Androgyny: meaning, history, stigma


Androgyny is a type of gender representation that combines masculinity and femininity. The word itself combines the two and means that someone has both male and female characteristics.

Andro is the Latin prefix for masculinity or men, while -gyn is a root that can be used as a suffix for the feminine prefix. A person who practices androgyny is an androgyne. The adjective for androgyny is androgynous.

Other words containing Andro- and Gyn-

Androgyny comes from the roots andro- and gyn-, which are also found in several other common words, such as:

  • Androgen : hormones such as testosterone associated with masculinization.
  • Phil and Herr: a man close to many women (focuses on a man).
  • Polygynecology: relationships involving multiple women (focuses on the fact that there are multiple women)
  • Miso gynecology : hostility or hatred towards women
  • Gynecology : medical services oriented to women's health

People of any gender and sexual orientation can be androgynous. While many non-binary and gender-mutable people adopt androgynous gender beliefs, so do cisgender and transgender binaries. There is no intrinsic connection between gender identity and androgyny. Androgyny can be associated with personality, but it can also be associated with fashion and style.

History of androgyny

Androgyny has a long history, although not always by that name. However, the term gained much prominence in the 1970s when Boehm, a renowned genre scientist, came up with the concept of psychological androgyny.

Psychological androgyny refers to the idea that a person can have both male and female qualities. More importantly, it reflected the idea that having such a combination of qualities could be beneficial and was associated with flexibility and better adaptation .

Some researchers have argued that androgyny is both positive and negative. Positive androgyny is when people have positive characteristics associated with both masculinity and femininity, such as compassion and independence.

On the contrary, negative androgyny is associated with the presence of negative masculine and feminine characteristics, such as temperament and aggressiveness. Perhaps unsurprisingly, positive androgyny is associated with better mental health and well-being than negative androgyny .

Biology and androgyny

Some people use the word androgynous to refer to people with both male and female biological characteristics. However, androgyny is more commonly used to refer to beliefs and behavior, and people who mix male and female biology are more often referred to as intersex or people with gender differences (or disorders) .

Androgyny is most commonly used as a biological term to describe non-human beings. For example, did you know that plants can be androgynous? Some plants can produce staminate and pistillate flowers at the same time. Both stamens and pistils are essential for plant reproduction.

One criticism of psychological androgyny is that it assumes that certain characteristics are masculine and feminine, rather than seeing masculinity and femininity as culturally constructed.

Therefore, psychological androgyny can also be seen as a description of those least involved in the cultural constructions associated with gender and its expression.

Stigma and androgyny

The degree of stigmatization of androgyny can reflect a number of factors. However, it is likely that, as with genderless people, androgynous people are sometimes stigmatized because they are perceived as belonging to sexual or gender minorities.

Unconventional looks and gestures have been shown to be less acceptable to some young people and adults. Therefore , when androgyny is rare, it can lead to negative reactions.

Androgyny can also be uncomfortable for some people because it causes difficulties with their social scripts. Social scripts are automatic ways in which people classify and interact with others based on their perception of their personality.

When people are unsure whether it is a man or a woman, it may take a conscious effort to interact, for example by identifying pronouns, and it can seem like a struggle to make that effort. It may sound silly, but this type of struggle is associated with negative attitudes towards transgender people.

Some people, especially politically conservative people, are more comfortable with transgender people who "pass off" their approved gender, because they don't need to think about their gender .

Androgyny or hermaphroditism?

Historically, people who have male and female reproductive organs have also been called hermaphrodites. This differs from androgyny in that the term focuses on reproductive capacity rather than other types of male and female traits.

The term hermaphrodite comes from Greek mythology and is no longer used to describe humans. However, it is still used to describe individuals of other species that are fertile, both male and female.

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness that both sex and sex exist on a multiple spectrum or spectra, and not as binaries. It can also change the understanding of androgyny. Rather than having a mix of masculine and feminine characteristics, at least some androgynous people can be seen as belonging to the spectrum between men and women in their perceptions or behavior.

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There are a number of movie and rock stars who are adored or even celebrated for their androgynous performances, such as Tilda Swinton, David Bowie, and Marlene Dietrich. In fact, even those historical archetypes of femininity, the Disney princesses, have become more androgynous since 2006.

People's feelings about androgyny depend a lot on their circumstances, identity and upbringing, as well as the personality and circumstances of the androgynous person. It is important to note that androgyny is generally considered more acceptable to women than men.

However, even this is a moving target. Research shows that at least college-educated American men can become more androgynous over time. and that married men become more androgynous with age.

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