Book Reviews -- the Social Construction of Gender Edited by Judith Lorber and Susan A. Farrell

By Mackie, Marlene | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Summer 1994 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews -- the Social Construction of Gender Edited by Judith Lorber and Susan A. Farrell


Mackie, Marlene, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


Lorber, Judith and Susan A. Farrell, eds., The Social Construction of Gender. Newbury Park, California: Sage Publication Inc., 1991, 374 pp., $18.95 softcover.

The Social Construction of Gender is a collection of 18 articles, all but one reprinted from Gender and Society, a journal founded in 1987 by Sociologists for Women in Society. The volume is intended as a textbook aimed at both undergraduate and graduate students on the theory, research, and praxis of feminist constructionism.

The "unified perspective" claimed by the editors amounts to a series of now widely-accepted understandings about gender, rather than a systematic theoretical framework. The focus is structural: gender is seen to be an axis of social order. Feminity/masculinity are categories, socially-defined and maintained in everyday life, as well as by major social institutions (politics, law, religion, medicine). Strictly speaking, the topic is genders, not gender, because being a woman or man means something different from generation to generation, and for members of different racial, ethnic, religious, and social class groupings. The enormous effort devoted to social elaboration upon relatively minor biological distinctions is explained by the role gender plays in familial and societal division of labor, and the allocation of power, prestige, and resources. Oppression is the hallmark of gender.

The readings are divided into six sections, each preceded by a short integrative essay with dual goals of developing the theme of the social construction of gender and introducing the set of articles. Although some selections are more obviously linked to the book's thesis than others, there is somethingvaluable to be learned from all of them. …

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