What does Androgynous mean?

In this blog we will answer the question, “what does androgynous mean?” and highlight the aspects of gender identity.

Androgynous means to have the characteristics of both male and female. It has been derived from the Greek word, ‘androgyny’, ‘andro’ meaning man and ‘gyny’ meaning woman. This means that a person can look or sound both male and female, representing both masculine as well as feminine characteristics. 

According to the Britannica, Androgyny is a condition where in only one individual the characteristics of both the sexes are clearly expressed. In Biology, androgyny refers to people with fully developed sexual organs of both the sexes. They are also called hermaphrodites.

Androgyny depicts the personality traits of both the sexes; those traits that are universally associated with the males and the females. Gentleness and toughness, boldness and cultivation, assertiveness and meekness. Androgynous figures frequented the Greek mythology, for example, the great seer Tiresias who was a figure of great wisdom was also depicted as a hermaphrodite.

Androgynous personalities with overlapping masculine and feminie traits exhibit either of the two in some situations and in certain cases, the scale is tipped more on side than the other. It may happen that the stance requires the person to man up and face adversity, in this case the more masculine traits of assertiveness and strength would require the person to automatically bring forth the stereotypical manly demeanor. 

Gender assigned roles or roles specific to masculine and feminie are part of the androgynous person. The person who is androgynous will have a well balanced personality, intersperced with the traits of both the genders. According to the task or situation, each gender role can be dominant, thus giving the androgynous person a chance to simulate each task. 

What causes androgyny?

A person having genitilia for both the sexes, a person also called an intersex person, can be the one who is called androgynous. They are neither males nor females, have the reproductive organs for both. This could be due to the exposure to certain hormones in the mother’s womb, like testosterone, androgen, estrogen of abnormal levels. 

There are behaviour based androgyny, people who conform to the opposite gender more than their own gender. There are people who are born as one gender, but take the opposite gender as their dominant gender. For example, a man has a dominant feministic streak and he likes to dress up and walk or even talk like a woman. It could also mean that he finds pleasure in this or even that he may be a hermaphrodite.

This is also the case with women, who like to dress up and act like men and are usually called tomboys. They assume the role of the dominant male streak they have running. 

The caring streak that men possess is said to have the female dominance trait that is used in rearing or taking care of children. Men also tend to be the providers but if they are deprived of the feminine streak, then this provision will be devoid of any sensitivity. 

Gender ambiguity also refers to as androgynous in when a person may dress up in a way that is not specific to his/her own gender. The fashion models are a clear example of androgyny, where they model clothes of the opposite sex and show that they are gender non-conformers.

Androgynous means a personality that has both male and female characteristics, either of the one can be dominant or both can interplay in situations. Gender and behavior has been said to correlate throughout the studies of human behavior. 

Gender biases are that males should display sturdiness, not be emotional and assume on a more dominant role. This is consolidated in many cultures around the world, where men are taught not to display any emotions,; where a teary eyed man is taken as weak and incapable of rational decisions. Therefore, androgyny in personality would lose its essence when the men would hide or suppress their feminine side in fear or apprehension of social humiliation.

An androgynous mind was not a male mind. It was a mind attuned to the full range of human experience, including the invisible lives of women.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Similarly, these cultures have altered the women with their own typical roles of a homemaker, child rearer and also exhibiting decorum – no matter what the situation is. If both men and women have the liberty to display their androgynous selves then, chances are that a holistic personality can be developed and nurtured.

According to a study carried out at the Karlstad University in Sweden, five hypotheses were presented:-   

  1. Androgynic individuals tend to be more creative 
  2. Stereotypic individuals tend to be less creative 
  3. Androgynic individuals tend to show higher dispositional optimism than the other gender role types, i.e. stereotypic and retrotypic 
  4. Androgynic individuals tend to produce more graffiti (i.e., scrawling) than the other gender-role types 
  5. That small or no gender differences are have a high self-esteem obtained on the masculinity and femininity scales

As Sameul Coleridge said, “a great mind must be androgynous”, Androgynic individuals tend to be motivated, have a high self-esteem and also tend to achieve more out of life – in terms of overall satisfaction as well. There is a combination of passivity and independent aggressive style in the androgynous nature. They seemingly tend to take more risks and on the other hand a classical display of shyness is also observed. 

