Messerschmidt, J.W. 2009. “‘Doing Gender: The Impact and Future of a Salient Sociological Concept.” (v2)

Messerschmidt, James W. 2009. “’Doing Gender’: The Impact and Future of a Salient Sociological Concept. Gender and Society 23 (1): 85-88.

Messerschmidt – DG as paradigm shift –addresses failures of sex-role (did not interrogate power and inequality), radical (assumed masculine power, essentialist* *but does not explain how essentialism is offered)/socialist feminist (enmeshed in debates on how to best conceptualize intersection between patriarchy and capitalism) theories to control issues of inequality, power, and agency. – broke down at both micro AND macro levels. Current research in DG fails to address how “sex category” and body figure into the DG. Future research should consider body, individuals’ intents or lack of consciousness in how they are DG

Applies DG to own work on primarily white, working class, non/violent teenage boys/girls. Addresses DG through life-history interviews (Kitzinger would say this is not enough – self-reporting does not get at the real interactions and presumptions about gender!) Concludes from his work: (1) Gender is not possessed but is something done in interaction with others; gender is accountable to interaction and is situational; (2) gender is evaluated by others in relation to norms/conceptions of gender within each situational setting; (3) sex category is used to interpret situated social conduct; “socially defined membership in one sex category is used as a means of discrediting or accepting masculine or feminine practices” (86)

Issues with DG – weakness in how sex category is often overlooked in DG – during most interactions, sex and gender are indistinguishable from another due to recognized congruence; “the meaning assigned to [their] gender behavior by copresent interactants was influenced by their perceived sex category” (86)

The use of masculinity to “negate” or conceal femininity; the body is not neutral in doing gender- it is an agent of social practice – bodies mediate and influence social practice

Most of this is done without thinking – lack of conscious intent of femininity or masculinity’s achievement; DG becomes part of larger interactional processes in society


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