Androgyny is the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics. Sexual ambiguity may be found in fashion, gender identity, sexual identity, or sexual lifestyle. It can also refer to biological intersex physicality, especially with regard to plant and human sexuality.
Androgyny and homosexuality are seen in Plato’s Symposium in a myth that Aristophanes tells the audience. People used to be spherical creatures, with two bodies attached back to back who cartwheeled around. There were three sexes: the male-male people who descended from the sun, the female-female people who descended from the earth, and the male-female people who came from the moon. This last pairing represented the androgynous couple. These sphere people tried to take over the gods and failed. Zeus then decided to cut them in half and had Apollo stitch them back together leaving the navel as a reminder to not defy the gods again. If they did, he would cleave them in two again to hop around on one leg. Plato states in this work that homosexuality is not shameful. This is one of the earlier written references to androgyny. Other early references to androgyny include astronomy, where androgyn was a name given to planets that were sometimes warm and sometimes cold.
For humans, androgyne (/ˈændrədʒaɪn/ an-drə-jyn) in terms of gender identity is a person who does not fit neatly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles of their society. Androgynes may also use the term “ambigender” or “polygender” to describe themselves. Many androgynes identify as being mentally between woman and man, or as entirely genderless. They may identify as “non-gender”, “gender-neutral”, “agender”, “between genders”, “genderqueer“, “non-binary”, “multigender”, “intergendered”, “pangender” or “gender fluid”.
Bem Sex-Role Inventory
The Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI) was constructed by the early leading proponent of androgyny, Sandra Bem (1977). The BSRI is one of the most widely used gender measures. Based on an individual’s responses to the items in the BSRI, they are classified as having one of four gender role orientations: masculine, feminine, androgynous, or undifferentiated.
An androgynous person is a female or male who has a high degree of both feminine (expressive) and masculine (instrumental) traits. A feminine individual is ranked high on feminine (expressive) traits and ranked low on masculine (instrumental) traits. A masculine individual is ranked high on instrumental traits and ranked low on expressive traits. An undifferentiated person is low on both feminine and masculine traits.
According to Sandra Bem, androgynous men and women are more flexible and more mentally healthy than either masculine or feminine individuals; undifferentiated individuals are less competent. More recent research has debunked this idea, at least to some extent, and Bem herself has found weaknesses in her original pioneering work. Now she prefers to work with gender schema theory.
To a degree, context influences which gender role is most adaptive. In close relationships, a feminine or androgynous gender role may be more desirable because of the expressive nature of close relationships. However, a masculine or androgynous gender role may be more desirable in academic and work settings because of the demands for action and assertiveness.
One study found that masculine and androgynous individuals had higher expectations for being able to control the outcomes of their academic efforts than feminine or undifferentiated individuals.
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