Pubs: 30 years of masculinity research

What?  In this paper, I discussed the different approaches to measuring masculinity that had been used since the ‘feminist revolution’ of the 1960-70s.

Why?  The way that we measure something tells us how people think about that thing.  And because we’re talking about how researchers measure masculinity, then we’re talking about how science is done.  When findings shift from the research world to the general public, this influences how “everyone” thinks about these topics.

The introduction covered the background, noting that the first formal measures of masculinity and femininity were published in the 1930s and that these measures assumed masculinity and femininity were opposites; either you’re masculine or feminine – you can’t be both.

Starting in the 1970s, there have been three major approaches to measuring masculinity in psychology.  The most prominent is the Trait approach, which relied heavily on Sandra Bem’ Sex Role Inventory (BSRI), published in 1974, and Janet Spence & Robert Helmreich’s Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ), published in 1978.  Both measures used personality type traits, such as “emotional” or “strong”, to measure how masculine and how feminine an individual is. Measuring femininity and masculinity separately (there’s a separate scale for each) was a first and part of what made the scales popular.  The scales have since become known as “instrumental” (for masculine) and “expressive” for feminine (because masculinity and femininity include much more than what’s measured here).  Functionally, these measures indicate how much an individual adheres to (American) cultural notions of femininity and masculinity.

The Ideology movement dates to the 1980s and focuses on an individual’s beliefs about men/women.  For about 20 years, it was rarely used by anyone outside of “men’s studies,” although ideology measures have started to include femininity and move outside of gender studies.   No measure has become the standard bearer.  These scales tend to measure either femininity or masculinity, rarely both.  Many of the scales provide separate scores for different aspects of femininity or masculinity.  For femininity, a scale might give separate scores for body image and being nice, while a masculinity score might give separate scores for homophobia and emotional stoicism.  This was the first class of scales to provide separate scores for different aspects of either femininity or masculinity.  Functionally, these measures also indicate how much an individual adheres to (American) cultural notions of femininity and masculinity.

The “masculinities” movement dates to the 1990s and tends  to be interview based (“qualitative”).  The focus here is on describing the ways in which men live their life, including the ways and the whys of how they confrom to gender stereotypes.

The article also critiqued the field.  These issues include the reliance on undergraduates to develop measures, the lack of attention to development (over time), and the need for ways to quantify masculinities research.