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Configuring Gender

Configuring Gender: Explorations in Theory and Politics

Barbara L. Marshall
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 191
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  • Book Info
    Configuring Gender
    Book Description:

    This brief book focuses on how the idea of gender has developed both in scholarship and in the public mind.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0248-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 7-14)

    This little gem from cyberspace encapsulates some of the contradictory trends in the vernacular of gender. Is it just a more sophisticated word for sex, one that necessarily invokes ‘political correctness’? How “dazzling” an array of choices can we take “either male or female” to be? Just what constitutes “common knowledge” about gender at thefin-de-siècleis puzzling. On the one hand, we’re told that men and women are more equal than ever, and that it’s time to call a truce in the “gender wars” (the updated term for the battle of the sexes). On the other hand, we’re told...

  4. ONE Mainstreaming Gender
    (pp. 15-44)

    As its title suggests, this chapter will recount some of the ways in which the concept of gender has been ‘mainstreamed’ — in other words, the ways in which it has become a commonly accepted term and a standard point of reference in addressing an important dimension of social difference and inequality. The extent to which it has become a contested concept requires that we inquire into some of the various meanings with which it has been invested. It is impossible to understand certain of the current debates about gender without exploring some of its history, particularly in terms of...

  5. TWO Destabilizing Gender
    (pp. 45-72)

    Almost since its entry into academic circulation, the sex-gender distinction, and the growing preference for ‘gender’ as the category of interest, has been the subject of debate in feminist literature across a range of disciplines. Nonetheless, the relative success of feminist sociology has been measured by the extent to which gender, as an orienting concept, has been taken to heart by mainstream sociology, and how extensively a focus on gender has transformed or ‘revolutionized’ the theory, methods, and subject area of the discipline.¹ This perspective tends to assume general agreement on “what gender is, how to study it, and why...

  6. THREE Politicizing Gender
    (pp. 73-98)

    Political interests do not emerge unproblematically from any human essence, objective social position, or transcendental coming-to-consciousness. Recent history is surely full of lessons of this sort. It is no secret that members of the proletariat frequently vote for conservative politicians, not socialists, or that women can sometimes be the fiercest critics of feminism. Consider the following comment by former Progressive Conservative MP Dorothy Dobbie: “I am not in any way, shape or form, a feminist. My first job was in a battery factory, where I was paid less than the man next to me, operating the same machine. I quit...

  7. FOUR De-legitimating Gender
    (pp. 99-124)

    I’ll admit to being puzzled the first time I heard the term “gender feminist.” Having been a feminist for as long as I can remember, and having spent most of my academic career working in the sociology of gender, it seemed to me that feminism was, by definition, about gender.³ The term “gender feminist” originated in American philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers’ bookWho Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women(1994), and has since gained fairly wide circulation as a descriptor of what is supposedly wrong with contemporary feminism. According to various commentators, “gender feminists” are elitist, dishonest, dogmatic, authoritarian,...

  8. FIVE Restructuring Gender
    (pp. 125-152)

    For critics such as Christina Hoff Sommers, the location of feminism’s ultimate truth in its classical liberal moment, asking only for a ‘fair field and no favours’ (1994: 51), allows the framing of gender only in individual terms. Given a ‘fair playing field,’ presumably achieved through the removal of formal legal barriers to equality, differences in outcome — the empirically observable difference in status of men and women — must then be attributed to primarily individual factors. The latter may be conceived of as failure (inability to assert one’s individualism over stereotypical socialization, lack of motivation, personality defects), as choice...

  9. CONCLUSIONS Re-Configuring Gender?
    (pp. 153-162)

    I’m tempted to let this quote from Patricia Williams stand on its own as the conclusion to this book, as it so cogently summarizes what I have taken all these pages to say — or at least, what I hope you have heard me say. But a few more words are in order. You will know already that I think gender has some merit both as an analytic concept and as a political resource, but that it requires some rethinking that attends to its logic-in-use. We need to constantly askwhat it is saying(or not saying, or allowing to...

  10. References
    (pp. 163-185)
  11. Index
    (pp. 186-191)