GTSH5/3 Examining Masculinity and Uncertainty Avoidance

The Dimension of Masculinity

Masculinity is the label given to a cultural dimension about the clarity of gender roles in a society. Masculinity and femininity are the opposite ends of the behavioural spectrum to which this label is assigned.

A society is called masculine when emotional gender roles are clearly distinct: men are supposed to be assertive tough, focused on material success whereas women are supposed to be more modest, tender and concerned with the quality of life.

A society is called feminine when emotional gender roles overlap: both men and women are supposed to be modest, tender and concerned with the quality of life.

Thus, this dimension is not about the biological and physiological statistical differences between men and women but their social roles.

In the studies this was the only dimension in which men and women showed a systematic difference in their answers to the questionnaires used.

Societies recognise different social roles for men and women but which belongs to each gender differs significantly by society.  The example of this distribution given by Hofstede is that women dominate as doctors in Russia, dentists in Belgium and shop keepers in parts of West Africa. However there is a core element which is common to all cultures

Masculine Cultures

Men are supposed to be more concerned with achievements outside the home while. In what are referred to as “traditional” societies men are concerned with hunting and fighting and in so called “modern” societies they engage in the economic equivalent. Men are supposed to be assertive, competitive and tough.  Male achievement reinforces assertiveness and competitiveness.

Women are supposed to be the tender home-makers and carers and the practice of predominantly female care strengthens this female concern for nurturing and relationships.

The degree to which this is true depends upon the country and according to the variations it gives a different characteristic to a nation’s society.

Feminine Cultures

In feminine cultures men are also more concerned about caring, nurturing and relationships both inside and outside the home. Women are also seen in roles traditionally the preserve of men, especially in the so called modern societies. However, feminine societies are not about the toughening up of women but more about men being concerned about areas that would traditionally be the preserve of women.

Cultural Contrasts

Feminine

Masculine

Relationships and quality of life are important. Challenge, earnings, recognition and advancement are important.
Both men and women should be modest. Men should be assertive, ambitious and tough.
Both men and women can be tender and focus on relationships. Women are supposed to be tender and take care of relationships.
In the family both fathers and mothers deal with facts and feelings. In the family the father deals with facts and the mother with feelings.
Parents share earning and caring roles. The father earns while the mother cares.
Women’s liberation means that men and women take equal shares both at home and work. Women’s liberation means admitting women to positions normally only occupied by men.
The average student is the norm, praise is used to encourage weak students. The best student is the norm; praise is for excellence.
Students underrate their own performance: ego-effacement. Students overrate their own performance: Ego-boosting.
Women and men teach young children. Women teach young children.
Women and men shop for food and cars. Women shop for food, men shop for cars.
A welfare society is the ideal, leading to help for the weak. A performance society ideal leading to support for the strong.
A more permissive society. A more corrective society.
International conflicts should be resolved by negotiation and compromise. International conflicts should be resolved by a show of strength or fighting.
In Christianity, more secularisation; stress on loving one’s neighbour. In Christianity, less secularisation and stress on believing God.

Rankings and Comparisons

In the index the most masculine country, by some distance, is Solvakia, followed by Japan. The most feminine country is Sweden which is in a cluster of the Scandinavian and Baltic countries. Interestingly Russia is not too distant from them at the feminine end of the rankings. The Far Eastern and Central and South American countries are spread throughout the rankings.  Middle Eastern, Arab countries, Africa and Pakistan tend to rank in the middle third. Northern European and English speaking countries tend to the masculine end of the spectrum.

Reflections

  • Take a Moment: Considering the national culture to which you belong:
    • Where do you feel that it fits with the cultural dimension of Masculinity?
    • How well or not does your nation’s culture fit what the Bible has to say on the issues concerned with the dimension of Masculinity and Femininity?
    • In this light, what are the challenges of being a Christ-centred servant leader in your country’s culture?

Kingdom Perspectives

A key element of the Masculinity cultural dimension is about the degree to which both men and women are “modest, tender and concerned with the quality of life.”

In Biblical terms this concern can be seen as the outworking of agape-love, which we saw in Exploring Leadership in the Kingdom was to be a key motivator in the servant character of the Christian leader. John, in his first epistle, explains that showing sacrificial agape-love to others is a hallmark of being a Christian (1 John 4:7&8).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:7-8

This has led to Christians coining the phrase “one anothering” which means that we each show concern for the wellbeing of each other.

