Cultural Differences in Face-ism: Male Politicians Have Bigger Heads in More Gender-Equal Cultures

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Women are visually depicted with lower facial prominence than men, with consequences for perceptions of their competence. The current study examines the relationship between the size of this “face-ism” bias (i.e., individual or micro-level sexism) and a number of gender inequality indicators (i.e., institutional or macro-level sexism) at the cross-cultural level. In one of the largest known face-ism databases to date, the authors used politicians’ official online photographs as stimuli (N = 6,610) to explore how face-ism (as an example of individual-level sexism) covaries with institutional sexism across 25 cultures. The authors found that the face-ism bias was greater in cultures with lower levels of institutional gender inequality, demonstrating that institutional equality does not necessarily imply equality on the individual level. The authors offer a number of potential speculations for this mismatch. For example, it may be due to “postfeminist” backlash that occurs in response to decreases in level of institutional sexism or it may be due to different comparative processes that occur in more versus less gender-equal cultures. Implications for female politicians cross-culturally are discussed. The findings of our study provide empirical evidence to demonstrate how macro-level structural equalities could be related to individual and micro-level sexism, and how different levels of sexism might not necessarily be indicative of each other.

Original Citation

Konrath, S., Au, J., & Ramsey, L.R. (2012). Cultural Differences in Face-ism: Male Politicians Have Bigger Heads in More Gender-Equal Cultures. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 36(4), 476-487. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684312455317