Androgyny and Midday Mastication: Do Real Men Eat Quiche?

ABSTRACT - The Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) measures the sex role variables of masculinity and femininity. People who are high on both scales are classified as androgynous. This study investigated the relationship between sex, sex-role identity measured with the BSRI, and food preferences for lunch. Although only a few preferences related to sex roles, sex differences were observed in preference for ham, beef, vegetarian food, fast food, "good" food, "junk" food, sandwiches, hamburgers, eggs, pizza, hot dogs, health food, spaghetti, salad, and total number of responses. These results and their implications for consumer behavior are discussed.


Lynn R. Kahle and Pamela Homer (1985) ,"Androgyny and Midday Mastication: Do Real Men Eat Quiche?", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 12, eds. Elizabeth C. Hirschman and Moris B. Holbrook, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 242-246.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 12, 1985      Pages 242-246


Lynn R. Kahle, University of Oregon

Pamela Homer, University of Oregon


The Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) measures the sex role variables of masculinity and femininity. People who are high on both scales are classified as androgynous. This study investigated the relationship between sex, sex-role identity measured with the BSRI, and food preferences for lunch. Although only a few preferences related to sex roles, sex differences were observed in preference for ham, beef, vegetarian food, fast food, "good" food, "junk" food, sandwiches, hamburgers, eggs, pizza, hot dogs, health food, spaghetti, salad, and total number of responses. These results and their implications for consumer behavior are discussed.


Marketers have shown a great deal of interest in speculation about the changing sex roles in our society. Yet, in spite of this widespread awareness of the importance of shifting sex roles, insufficient attention has been given to the direct measurement of sex roles, as opposed to sex, within the consumer behavior literature. Social science in general, on the other hand, has lately shown a massive interest in sex role measurement. The Bem (1974) Sex Role Inventory (BSRI), for example, is the most widely regarded instrument for measuring sex roles. It was cited 142 times in 1982 in social science literature but cited only twice in marketing and consumer behavior literature, according to the Social Science Citation Index. And neither of these two citations (Belk, Bahn, and Mayer 1982; Sirgy 1982) could be classified as primarily about sex roles.

Sex Role Measurement in the Marketing Literature

A few operationalizations of measures of sex-role identity (Gough 1952, 1975; Spence, Helmreich, and Stapp 1974) have nevertheless appeared in the marketing literature (e.g., Osmond and Martin 1975; Settle, Alreck, and Belch 1981). Use of Gough's California Psychological Inventory (CPI) Fe Scale showed that behavior was consistent with sex-role identity (Fry 1971). Specifically, more feminine men were more likely to smoke feminine cigarettes than were men identified as masculine. Although Morris and Cundiff (1971) could not support the hypothesis that sex-role identity as measured by Gough's femininity scale was related to men's ratings of hair spray, they did find that males with a relatively high feminine identity and a high level of anxiety express strongly unfavorable attitudes towards the use of this feminine product.

Contrary to expectations, Gentry and Doering (1977) found that sex explained more of the variability in consumer behavior than did sex-role identity as measured by Bem's (1974) scale. Two masculinity-femininity scales were utilized to explore male and female perceptions of a wide variety of products and leisure activities and to explore whether sex-role identity within each sex is related to product perceptions (Gentry, Doering & O'Brien 1978). Analyses of the CPI Fe Scale (Gough 1975) and the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ: Spence, Helmreich, and Stapp 1974) found only weak support for a congruency between sex-role identity and the use of products with a neutral sexual identity or one opposite of the individual's sex-role identity.

An exploratory study (Golden, Allison & Clee 1979) designed to investigate (1) the influence of sex-role identity upon product perceptions and (2) the influence of sex, product use, and self-esteem upon masculine and feminine perceptions of product did apply Bem's (1974) scale to measure sex-role identity. A strong systematic relationship among product perceptions and sex, sex-role identity, use, and self-esteem across products could not be demonstrated; but it could be concluded that the independent variables do influence masculine and feminine product perceptions. Sex-role identity appeared to be more important for feminine product perceptions than masculine product perceptions. The individual's sex and product use are at least as important, however, for product perceptions as sex-role identity.

