast to this norm for middle-class White women. There is evidence that these historical ideals persist in the stereotypes of Black and White women. In contrast, stereotypes of Black women e. These historical differences in gender-role norms and ideals have led to the stratification of Black black White women in multiple domains.
For example, historically, White middle-class women were expected to end their work or schooling after marriage so they could devote themselves to their domestic roles. Today, White women have ificantly increased their presence in the labor force, but frequently work in sex-segregated occupations Reskin, ; U. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and are still primarily defined by their family and caretaking roles.
In contrast, since slavery, Black women have been expected to work while taking care of their families Davis, ; Pascale, Thus, Black women commonly combine their work and family roles. As a result of these differences in work and family norms, Black and White women may come to view womanhood as having different requirements related to work and domestic roles.
The current study seeks to examine similarities and differences in the perceptions of womanhood for Black and White women. Because this study was largely exploratory, specific hypotheses were not proposed. However, the literature does suggest some areas in which we might observe both similarities and differences between the Black and White women in our study.
In addition, Black and White women may both describe experiences of sexism and sexual harassment; however, the nature of their gender-based mistreatment may differ according to the stereotypes of the groups e. Although there is extant research on differences in the experiences of Black and White women e.
Thus, we used qualitative focus groups to encourage women to speak about their lived experiences rather than our imposing preconceived notions upon them Madriz, ; Wilkinson, To maximize the diversity of experiences and responses, women of varying ages and socioeconomic backgrounds were included.
Participants for four of the focus groups were recruited from a mid-sized community in a Midwestern state through newspaper advertisements and flyers. These materials invited women to participate in a study in which they could share their experiences related to being a member of their gender and racial group e.
Participants for the remaining two focus groups were recruited from a psychology subject pool comprising students from several undergraduate classes at a large Midwestern university. Table 1 provides sample demographic information by racial group and the of ificance tests comparing Black and White women on these variables. ificance tests yielded no differences between the Black and White participants in age, education, sexual orientation, having children, or of children, although, because of our small sample size, we may lack sufficient power to detect differences.
However, Black women were ificantly more likely to be single, and White women were more likely to be married. Further, although not reaching ificance, a pattern emerged such that White women were more likely to be unemployed, whereas Black women were more likely to be working part-time.
Percentages represent percent of the total of participants in the group indicated in the column heading. In total, six 2-hour focus groups were conducted for Black and White women three groups each.
Each focus group was limited to a maximum of 10 participants, and the actual size was dependent on participant availability Black group sample sizes: 2, 5, and 7; White group sample sizes: 5, 6, and 6. To increase group comfort and cohesion, the facilitator and assistant were women of the same race as focus group participants; the same facilitator-assistant pair led all three sessions for their race-gender group.
The facilitator was responsible for reviewing the study guidelines and posing questions to participants. As participants arrived, they completed a demographic questionnaire and consent forms for participation and video and audio recording.
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At the start of each focus group, the facilitator reviewed the general purpose of the study, the rights of participants, and ground rules for the discussion. Participants were told that there was no correct answer to any question, and they were to speak freely but be respectful of differences. What are some of the advantages disadvantages of being a woman? Does being a woman help you to know more about who you are or give your life a sense of purpose? Are there things that you find special or valuable about being a woman, even if they make life harder?
If so, what types?
Are there unique, different, or special things about being a woman? If so, what are they? At the end of the focus group, participants were debriefed, compensated, and thanked. Focus group discussions were transcribed verbatim from the audio and video recordings and checked for accuracy by a second independent transcriber.
Within a grounded theory framework, data collection and analysis is an iterative process, allowing themes to emerge from the data rather than imposing theory a priori. Eight trained student and faculty coders 2 Black women, 2 Latinas, 2 White women, and 2 White men conducted a line-by-line analysis in search of salient. Participant sentences or statements could be coded for multiple themes. Disagreements were resolved through discussion with the first author. An additional theme, Inner Strength, emerged only for Black women.
Conceptualizations of gender and race
A summary of the of Black and White women discussing each of the themes and subthemes can be found in Table 2. We are presenting quotations with minor edits e. Black and White women described experiences of sexism, harassment, or gender-based discrimination.
White women, more than Black women, expressed having been discriminated against at school. Most often, they described not being offered the same of options and level of encouragement they felt men received, especially in male-dominated areas of study.
For example, a White year-old law student said about her mathematics education:. And I saw there was another guy who was in my grade, they let skip a couple of the classes and skip a couple of levels and go to the college … and take advanced classes and I was as smart as this kid and they never afforded me these opportunities. Black and White women shared experiences of gender discrimination in the workplace.
This latter experience is illustrated by a White year-old woman who said:. My first experience with being a woman negatively impacting me was the first job that I ever had at a jewelry factory that was owned by cousins of mine. That really set the course…. Some women felt that even if they held the same position as male employees they were still treated differently. For example, a Black year-old woman described her experience as a used car salesperson:.
She just wants to raise a family.
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Some White women also described sexual harassment in school and the workplace, sometimes with lasting effects on their career and educational choices:. When I was in graduate school I was sexually harassed by a professor I was working for, and it was probably the worst experience of my life…. It changed the course of my career.
It was just this very horribly emotional traumatic thing for me. Both Black and White women described experiences of sexual harassment in the community, concerns about their safety, and fears of rape. Now I live four houses from the store….