Paul teaches that in humility we are to set aside selfish ambition and consider others at least as significant as ourselves, looking equally to both their and our own interests (Philippians 2: 4&5). Writing to the Romans he encourages them to outdo one other in showing honour to others because we are to love each other with brotherly affection (Romans 12:10).

Paul also gives more insight when writing to the Corinthians about the collection they are taking up for the Christian’s in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 9:1-15). In this he shows that a fundamental aspect of the Christian way is a practical concern for the well-being of others and that God abounds in the wealth that he gives to his people so that in turn they can abound in good works. So care and concern for the well-being of others is not optional but foundational and brings glory to God.

The Bible is also quite distinct on God’s views on how gender roles work out, although this is controversial in some parts of the world.  Could this controversy be because we judge God’s Kingdom culture against the values of our inherent national cultures? If so, is that actually the right way round?

We see that in the Kingdom we are called to be modest, tender and concerned for the life-situation of others. However, there are aspects of both poles of this cultural dimension of masculinity which are contrary to the Kingdom e.g. amongst other issues the feminine cultures tend to be more sexually permissive whereas the masculine cultures tend to be more exploitative of women, both of which are contrary to the Kingdom.

The Dimension of Uncertainty Avoidance

The dimension of Uncertainty Avoidance is about the way a culture deals with the threat of the unknown. It is defined as follows:

Uncertainty Avoidance is a measure of the extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations.

Uncertainty Avoidance is an emotional issue about the level of anxiety that the people in a culture feel when faced with an uncertain future; extreme ambiguity generates intolerable anxiety. This outlook leads to an inherent level of stress and tension because in reality every next second represents the unknown.

The Nature of Uncertainty Avoidance

At higher levels of uncertainty avoidance people will avoid creating uncertainty for themselves. For instance, there is adherence to rules at all levels, even if there may be a good reason to break the rule (often rules are arbitrary conventions not moral essentials). This is because breaking the rule generates an unknown situation outside of normal conventions and behaviours, so how will others respond? Similarly, people will avoid changing employers because it represents a step into the dark unknown.

Anxiety is not fear. Anxiety is about being “uneasy or worried about what may happen” but it has no specific focus. Fear, on the other hand, has a specific focus, one is afraid of something definite e.g the presence of a spider.

Uncertainty Avoidance is not the same as risk avoidance. A risk is a definite, definable thing which can be mitigated to some extent, if not altogether. Mitigation of risk is the focused process of planning and executing that plan to reduce or remove the risk. Uncertainty Avoidance is an ill-defined feeling or foreboding with no focus.

The sociologist sees that technology, law and religion are ways that uncertainty can be avoided. Technology helps us deal with the natural world, making it more certain, compare a hunter/gather life style to that of an agricultural society. Laws and rules define how people are to behave so we know what others will do in the many situations for which there are laws and conventions. The sociologist sees religion as the means of coping with the situations against which there is no other defence.

Cultural Contrasts

Weak Uncertainty Avoidance

Strong Uncertainty Avoidance

Uncertainty is a normal feature of life and is accepted as it comes. What is different is curious. Uncertainty is an inherent, continuous threat that must be fought. What is different is dangerous.
Generally there are lower levels of stress and anxiety. Generally there are high levels of stress and anxiety.
People should avoid being aggressive and showing emotions. It is permitted to show emotion and vent anger at the proper time and place.
People are generally comfortable with ambiguous situations and unfamiliar risks. People accept familiar risk but are afraid of ambiguous situations and unfamiliar risks.
There are fewer people who feel unhappy and there are fewer worries about health and money. There are more people who feel unhappy and there are more worries about health and money.
More people have heart attacks. Fewer people have heart attacks.
Teachers are allowed to say they don’t know and will more readily involve parents. Teachers are supposed to know and tend to inform parents.
People are happy to buy used cars and engage in “do-it-yourself” home repairs. People buy new cars and employ expert tradesmen for home repairs.
At work there should be no more rules than necessary. At work there is an emotional need for rules even if they do not work!
People work hard only when needed. There is an emotional need to be busy and work hard.
Top managers are concerned with strategy. Top managers are concerned with daily operations.
Generally laws and unwritten rules are few or general in nature. Lots of precise laws and unwritten rules.
Citizen protest is acceptable. Citizen protest should be repressed.
Citizens are interested in politics and there is a high level of involvement in voluntary associations and movements. Citizens are not interested in politics and there is a low level of involvement in voluntary associations and movements.
Liberal societies with less perceived corruption. Conservative society, law and order is important but there is more perceived corruption.
Tolerance, even of extreme ideas; ethnic tolerance. Extremism and repression of extremism. Ethnic prejudice.
Defensive nationalism and lower risk of violent intergroup conflict. Aggressive nationalism and a higher risk of violent intergroup conflict.
Nobody should be persecuted for their beliefs. More religious, political and ideological intolerance and fundamentalisms.

