In this article theories of gender hegemony are utilized to assess how changing norms impact upon the binary construction of gender. Transformed gender ideals have materialized in the figure of the ‘empowered’ and autonomous yet reassuringly feminine woman. Despite the assimilation of key attributes associated with masculinity this particular expression of idealized femininity does not necessarily rework dominant perceptions of gender difference and their organization into a relation of hierarchical complementarity. Through the review of key empirical studies which have examined identity work undertaken by young women and young men as they negotiate idealized gender norms, this article examines how hegemonic relations are reproduced alongside the production of plural femininities and masculinities. This analysis is discussed in relation to changes associated with a move from a private to a public gender regime, a perceived feminization of the public sphere, and the complication of contradictory gender ideals.