The level of creativity in androgynic people is higher as they use both their masculine and feminine traits to the best of the combination. 

What is gender stereotyping?

As children we are taught to display gender appropriate behavior. Parents or primary caregivers put the kids into gender slots.;

  • Boys don’t cry
  • Girls play with dolls only and not cars
  • Boys do the outdoor chores
  • Girls help in the kitchen 

Even iin certain classrooms in some cultures, boys are given an edge over girls. They are encouraged to think independently and voice their thoughts. Whereas, girls are discouraged to even participate in rational discussion or say what they are thinking about. 

Media is also to be held responsible for promoting gender stereotypes. Beauty products that are unisex are mostly showing women using them.

A famous example is the Indian stigma of complexion. People are biased towards a fairer skin colour, thus a huge boom of fairness creams is prevalent.

The advertisements, since years have been showing women using fairness creams and thus finally finding the man of their dreams, although men also use the same fairness skin products in abundance.

Now since a few years, advertisements have broken the stereotype, showcasing men using their own brand of skin fairness products.  

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Androgynous Fashion

Fashion is one medium that has displayed the most of the androgynous trends. Earlier in history women and men wore distinct clothing, thus also visibly segregating them from each other. Trousers were specifically a man’s attire. No woman wore it or was even allowed to wear it. 

It was the feminists who initiated wearing trousers and with the initiation of a line of ladies trousers by the designer Coco Chanel, came a revolution in the fashion industry. 

Women were still frowned upon for wearing trousers, but the trend had set in. the androgynous fashion style revolutionized the fashion industry, and women could be seen as more assertive in their dresing style. What we wear shows how we think as well. Therefore, with the onset of trousers and tuxedos for women, the thinking lines were evident as well. 

Designers who initiated this androgynous fashion trend are Yves Saint Laurent, Jean-Paul Gaultier. The line of clothing by Ludovic de Saint Sernin and Charles Jeffrey are also extremely famous.

Fashion shows that display androgynous liine of fashion include: Clokes, capes, the all consuming blacks, kilts, zigzags and geometric prints. The models even wear loud experimental makeup. 

Looking the Androgynous Way

The androgynous fashion characteristizes the two genders. There are certain ways in which androgynous looks are showcased. Like clothing, makeup, accessories, cars, styles and colour schemes around the house. 

Lose T shirts to button down trousers and straight pants in women, loud makeup and short hair, various combinations speak louder than single items of clothing.

Celebrities and Androgyny

There have been celebrities who have favoured an androgynous look and have earned fame because of that specific look. Among them are Prince. Twiggy. Annie Lennox and David Bowie, Pink, Grace Jones, Tilda Swinton, Boy George, Marilyn Manson and Bianca Jagger. This became so famous that people started copying them and made it the look of cover pages and far and wide runways.

Androgyny is not only to do with appearances, it is a way of expressing gender preference as well. Androgyny has been a source of criticism as well as utmost fashion statements as well.

In this blog we have answered the question, “what does androgynous mean?” and highlighted the aspects of gender identity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does androgynous mean sexually?

Sexually androgyny means fully developed sexual organs of both males and females.

What it means to be androgynous?

To be androgynous mean having an ambiguous identity that is neither fully male nor fully female.

What does feminine mean?

Feminine means women like, girls and ladies who dress up conventionally like women.

Are people born androgynous?

People can be born androgynous with both the sex organs fully developed, or they dress up to portray one. 

How is gender identity displayed?

Gender identity is displayed through hairstyles, dressing up, make up and gender relevant fashion.

Titles To Read

  • You and Your Gender Identity: A Guide to Discovery by Dara Hoffman-Fox, Zinnia Jones, et al.
  • Emerging Gender Identities by Yarhouse
  • Androgyny: The Opposites Within (Jung on the Hudson Book) by June Singer 
  • Duchamp & Androgyny: Art, Gender, and Metaphysics by Lanier Graham




Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!