From sex roles to gender structure

From sex roles to gender structure

Barbara J Risman University of Illinois at Chicago, USA, Georgiann Davis Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, USA

abstract This article has two goals, an intellectual history of gender as a concept, and to outline a framework we suggest for moving forward theory and research on gender conceptualized as a structure of social stratification. Our first goal is to trace the conceptual development of the study of sex and gender throughout the twentieth century to now. We do this from a feminist sociological standpoint, framing the question with particular concern for power and inequality. We use a modernist perspective, showing how theory and research built in a cumulative fashion, with empirical studies sometimes supporting and sometimes challenging current theories, often leading to new ones. We then offer our theoretical contribution, framing gender as a social structure as a means to integrate the wide variety of empirical research findings on causal explanations for and consequences of gender. Our framework includes attention to: the differences and similarities between women and men as individuals, the stability of and changing expectations we hold for each sex during social interaction, and the mechanisms by which gender is embedded into the logic of social institutions and organizations. At each level of analysis, we are interested in the organization of social life and the cultural logics that accompany such patterns. 

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