West, C and D.H. Zimmerman. 2009. “Accounting for Doing Gender.”

West, Candace and Don H. Zimmerman. 2009. “Accounting for Doing Gender.” Gender and Society 23 (1): 112-122.

Though published in 1987, DG was written far earlier than that – circa 1975 in an attempt to use then-prevalent sex role theory to communicative issues held between men and women. Presented these ideas at a meeting, then spent the next decade trying to publish, but was rejected by many prominent journals. Offers a kick in the teeth to those who try to revamp or rework it without citing its original claims; note that yes, indeed, DG has been pulled and applied in ways that are not true to the initial theoretical intent.
Reviews initial concepts (in response to Connell) – differentiating between sex, sex categorization, and gender.
Sex – clinical assignment often based upon genitalia, chromosomes and hormones may be factored
Sex categorization – “the display and recognition of socially regulated external insignia of sex – such as deportment, dress, and bearing” (cf Goffman 1956).
Gender (as related to sex category) – “the relationship between being a recognizable incumbent of a sex category (which itself takes some doing) and being accountable to current cultural conceptions of conduct becoming to – or compatible with the ‘essential natures’ of – a man or woman” (113-14). Gender as an “ongoing situated process, a ‘doing’ rather than a ‘being’” (114). Gender transforms ascribed status into achieved status.
Includes added interpretation of DD – “difference as a social doing, a mechanism for organizing ‘the relations between individual and institutional practice, and among other forms of domination’” (114; West and Fenstermaker 1995, 19). People do difference by creating distinctions based upon unnatural and inessential categories. Responds to D. Smith’s critique by noting that DG/DD does not contradict the sociobiological framework in which Smith works, but elaborates on it. (Doesn’t really say how.)
Responds to Jones’ critique on inapplicability to translate to everyday lives- defends by saying that DG and DD is not a collection of free-floating events, but that interactional organization becomes a critical building block in how everyday life is constructed.
Admits Kitizinger is right on her critique of not demonstrating a strong methodological suggestion for studying the concept in practice; CA is but ONE of those opportunities, “any method that captures members of society’s ‘descriptive accountings of states of affairs to one another” can be used (Heritage 1994, 136-37).
Addresses critics that note how to document new masculinities and femininities, we should attempt to “undo” gender (a la Butler 2004). But, we are currently existing in a world where gender, race, and class categories have real impact and consequence; oppression does not come from these categories but from the inferences of difference.
Agrees with Messerschmight that “practices, props, bodily postures, and movements that go into producing a display of sex category incumbency are worthy of greater attention” (118).
Vidal Ortiz and Connell’s depictions of transpersons – the importance of sex category – women can be seen as unfeminine, but not unfemale… but, sometimes, DG is important to survival of transpersons
Addresses and acknowledges Connell’s problem of “recognition of social solidarity also stems from accountability” (119). Asks what role transpersons will have in feminist movement; acknowledges feminist rooting in modern sociology.
Prescribes 3 further areas of inquiry:
1) Micro/macro divisions
2) How sex assignment and categorization practices impact DG/DD
3) How historical and structural issues help create/reproduce larger structures in interactions, and vice versa (agency versus structure).

Heritage, J. 1984. Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.


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