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Androcentrism (Ancient Greek, ἀνήρ, "man, male"[1]) is the practice, conscious or otherwise, of placing a masculine point of view at the center of one's world view, culture, and history, thereby culturally marginalizing femininity. The related adjective is androcentric, while the practice of placing the feminine point of view at the center is gynocentric.

Origin of the term[edit]

The term androcentrism was introduced as an analytic concept by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in a scientific debate. Perkins Gilman described androcentric practices in society and the resulting problems they created in her investigation on The Man-Made World; or, Our Androcentric Culture, published in 1911.[2] Because of this androcentrism can be understood as a societal fixation on masculinity whereby all things originate. Under androcentrism, masculinity is normative and all things outside of masculinity are defined as other. According to Perkins Gilman, masculine patterns of life and masculine mindsets claimed universality while female patterns were considered as deviance.[2]


Some universities such as the University of Oxford consciously practiced a numerus clausus and restricted the number of female undergraduates they accepted.[3]


Research by Dr. David Anderson and Dr. Mykol Hamilton has documented the under-representation of female characters in 200 top-selling children's books from 2001 and a seven-year sample of Caldecott award-winning books.[4] There were nearly twice as many male main characters as female main characters, and male characters appeared in illustrations 53 percent more than female characters. Most of the plot-lines centered on the male characters and their experiences of life.

The arts[edit]

In 1985 a group of female artists from New York, the Guerrilla Girls, began to protest the under-representation of female artists. According to them, male artists and the male viewpoint continued to dominate the visual art world. In a 1989 poster (displayed on NYC buses) titled "Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?" They reported that less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art sections of the Met Museum were women, but 85% of the nudes were female.[5]

Over 20 years later, women were still under-represented in the art world. In 2007, Jerry Saltz (journalist from the New York Times) criticized the Museum of Modern Art for undervaluing work by female artists. Of the 400 works of art he counted in the Museum of Modern Art, only 14 were by women (3.5%).[6] Saltz also found a significant under-representation of female artists in the six other art institutions he studied.[7]

Generic male language[edit]

In literature, the use of masculine language to refer to men, women, intersex, and non-binary may indicate a male or androcentic bias in society where men are seen as the 'norm', and women, intersex, and non-binary are seen as the 'other'. Philosophy scholar Jennifer Saul argued that the use of male generic language marginalizes women, intersex, and non-binary in society.[8] In recent years, some writers have started to use more gender-inclusive language (for instance, using the pronouns they/them, and using gender-inclusive words like humankind, person, partner, spouse, businessperson, fire-fighter, chairperson and police-officer).

Many studies have shown that male generic language is not interpreted as truly 'gender-inclusive.'[9] Psychological research has shown that, in comparison to unbiased terms such as "they" and "humankind," masculine terms lead to male-biased mental imagery in the mind of both the listener and the communicator.

Three studies by Mykol Hamilton show that there is not only a male → people bias but also a people → male bias.[10] In other words, a masculine bias remains even when people are exposed to only gender neutral language (although the bias is lessened). In two of her studies, half of the participants (after exposure to gender neutral language) had male-biased imagery but the rest of the participants displayed no gender bias at all. In her third study, only males showed a masculine-bias (after exposure to gender neutral language) – females showed no gender bias. Hamilton asserted that this may be due to the fact that males have grown up being able to think more easily than females of "any person" as generic "he," since "he" applies to them. Further, of the two options for neutral language, neutral language that explicitly names women (e.g., "he or she") reduces androcentrism more effectively than neutral language that makes no mention of gender whatsoever (e.g., "human").[11][12]

Feminist anthropologist Sally Slocum argues that there has been a longstanding male bias in anthropological thought as evidenced by terminology used when referring to society, culture and humankind. According to Slocum, "All too often the word 'man' is used in such an ambiguous fashion that it is impossible to decide whether it refers to males or just the human species in general, including both males and females."[13]

Generic male symbols[edit]

On the Internet, many avatars are gender-neutral (such as an image of a smiley face). However, when an avatar is human and discernibly gendered, it usually appears to be a man.[14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Liddell, Henry G.; Scott, Robert; Stuart Jones, Henry (1940). A Greek–English Lexicon. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford: Clarendon Press. OCLC 499596825.
  2. ^ a b Perkins Gilman, Charlotte (1911). The man-made world: or, Our androcentric culture. New York: Charlton. OCLC 988836210.
  3. ^ Frances Lannon (30 October 2008). "Her Oxford". Times Higher Education.
  4. ^ Hamilton, Mykol C.; Anderson, David; Broaddus, Michelle; Young, Kate (December 2006). "Gender stereotyping and under-representation of female characters in 200 popular children's picture books: a twenty-first century update". Sex Roles. 55 (11–12): 757–765. doi:10.1007/s11199-006-9128-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  5. ^ Guerilla Girls poster 1989. Guerrilla Girls. Archived from the original on 25 November 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  6. ^ Saltz, Jerry (18 November 2007). "Where are All the Women? On MoMA's Identity Politics". New York. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  7. ^ Saltz, Jerry (17 November 2007). "Data: Gender Studies. Is MoMA the worst offender? We tallied how women fare in six other art-world institutions". New York. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  8. ^ Saul, Jennifer (2004). "Feminist philosophy of language". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online). Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  9. ^ Studies:
    • Bojarska, Katarzyna (March 2013). "Responding to lexical stimuli with gender associations: a cognitive–cultural model". Journal of Language and Social Psychology. 32 (1): 46–61. doi:10.1177/0261927X12463008.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
    • Hamilton, Mykol C. (December 1988). "Using masculine generics: Does generic he increase male bias in the user's imagery?". Sex Roles. 19 (11–12): 785–799. doi:10.1007/BF00288993.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
    • Hamilton, Mykol C.; Henley, Nancy M. (August 1982). Sex bias in language: effects on the reader/hearer's cognitions. Paper presented at a conference of the American Psychological Association, Los Angeles.
    • DeLoache, Judy S.; Cassidy, Deborah J.; Carpenter, C. Jan (August 1987). "The three bears are all boys: Mothers' gender labeling of neutral picture book characters". Sex Roles. 17 (3–4): 163–178. doi:10.1007/BF00287623.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  10. ^ Hamilton, Mykol C. (November 1991). "Masculine bias in the attribution of personhood: people = male, male = people". Psychology of Women Quarterly. 15 (3): 393–402. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1991.tb00415.x.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  11. ^ Khosroshahi, Fatemeh (December 1989). "Penguins don't care, but women do: A social identity analysis of a Whorfian problem". Language in Society. 18 (4): 505–525. doi:10.1017/S0047404500013889.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  12. ^ Bailey, April H.; LaFrance, Marianne (June 2017). "Who counts as human? Antecedents to androcentric behavior". Sex Roles. 76 (11–12): 682–693. doi:10.1007/s11199-016-0648-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  13. ^ Slocum, Sally (2012) [1975], "Woman the gatherer: male bias in anthropology", in McGee, R. Jon; Warms, Richard L., eds. (11 July 2011). Anthropological theory: an introductory history. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 399–407. ISBN 9780078034886.
  14. ^ Wade, Lisa (4 May 2009). "Default avatars: a collection". The Society Pages | Sociological Images. University of Minnesota. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  15. ^ Bailey, April H.; LaFrance, Marianne (2016). "Anonymously male: Social media avatar icons are implicitly male and resistant to change". Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace. 10 (4): 8. doi:10.5817/CP2016-4-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)


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