In recognition of Women’s Equality Day on August 26, SPSP interviewed two members whose research focuses on gender. Charlotte Tate of San Francisco State University and Matt Hammond of Victoria University of Wellington spoke about their research interests, and how their work is connected to women’s equality.
Charlotte’s research focuses on topics that have been studied within the larger rubric of individual differences and as targets of prejudice and discrimination—gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.
She came to this area of research both personally and professionally. On a personal level, as a [trans] woman, queer woman, and being of mixed ethnicity, she saw that some research was incorrectly characterizing these experiences. On a professional level, she was interested in creating psychological theories and research programs from a place that centered the experiences of these historically marginalized identities into the mainstream of psychological research.
“It was always a combination of interesting and upsetting to see women's experiences characterized mostly by men; trans folks’ experiences characterized by cis folks; queer experiences characterized mostly by heterosexual people; and minority ethnicity experiences characterized mostly by European-Americans. I thought I could help round-out these perspectives,” Charlotte said.
Part of Charlotte’s research starts from the premise that cis and trans women are equally valid instantiations of women, and her lab is finding that the similarities in their experiences of gender constructs seem to be more prevalent than the differences. She also focuses on women of all sexual orientation identities to fully investigate all the constructs related to gender—and to avoid the field’s routine heteronormative bias when discussing women’s issues.
By focusing on women’s experiences in one of the most inclusive ways possible, she hopes that her research can serve as a model for how to do this for other intersectional locations of gender identity experiences (e.g, ability, social class) to help make quantitative research even more inclusive and nuanced, within national cultures and across them.
Matt studies how people’s endorsement of sexist attitudes both develop from, and influence, personal lives and romantic relationships. He became interested in this area of research because he was curious about why gender inequality persists in spite of the close, mutually dependent relationships between men and women and societal norms against inequality.
With collaborators Nickola Overall and Emily Cross at the University of Auckland, he investigates gender inequality using interpersonal theories and methods to assess how sexist attitudes can be fostered by needs for intimacy and how people’s sexist beliefs are linked with relationship behaviors that reinforce traditional gender-role differences.
Their research has found that men’s sexist attitudes are linked with biased perceptions of partners and discomfort with interdependence, which then brings about aggression toward partners. Here, one source of men’s aggression appears to be fear of losing power, rather than the desire for dominance.
“Heterosexual intimate relationships are a subtle shelter for sexist attitudes because attitudes like ‘women should be protected and cherished by men’ are difficult to distinguish from motives to protect and love intimate partners regardless of their gender,” Matt said. “Untangling sexism from traditional notions of romance will be a major advance toward equality.”
Thank you to Charlotte and Matt for speaking about their research in recognition of Women’s Equality Day. You can learn more about Women’s Equality Day by viewing information from the National Women’s History Project.