A measure of sex-role specificity (Settle, Alreck, and Belch 1981) was related to the likelihood of trial and use of brands of soap (Alreck, Settle, and Belch 1982). The more men tend to prescribe behavior on the basis of sex, the more they accept the masculine brand and reject the feminine brand. But women who exhibit sex-role specificity tend more to accept the feminine brand, although their attitudes towards sex-role prescriptions do not affect their response to the masculine brand. A study of the relationship of expectations of male versus female salesperson performance with sex-role identity and sex-role attitudes (Martin and Roberts 1983) suggested that "use of the BSRI has more to offer to the study of consumer behavior than do the more commonly used sex-role attitude scales" (i.e., PAQ: Spence, Helmreich, and Stapp 1974). Another recent use of a sex-role scale in the consumer behavior literature (Qualls 1984) reported sex-role identity is significantly associated with perception of spousal influence, level of preference agreement, and mode of conflict resolution, but not related to preference pattern or decision outcome when using the Osmond and Martin (1975) sex-role attitude scale.

Relevant Sex Role Measurement in Other Literature

Although not published in the consumer behavior literature per se, several marketing-related studies have examined sex-role identity. Vitz and Johnson (1965) used the CPI Fe Scale and the mf (feminine interests) scale of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory to test the hypothesis that the more masculine the personality of a smoker, the more masculine the image of the smoker's regularly smoked cigarette (i.e., masculine individuals smoke masculine-image cigarettes and feminine individuals smoke feminine-image cigarettes). Findings moderately support the hypothesis: within each sex masculinity correlates positively with the masculine image of the cigarette smoked.

The relationship between the impact of one's sex-role identity and one's leisure behavior has received limited examination. Havighurst (1957) found that women preferred socializing and reading while men were more interested in sports, fishing, and gardening. A study of 187 fourth through sixth graders (Rosenberg and Sutton-Smith 1960) investigated the frequency of playing and attitudes towards children's games. Preferences for football, hunting, cars, sewing and dolls did confirm traditional sexual preferences, but these researchers observed no differences between boys' and girls' attitudes toward baseball or basketball. The results also indicated that girls developed a greater preference for play roles of girls.

Some research does associate differing sex-role identity to the choice of leisure activities. Studies of the traditional stereotype that athletes are perceived as being more masculine have yielded inconsistent results. Schendel (1965) supported the idea that male twelfth grade and college athletes were more masculine than nonathletes, but opposite findings were found for ninth graders. Controlling for intelligence, Berger and Littlefield (1969) found no significant masculine-feminine differences between football and nonfootball players. Using only females, Simon (1971) found athletes to be significantly less feminine, but a study of a wide range of activities (Ibrahim 1969) reported sex-role identity was not related to recreational activity.

To extend the literature concerning sex, sex-role identity and leisure, Gentry and Doering (1979) related measures of sex and sex-role identity, the CPI Fe Scale and the PAQ, to a wide variety of leisure and media usage behaviors. In general, sex was more frequently related to attitudes toward and usage of leisure activities and to media usage than were the sex-role identity measures. There were significant sex differences for 18 of the 28 leisure activities and for 19 of the 43 media relationships. These numbers decline for the CPI measure (16 of the 28 leisure activities and 16 of the 43 media relationships) and are even lower for the PAQ measure (14 of the 28 leisure activities and 10 of the 43 media relationships).

Specifically, sex predicted relationships for watching ballet(f), going to car races(m), going fishing(m), going hunting(m), ice skating(f), knitting(f), swimming (f), reading about and watching sports(m), watching daytime soap operas (f), reading women's magazines(f), reading newspapers (m), and listening to talk shows on the radio(m). Some activities and media were related more strongly with the sex-role identity measures than with sex. Interestingly, androgynous people were more likely to watch ballet, ride bicycles, go to car races, go swimming, and go to movies. In general, androgynous individuals were more active recreationally and were more likely to watch documentaries, read news-oriented magazines. and Prefer R-rated movies.

