There is not a single discipline in the Humanities, and probably not in the Social Sciences, which has remained untouched by the feminist work of the past thirty years. Gender is now on the agenda in all of the disciplines. [Threadgold 1998:138]
gender studies now constitute an area of strength in the social sciences. The scholarship has helped us understand Australian society better, and Australian scholars in the field have, in the last decade especially, played a significant role internationally, often out of proportion to their numbers. [Curthoys 1998:177]
By contrast with these claims concerning the revolutionary impact of feminist thought on the human disciplines, fifteen years ago Bev Thiele (1986) wrote of 'Vanishing acts in social and political thought', while Judith Stacey and Barrie Thorne (1985) pondered feminism's 'missing revolution' in sociology. Stacey and Thorne contended that anthropology, history and literature had been more deeply transformed. On the one hand, women's studies shattered the masculinist orientation of literature and history, challenging the very notion of an incontestable literary canon and forcing a redefinition of history to encompass more than the political and national deeds of men. By contrast, the study of whole societies using concepts like kinship meant that anthropology was already gendered and feminist theory found a ready foothold.
Sociology took up a midway position by mirroring within the discipline the public/ private split in the social world. Gender-affected areas were cordoned off from a gender-neutral approach in other areas.Women and feminism were consigned to the family, community and demography, while a focus on men and 'malestream' theory was retained in the areas of formal organisations, social change and politics. In contrast with anthropology, gender was treated more as a variable, an individual characteristic, than as a social structure for analysis or a concept to be theorised (for example, while sociologists spoke of gender roles, they did not refer to class roles or race roles) (Stacey and Thorne 1985:307; see also Yeatman 1986:158–62).