Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Specific Patterns in the Social Perception and Exploration of Masculinity/femininity

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Specific Patterns in the Social Perception and Exploration of Masculinity/femininity

Article excerpt

In this paper we present an outline of four main paradigms regarding masculinity and femininity that Western society has historically crossed. We begin by showing how and why masculinity was for a long time regarded as humanity's ideal and then we discuss the ways in which and the reasons why the latter has over the last century turned to femininity.

These four perspectives did not strictly replace one another as clear-cut stages of a historical orderly development. Rather, they intertwined as alternative paradigms, so that one can find two or three of them illustrated in different communities at the same time.

However, one can still talk about more than a simple classification, since they successively appeared in the order of this presentation and, moreover, they successively disappeared and came to be replaced by the following one in the same order.

Moreover, we show that historical development could not but have passed through these stages in this order, and to that end we make use of the classical concepts of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. We use this terminology as it was inherited from three great German philosophers: it originated with Immanuel Kant, was elaborated by Johann Gottlieb Fichte and famously illustrated in the works of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

In our sketches we call the four stages "Masculinity +", "Masculinity -", "Femininity +", and "Femininity respectively, according to the traits explored throughout each era, be they culturally regarded as positively / negatively masculine or positively / negatively feminine. We present them one by one, in a logical sequence comprising for each of them:

a general presentation,

the Weltanschauung or worldview that made it possible,

hallmark cultural trends,

typical scientific products,

the way in which and the reasons for which it ended, giving birth to the following stage.


The concept of the thesis-antithesis-synthesis succession is a way of looking at the periodization of a historical development, a way to systematize the stages that are passed through in a historical crescendo. This systematization takes into consideration the relation between each stage and the previous one, and by that it accounts for the very motivation of entering a new stage in terms of the ones that have already been experienced and left behind.

It was proposed by Kant, developed by Fichte and diversely illustrated (under two different titles) by Hegel. The beginning of the sequence is a basic thesis, an axiom which offers a frame perspective on the world. This thesis is univocally pursued, unanimously supported, and gradually developed up to its last consequences, resulting in a saturation effect (caused by excess), which in turn generates its rejection.

Thus its opposite thesis is bom, the antithesis, also supported and pursued during the next stage of the historical development. In contrast to the first stage, the second one is generated out of a different motivation - a negative reaction to the first stage - and, on the other hand, it ends in a different way, this time not by pure rejection, but by an encompassing clarification regarding both opposing views that had been tried up to then.

This type of finalization, which we may properly call 'completion,' makes it possible to transition to the third stage, one of broad perspective on both points of view experienced before - a stage where we can expect to find most of the advantages of both previous theses and least of the disadvantages of each.

In general, the time of antitheses development is a time of cultural crisis, which the synthesis' apparition would solve by qualitatively overcoming the causes that generated it. Subsequently, each synthesis, functioning per se, becomes a thesis that draws, in due time, a negative re-action in the form of a new antithesis, with which it then merges. The duo crystallizes into a new synthesis, on a higher level - and the cycle keeps repeating, at the same time evolving and expanding. …

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