Perpetuating the "jealous woman" stereotype

Posted at 11:00 AM Apr 15, 2010

By Andrea Grimes


Last week I linked to the coverage of a women-and-shopping story that demonstrated just how easy and common it is to perpetuate gendered stereotypes about consumer behavior based on absolutely nothing but the willful ignorance of people who can't even fathom a man who would like to shop, therefore women are shopping obsessed. This is what passes for scientific evidence these days, people: women must be a certain way, because we think they are a certain way, so we asked them if they were a certain way, and we found out they are a certain way! Therefore men are so totally not that way! Because men and women are different!

The same "logic" was recently applied to a University of Delaware study that sought to find out if women are crazy jealous bitches, and the conclusion was clear: women are crazy jealous bitches!

The fun part: this actual academic study didn't even bother to study jealousy in men. So men could be going into raucous jealous rages at every turn, but the "jealous woman" stereotype prevails because the only attention being paid to jealousy and gender is being paid to these nutty emotional women! Oh, the womens, they are so crazy with love-obsession for the mens!

The first person who can explain to me how the University of Delaware meant to study jealousy with these methods wins a big prize:

The research, that the professors claimed shows social emotions can affect what people see, appeared in April's issue of the journal Emotion published by the American Psychological Association. According to the The Daily Mail the researchers had young couples sit near each other at separate computer screens. Men scored how attractive pictures of landscapes were while their female partners had to spot the landscape photos flashed amid a rapid stream of other images, including unpleasant or graphic photos.

The catch? During the study the men were also directed to rate images of other women for attractiveness. Their partners were quizzed later and the partners who admitted to being jealous failed to see the landscape photos used as "targets."

Time for bullet points.

  • People's emotions affect the way they see the world, literally and figuratively? Thanks for the news flash, University of Effing Delaware.
  • The people in this study--the women--who were shown unpleasant and graphic photos were disturbed and upset, while the people who weren't, were not upset? YOU DON'T FUCKING SAY.
  • In what way can we conclude that it was the unbearable knowledge that their partners had looked at pictures of pretty girls (oh womens! you are so irrational!) that made women have trouble spotting "targets" and not the aforementioned unpleasant or graphic photos? The women who missed "targets" who described themselves as jealous might simply be more affected by social unpleasantness overall.
  • Seems to me like you show some people unpleasant and graphic photos, and then you show them what a good time their partner is having looking at pictures of women (or anything, really, that isn't "graphic" or "unpleasant"), and the people who are likely to have more powerful reactions to either of these things are going to have trouble spotting targets because they have been given like 40 different reasons to be upset or distracted. This study doesn't isolate jealousy, it tacks jealousy on to an already potentially upset person. If you're likely to be jealous, you're probably easily upset by other things, too.
This study proves that some people get upset about stuff and it makes it hard to concentrate. Not that women are blinded by jealousy. And certainly not that they're any more "blinded" than men are. Further, most media coverage of this kind of "scientific" research serves to naturalize and essentialize culturally constructed behavior and reinforce culturally constructed beliefs about gender that are in no way based in actual fact. 


nikki said:

All I gotta say is that the third paragraph starts with "According to Fox News..."

BorgQueen said:

Well I had a friend that went to UD and he said it is a pretty big party school so... they must have been drunk and/or high when they conducted "study."

What do I win?

nikki said:

Okay, seriously--

"They suffered an 'emotion-induced blindness', said psychology professors Steven Most and Jean-Philippe Laurenceau, from Delaware University."

Hey Mr. Psychologist, what would you refer to a war veteran going on a murder spree as? PTSD? Yeah wtf. "Emotion-induced blindness"? Yeah it's called being human. Traumatic experiences or events will mess you up.

I really cannot take these psych professors seriously in any manner.

Ralph Thompson said:

great post thanks

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