Topics: Gender role, Gender, Gender studies Pages: 6 (1770 words) Published: October 23, 2010
An individual with characteristics of Androgyny are not bound by traditional gender roles, but are more inclined to demonstrate characteristics reminiscent of both. Weiten (1997) defines (as cited in Holt, 1998) gender roles as “expectations about what is appropriate behaviour for each sex”. What really makes a male or female behave entirely in that manner? Is it the image presented? Could it be the culture, and environment surrounding the individual or is it biological. In 1973, a psychologist named Sandra Bem decided to invent a new method of testing these attributes and explored the reality behind a word that has been in use since classical methodology and early literature. Even though Androgyny has only been a concept, Bem’s idealisation that healthy women and men could possess similar characteristics, soon changed the perception the psychology world had surrounding the psychometrics of Androgyny.

Bem’s (1973) study on “The Measurement of Psychological Androgyny”, discussed how it was possible to characterise someone as either male or female or both. The study explored the notion of Androgyny and challenged bipolarity - gender identity either being male or female, no in between. The concept that males and females could possess characteristics of the opposite gender was controversial at the time of the research, but 30 years later, the consistency of the BSRI (Bem Sex-Role Inventory) is still relevant in testing the concept behind psychological androgyny. The Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI) is quite distinctive from other masculinity-femininity scales such as the Masculinity-Femininity scale of the California Psychological Inventory (Gough 1957, as cited in Bem, 1974). The scale incorporates a Masculinity and Femininity scale of 20 characteristics based on “sex-typed” social desirability (Bem, 1974). It also tests for Androgyny in masculine and femininity characteristics.

By taking approximately 200 personality characteristics that were of masculine and feminine in nature, Bem added an additional list of a further 200 characteristics that were neutral, which did not show a distinct favouring to one sex-type. A 7-point scale was used to test whether a characteristic was 1 - (Not at all desirable) to 7 - (Extremely desirable). One hundred Stanford University students were asked to rate the desirability of the 400 characteristics over a period during winter (1972) and summer (1973). The characteristic was regarded as sex-typed if all participants rated it as “significantly more desirable for a man than a woman” (Bem, 1974). Bem selected the top 20 characteristics for each scale, and 10 positive and 10 negatives gender-neutral items (Hock, 2009). The final score was 60 items. The mean scores were computed for each of the 100 judges and three scores were received for Masculine, Feminine and Androgyny. Bem (1974) completed some further testing, in the winter and spring of 1973 on 444 male and 279 female introductory psychology students from Stanford University, as well as 117 male and 77 female paid volunteers at Foothill Junior College. There were very little differences in feminine and masculine scores. Hock (2009), summarised that thirty-five percent of females had feminine characteristics, whereas only 7% of males showed female characteristics. This was also evident in the other calculations: 8% of females had masculine tendencies, whereas 33 % of males rated themselves as masculine. However, 35% of males and 29% of the females were inclined to have androgynous characteristics.

Hock (2009) suggests that masculine traits have an impact on the high score in Androgyny. Women tend to receive more respect from their peers, if they exhibit strong masculine traits. Softness and kindness do not always get results, but firm, confident and strong are desirable traits for someone of either sex-type. But in saying that, masculine traits are not always positive, nor are feminine. According...
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