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Feminine? Masculine? Both? : Androgyny


Test for Androgyny
Biology of Androgyny
Emotional Characteristics
Behavioral Characteristics
Societal Influences and Effects
Sex-Role Development
Sex-Role Development

Socialization plays a major role in the determination of sex roles.  Most societies have delineated personality characteristics for males and females to follow and such stereotypes serve as models for girls and boys during their development.  These stereotypes are useful in the sense that they provide security and stability.  On the other side, however, they are damaging in the fact that they limit potentials. (Parsons 106).
Androgynous individuals, who score high on both masculine and feminine personality characteristics, are either physically female or male.  So how does a young androgynous individual gain a sex-role?  Androgynous individuals do not fit nicely into the typical sex-role stereotyping.  Instead they acquire an androgynous identity in which they demonstrate a mixture of positive qualities traditionally associated with each gender. (Berk 387)

"For those who are androgynous,
the key seems to be


"The likelihood of an androgynous orientation is especially enhanced when the same-sex parent exhibits cross-typed characteristics." 


Emergence of Gender Identity
"For those who are androgynous, the key seems to be 'adaptability'" (Gershaw)  Androgynous people learn from both sexes the desirable stereotypical traits whether they be for males or for females and tend to utilize these traits in order to behave in ways appropriate for the given situation, whether the behavior has masculine or feminine characteristics. 
When rigid stereotypical sex roles are defined, behavior is greatly restricted.  An example of this is a man showing much nurturing and empathy towards others thus expressing "feminine" traits.  Typical male stereotypes in Western culture do not account for a man to show such warmth.  In a situation where nurturing abilities would be necessary, an androgynous man would be able to express such qualities much more freely and with fewer inhibitions than a masculine male. Similarly, an androgynous woman in a peer pressure situation would be more likely to assert themselves and be independent than a feminine woman (Gershaw).  Therefore, in both of these cases, the cross-typed favorable characteristics for a given situation were expressed.
Because androgynous people have been found to be less conforming, they are also more flexible in sex-role behaviors.  In one study by Bem and Lenny in 1976, subjects were presented with a list of activities and asked to indicate which one of each pair they would rather do.  The pairs varied in sex-role appropriateness and higher rewards were given for the performance of an inappropriate activity.  What this study found was that compared to the masculine men and feminine women, androgynous subjects, masculine females, and feminine males were all more willing to perform the sex-role inappropriate activities, and were more comfortable performing them (Hoyenga, 222). 
As discussed under the "Development" section of this website, parenting plays a large role in definining sex roles.  Both parents have influences on the traits acquired by their children and "the likelihood of an androgynous orientation is especially enhanced when the same-sex parent exhibits cross-typed characteristics."  So, warmth in fathers and encouragement of curiosity by mothers promoted androgyny in same-sex children (Hoyenga 223). 

Androgynous people acquire sex-roles differently from that of other children who are considered masculine or feminine.  Rather than idolizing one gender at a young age, androgynous children tend to view both genders and learn from each the favorable traits advantageous to society and self.  Many will claim that this gives androgynous individuals many benefits in societal and self capacities.