Before we go on any further, let us first define what conformity is. American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy defines Conformity as “Agreement between individual’s behavior and a group’s standards or expectations.”
Studies have shown that women, under certain conditions, conform more than men. However, this study may be biased because most of the researchers, if not all, that conducted this study were men, as what Sistrunk and McDavid found out (qtd. in Boeree). Nevertheless, study or no study, women are generally known to conform more than men; society, education, and economic background are probable reasons for women’s conformity.
Influence of Society, Education and Economy
Society has a major influence on women’s apparent conformity. Women’s conformity may be a direct result of traditional gender roles that women play in society; traditionally, women are expected to be conformist. Men, on the other hand, are expected to be more independent than their female counterparts. We just have to admit that even in modern times, women, though no longer perceived as second class citizens, are still not in equal terms with men in terms of place in society. Men do not necessarily force women to conform, but it is just the way traditional women think because it is what society dictates. As an attempt to break out of this norm, women try to excel by educating themselves well, but this is limited only to rich women who can afford to study in prestigious schools, which makes education, or rather the lack of it, another reason why women are conformists.
Education is a sure fire way to succeed in life, but life, as they say, is not fair. Before, it was only men that are able to achieve high standards of education, but women soon caught up. Despite the increase in the number of women with degrees, MA’s, and PhD’s, the notion that men as more learned than women sticks. This in turn gives women the impression that men are intellectually dominant. One of the reasons why people conform is when other people are experts. This somehow still exists today; imagine the “conformity levels” fifty years ago and beyond? A good education for women means that they have a good chance to succeed economically even without a husband. Unfortunately, a number of women still cannot afford tertiary education that can give them economic independence.
Women’s poor economic status influences their conformity, because people, especially women with poor economic standing, are more likely to conform to those with money, because more often than not, money equals power, and those with power tend to make the powerless conform to them either by force (compliance) or voluntarily. Voluntarily conforming is a way for impoverished women to have a sense of decisiveness without feeling oppressed. There are things that money can’t give, especially intangible ones, but on this rare case, non-conformity is not one of them, for economic status affects a person’s agreement with society.
Women conform more than men for basically three reasons: the influence of society, lack of high standard education, and economic reasons. Our society is generally patriarchal, which means women are expected to conform to men. Men are generally more educated than women, which prompts women to conform. Finally, poor women conform to the rich men.
Boeree, George C. “Conformity and Obedience.” Shippensburg University. 1999. 14 Dec.
“Conformity.” The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. 3rd Ed. 2005.
Houghton Mifflin Company. Dictionary.com. 14 Dec. 2008 <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Conformity>.