Also in the early 1970s, I, along with several colleagues at the University of Oregon, attempted to use Parsons's more sociological and less global instrumental-expressive distinction as a basis for research on orientational similarities and differences between college men and women. Following Parsons, we defined expressiveness as a concern with the relations among the individuals within a social system, especially the attitudes and feelings of group members toward the self and each other. Instrumentality we defined as an orientation to goals outside the relational system itself. In Parsons's functionalist terms, instrumental action relates system to environment, and expressive action relates units within the system; both types of action are essential for the survival of any given social system. Both actions are goal-oriented, but the goal of instrumental action is external to the relational system and the goal of expressive action is internal to the system.
By the mid-1970s, Parsons's instrumental-expressive distinction had received much criticism from feminists. At the same time, however, the terms had been adopted by academic psychologists and were being used in "androgyny" research. Because the terms are still used, we decided to attempt to rehabilitate the concept of expressiveness by defining it carefully and by removing it from the context of Parsons's functionalism. We wanted to show that the pejorative connotations that had been attributed to the concept are not a part of its definition.
One major line of criticism of the terms instrumental and expressive had to do with Parsons's use of them in his functionalist description of the family. Taking the nuclear family as the relevant social system, Parsons maintains that the adult male role is specialized in the instrumental direction and the adult female role is specialized in the expressive direction. Parsons views this specialization as functional for marital solidarity because it eliminates competition between husband and wife. Many feminists at the time took this view to be a prime case of Parsons's attempt to justify or legitimate the middle-class mentality of the 1950s, when married women did not work outside the home or worked at minor jobs. In other words, the instrumental-expressive distinction was interpreted as a legitimation for the male provider role and the stay-at-home-wife role.
Actually, however, Parsons's argument has nothing to do with justifying housewifery, which he saw as a shrinking and unsatisfying role for middle-class women. His argument is that the male role is anchored in the predominantly instrumental occupational sphere, and the female role is anchored in the more expressive kinship sphere. Thus, if one takes Parsons's statement about role specialization in the nuclear family as description rather than prescription, the statement is an accurate general characterization of the division of labor that tends to prevail in husband-wife families. Husbands do tend to be the primary breadwinners (they certainly make more money), and wives do continue to be primarily responsible for "taking care of the relationship." Parsons's error is not in his description but in his failure to emphasize the differential power that accrues to the male provider role and the high valuation of instrumental action in this culture.
Our interest in the instrumental-expressive distinction, however, was not in using the terms to describe interaction in social systems but as general descriptors of gender-differentiated personality orientations. Here again, many feminists in the late 1960s and early 1970s rejected "expressiveness" because it had become associated with emotionality, incompetence, and dependence. My associates and I questioned whether these negative connotations formed an inherent part of the definition of expressiveness and tried explicitly to counteract this view of expressive orientations.
Although expressiveness does engage socioemotional skills, it is
misleading to view it as simply being emotional or emotionally labile. Expressiveness does not mean simply expressing emotion in an unpatterned way. Women, in this culture at least, are provided with patterned ways of expressing and negotiating socioemotional subtleties in interaction, whereas men are enjoined to be inexpressive or nonexpressive. Because of this inexpressiveness, men (when the inexpressive mask breaks down) are more likely to express raw emotion, spontaneous unpatterned emotion, than women. Women may resonate with, respond to, cope with, and even define emotion for others, but this is hardly the same as being emotional. Expressiveness then is an integrative skill, not unbridled weeping, so to speak. This view of expressiveness is consonant with Arlie Hochschild's description of women's "emotion work." Hochschild makes a clear distinction between being "easily affected by emotion" and the action of managing emotion.
Neither should expressiveness be confused with dependence and passivity. The seeking of interpersonal rewards is not the same thing as being dependent and lacking autonomy. Expressiveness does not mean giving in to other people, although people in an instrumental culture would tend to interpret expressiveness in this way. This instrumental bias leads us all to think in terms of who is getting the best of whom. Expressiveness denies this way of looking at the world and does not see people and interaction as instrumentalities but more as ends in themselves. Thus, we attempted to develop measures that could separate expressive orientations from an autonomy-dependence dimension.
Finally, to lay claim to expressiveness does not mean one cannot also be instrumental. The research I and my colleagues undertook does not assume that instrumental orientations and expressive orientations are at opposite ends of a continuum, so that if one is instrumental, one cannot be expressive, but rather that they may constitute two separate dimensions. Whether the two are related and how should be an empirical question.
On the basis of the theoretical considerations described above, we had judges select adjectives from the Adjective Check List often used by psychologists that seemed to them to represent the three dimensions with which we were concerned: instrumentality, expressiveness, and independence or autonomy. Only adjectives on which there was high agreement among the judges were used.
We presented these adjectives to male and female college students enrolled in introductory sociology courses at the University of Oregon and asked them to rate themselves on each adjective by checking "very true of me," "somewhat true of me," "somewhat untrue of me," and "very untrue of me." Multivariate analyses were applied to determine to what extent these students grouped items together into the three dimensions we had hypothesized.
