Elizabeth R. Cole and Natalie J. Sabik, Women's Studies Department and Psychology Department, University of Michigan.
ASSOCIATIONS BETWEEN FEMININITY AND WOMEN'S POLITICAL BEHAVIOR DURING MIDLIFE
Article first published online: 2 NOV 2010
©2010 Division 35, American Psychological Association
Psychology of Women Quarterly
Volume 34, Issue 4, pages 508–520, December 2010
How to Cite
Cole, E. R. and Sabik, N. J. (2010), ASSOCIATIONS BETWEEN FEMININITY AND WOMEN'S POLITICAL BEHAVIOR DURING MIDLIFE. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34: 508–520. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2010.01600.x
We are grateful to Nicola Curtin, Lauren Duncan, and Abigail Stewart for helpful feedback on the manuscript.
- Issue published online: 2 NOV 2010
- Article first published online: 2 NOV 2010
- Initial submission: June 2, 2009Initial acceptance: January 26, 2010Final acceptance: June 30, 2010
The contention that femininity makes women unsuited for political participation has roots in feminist theory and political science. This study investigated whether the desirable and undesirable dimensions of femininity, corresponding to Feminine Interpersonal Relations (FIR: warmth, nurturance, and interpersonal appeal) and Feminine Self-Doubt (FSD: submissiveness, self-doubt, anxiety, and passivity), have independent and interactive effects on Black and White women's political efficacy and participation. Using questionnaires administered to alumnae of the college classes of 1967–73 in 1992 and 2008, coders assessed femininity variables at Time 1 when participants were in their 40s using items from the California Q-Set. Political variables were assessed at Time 1 and when the participants were in their early 60s. In general, FIR was associated with greater participation and efficacy, both directly and in interaction with low FSD, and FSD was associated with lower efficacy scores. Specifically, at Time 1, women rated high on FIR and low in FSD were highest on political efficacy; those high in both types of femininity scored lowest. At Time 2, among women high in FIR, low FSD was associated with enhanced levels of participation; however, among those low in FIR, FSD was unrelated to participation. Results are discussed in light of women's midlife development and Black women's gender socialization. Recognition of the role of feminine qualities such as warmth, social skill, and compassion in political work could encourage women endorsing feminist beliefs to act politically.