1. What can you tell our readers about your new book Masculine, Feminine, and Fully Human?
Psychologists have often viewed masculinity and femininity in terms of one grand continuum, along which men tend to be closer to one end and women are usually closer to the other end. Some writers have tried to boil the difference down to a pair of words (e.g., agency vs. communion) that they believe capture the essence of the difference. And one writer has declared that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. I have long recognized that there a number of distinct qualities or traits that are masculine in the sense that they appear more often or usually appear more strongly in men, while there are a number of distinct qualities or traits that are more evident in women. When I have sought to assess all these traits, I have noticed that most people show a mixture of masculine and feminine qualities. Some masculine and feminine qualities enhance each other when combined, and most people tend increasingly to blend masculine and feminine qualities as they mature through the adult years. Whether we consider a given qualities masculine or feminine, we can find both male and female individuals who embody it in public life, history, and mythology.
2. When did your interest in personality and development begin?
I have been fascinated since childhood with the ways that people I know vary - not just in their behavior but also in how they seems to think and feel. This interest led me to the field of psychology and, within that field, to the realm of personality theory. Early in my career I did personality-assessment research with children in the primary grades, and later I did related research with adults. I have long given much thought to how the expression of various traits changes in the course of development. I have often tried to locate friends I had in childhood and adolescence to find out how their lives have unfolded since I last saw them long ago.
3. You invite your readers to respond to a short 10-factor scale. Can you tell a little bit more about this?
In the 1980's I surveyed earlier theory and research and then compiled a long list of descriptive words and phrases that might express either masculinity or femininity. I then asked a large group of subjects to indicate whether they believed each word or phrase described something more characteristic of men or of women. Using those words and phrases for which there was substantial agreement, I later asked university students in large classes to rate themselves on each item. When I analyzed their responses, I could distinguish at least ten factors running through the items, and I could identify a set of items that clearly represent each factor. Each factor can be considered either masculine or feminine on the basis of both the original ratings and the self-ratings of the items. (For example, the factor would be considered feminine if the original raters thought the items were more characteristic of women than of men and if the female subjects in the later testing tended to rate themselves higher on the items than male subjects did.) For my book, I put together a questionnaire containing four items for each of the ten factors. The reader can quickly respond to the questionnaire and obtain ten scores. I would not pretend that this short questionnaire is a reliable measuring instrument. My aim is simply to urge readers at an early point in my book to apply its contents to their own lives. Whether they are male or female, most of them will recognize that they can be described as masculine in some respects and feminine in other respects.
4. At what point in your career did you realize that women and men require characteristics of each sex to live life more fully?
I was aware as a child and adolescent that some admirable qualities were seen more often in boys while others were seen more often in girls. I was most impressed by the child who could effectively combine those qualities - e.g., the child (boy or girl) who could effectively lead a group or a class and still tune in to the feelings and needs of individuals in that group. Dominance and compassion are two qualities that complement each other. All the qualities that we can label either masculine or feminine are available potentials for every individual. Followers of Carl Jung have always believed that each of us has both a masculine side and a feminine side. They contend that each of tends to emphasize one side in the course of development into early adulthood, while the other side remains less conscious. Yet they believe that as we continue to develop further during the adult years, the less conscious side tends to be expressed increasingly. Ideally, we all tend to become androgynous as we get older, and our lives become more harmonious if we do.
5. What made you want to write this book?
It brings together many of my long-time areas of interest: the nature of personality, personality development, gender differences, the ideal personality and ideal culmination of personal development (maturity, mental health, self-realization), and major archetypal images of male and female figures in the mythologies of various cultures.
6. What did you learn from the experience?
I learned many things from the research that went into the book, but I found it especially interesting to see how well the basic masculine and feminine themes that my questionnaire research highlights correspond to basic themes in mythology.
7. For those who are not well rehearsed in psychology, how can this book appeal to them?
The writing is not very technical, and the book deals with issues that arise in the course of all of our lives - issues concerning our career choices, our life-style choices, and our relationships with other men and women.
8. Do you plan to write another book on this subject?
I have no plans at this time for another book, but I am considering several possibilities.
9. You are a retired professor. So how do you spend your time now?
I published several psychology books during my teaching career, but I wrote this book (Masculine, Feminine, and Fully Human) after retiring from the university. As a retiree, I have also written poems and stories and published three novels. Throughout my life I have pursued musical interests, playing the piano and composing. In retirement, I have studied voice and worked on arias in German, French, and Italian. For a couple of years, I was in a performance group and sang solos two or three times in public.
Female First Lucy Walton