 

Rankings and Comparisons

The nation with strongest (highest) Uncertainty Avoidance index is Greece[1] and the weakest (lowest) index is Singapore. Most South East Asian countries have a low index but Japan and S. Korea are quite high. Russia is high and the Eastern European countries are evenly spread through the high two thirds. Northern Europe and the English speaking countries are in the lower two thirds while Southern Europe is in the higher third. South and Central America are also spread throughout the higher two thirds of the index. The Arab countries and Africa are in the middle third.

Reflections

  • Take a Moment: Considering the national culture to which you belong:
    • Where do you feel that it fits with the cultural dimension of Uncertainty Avoidance?
    • How well or not does your nation’s culture fit what the Bible has to say on the issues concerned with the dimension of Uncertainty Avoidance?
    • In this light, what are the challenges of being a Christ-centred servant leader in your country’s culture?

Kingdom Perspectives

The sociologist consider that the function of religion is to remove uncertainty regarding things about which we have no control.

In one sense this is true for the Christian because God is The Sovereign God as we saw earlier when we looked at Isaiah 46:9 & 10. Here  God declares that he is the only God and his purposes will be fulfilled. However, it can be perceived that because God is sovereign and his purposes will be fulfilled that any sense of control that man has is an illusion. Therefore, everything in this world is uncertain, apart from God.  So again we see the world echoing Kingdom realities but not accurately representing them.

For sure, Christians have a certainty concerning our eternal future in the presence of an eternal, sovereign God.  Jesus tells us that His people know him and will never perish or be snatched away (John 10:27-29). This certainty has been a comfort to many who have faced a martyr’s death, refusing to renounce their faith because of the true certainty of an eternal, living God.

However, the Bible is full of role models of people who willingly faced uncertainty in this world in order to serve God. Serving God entails inherently includes uncertainty as can be seen by examining the lives of the Apostles for instance:

John was placed in exile on Patmos because of his service of the Lord (Revelation 1:9), would he remain there till he died or would he be executed? What was happening to the Church he loved so much?

Paul declared his readiness for imprisonment and death, but he did not know which. When he returned to Jerusalem he was arrested but what would happen to him? He faced assassination attempts, would his enemies succeed? Then he undertook his journey to Rome in which he was shipwrecked, would he survive? Would reach Rome? (Acts 23 -28). And we could go on.

The key to dealing with uncertainty is faith which provides an assurance from God despite facing unknown and unmeasurable uncertainties:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1

Addressing anxiety figures large in the New Testament. In Philippians 4:6&7 Paul provides instruction how to defeat anxiety by exercising faith in God.

…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6&7

Jesus counsels the disciples on dealing with uncertainty and anxiety in Matthew 6:25-34 and declares that its antidote is to “Seek first the Kingdom of God” the result being God’s provision to counter all those uncertainties and anxieties. This is counter-intuitive because Jesus is saying we are not to focus on the things that cause the uncertainties, as would the world, but we are to focus on serving the Kingdom. From the perspective of the world this would be to invite more uncertainty, but it is here that we see God at work in response to our faith.

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat……… But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:31-33

In the Kingdom we are not to focus on and chase after the things that directly concern us but to focus on seeking God’s Kingdom way and in faith, leave the uncertainties to him. When we face anxiety we can turn deliberately facing it and then resting in God’s faithfulness.

In the description of the Uncertainty Avoidance cultural dimension there are many excesses and corruptions of Godly attitudes on both sides of the equation. These quite plainly have no place in a Kingdom inhabited by God’s righteousness.

 


[1] Consider for a moment the unrest that was generated in Greece by the austerity measures enforced in response to the post “Credit-Crunch” economic crisis.

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