Sex and Gender

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Bem (1974)

Aim - To construct an inventory to measure masculinity, femininity, and androgyny.

Procedure - 50 male and 50 female judges rated 200 traits for how desirable they were for men and women. Based on the ratings, 20 traits were chosen for a masculinity scale and 20 traits for a femininity scale.

Feminine traits include; compassion, sympathy, warmth, shyness, and gullibility.

Masculine traits include; ambition, athleticism, being analytical, self-sufficiency and aggression.

These traits were then used on the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) where people had to rate themselves between 1 and 7 on each trait.

Findings - When the BSRI was tested over 1000 students it showed itself to be valid when checked against the sample's own description of their gender identity.

A smaller sample of students were tested a month later and got similar scores indicating the inventory was reliable.

Conclusion - Having established the BSRI was reliableand valid, Bem found that some people do score highly on masculine and feminine traits. Men normally scored higher on masculine traits and wome on feminine traits. Many people were more androgynous than at the extremes and these people tend to be psychologically healthier. A small number of people scored low on both sets of traits and were described as 'undifferentiated'.

Evaluation - Questionnaires and inventories rely on people having an insight into their personality and behaviour which not all respondants have. Respondants may also lie or exaggerate to give socially desirable answers - particularly in the case of gender which is a sensitive issue for many. However, Bem's inventory was confidential which reduces the likelihood of dishonest responses.

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Imperato-McGinley (1979)

Aim - To demonstrate that individuals can change their gender role and identity.

Procedure - A case study was carried out on 18 males who were part of the same extended family living in rural communities in the Dominican Republic. They had been born with a hormone deficiency which meant their genetals appeared to be female and so were raised as girls. The evidence suggested that they had no problem adopting a feminine identity and role until puberty. At puberty, the increased production of male hormones caused their testicles to descend and their ********-like organs to grow into penises.

Findings - Following their biological transformation at puberty, nearly all of the boys easily adapted to their true sex. They adopted masculine identities and began to 'behave like men'

Conclusion - This shows that sex and gender are distinct concepts. When investigating they had fully embraced their gender role, showing gender is flexible.

Evaluation - Case studies tend to have small samples. Other cultures would respond differently to the disorder and we cannot assume that all people adapt so easily to their new gender role. Furthermore, the dominican republic was a very patriarchal society so the boys in this study may have been pleased to discover they were actually male.

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