Sex Roles [sers] pp1075-sers-477808 December 18, 2003 16:13 Style ﬁle version June 3rd, 2002
Sex Roles, Vol. 50, Nos. 1/2, January 2004 (
Thirty Years After the Discovery of Gender: Psychological
Concepts and Measures of Masculinity
Andrew P. Smiler
Study of the construct of masculinity has undergone substantial change since the feminist
critique of gender in the 1960–70s. This review focuses on constancies and changes within
empirical psychological theories and measurement because measures represent masculinity
and their underlying assumptions are often obscured. After a brief historical introduction,
5 distinct movements are identiﬁed by their assumptions. These movements discuss masculinity
as a unipolar construct, an ideology, a source of strain, a socially constructed entity, and, most
recently, as a blend of these different movements. The lack of developmental accounts of
masculinity and the positioning of masculinity as an acontextual, superordinate organizing
element of individual lives are also addressed. Concluding comments address the lack of
inﬂuence by masculinity researchers on broader psychological thought.
KEY WORDS: masculinity; critique; measurement; gender; history.
During the 1970s psychological researchers made
an important discovery: humans are gendered be-
ings whose lives and experiences are (most likely)
inﬂuenced by their gender. Although this discov-
ery was not novel—gender-related theories and
research had existed since the earliest days of
psychology, particularly among those in the mental
testing movement who sought to quantify gender dif-
ferences (Morawski, 1985)—a substantial amount of
research was soon published that overturned the ex-
isting theoretical constructs and the measures upon
which they were based (Herman, 1995; Pleck, 1987).
This discovery and subsequent shift in thinking origi-
nated within the women’s and gay rights movements
(Connell, 1993; Lisak, 2000), and its results have been
important for both women and men. For men, the
Portions of this material were presented at the 2002 conference of
the American Psychological Association and in the Society for the
Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity (SPSMM) Bulletin.
Department of Psychology, University of New Hampshire,
Durham, New Hampshire.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at De-
partment of Psychology, University of Michigan, 525 East
University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109; e-mail: asmiler@
1970s marked the beginning of the study of men as
men and no longer as idealized, nongendered humans
(Lisak, 2000; Thompson & Pleck, 1995).
During the last 30 years, the psychological study
of men (in the United States) has focused primar-
ily on identifying the main elements of masculinity,
as demonstrated by the hypothetical population of
all (American) men, and then quantifying the extent
to which these elements are present in an individual
man. In this article, I provide a brief review of the the-
oretical perspectives from which these measures and
their accompanying theories originated and highlight
the major approaches to conceptualizations of mas-
culinity and their manifestation in measurement tools.
The relationship between theory and measurement
is particularly important because “psychology consti-
tutes its object in the process of knowing it” (Rose,
1996, p. 49) and psychological tests “become symbolic
signiﬁers and the signiﬁed” (Morawski, 1985, p. 215).
Regarding masculinity, this suggests that not only
does the psychological construct of masculinity re-
ﬂect researchers’ underlying theoretical preferences,
but their measures also reﬂect these preferences. Be-
cause these measures serve as the operational deﬁni-
tion of masculinity in empirical studies, the measures
2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation