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Androgeny Essay, Research Paper

Androgyny: at Home and in the Workplace

According to Webster, to be androgynous means to have both male and female characteristics. In studies of gender, it is referred to as an individual’s tendency to report having both traditionally “masculine” and traditionally “feminine” characteristics (Baron & Byrne, 1997). What all that boils down to is that there is a man in every woman and a woman in every man, but by no means should this be interpreted as a human being having both female and male sexual equipment. Androgyny is a purely psychological state. By the way, having both sexual genitalia is the uncommon condition of the hermaphrodite (Baldwin, 1985).

One of the earliest studies done on sex roles was by Sandra Bem. She developed the Bem Sex Role Inventory Model, which measures the extent to which and individuals self description is characterized. This description is characterized as traditionally masculine, traditionally feminine, both (which was discussed previously as androgyny), or neither (the indifferent). Bem (1978) argued that only those who can demonstrate both masculine and feminine characteristics adapt effectively to varied ongoing situational demands.

Another way of explaining the term androgyny is by using the terms dual motivational theory. There are two essential human aspects of the self proposed by dual motivational theorist. One of their motives is the “individual’s striving for independence, mastery, task accomplishment, and self assertiveness” . These qualities have been customarily linked with the male gender role, and is sometimes referred to as instrumentality. The other part of the dual motive is the individual’s striving for connectedness with others, encompassing interpersonal cooperativeness, having sensitivity to other’s needs, and emotional openness (Stake, 1997). These traits have been traditionally associated with the female gender role, and are sometimes called expressiveness (Angyal, 1965; Bakan, 1966; Guisinger & Bath, 1994). Bem recognized that a particular situation may call for both expressiveness and instrumentality. In these cases, androgyny could take the blended form of the two(e.g., mastering and caring) “in a single act” (Bem, 1978). Using these facts, my research is divided into two parts: androgyny at home and androgyny at work.

Let us begin with the job setting since it is these settings that “are likely to include a broad set of salient social expectations from multiple sources” (Stake, 1997). It has been suggested that having many roles on the job can promote adjustments because they provide opportunities for greater personal rewards. Some of these rewards may include a larger sense of purpose and meaning, and an enhanced self worth. In fact variation in job roles and responsibilities has been linked to job satisfaction and mental health (Matterson & Ivascevich, 1987; Wan, 1994).

There was a study conducted with 194 college students (124 female, 70 male). All of these students were currently working in a job they had been employed with for at least six months, for fifteen or more hours each week. The researcher made sure that there would be a wide range of jobs by using a sample of working students from an urban “commuter” campus (Stake, 1997). The students were then instructed that they were going to learn more about their experiences on the job. They were familiarized with terms of instrumentality and expressiveness within their job settings. Once these terms were mastered, the students were given two lists of expectations. Derived from the Social Expectations Scale one list was of instrumentality terms, the other of expressiveness terms (SES; Stake et al., 1996). The participants were asked to describe a situation in which they were expected to show qualities from both lists. These would of course constitute androgynous situations or experiences.

The research showed that “participants found dual expectation (androgynous) situations to be relatively more positive that negative”. They also reported having a more positive well-being. Also, more participants reported that the experience was rewarding, fulfilling, and/or had a felling of self-worth (Stake, 1997).

There is a “con” to all of this, and that is the issue on gender. Some say that androgyny is good for women and bad for men in that it allows women to be aggressive and more independent; but it makes the men feel inferior to these women. They feel inferior because the women are in traditionally “masculine” positions. Another negative attitude related to this is where aggressive women are considered “bitchy” and me that are overly aggressive have health problems.

Companies try to solve these gender conflicts by hiring experts to teach seminars on gender awareness. The androgyny model is very important, according to Anthony Isparo, an organizational consultant. “Men feel threatened by the female work force because they are being asked to share their power. we try to explain that the merging of female and male sensibilities and values would be profitable. Men are too achievement oriented; they don’t understand how to enjoy life outside of the workplace. That’s what’s killing them” (Gaudoin, 1993).

I agree with that approach, but the problem with the issue of gender is the fact that the males don’t truly adopt the principle of “dual motive”. I don’t feel that they pull from that “feminine side” enough. The reason why some men don’t adapt to be truly androgynous is because it is not socially acceptable. This is the same reason why the Bem Sex Role Inventory (Bem, 1974) has been criticized for its inclusion of the traditionally “feminine”. The role have been and still are considered less socially desirable than masculine qualities or traits (Pei-Hui & Ward, 1994).

There are two main roles in the home that my research addresses. Those are marriage and child rearing. I would like to begin with the latter. Child rearing usually has more emphases on the mother in the child beginning months and first year. The male usually has more of an involvement after the first year or so. This should not be misconstrued as the father has nothing to do with the child once it is born. They do have some involvement, but it is not as significant as that of the mother in the earlier months.

Men can, nevertheless, provide a significant contribution to childbearing, especially with their sons. In the studies linking child behavior and families where there the female is the sole support, we can see that the lack of a male presence can be a deficiency for a child. In fact ” the assistance men give to women in the rearing of children may be more important now than ever before because mothers have become isolated from their traditional support systems” (Popenoe, 1993). However, young infant parenting is not a “natural” activity for males. Females have a “maternal instinct” because of hormonal changes occurring during and after childbirth that strongly drive a woman to nurture her newborn. In part, these changes are connected with the woman’s ability to breastfeed. There are also many other biological advantages related to this stage of the reproductive process. According to Alice Rossi (1991) “in caring for a nonverbal, fragile infant women have a head start in reading an infant’s facial expressions, smoothness of baby motions, ease in handling a tiny creature with tactile gentleness, and soothing through a high , soft, rhythmic use of voice.”

