Connell, R.W. 1985. “Theorising Gender.”

Connell, R.W. 1985. “Theorising Gender.” Sociology 19 (2): 260-272.

Social theories of gender required by sexual politics (developed through feminism, gay liberation, psychoanalysis, soc/psych). Two theories emerged out of this – sex roles versus power relations between categories of men and women. Critiques both, works to modify latter theory. Assumptions about the naturalness and difference in gender can be addressed through studying negative examples of this gendering.
Sexuality, child development, family, sex roles and sex norms, kinship is part of a social, not biological whole, and bears power and inequality in its structure. Gender conceptualized through the relationship of these things. Labels this network “gender relations” (261), but often relies on heteronormative assumptions, absence of gay families, sexualities, etc.
Sex Roles: Mead and Parsons as figureheads, gender as socialized and enacted, connects larger social structures to individual personality formation. Inequalities attributed to stereotypes, relief of inequality results from breaking down stereotypes, offering girls better role models, anti-discrimination and equal opportunity programs. Viewed as socially deterministic, variations from these roles are sanctioned, and critiqued for its static nature (inability to cope with social change – change as something happening from outside, not within – where does change source?!)
Power analysis and categoricalism: conceptualizing gender as a power relationship, comparing it to class structure “sex class” (Firestone 1970)***, sustained by violence, fear, force, etc. – keeping “all women in the state of fearing all men” — yet, some work with functionalist ideas, seeing power behind divisions of labor, family life, child rearing, role in capitalism’s execution. Essentialist, divides based on biological reductionism, assumes people fit neatly within these categories. Notes that this type of theory tends to reduce other important social categories; now (in mid-1980s) improving, reductionism to sex and embodiment to the experience of gendered masculinity or femininity. Difficult to collapse the variety of male identities into dominant forms of oppression-based masculinity. Both patriarchal and anti-patriarchal categoricalism can remove the ability to move gender theory into political practice.
New Approach: references Foucault (1980)*** in noting that definitive, static identity needs are relatively recent adoption, based upon sex; helps to legitimize structures of hierarchy (Donzelot 1979)***,

Donzelot, J. 1979. The Policing of Families. New York: Pantheon.
Firestone, S. 1980. The Dialectic of Sex. New York: Bantam.
Foucault, M. 1979. The History of Sexuality¸Volume I. London, Allen Lane.


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