The New Old-Fashioned Girl: Effects of
Gender an d Social Desirab ility on Reported
Stephen W. Th eriau lt an d Dian e Holmberg
In order to assess the effects of social desirability on (1) reported gender-role
ideolo gy an d (2) th e relativ e acceptan ce of rape m yth s, a short so cial
desirability (SD) scale was integrated into a qu estionn aire containin g item s
from both attitude sets. Participants were 160 university students. Less than
5% of the sam ple was of other than European ethnicity. A gender by SD
interaction was predicted, wherein high SD would predict more feminist beliefs
for men; the relation ship was expected to be less stron g for wom en. Although
a significant gender by SD in teraction was fou nd, the pattern of results was
unexpected. SD did not predict attitudes for men, an d wom en who were high
in SD actually reported m ore traditional gender-role attitudes and were more
ac ceptin g of rape m yth s th an wo m en lo wer in SD. In terp retation s an d
implication s of these unexpected findin gs are discussed.
Woman, not girl
Equal pay for work of equal value
No means no.
Ove r the last 35 ye ars, arme d with phrase s such as these, represe ntatives
of the woman
s movement have been waging a war for the hearts and minds
of the populace . The y have fought a numbe r of key battle s over those ye ars.
One broad the me has be en in the area of ge nde r-role ide ology (Kalin &
Tilby, 1978; Mille r & Simpson, 1991) . Feminists have atte mpte d to replace
a more traditional ide ology (e .g., be lie fs that men and wome n are inhe r-
Sex Roles, Vol. 39, Nos. 1/2, 1998
0360-0025/98/070 0-009 7$ 15.00/0
1998 Ple num Publishing Corporati on
This stu dy originated in the undergraduate Ho nors thesis of the first author. The study is
supported in part by Acadia Un iversity, in the form of a Manning Me morial Research
Fellowship, and by the Fundy Me ntal He alth Association, Ke ntville, Nova Scotia.
To whom corresponde nce should be addressed at Departmen t of Psychology, Acadia Uni-
versity, Wolfville , Nova Scotia, B 0P 1X0, Canada. E-mail may be sent to