The Search for Androgyny

In the early 1970s, with the rise of the feminist movement, researchers began to challenge the assumption of a single masculinity-femininity dimension. These new researchers, instead, started with the premise that masculinity and femininity are independent dimensions. Thus, one can be high on both masculinity and femininity , or low on both dimensions. Or one can be stereotypically masculine—high on masculinity, low on femininity . Or one can be stereotypically feminine—high on femininity, low on masculinity . This shift represented a fundamental change in thinking about masculinity, femininity, and sex roles.

Two major personality instruments were published in 1974 to assess people using this new conception of sex roles (Bem, 1974; Spence, Helmreich, & Stapp, 1974). The masculinity dimension contained items reflecting assertiveness, boldness dominance, self-sufficienc , and instrumentality . Those who agreed with personality trait terms connoting these qualities scored high on masculinity . The femininity dimension contained items that reflected nurturance, expression of emotions, an empathy. Those who agreed with personality trait terms connoting these qualities scored high on femininity . Those who scored high on both dimensions were labeled androgynous, to reflect the notion that a single person could possess both masculin and feminine characteristics. T able 16.3 shows the four possible scores these instruments can yield.

The researchers who developed these questionnaires viewed the androgynous person as the most highly developed. Androgynous persons were presumed to embody the most valuable elements of both sexes, such as the assertiveness to take positive steps in one's job and interpersonal sensitivity to the feelings of others. Furthermore,

Table 16.3 Conception of Sex Roles Developed in the 1970s

Low Masculinity

High Masculinity

Low Femininity Undifferentiated

Masculine

High Femininity Feminine

Androgynous

androgynous persons were presumed to be liberated from the shackles of traditional notions of sex roles. Before proceeding with our analysis, however , pause for a few minutes to determine where you are located on these measures. To find out, fill o the following Exercise.

Exercise

INSTRUCTIONS: Forty items follow. Each one contains a pair of statements describing contradictory characteristics; that is, you cannot be both at the same time, such as very artistic and not at all artistic. The letters form a scale between the two extremes. Select the letter that describes where you fall on the scale. For example, if you think that you are not at all aggressive, you would choose A. If you think you are very aggressive, you would choose E. If you are in between, you would choose C, or possibly B or D. Be sure to make a choice for every item. Mark your choice by drawing an X through the letter that you select.

1.

Not at all aggressive

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

..E

Very aggressive

2.

Very whiny

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

..E

Not at all whiny

3.

Not at all independent

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

..E

Very independent

4.

Not at all arrogant

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

..E

Very arrogant

5.

Not at all emotional

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Very emotional

6.

Very submissive

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Very dominant

7.

Very boastful

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Not at all boastful

8.

Not at all excitable in a major crisis

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Very excitable in a major crisis

9.

Very passive

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Very active

10.

Not at all egotistical

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Very egotistical

11.

Not at all able to devote self completely to others

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Able to devote self completely to others

12.

Not at all spineless

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Very spineless

13.

Very rough

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Very gentle

14.

Not at all complaining

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Very complaining

15.

Not at all helpful to others

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Very helpful to others

16.

Not at all competitive

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Very competitive

17.

Subordinates oneself to others

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Never subordinates onself to others

18.

Very home-oriented

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Very worldly

19.

Very greedy

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Not at all greedy

20.

Not at all kind

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Very kind

21.

Indifferent to others' approval

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Highly needful of other's approval

22.

Very dictatorial

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Not at all dictatorial

23.

Feelings not easily hurt

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Feelings easily hurt

24.

Doesn't nag

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Nags a lot

25.

Not at all aware of feelings of others

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Very aware of feelings of others

26.

Can make decisions easily

A..

..B..

..C..

..D..

.. E

Has difficulty making decisions

Exercise (Continued)

27. Very fussy

28. Gives up very easily

29. Very cynical

30. Never cries

31. Not at all self-confident

32. Does not look out only for self, principled

33. Feels very inferior

34. Not at all hostile

35. Not at all understanding of others

36. Very cold in relations with others

37. Very servile

38. Very little need for security

39. Not at all gullible

40. Goes to pieces under pressure

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

E

Not at all fussy

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

E

Never gives up easily

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

E

Not at all cynical

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

E

Cries very easily

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

.. E

Very self-confident

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

.. E

Looks out only for self, unprincipled

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

.. E

Feels very superior

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

.. E

Very hostile

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

.. E

Very understanding of others

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

.. E

Very warm in relations with others

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

.. E

Not at all servile

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

.. E

Very strong need for security

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

.. E

Very gullible

A..

