What is it about?

Throughout American history, people in interracial relationships have faced violence and stigma, particularly from White Americans. We find that gender roles influence who becomes the target of this stigma, as Whites showed a gendered double standard in perceptions of individuals in interracial relationships. White women in interracial relationships were viewed more negatively-- as low status, unfeminine, promiscuous, and rebellious. By contrast, being in an interracial relationship had no impact on perceptions of White men, Black men, or Black women. We observe racial bias against Black men and women, but this was unaffected by their partner's race. These results demonstrate that White Americans hold a gendered double standard for interracial relationships-- penalizing White women (but not White men) who date outside the group.

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Why is it important?

Interracial relationships have increased dramatically since their legalization in 1967. For the many Americans in interracial relationships today, we hope this work speaks to the varied experiences they face based on their multiple, intersecting identities. For social scientists, we show that gender norms influence norms for appropriate intergroup behavior. This illustrates the potential of an intersectional perspective to surface important interdependencies -- here between race and gender.

Perspectives

It's important to note that this study focused on White American participants -- who tend to hold stronger attitudes against interracial relationships. An interesting question for future research will be whether other social groups (i.e. religious, ethnic, or cultural groups) also punish women more than men for dating outside the group. Because gender inequality and restrictions on women's sexuality are common across cultures, we expect this to be the case.

Amelia Stillwell
University of Utah

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This page is a summary of: Gendered racial boundary maintenance: Social penalties for White women in interracial relationships., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, September 2021, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/pspi0000332.
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