Jurik, N. and C. Siemsen. 2009. “‘Doing Gender” as Canon or Agenda: A Symposium on West and Zimmerman.”

Jurik, Nancy and Cynthia Siemsen. 2009. “’Doing Gender” as Canon or Agenda: A Symposium on West and Zimmerman.” Gender and Society 23 (1): 72-75.

Jurik and Siemsen, in their introduction to the collection of works note that West and Zimmerman’s  1987 article regarding “doing gender” is the most cited article ever published in one of the most prominent field journals in the study of gender, sex, and sexuality: Gender and Society.   As Jurik and Siemsen review the impacts of this pivotal article, they note that West and Zimmerman’s article challenged gender as a role or attribute of individuals, or reflection of biological difference.  Instead, the authors argue, gender differences are not born, but are made through routine social interactions.  So too, is race, gender, and class formed, and interrelate and impact one another.  This is elaborated on in West and Fenstermaker’s 1995 article, “Doing Difference.”

As the anniversary of the work comes about, Jurik and Siemsen recall the need for retrosepective reinterpretation of older, “canonized” works.  Doing so, they argue, remove biased (read here: sexist and racist) analyses.  Though West and Zimmerman resist “canonization”, so to speak, it is difficult to negate that this article has had significant impact on how sociological scholars interpret and study gender.

The authors here go on to discuss the roots of the collection/symposium – formed out of a Sociologists for Women in Society 2007 conference.  Several authors included in the symposium were present for the conference; others were solicited from a pool of prominent scholars, as well as up-and-coming voices. The purpose of the symposium was to address theoretical, methodological, and transformative applications to the concepts brought forth by West and Zimmerman, through a variety of approaches.  However, what is concluded as needs for further development in the area are as follows:

  • Analysis of agency, intent, consciousness in doing gender
  • Need to bring body into doing gender
  • Need to interrelate biology, sex-category assignment, doing gender
  • Need focus on sexuality and sex work in DG/DD
  • Need analysis on whether DG/DD helps in studying intesectionality
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