Gender through the Prism of Difference

Gender through the Prism of Difference

Gender through the Prism of Difference

Gender through the Prism of Difference


The third edition ofGender Through the Prism of Differenceadopts a global, transnational perspective on how race, class, and sexual diversity are central to the study of sex and gender. In contrast with other books in this area--which tend to focus on U. S. or European viewpoints--this book features many articles based on research done elsewhere throughout the world.

The editors open this wide-ranging collection with a provocative analytical introduction that sets the stage for understanding gender as a socially constructed experience. Featuring mostly new readings, the book covers timely subjects--such as gender and popular culture, Islam, and men and war--to help students make a connection between the issues raised in the book and current events. It also addresses a number of compelling topics, including the effects of globalization on notions of masculinity, the difficulties faced by Muslim women living in post-9/11 America, and the perceptions of "blackness" worldwide.

Guiding students through the complex realities of today's gender relationships,Gender Through the Prism of Differenceis ideal for undergraduate or graduate courses in the sociology of gender; women's studies; gender roles; the sociology of women; women in society; race, class, and gender; feminist theory; and social inequality.


“Men can’t cry.” “Women are victims of patriarchal oppression.” “After divorces, single mothers are downwardly mobile, often moving into poverty.” “Men don’t do their share of housework and child care.” “Professional women face barriers such as sexual harassment and a ‘glass ceiling’ that prevent them from competing equally with men for high-status positions and high salaries.” “Heterosexual intercourse is an expression of men’s power over women.” Sometimes, the students in our sociology and gender studies courses balk at these kinds of generalizations. And they are right to do so. After all, some men are more emotionally expressive than some women, some women have more power and success than some men, some men do their share—or more—of housework and child care, and some women experience sex with men as both pleasurable and empowering. Indeed, contemporary gender relations are complex and changing in various directions, and as such, we need to be wary of simplistic, if handy, slogans that seem to sum up the essence of relations between women and men.

On the other hand, we think it is a tremendous mistake to conclude that “all individuals are totally unique and different,” and that therefore all generalizations about social groups are impossible or inherently oppressive. In fact, we are convinced that it is this very complexity, this multifaceted nature of contemporary gender relations, that fairly begs for a sociological analysis of gender. In the title of this book, we use the image of “the prism of difference” to illustrate our approach to developing this sociological perspective on contemporary gender relations. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “prism,” in part, as “a homogeneous transparent solid, usually with triangular bases and rectangular sides, used to produce or analyze a continuous spectrum.” Imagine a ray of light—which to the naked eye appears to be only one color— refracted through a prism onto a white wall. To the eye, the result is not an infinite, disorganized scatter of individual colors. Rather, the refracted light displays an order, a structure of relationships among the different colors—a rainbow. Similarly, we propose to use the “prism of difference” in this book to analyze a continuous spectrum of people, in order to show how gender is organized and experienced differently when refracted through the prism of sexual, racial/ethnic, social class, physical abilities, age, and national citizenship differences.

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