The relations among feminism, gender role orientation, and psychological well-being in women
Saunders, Kendra Jean
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Many feminists suggest empowerment and equality between the sexes will lead to better conditions for women (Harlan, 1998). Furthermore, feminist therapists suggest that awareness regarding the impact of our patriarchal culture can lead women to differentiate what is in their best interest from socially ingrained behavior, and that this differentiation can empower women to have personal freedom and a willingness to consider other life alternatives (Prochaska & Norcross, 1999). Consequently, this awareness may give women the power to influence their personal lives and society so that both may better meet the needs of women and lead to improved mental health. Consistent with this view connecting feminism and mental health, feminist therapists propose a connection between feminism and well-being (Wilkinson & Kitzinger, 1994). A limited amount of research supports this assertion; however, this research has been criticized as being mostly conceptual, anecdotal, or based on clinical case studies (Markson, 1984; Wemer-Wilson, Zimmerman, Daniels, & Bowling, 1999). Furthermore, research on this topic has neglected the impact of gender role orientation on both feminism and well-being. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the relations between feminism, gender role orientation, and psychological well-being among women. It was expected that women with a more developed level of feminist orientation would exhibit a greater sense of psychological well-being than women who were less feminist. In addition, it was anticipated that women who were higher in feminism would exhibit greater levels of stereotypic masculinity than women who are less feminist, and that women who were more androgynous or stereotypically masculine would exhibit greater levels of psychological well-being than women who were stereotypically feminine or undifferentiated (Taylor &; Hall, 1982; Bassoff & Glass, 1982). Finally, this research explored whether feminism and gender role orientation interact in predicting well-being. The results suggested that having a stereotypical masculine or androgynous gender role orientation was predictive of a greater sense of psychological well-being. In addition, and contrary to prediction, women with a more advanced level of feminism were no more likely to be stereotypically masculine than women who were less feminist. The results regarding the relationship between feminism and well-being were mixed, but generally suggested that a greater degree of feminism was related to a heightened sense of psychological well-being. Finally, level of feminism and gender role orientation did not interact in predicting well-being. The implications of these findings are discussed, as well as limitations and possible future directions.
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