Men, on the other hand, are great with their children after they become more verbal (usually in 18 months). They interact with them in a different manner than the mother . ” The father’s mode of parenting is clearly not interchangeable with the mother’s”. They serve as a “playmate in a sense rather than a “caretaker”, and their play involves a “rough-and-tumble” approach (Popenoe, 1993).

In light of this well known evidence, it is apparent that androgyny and child rearing simply do not mix in the early month’s even years of life. Sex-typed parenting where the mothers are “responsive” and fathers are “firm” has its value. research has shown that children of sex typed parents “are more competent than children of androgynous parents”. And furthermore, may conclude as saying that the importance of fathers, then may be in the degree to which their interactions with the children do not duplicate the mother’s and in the degree to which they support maternal caregiving rather than replicate it” (Popenoe, 1993).

Of course, the best thing is for parents to stay together and raise their children, which leads us to the subject of androgyny in the marriage. One of the problems is when the “new father” tries to become mom in a type of “role reversal”. These type of marriages are not very enduring, and have a high likelihood of breakup.

The reader may wonder why is this so when the father is doing “just what his wife always wanted”. We may begin to answer this question by first looking at the components of a healthy marriage. Those two components are companionship and romantic love. In companionship the husband and wife are expected to be best friends. And the premise of romantic love is based on their sexual attraction to one another. This sexual attraction is a biological rooted phenomenon which expects husbands and wives to be monogamous.

The combining of these two principles typically, will create a problem. A good companion is someone you have lots in common with. Contrastingly, one finds that a sexual partner tends to be appealing because their differences. This creates a tension, that androgynous marriages must overcome in order to survive. In fact in the strongest of marriages differences are viewed as complementary, and the relationship is characterized by balanced gender-differentiated behavior and an equitable division of labor.

The study of androgyny on marriages was studied in Northern European countries where modernist trend are most advanced, the social environment is relatively being, and the pursuit of this duality has gone further than anywhere else. One researcher’s discussion with several prominent Swedish marriage counselors revealed that despite men’s growing reluctance to marry, once they are married, it is the women who have the tendency to end that marriage.

Sweden is probably one of the most androgynous societies, in the sense that men are more involved in childrearing and other household duties. Opposingly, the women, believe it or not, are freer of domestic duties. These marriage counselors were asked what has been the biggest change over the past twenty-five years in the marital woes of their clients. They reported that one of the first changes was the fact that more men were seeking divorces instead of women. The reason why is because the women were leaving the men. Unlike the traditional reason why men walk out on their spouses (infidelity), but these women were leaving because they had become boredom with and a loss of sexual interest in their husbands. Most of these androgynous marriage cases involve husbands the had tried to become the “moms. Nonincidentally, these husbands became very upset about the impending divorce, partly because they had become so attached to their children that they dreaded the idea of losing them. (Women in Sweden normally receive custody.)

Another example of social androgyny in marriage can be found in Norway. There was a ethnographic study done on marriage couples living in a small town. It was found that marriages that were once based on an interdependence of tasks and functions were now based on endless negotiations, which was held together by emotional “loyalty” that stemmed originally from romantic love. This consistently describes a marital trend in most modern societies. The problem is that these marriages are delicate and subject to divorce. This research further substantiates the androgyny in early child-rearing problem. Equality as sameness within the household makes the idea of gender identity a problem in cultures that stress sexuality and monogamous romantic love as the basis for marriage. Once again this creates tension between the expectations of love and the gender neutral division of household tasks.

This conflict that occurs in early child-rearing and marriage can be summarized by Popenoe (1993):

There appears to be sound biological and sociological reasons why some gender differentiation of roles with childbearing families is necessary for the good of society. Gender differentiation is important for child development, and probably important for marital stability. While the fully equal participation of both parents in childrearing is essential, fathers are not the same as mothers, nor should they be. Rather than strive for parental androgyny in the home, and be continuously frustrated, we would do much better to acknowledge, accommodate, and appreciate the very different needs, sexual interest, values, and goals of each sex. (p. 12)

I can definitely understand why this would be such a conflict. It is a constant tug of war between partners wanting to be the same (androgyny), and also wanting to be different. I also can agree that sex roles differentiation is best in the family setting.

In conclusion, I feel that androgyny is god in the workplace, but not at home. Yes, research has shown that androgyny is good for self-fulfillment, but that is only in the workplace. On the other hand, it also shows that androgyny can be a key player in the destruction of marriages and have a negative effect in the early upbringing of children. Thus, androgyny is a behavior that must be saved for the post childrearing phases of their lives, and self -fulfillment should be sought after in other social roles (other than family) of their own choosing.


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Baron, R. A., & Bryne, D. (1997). Social Psychology: Understanding Human Interaction. (8th ed. ). Boston: Alyn and Bacon, Inc.

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Bem, S. L. (1978). Beyond androgyny: Some presumptuous prescriptions for a liberated sexual identity. In J. Sherman & E. Denmark (Eds.), Psychology of Women: Future direction and research. New York: Psychological Dimensions.

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Rossi, A. S. (1987). Parenthood in transition: from lineage to child self-orientation. In J. B. Lancaster, J. Altman, & L. R. Sherrod (Eds.), Parenting Across the Lifespan: Bisocial Dimensions (pp. 255-270). New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Stake, J. E., Zand, T., & Smalley, R. (1996). The relation of instrumentality and expressiveness to self concept and adjustment: a social context perspective. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 15, 167-190.

Stake, J. E., (1997). Integrating expressiveness and instrumentality in real-life settings: a new perspective on the benefits of androgyny. Sex roles: A Journal of research, 37, 541-565.

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