Communicating Non-normative Status through Asymmetrical Gender-marking: Consequences and Implications

Open Access
Cundiff, Jessica L.
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 30, 2013
Committee Members:
  • Theresa K Vescio, Dissertation Advisor
  • Stephanie A Shields, Committee Member
  • Janet Swim, Committee Member
  • Eric Loken, Special Member
  • gender
  • bias
  • sexism
  • norm
  • social psychology
  • stigma
  • stereotyping
  • nonverbal behavior
  • perceptions
Asymmetrical gender-marking, or referencing the gender of one group (typically women) but not the other group (typically men), is common. Although such linguistic practices may seem relatively harmless or even positive, given the potential benevolent intentions that may motivate its use, results across four studies suggest that asymmetrical gender-marking has some unintended and potentially harmful consequences. Consistent with predictions, asymmetrical gender-marking influenced perceptions of the gendered nature of a given context and aroused concerns of stigma for members of the marked group. When women were asymmetrically marked (compared to not marked), the context was perceived as more male-dominated and stereotypically masculine (Preliminary Study, Studies 1-2). In addition, in contexts where women were asymmetrically marked (vs. not marked), women reported greater concerns about being treated and/or judged in terms of their gender (Study 2) and exhibited more nervous movements during an interview (Study 3). Together, these results suggest that asymmetrically marking women may have unintended negative effects that can contribute to gender disparities within a domain.