The major finding from these analyses was that only the adjectives we had selected to represent the positive aspects of expressiveness seemed to form a unified group. Adjectives such as sympathetic, understanding, pleasant, considerate, good-natured, warm, and obliging clustered together as a distinguishable group. The theoretical dimension we had labeled instrumental broke up into two distinct subgroups represented by thorough, efficient, industrious, and planful on the one hand, and analytical, foresighted, and rational on the other. The autonomous dimension contained three separate groups: (1) a stern, forceful, aggressive, outgoing, and assertive cluster, (2) an independent, active cluster, and (3) a daring, adventurous cluster. Thus expressiveness, but not instrumentality, showed up as a distinct dimension.
The largest difference between men and women students shown by the scores on these dimensions was that men saw themselves as less positively expressive than women. The differences on the other dimensions were much smaller. This finding is consonant with the results of Bennett and Cohen's earlier study of self-attribution of traits: "the major difference in the self-concepts of the sexes is that women conceive of themselves as being richer in the positive qualities of social warmth and empathy." These authors go on, however, to say that women secondarily see themselves as more helpless, timid, and fearful than men and suggest that women's kindness may be developed out of fear of attack. That is, they offer the "psychology of the oppressed" explanation for women's greater expressiveness. Our findings based on internal correlations within sex groups, however, were that women tend to relate expressiveness to independence and that men do so much less clearly. Men strongly associated the words active and assertive with instrumental qualities and much less so with expressive qualities. These associations were not true for women, however. In other words, although these college women included positive expressiveness with positive instrumen-
tal qualities and autonomous qualities in their self-pictures, college men could not so easily include expressiveness with instrumental and autonomous qualities.
Ten years later, in 1982, we returned to introductory level sociology courses at the University of Oregon with the same list of adjectives and instructions we had used before. The list was also administered to high school juniors and seniors at a small rural school in Oregon, and a subset of the items was administered to a statewide representative sample of male and female nurses. Using a similar analysis, we again found that a strong positive expressive factor underlay the self-ratings of both females and males in these diverse groups. Indeed the expressiveness factor was even more clearly seen as a single factor by men in 1982 than it had been seen by them in 1972. Moreover, in every group in both years, women not only saw positive expressiveness as a unitary cluster but rated themselves significantly higher on these expressive qualities than men did.
The instrumental items continued to divide into an industrious cluster and an analytic cluster. College women in 1982 (but not in 1972) and women nurses rated themselves higher on industriousness than men. College men in 1972 and 1982 and the male nurses reported significantly higher levels of analytic characteristics (analytic, foresighted, rational). Not all males, however, see themselves as analytic, since among the high school students, women rated themselves as higher on analytic qualities than men. Moreover, the differences we found between adult men and women on the analytic items are much smaller than the difference on positive expressiveness.
With regard to what we call the autonomy dimensions, the factor structures were least consistent from one sample to the next, but two main factors appeared to be those of forcefulness (stern, forceful, aggressive, outgoing, assertive, independent, and active) and, secondly, adventurousness and daring. (The items "independent" and "active," which were separate in 1972, combined in 1982 with other items on the forceful dimension.) Although high school boys and male nurses, unlike college males, rated themselves as more adventurous than their female counterparts, there were no statistically significant gender differences in any of the groups studied on the large group of adjectives forming the forcefulness cluster.
Finding no gender differences in "forcefulness" contradicts the strong stereotype of forcefulness as "male."
The relative complexity and multidimensionality of both the instrumental and autonomy scales and the gender differences on them being small and related to life-cycle stages (high school boys see themselves as daring, and not analytic) strongly suggests that expressiveness is a more basic dimension of gender difference. At least as represented by our fairly diverse samples, males see themselves as having less of a socially desirable characteristic than females. This is quite different from the usual statement that females lack instrumental or autonomous qualities and thus by implication deserve their secondary status.
Our findings support a reconceptualization of gender difference in which it is males, not females, who claim less of certain desirable qualities. This reconceptualization is not a simple turning of the tables in which expressiveness becomes "good," and autonomy "bad." It is not what Alice Echols calls "the new feminism of yin and yang." Neither does it support Parsons's implication that instrumentalness and expressiveness are complements. Rather, our findings suggest a more complex view of difference in which females are able to combine expressive qualities with autonomous qualities in their self-pictures, and males deny expressiveness in theirs. Expressive qualities in women have tended to be defined as the opposite of those forceful-autonomous qualities that men use to explain or justify male dominance. Our research suggests that females see their expressiveness not as the weak opposite of forcefulness but as a desirable and positive set of characteristics that do not necessarily limit their autonomy. Men are more likely than women to see autonomous traits as contradicting expressive traits. This latter finding suggests further that men are more likely to downgrade expressiveness than women, because they are more likely than women to associate expressiveness with dependence.