Gender norms shape how gays, lesbians are treated globally
A study on global gender norms has confirmed some ideas we have on why gay men and lesbian women are targets of prejudice and violence in society. However, there are some interesting revelations.
For one, gay men are disliked more than lesbian women globally across 23 countries in five continents. This is due to negative attitudes guided by perception that gays and lesbians violate traditional gender norms.
However, in three countries– China, India, and South Korea– correlation between gender norm beliefs vis-a-vis attitudes towards gays and lesbians were absent or even reversed.
Gender norms study takes on the world
The study— which was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science– was undertaken by Maria Laura Bettinsoli, Alexandra Suppes, and Jamie Napier of the New York University of Abu Dhabi.
The study looked at how attitudes and prejudices were shaped by testing how beliefs about gender norms and people’s attitudes towards gay men and lesbian women relate across the globe.
In the study, gender norms is defined as expectations of a society for how men and women act and look.
The team looked at attitudes against gays and lesbians separately as most research focuses on homosexuality as a broad category. Moreover, the research doesn’t separate attitudes by gender.
Perception of gay men and lesbian women
Among their findings was that gay men were consistently rated more negatively than lesbian women in the vast majority of their samples.
Bettinsoli said they were surprised at “at the consistency of the relationship between gender norm endorsement and sexual prejudice.”
“Even though there were some non-Western countries that did not conform to the pattern, the majority of countries did,” she added.
These findings ran true for Western countries like Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, and the US. But the results were also true for countries like Russia, South Africa, and Turkey.
“We also found that, in line with previous research, the endorsement of gender norms was associated with anti-gay attitudes– toward both gay men and lesbian women– in every Western country in our sample,” she said.
Surprises in the gender norms study
However, for South Korea, they saw that endorsement of gender norms was unrelated to attitudes towards gay men and lesbian women.
Likewise, in Japan, there was only a small association between gender norm endorsement and attitudes towards gay men. But this wasn’t applicable to lesbian women.
Bettinsoli added that: “In China and India, the reverse pattern emerged. Those who were highest on endorsement of traditional gender roles were the most positive toward gay men and lesbian women.”
However, while some countries show friendlier attitudes towards gays and lesbians, discriminatory attitudes still exist in the more tolerant countries.