In this article I will address the following topics about masculinity and femininity:

  1. What are masculinity and femininity?
  2. Define masculine
  3. Define femininity
  4. Masculine and feminine gender examples


Definition of Masculinity and Femininity

Let’s first start with a definition of masculinity and femininity:

“Masculinity and femininity, from a cultural point of view and not from a gender point of view, give an indication of the direction of motivation. Whether this is goal oriented (=masculine) or whether this is process oriented (=feminine)”

If you do a search on the Internet for “what is masculinity and femininity” there are of course thousands of results. However, most of these results consider the gender association that is so often made when you talk about this cultural dimension.

I will give some masculine and feminine gender examples, but this will not be the focus point. Because the name given to this dimension is misleading to many (masculine) cultures (read the part on masculine and feminine gender examples).


What’s Wrong With Masculinity and Femininity?

The main problem lies in the association that many people have or make when they hear these two words; often they are immediately associated with gender; the woman man comparison. And that was never the intention.

A better name for this cultural dimension could be: Process versus Goal orientation. But most of academia and most of the Internet search results still focus on the initial name.

In the rest of this article, I will do the same. Just remember that you can substitute masculinity with Goal orientation and femininity with Process orientation.

In my own experience does the USA have the biggest conceptual issues with the name of this dimension.

At a certain time when I was giving a workshop in Boston MA, someone walked up to me tell me that I couldn’t use these terms because they were discriminating. Of course, that was never my intention. The solution I found was either using the words “Goal Orientation” or “Tough” for masculine cultures and “Process” or “Tender” for feminine cultures.


Define Masculine

To define masculine, using the word “Goal” makes more sense than using the word “Tough“. Another way to define masculine is: “Winning & decisiveness are important in society”.

Examples and characteristics that define masculine are:

  • Winning is good, and gets you rewarded: usually, the best indicator for performing or performance is money, because it is a measurable quantity. For that reason being rewarded for one’s performance is more prevalent in masculine countries than in feminine countries.
  • Standing or status is important. This is “Acquired” status. In other words, if you work hard enough, you can achieve this form of status (as opposed to “Ascribed” status, which has to do with Hierarchy). When you work hard you will be rewarded for your performance which will give you the status you desire.
  • Competition: competing is good and is considered as fair play; or a chance to show how good you are. Even competition amongst colleagues in the same organization or department is seen as fair play.
  • Admiration for the winner: the successful achiever gets the credits and is being admired for what she has done and achieved.


Examples of Masculinity Countries

  • Japan (highest scoring country in the world!)
  • USA (not surprisingly maybe)
  • The UK
  • Italy
  • Nigeria

To find a complete overview of all the countries and their respective score on this dimension and other cultural dimensions please go here.


Define Femininity

When we define femininity the word “Tender” makes good sense. However, a better way to define femininity is “Process orientation and consensus“.

Below you can find some examples and characteristics that define femininity:

  • Sticking your head out is not appreciated (socially, nor materially): in other words being better than others does not get you more money and people will not like you more.
  • Equal: don’t think you are anyone, just because you think you are. In the Nordic countries, there is even a specific “Law of Jante“. It says something like: don’t think you are anyone, that you will become anyone or that you’re better than anyone…
  • Consensus: rather than being decisive, people prefer the process of reaching consensus (which is something different than reaching a compromise; with a compromise both parties don’t get what they want, while with a consensus agreement people can go for the “third option“)
  • Sympathy for the loser: or sympathy for the underdog; the less successful in society deserve a chance and should be helped.


Examples of Feminine Countriesmasculinity femininity employee of the month

  • The Netherlands
  • Nordic Countries
  • Iceland
  • Chile
  • Thailand

To find a complete overview of all the countries and their respective score on this dimension and other cultural dimensions please go here.


Masculine and Feminine Gender Examples

It is not totally untrue that this dimension is not related to gender differences.

It is just true that when people define masculine or define femininity they immediately think of the gender differences.

In one given country you will find that indeed men are more masculine than women. So in the highest scoring country, Japan, the men would score more masculine than the Japanese women.

However, we’re talking about cultural differences. And in particular differences between countries or cultures. Not within one country (then you would simply refer to gender differences and calling it gender differences too).

What we need to do is compare one country with another. So if you take the highest scoring country, Japan, and compare this with the lowest scoring country (the most feminine), Sweden, you would find that Japanese men are significantly more masculine than Swedish men. And the same holds true for women; Japanese women are significantly more masculine than Swedish women.

Another way of looking at the masculine and feminine gender examples is a phenomenon called “role overlap“. To what extent does society accept that men do what women traditionally should do and vice versa.

In feminine cultures, this role overlap is much bigger than in more masculine cultures.

Another masculine and feminine gender example can be put in a question:

Being Employee of the Month; Is this a Reward or a Punishment?

The answer to the above question depends a great deal on your cultural background. There are cultures that would answer with a definite YES, others with a NO (and there are the in-betweens too of course).

And in more masculine countries women as much as men are motivated by being the employee of the month. Whereas in feminine countries neither would care much about it.


Gender Differences and Social Media

Below is an image that displays how English speaking men and women differ in the use of language that they use on social media.

So within one culture, you will see gender differences between men and women. However, these are so-called intrA-cultural differences and not intER-cultural differences.

Masculine and Feminine Gender Examples

Click to enlarge

Source: Wikipedia


This Masculinity and Femininity dimension of culture is often considered as the Marketing dimension. Many of the commercials we see are either very (over the top) Feminine or very (over the top) Masculine.

Below is an example:

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