Sex in the Marketing Literature

The literature on sex, used as a surrogate for sex role in marketing, is far too voluminous to attempt to review in the present paper. We know that Marlboro cigarettes were once positioned to appeal to feminine roles but now are positioned to appeal to masculine roles (Hawkins,, Best, and Coney 1983). Automobile marketing uses sex role segmentation to some extent (Stuteville 19 71). And of course many other products, such as cosmetics, soft drinks, and leisure equipment, are aimed specifically at sex-role related segments (Scott 1976). Furthermore, many products previously tied to sex roles are becoming unisex (e.g., blue jeans and hair dryers).

Sex Roles and Food

Decisions about food ingestion are among the most basic we make, as are sex role enactments. It would be therefore reasonable to assume that, since culture determines both decisions about food preference (when did you last eat chicken head soup?) and about sex roles (how many women have you seen today wearing veils?), the two areas ought to interact. Mass culture certainly gives us guidelines about the relationship between sex roles and food selection (Real men do not eat quiche). Some evidence also exists in the empirical literature for this Link. For example, Dickens & Chappell (1977) suggest that men reject food that is pale, foreign, fussy, or tasteless. And Sadalla (1981) has shown how pervasive the relationship is between food preference and social identity.

The Sadalla research is particularly probative in the present context. He demonstrated that subjects presented with the food preferences (vegetarian, gourmet, health, fast food, or synthetic foot) of a hypothetical person displayed significant consensus in personality inferences about that person. Furthermore, these social judgments have some basis in reality. That is, people with different food preferences to indeed have measurably different personalities. Thus, it would seem reasonable that people would also use food preference as an expression of role enactment preference.

Bem's Theoretical Perspective

Bem (1974) proposed that the concept of androgyny (a combination of the Greek words for male and female) is central for understanding current trends in sex role development and enactment. Although most concepts view sex-role identity as dichotomous (either masculine or feminine), she argues that in fact masculinity and femininity are separate, independent dimensions. A person can be both assertive (a male trait) and cheerful (a female trait). A person who is high on only one dimension may be masculine or feminine. A person high on both masculinity and femininity is androgynous, a more healthy and adaptive position, according to Bem. PeopLe low on both are called undifferentiated.

Bem (1981) has presented Gender Schema Theory. It asserts that the phenomenon of sex typing derives in part "from gender-based schematic processing, from a generalized readiness to process information on the basis of sex-linked associations that constitute the gender schema. In particular, the theory proposes that sex typing results from the fact that the self-concept itself gets assimilated to the gender schema" (p. 354). This theory implies that gender ought to influence how one processes information about foods based on sex role expectations. For example, the traditional role of male as food procurer ought to lead to a different approach to judging food than the traditional role of female as food preparer. For example, males ought to value food more based on the "size of the kill" (e.g., cattle are harder to kill than chickens), whereas the nutritional aspects of food ought to be more important for women, who have historically planned menus and prepared food. The present study may yield insight into the value and application of the gender schema theory, although it has found only moderate support at best in the study of advertising recall (Markus, Crane, Bernstein, and Siladi 1982: Gentry and Haley 1984).

The Present Study

The present study investigated the influence of sex and sex-role identity on selection of a midday meal. Sex-role identity was measured through use of the Bem Sex Role Inventory. It was hypothesized that both sex and sex role would significantly influence meal selection. Lunch was investigated because it is the meal most often eaten away from home and because it is the meal with the least range of alternatives.


The respondents were 84 men and 55 women enrolled in junior-level sections of consumer behavior at a large public university. Respondents volunteered to participate as part of a class exercise. Numerous restaurants specializing in lunch surround the campus, in addition to campus cafeterias.

