IS HIS HEROISM HAILED AND HERS HIDDEN? WOMEN, MEN, AND THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF HEROISM

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Abstract

Two studies examined how the social construction of heroism affects the representation of women and men as heroes. In the first study, community participants defined heroism or identified heroes. Although the most common defining elements of heroism were benefiting others, acting selflessly, and confronting risk, participants reported more male than female public heroes. However, when naming heroes whom they personally know, participants represented women and men equally. In the second study, undergraduates read a scenario describing a male or female protagonist who confronted high or low risk in rescuing a child in a situation yielding high or low benefit to the endangered child. Consistent with Study 1's typical definitions of heroism, both risk and benefit increased participants' ascription of heroism to the protagonist. Although participants perceived that men are in general more likely than women to perform heroic rescues, reading about a female protagonist caused the participants to perceive female heroism as increasingly likely.

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