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Androgyny

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Androgyny refers to two concepts. The first is the mixing of masculine and feminine characteristics, such as the loud fashion statements of musicians like Ziggy Stardust; or the balance of “anima” and “animus” in Jungian psychoanalytic theory. The second is in describing something that is neither masculine nor feminine, for example the Hijras of India who are often described as “neither man nor woman”.

Androgynous traits are those that either have no gender value, or have some aspects generally attributed to the opposite gender. Physiological androgyny (compare intersex), which deals with physical traits, is distinct from behavioural androgyny which deals with personal and social anomalies in gender, and from psychological androgyny, which is a matter of gender identity.

A psychologically androgynous person is commonly known as an androgyne, although there is a politicised version known as genderqueer.

To say that a culture or relationship is androgynous is to say that it lacks rigid gender roles and that the people involved display characteristics or partake in activities traditionally associated with the other gender. The term androgynous is often used to refer to a person whose look or build make determining their gender difficult but it is generally not used as a synonym for actual intersexualitytransgender, or two-spirit people.

The morpheme andr- means ‘man’, and the morpheme -gyn- means ‘woman’, derived from Greek.

Some famous people known for their androgynous appearances include: Gladys Bentley, David Bowie, Pete Burns, Jaye Davidson, Marlene Dietrich, Mylène Farmer, Gackt, Boy George, Michael Jackson, Grace Jones, k.d. lang, Annie Lennox, Marilyn Manson, Kristen McMenamy, Marc Bolan, Brian Molko, Phranc, Prince, Brett Anderson, Susan Powter, and Patrick Wolf.

References

  • The measurement of psychological androgyny, Bem, Sandra L. (1974), Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 42, 155-62

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