Academic journal article Sociological Viewpoints

Gender Traits and Normative/humanistic Behavior

Academic journal article Sociological Viewpoints

Gender Traits and Normative/humanistic Behavior

Article excerpt


In this study I tried to discover if there is a relationship between conservative/humanistic behavior and gender identity traits. I also looked at the differences between male and female characteristics involving interpretation of gender based vocabulary and ideologies. To determine behavior and gender traits I used the Tomkins polarity scale and the Bem Sex Role Inventory respectively. I also used a survey that I constructed to categorize the different dimensions of the respondents on these variables. I administered these surveys to a sample of 102 students at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. All data collected were processed and analyzed using the SPSS program. As expected, a strong correlation was discovered between gender stereotypical traits and conservative or humanistic ideologies regarding human nature. Additionally, several significant gender differences between women and men emerged.


Changing gender roles and vast differences in values in today's society have demonstrated the need to study whether there is a relationship between gender traits and normative/humanistic behavior. In order to do this, an understanding of these two constructs must first be addressed. It is important to have a clear definition of each construct and the instruments being used to measure the difference between them.

Gender Traits

The 1970s brought forth a new concept in masculinity and femininity research: the idea that healthy women and men could possess similar characteristics. Androgyny emerged as a framework for interpreting similarities and differences among individuals according to the degree to which they described themselves in terms of characteristics traditionally associated with men (masculine), and those associated with women (feminine), (Cook 1987). The term androgyny has its roots in classical mythology and literature (andro/male,gyne/female). The Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI) (Bem, 1974) was designed to facilitate empirical research on psychological androgyny. Since its development in 1974, the BSRI has been widely used but also widely criticized. A sex-typed person (either a feminine woman or a masculine man) is characterized as one who tends to conform to social standards. More specifically, a sex-typed woman is one who is cooperative, dependent, and yielding, whereas a sex-typed man is one who acts as a leader and is aggressive and assertive (Bem, 1974). An androgynous person is characterized as having both high masculine and high feminine traits without employing a gender schema; circumstances dictate which trait, feminine or masculine, is exhibited by an androgynous person (Bem, 1977). According to Bem (1987), a sex-typed individual is someone whose self-concept incorporates prevailing cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity. Bem's (1979) distinct purpose was "to assess the extent to which the culture's definitions of desirable female and male attributes are reflected in an individual's self-description." Thus, she defined masculinity and femininity in terms of sex-linked social desirability.

Since its development (Bem, 1974), researchers have used the BSRI in a variety of ways. For example, one study examined the relationship between BSRI scores and peer-rated and self-rated leadership in single-sex and mixed-sex groups (Gurman & Long, 1992), whereas another assessed the degree of similarity between the BSRI self-ratings of those in the southern region of the United States and those in Bern's (1974) Stanford University sample (Faulkender, 1987). Other researchers have been interested in the extent to which BSRI self-ratings may vary by the context in which respondents are asked to think of themselves as they complete the BSRI. In one study, participants were asked to complete the BSRI several times, each time thinking of themselves in a variety of roles, including that of parent, student, and romantic partner (Uleman & Weston, 1986). …

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