She sat with her legs open, he danced with a man : attitudes to non-normative gendered behaviours in a university student population

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This study is an exploration of the attitudes of first year psychology students (n=382) at the University of Cape Town to gender norm violations. Two variations of a questionnaire were administered to assess the degree of acceptance or unacceptance of behaviours that deviate from the expected norms for men and women. The questionnaires were similar in that scenarios used were the same. However, in the second variation of the questionnaire, the gender was reversed. This was done to control for factors beyond gender stereotyping which may confound the results. Analysis of Variance (AN OVA) was carried out on the data. Broadly speaking, the findings indicated that both men and women agreed on a large number of gender acceptable and unacceptable behaviours for both sexes but differed in their assessment of the degree of un acceptability. Levels of tolerance varied, with women being generally more tolerant than men. Men appeared to be more critical of one another, but their behaviours were also more censored by women. Attributions also varied with women's violations of gender boundaries being seen as sexually suggestive, whereas the violations committed by men led to them being seen as potentially homosexual. Closer analysis revealed that subtle underlying gender biases were present, with a range of behaviours being only slightly more or less acceptable for one gender than the other. Based on these findings it is argued that both men and women are subject to the same gender stereotyping and are thus in agreement as to which behaviours are deemed unacceptable and thus police their own and the opposite sex accordingly. The subtle differences could be accounted for by the internalisation of longstanding gender norms that are deeply entrenched even within a population living in an era of gender equality and non-discrimination.

Bibliography: leaves 123-130.