From: Julia Burch <>
Critique of "Prestige and Intimacy" by Holland and Skinner

While many of the points in this essay are interesting and well taken, the sample selection and monolithic perspective of the respondents are problematic. The comments at the end of the essay addressing the scope of their cultural model are too little, too late, and the frequent slippage between talking about the beliefs and views of the college-age respondents and "American women" in general, suggests that those issues were not deeply considered in the study design.

The central argument--that both definitions and cognitive structure attributes fail to adequately account for gender types because the distinctions made between types are relational and contextual rather than just abstract or categorical--seems valid, but a persistent confusion of local context and global conclusions makes many of their claims problematic.

They define a "cultural model" as "shared implicit knowledge" but then treat that knowledge as part of a monolithic, homogeneous world view. The bounds of this model are so fixed that it is largely impervious to change or modification and "even if the individual manages to think 'outside' the cultural model,...he or she will still face considerable difficulty in communicating the alternative to other people" (p. 106). This may be a fair enough description of especially rigid, orthodox thinking (as in political or religious extremism) but it hardly accounts for the complexity and variability of most people's world views. And I would argue that most people are not especially slow to recognize (if not learn) new (or alternative) models (p. 105).

Even in the context of 2 North Carolina colleges, there are certainly other perspectives which would alter the gender type maps generated in study A. Presumably there are groups that share a social world (college campuses) with the original respondents, who would recognized the types (and implicit cultural models) in figures 4.1.and 4.2 without necessarily sharing them. The addition of African-American, working class, and alternative (gay, 'hippie', left-wing) perspectives would allow for a richer model, and perhaps more legitimate conclusions about the "fundamental gender types" they purport to identify as opposed to "superficial and transient" features they believe they are weeding out. Moreover, it might pave the way for exploring how people in complex social worlds manage overlapping/conflicting/merging/dynamic cultural models since, most people can do this (and much college drama is precisely about learning to do this). And certainly the differences between male and female perspectives demand more analysis.

Their key questions were: what is unspoken when Americans talk about gender types? and how is that implicit knowledge mentally organized? While the prototype they infer from their respondents is certainly not uncommon (indeed it is extremely sterotypic), it does not exist in a vacuum. Other models and perspectives also provide implicit knowledge, and the cultural and cognitive relationships between models may have everything to do with the mental organization of that knowledge.