..B..

..C..

...D..

.. E

Stands up well under pressure

The enormous popularity of this new conception of sex roles is a testament to the influence of feminism in America. With the rise of the women' s movement, traditional ideas about the roles of men and women were cast aside. Women started entering the workforce in record numbers. Some men opted for more nurturant roles. John Lennon, of former Beatles fame, decided to stay at home and raise his son, Sean, while his wife, Yoko Ono, went to work, overseeing a massive financial empir (Coleman, 1992). Many people applauded Lennon for taking on this new liberated role. This political movement reinforced the idea that men were supposed to become more nurturant, caring, and empathic. At the same time, women were supposed to become more assertive as they entered many professions traditionally reserved for men. The psychological trend toward changing the conceptualization and measurement of sex roles reflected this la ger political movement.

The new androgynous conception of sex roles, however , was not without its critics. The new scales were criticized on several grounds. One criticism pertained to the items on the inventories and their correlations with each other. Researchers seemed to assume that masculinity and femininity were single dimensions. Other researchers argued, however, that both constructs were actually multidimensional, containing many facets.

Another criticism goes to the heart of the androgyny concept. It turns out that several studies have found that masculinity and femininity , indeed, consist of a single, bipolar trait. Those who score high on masculinity , for example, tend to score low on femininity . Those who score high on femininity tend to score low on masculinity (e.g., Deaux & Lewis, 1984).

In part as a response to these criticisms, the originators of the new conceptions of sex roles have changed their views. Janet Spence, author of one measure, no longer believes that her questionnaire assesses sex roles (Swann, Langlois, & Gilbert, 1999). Instead, she says that her scales really measure the personality characteristics of instrumentality and expressiveness. Instrumentality consists of personality traits that involve working with objects, getting tasks completed in a direct fashion, showing independence from others, and displaying self-suf ficienc . Expressiveness, in contrast, is the ease with which one can express emotions, such as crying, showing empathy for the troubles of others, and showing nurturance to those in need.

Sandra Bem has also changed her views on sex roles. She now considers her measure (the Bem Sex Role Inventory; Bem, 1974) to assess gender schemata, or cognitive orientations that lead individuals to process social information on the basis of sex-linked associations (Hoyenga & Hoyenga, 1993). According to this new conception, the ideal is not to be androgynous but, rather , to be gender-aschematic. That is, the ideal is not to use gender and sex-linkage at all in one' s processing of social information.

Although most researchers assume that masculinity , femininity, and "gender schema" are personality attributes absorbed from socialization, parents, the media, or the culture, recent studies have challenged this view . Cleveland and his colleagues (2001) found that sex-typed behaviors and attitudes themselves tend to show moderate heritability within sex. Among women, for example, 38 percent of the variance in proclivity to engage in sex-typical behaviors such as crying, expressing emotions, sensitivity to the feelings of others, taking risks, and even fighting was explained by geneti differences. Another study found moderate (roughly 50 percent) heritabilities for measures of "gender atyp-icality" in boys and girls—that is, masculinity in girls and femininity in boys (Knafo, Iervolino, & Plomin, 2005). These findings still leave la ge room for environmental influences to a fect the adoption of sex roles, but they do suggest that genes also play a role, even within each gender , in the degree to which the sex roles are adopted.

In summary, the research measuring sex-related differences has encountered many dif ficulties and ha produced dissatisfying results. The external validity of the measures is questionable. The assumption that masculinity and femininity are unidimensional traits, and that masculinity and femininity are independent of each other, no longer seems tenable.

The new research on masculinity and femininity is moving beyond these issues and beginning to explore the real-life consequences of masculinity and femininity. One study , for example, found that these dimensions affect sexual behavior and relationships (Udry & Chantala, 2004). Adolescent couples containing a highly masculine male and a highly feminine female tend to have sex sooner than other pairings. Couples in which both members are average for their sex tend to break up compared with other pairings. Future research can be expected to yield more interesting real-life consequences of masculinity and femininity .

The distinctions between what behavior is appropriate for a woman and what behavior is appropriate for a man in our culture—social roles—have changed dramatically in the past few decades.
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