Gender Asymmetry in the Construction of American National Identity

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Psychology of Women Quarterly, ISSN: 0361-6843, Vol: 41, Issue: 3, Page: 352-367

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Van Berkel, Laura; Molina, Ludwin E.; Mukherjee, Sahana
SAGE Publications
Social Sciences; Psychology; Arts and Humanities; national identity; subgroup asymmetry; gender; nationalism; feminine; masculine; Gender and Sexuality
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article description
Dominant groups (e.g., White U.S. citizens) are more associated with “American” identity and they feel greater ownership over American national identity compared to ethnic minority groups. We extended this perception to gender and tested whether American national identity is constructed in masculine, versus feminine, terms. We examined whether U.S. men feel greater symbolic ownership over the nation and represent what it means to be a prototypical American, more than U.S. women. In Study 1, men and women considered male-associated traits more American than female-associated traits and listed more men as examples of “true” Americans than women. In Study 2, men reported higher levels of nationalism than women. Women’s nationalism was moderated by their conception of male-associated traits as American—women who viewed American identity as more masculine were less nationalistic. Men showed a stronger correlation between gender identity and American identity compared to women. However, correlations between gender identity and nationalism did not differ by participant gender. Results suggest men and masculinity are considered more American than are women and femininity. We provide support for the subgroup asymmetry hypothesis through the novel lens of gender. We discuss means of attenuating the gendered construction of national identity in terms of media, policy, and education. Additional online materials for this article, including study materials, a podcast interview with the author, and slides for instructors who want to use this article for teaching, are available on PWQ’s website at