LetÂ´s try the experiment to have some concrete stuff in this thread, shall we?
The ideas below come from a chapter on Femininity/masculinity
by Jan E. Stets and Peter J. Burke, Department of Sociology, Washington State University. I think they could add some interesting angles to the discussion in three particular points. The arguments are from the chapter cited, the emphasis
First, I see in the thread a generalized agreement on considering masculinity and femininity as innate, even genetic, human characteristics. I believe that the idea is unsubstantiated, and I find the following argument quite compelling in supporting the alternative view:
We now understand that femininity and masculinity are not innate but are based upon social and cultural conditions. Anthropologist Margaret Mead addressed the issue of differences in temperament for males and females in Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935). This early study led to the conclusion that there are no necessary differences in traits or temperaments between the sexes. Observed differences in temperament between men and women were not a function of their biological differences. Rather, they resulted from differences in socialization and the cultural expectations held for each sex.
One is led to this conclusion because the three societies studied by Mead showed patterns of temperament which were quite varied compared with our own. Among the Arapesh, both males and females displayed what we would consider a "feminine" temperament (passive, cooperative and expressive). Among the Mundugamor, both males and females displayed what we would consider a "masculine" temperament (active, competitive and instrumental). Finally, among the Tchambuli, men and women displayed temperaments that were different from each other, but opposite to our own pattern. In that society, men were emotional, and expressive while women were active and instrumental.
Second, the thread (and the Woman concept in general) tends to describe individuals as either masculine or feminine, in a "full vs empty" fashion, i.e. someone is 80% masculine therefore is 20% feminine. I believe thatÂ´s simplistic and misleading, and that is pretty much equivalent to say that someone is 80% athletic therefore
Is not a case of p + q = 1
, masculinity and femininity are not the same thing but going in opposite directions, A and non-A, etc.
(Not sure if this concept of masculinity + femininity =100%
has anything to do with the related concept that "man and woman complement each other", which is also pretty much vacuous wishful thinking, IMHO).
These would be the arguments for that:
With separate measures of masculinity and femininity, it is possible to ask about the relationship between the measure of masculinity and the measure of femininity. When this relationship is examined, it is found that the two scales are not strongly negatively related as would be expected if masculinity were the opposite of femininity. Instead, the two ratings are relatively unrelated; knowing oneâ€™s score on one scale does not predict the score on the other scale. People have all combinations of scores. Androgyny is indicated by a small difference between masculinity and femininity scores, representing balanced levels of these two characteristics. The other classifications are masculine (high M and low F scores), feminine (high F and low M scores), and undifferentiated (low F and low M scores).
One of the standarized inventories that sociologists/psychologists have come up with to measure masculinity and femininity on separate, independent dimensions is the the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ)
. This is a 24 question, 5 point-scale test that allows to measure Masculinity, Femininity and Androgyny ("Masculinity-Femininity"), using characteristics that men are generally seen possessing more than women and viceversa. More about the test is here
(I am going to try to format it as an interactive web-based test, so GF members could play with it).
And finally, the third point I want to address in the context of this thread and the Woman
concept in general is about the notable importance that is ascribed to gender in relation to something else, i.e. wisdom. I think that this could (not that it is, just that it could
) be the result of an obsession with gender differences, seeing them as the cause of everything, in the same way that if one were to have an obsession with zodiac signs, one would probably be ascribing a big importance to have been born during certain times of the year for being able to ever become a sage.
Anyway, this is what psychologists/sociologists have to say on the matter:
(...) the salience of gender identity across individuals, groups, and even cultures. Salience refers to the probability that a particular identity will be invoked in a situation. This will vary by situation, but it also varies across individuals. For some, gender is not very relevant, and for others gender is almost always relevant. This returns us to Bemâ€™s notion of gender schematization or the tendency to see the world in gendered terms. What makes gender identity more or less salient for people, and what are the consequences of that?
(...) we know very little about subcultural, cultural, and cross-cultural differences in the meanings that are attached to femininity and masculinity. Most of what we know concerns western cultures, yet as Margaret Mead discovered long ago, these patterns are not universal. We need to investigate the variation in the meanings of being masculine and feminine. Such studies may help us understand a society's division of labor, differential power and status structure, in general, how society's privileges and responsibilities are allocated. To modify the social system may mean first modifying individual beliefs about masculinity and femininity.