Masculine or Feminine … or Neither?

Over the summer, I had one homework assignment for AP Psychology. It was to read Forty Studies That Changed Psychology and write two paragraph summaries for ten of the forty studies that caught my eye. In normal fashion, I read only ten of the studies and wrote the paragraphs the night before the due date. One of the studies that caught my eye was a study called Masculine or Feminine … or Both? that explored gender in psychology and proposed the idea that instead of masculinity and feminity being measured separately based on sex, they would be two variables on the same graph. Not only did this study introduce the idea of androgyny, but it also completely changed how psychologists studied gender.

The study was done by a professor who gave her students a list of positive attributes and asked her them which ones she felt were desirable to the opposite sex. This made it so that it strictly abided by gender norms in society. She then took the list and turned it into a test in which different attributes were listed with an “agree-disagree” spectrum with masc attributes contributing as negative variables and femme contributing as positive variables. She then made scoring guidelines: anyone -.05 or under was on the masc spectrum, anyone 0.5 or over was on the femme spectrum, and if the score ranged from -0.49-0.49, the person would then be considered “androgynous”.

In 1974, this was one of the most progressive gender studies in human history as it suggested that gender attributes weren’t exactly tied to sex. However, this study was done in 1974, not only have gender studies come a long way, but some of the research methods are outdated. For example, the attributes that are labeled “masculine” or “feminine” are only based on hetero-normativity and do not consider same-sex or other forms of attraction. Although it is likely a lot of the attributes will stay the same, some might change which is very important if something like this is to be measured. Then there’s the possibility that androgyny as a measurement of gender is outdated as well.

I’m not saying that we should all remove androgyny from our vocabularies altogether, as it is a good adjective for someone who has physical attributes of both sexes. What I do think, is that it limits psychological studies of gender as it still somewhat adheres to the idea that there are only two real classifications/identifications of gender. Realistically, a study such as this is really more useless than anything. In today’s world, there are so many gender identifications such as non-binary that completely exclude masculinity and femininity altogether. It might even be better to exclude gender identification in psychology altogether as it is extremely difficult to study something that has an actively growing number of variables.

Art by Frida Kahlo

Exhausted

Image Credit: Celestialhairgallery.com

For the girls: a few questions.

Isn’t it exhausting? Exhausting to have a standard already set for what makes a woman beautiful? Everywhere you look, you see a beautiful girl with beautiful hair, skin, and eyes, a beautiful smile and a beautiful body, a girl who looks nothing like you. She doesn’t seem to look like anyone you’ve ever met before, either, except for the hundreds of other girls you see on billboards or magazines. Those girls all look alike.

Isn’t it exhausting that from the time you are born, you are programmed to think that the basis of your worth comes from the extent of your beauty? Why is so much of your importance based on your physical appearance, when really it shouldn’t matter at all?

How long have you felt the pressures of upholding the image of a “woman”? Since as long as you’ve been able to communicate, you are told what you should and should not do or say, how to act, and even how to sit properly.

Isn’t it exhausting to feel like you’re never good enough? Isn’t it exhausting to be chastised for speaking your mind or disagreeing with someone, to feel guilty for eating a big meal? Doesn’t it frustrate you to think that you might not be paid the same amount as the man sitting in the desk next to you and who signed the same contract as you?

Do you get angry? When you have too much contact with the opposite sex- you’re flirtatious and need attention, but when you don’t engage with men- you’re a prude.

Isn’t it exhausting to always be comparing yourself to, competing with, and feeling threatened by other strong and capable women? Girls shouldn’t have to feel this way about each other; girls should want to support each other. Do you ever try so hard to make everyone else appreciate you that you forget to appreciate yourself?

Why is it okay for your brother to tell a sexual joke, but God forbid a sister should make one, for then it becomes “disappointing” and “irresponsible.” Why in third grade PE do the boys have to do twenty push-ups, but the girls can only do ten “girl” push-ups? Why do boys use the phrase “like a girl” as a way to insult one another, why should boys be warned not to “throw like a girl”?

Isn’t it exhausting to always be made so aware of how you look? To feel self conscious about even your chipped nail polish because a boy commented on it, to feel uncomfortable walking past groups of men on the street for fear of hearing how pretty you look in that little dress.

Why are skinny girls the only ones allowed to wear certain clothes, the only ones you see in advertisements? Does it make you sad to think about how strongly society correlates being thin to being beautiful?

And why is it- no matter what- everything always comes back to your physical appearance?

Being a girl myself, I think I can sum up the answer to these questions, on behalf of all girls: Yes. It does make us sad, and angry, and frustrated. It is exhausting – and we’re tired of it.