Respondents completed the Bem Sex Role Inventory (Bem 1974). This scale asks respondents to rate 60 adjectives on a 7-point scale ranging from "Never or almost never true" to "Always or almost always true" of the respondent. Twenty adjectives within the scale describe feminine characteristics, and twenty describe masculine characteristics. These items may be summed to yield scores for femininity and masculinity. In the present study these scores were dichotomized at the median within each sex and used as factors in analyses of variance. The interaction between these factors provides information about androgyny since people high in both femininity and masculinity are androgynous. The BSRI also includes 10 positively-worded and 10 negatively-worded social desirability items, which are summed after reversing the negative items, to yield a measure of social desirability.

In addition, respondents replied to the following query: "Next to each day tell what you had for lunch that day during the past week. You need not list everything you had; we are only interested in major items, such as soup or hamburgers. Items like French fries are not of interest." Coding of the responses to this question followed two strategies. First, specific foods were tabulated, such as ham,- beef, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich (PBJ). Secondly, foods were classified into Sadalla's categories of vegetarian, health, gourmet, fast food, and synthetic. In several cases foods fell into two categories (e.g., "French dip" is beef and soup). Two independent judges, unaware of the hypotheses and unaware of any respondent's sex or sex role, coded the lists of food. Both judges rated 30 overlapping protocols in order to assess coding reliability, and in 92% of the cases they agreed.

Several higher level factors also were computed by summing coded categories. Total sandwiches were computed by adding beef, hamburger, tuna, and PBJ. Good food consisted of vegetarian, health, gourmet, and salad. Junk food included fast food, synthetic food, hot dogs, pizza, and hamburgers.


Only one food category, vegetarian, correlated with the BSRI Social Desirability Scale, r = .17, p < .05. Since this correlation was relatively small and not part of a pattern, it will not be examined further.

Analyses of variance were computed using factors of sex, dichotomized masculinity, and dichotomized femininity. The main effects from the analyses of variance are reported in Table 1. A main effect for masculinity was observed on PBJ, revealing that masculine people eat PBJ sandwiches more often than low masculine people. A main effect for femininity was observed on tuna, indicating that feminine people eat tuna more often than low feminine people. All other main effects involved sex as the independent variable. For example, the main effect for vegetarian foods implies that women eat vegetarian food more often than men.

The main effect for total coded responses must be qualified by a three-way interaction, F (1,132) = 4.72, p = .05. Examination of that interaction suggested that women who were low on both femininity and masculinity had fewer coded responses than men who either were androgynous (high masculinity and femininity) or undifferentiated (low masculinity and femininity).

Several other significant interactions do not influence the interpretation of the main effects. Health food is eaten more often by men who are low on femininity than by anyone else, F (1,132) - 3.52, p < .10. Feminine females eat more salad than anyone else, F (1,132) = 3.82, p < .05. Feminine men and masculine women eat less spaghetti than other groups, F (1,132) = 2.88, p < .1. And Freudians will delight in the final interaction: Feminine men and low feminine women eat more hot dogs, F (1,132) = 3.71, p < .05. We will refrain from interpreting this last finding as evidence that people who eat hot dogs are really swallowing masculinity. We will also avoid interpreting the main effect for egg from a Freudian perspective.



In answer to the question posed in the subtitle, "Do real men eat quiche?" the answer is, "No!" But neither does anyone else. In the entire study we uncovered only two examples of eating quiche for lunch. In one case, the respondent was an androgynous male, in the other a feminine female. These frequencies are not the stuff of which significant findings are made. Perhaps the age, region, or attitudes toward cholesterol of participants inhibited quiche consumption.

Chicken and fish, two other foods popularly believed to be sex-role linked, showed no significant effects either. This finding may be due to the increased concern with cholesterol and resulting shift to white meat among individuals of both sexes.


Consistent with some previous conclusions (Gentry and Doering 1977; Golden, Allison, and Clee 1979; Gentry and Doering 1979; Alreck, Settle, and Belch 1982) the results imply more utility for the direct measurement of sex than for sex role constructs in the present context. Although these results do not invalidate Bem's (1981) Theory of Gender Schemata, they do raise questions about the utility of her empirical Procedures.

