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. 1984;32:59-95.

Gender Identity and Its Implications for the Concepts of Masculinity and Femininity

  • PMID: 6398859

Gender Identity and Its Implications for the Concepts of Masculinity and Femininity

J T Spence. Nebr Symp Motiv. .


In this chapter, I have suggested that although the terms masculine and feminine and masculinity and femininity have rarely been defined, they appear to have two types of meaning both for psychologists and for the community at large. First, masculine and feminine have an empirical meaning, being used as labels to identify specific objects, events, or qualities that in a given culture are perceived as more closely associated with males or with females. Second, these adjectives and, even more exclusively the nouns masculinity and femininity, are used as theoretical constructs that refer to a fundamental property or aspect of the individual's self-concept that is not directly observable. Masculinity and femininity in this second sense are conceived as bipolar opposites, almost all men having a firm sense of their psychological masculinity and almost all women having a similar sense of their femininity. The implicit assumptions on which conventional theories of masculinity-femininity are predicated imply that all gender-related phenomena contribute to a bipolar femininity-masculinity factor so that assessment of an individual's masculine and feminine qualities (in the empirical sense of these terms) can be used to infer his or her position on the hypothetical masculinity-femininity continuum. Constructs such as sex-role identification and sex-role orientation are based on the same assumptions. More recently it as been proposed that masculine and feminine qualities and their accompanying self-images of masculinity and femininity constitute instead two separate, statistically independent dimensions. However, most investigators nominally advancing this two-factor model and tying the measurement of masculinity and femininity to instruments containing separate scales of masculine and feminine attributes have in fact employed unidimensional bipolar models, based on such concepts as sex-role identification, sex typing, or gender schema. The empirical data, however, support neither the one-factor nor the two-factor model of gender-differentiating phenomena, suggesting instead that they are multidimensional. To the extent that the concepts of masculinity-femininity (and other similar unidimensional constructs) or of masculinity and femininity are intended to represent the structure of gender-relevant characteristics, these constructs lack validity. I proposed, however, that masculinity and femininity, as they refer to an individual's self-concept, be retained and reconceptualized as gender identity: a basic phenomenological sense of one's maleness or femaleness that parallels awareness and acceptance of one's biological sex and is established early in life.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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