One evident result from the pervasive sex differences is that men eat more than women as measured by total number of food items listed. For ham, beef, total coded responses, junk food, hamburgers, egg, and pizza this pattern applies. The adaptive significance of this finding may be that men simply need more food than women because of their larger body weight. Furthermore, men have historically been associated with more active pursuits that require higher caloric intake. This second source of difference is declining within the United States, as all job categories for both men and women require fewer of the hunter-gatherer skills our genes have bestowed on us, and as active leisure pursuits become less sex linked.

Men did not outeat all women in all categories, and the content of the differences is notable. Men ate more junk food but less "good" food and less vegetarian food. Feminine females, who may be especially likely to diet s ate more salad, a stable of many weight reduction programs.

In hunter-gatherer societies sex role specialization thrusts stronger men into the hunting role and food procurement role, whereas women occupy the food preparation role. One aspect of food preparation is knowledge of nutrition. Women have therefore been more conscious of and concerned with the quality of food. Again, sex roles may be changing. Kitchen technology over the past half century has greatly reduced the need for a full-time food preparer, and the hunter-gatherer need for physical strength in food procurement hardly provides an apt description for food procurement in the supermarket-dominated post-industrial United States. Probably consciousness of food quality is shifting, as the concern for health food among masculine males implies. Furthermore, increasing career orientation among women has diminished the time available for food preparation. Finally, relaxing of sex role stereotypes has allowed more men to take home economics classes, to become "househusbands," and actually to participate in food preparation.


We cannot know from this study whether other product categories or other populations will manifest encouraging evidence for the utility of BSRI scales, but the present data imply that segmentation and marketing efforts may do well to attend to sex before investing a lot of effort in unraveling the details of sex roles as measured by the BSRI. This finding is contrary to the trend toward a society with fewer stereotyped behavior differences between the roles of males and females on the basis of sex alone. If this trend continues, we may find ourselves in an androgynous society (Osofsky and Osofsky 1972). Perhaps the study of within-gender differences may be more worthwhile than between gender differences (Roberts 1984). The lack of marketing literature on the BSRI may reflect a lack of notable findings. Even within the psychological literature the BSRI has its share of critics. Locksley and Colten (19791, for example, have suggested that androgyny shares many of the psychometric flaws of other personality constructs and that it cannot be understood apart from the structured features of situations in which it is embedded. Deaux (1984) argues that androgyny consists more of instrumentality and expressiveness than masculinity and femininity. And Taylor and Hall (1982) propose a whole list of concerns.

If sex differences are indeed more important than sex role differences, then marketers need not be as concerned with the sex role images of their products. Rather, attention should focus on appealing to the appropriate sex. For food preferences, it appears that individuals are related by sex as opposed to their levels of masculinity and femininity.

The findings could have significant implications for public policy makers. From marketing's standpoint, it would seem the F.T.C. and other interest groups promoting social change need not be focusing on whether the roles of the sexes are being accurately depicted. They should focus instead on consumer education, safety of products, and information dissemination. Furthermore, if our society is moving towards fewer behavioral differences between the roles of males and females on the basis of sex alone, "accurate role depiction" will be ambiguous

To sum it up, our society may be reaching toward a point of undifferentiated sexual roles. Yet, as the data show, the different sexes do prefer different food products; therefore, sex is an appropriate segmentation variable. Since the different sexes do have several significantly different food preferences, marketers ought to do more to study and determine these specific differences, and then they ought to design promotions appropriately. If a marketer seeks to change product perceptions, he or she should change the sex featured as using the product, for example.

More research needs to be done into "why" these varieties of food preferences exist. The answer to this question will guide future marketing efforts. For example, if the differences are due to the learning of "traditional" male and female eating habits, then marketers can perhaps influence this process and still aim appeals for products at both sexes. If the differences are somehow more genetic or hereditary, then marketers will have less control over influencing preferences.


The change in sex roles has spurred an interest in the application of masculinity-femininity measurement to purchase behavior. Results of this study of food preferences are not supportive of this trend; however, sex differences proved to be more important than sex roles in explaining differences.


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Lynn R. Kahle, University of Oregon
Pamela Homer, University of Oregon


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 12 | 1985

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