Glenn, E.N. 1999. “The Social Construction and Institutionalization of Gender and Race.”

Glenn, Evelyn Nakano. 1999. “The Social Construction and Institutionalization of Gender and Race.” Pp. 3-43 in Revisioning Gender, edited by M.M. Feree, J. Lorber, and B.B. Hess. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Race and gender historically studied separately – in race, men of color was subject of analysis; in gender, White women were studied, producing the exclusion of women of color.

Gender and Race as separate axes lends to additive models, but replaces  by multiple consciousness perspectives. However, theory on race even in intersectional models is weak, in respect to work done on the theories of gender. Gender as meanings, relationships and identities based around reproductive difference (Connell 1989, Laslett and Brenner 1989, Scott 1986); gender as a social status (removed from reproductive difference) used to organize social institutions (Acker 1990, Lorber 1994); gender as interactional and (re)produced (Thorne 1993, West and Zimmerman 1987).  “If one accepts gender as a variable, then one must acknowledge that it is never fixed, but rather continually constituted and reconstituted” (5). A relationship between material and cultural relations.

Race has been a little more difficult to press away from biological understandings, despite its social creation. Glenn interrogates quantitative research’s tendency to hold reductionist ideas about race as a variable without questioning how the formation of that status was undertaken or contextualized. Changes in self-given or offered labels over time, the “achievement” of Whiteness by ethnic, assimilated Whites. Societal focus on a Black-White dichotomy – Whitening and Blackening of groups that are not of these poles. Race as unstable and decentralized, however, racial categories have been offered false strength through biological and social science reviews.

Congruence between race and gender – [where] “race and gender are defined as mutually constituted systems of relationships – including norms, symbols, and practices – organized around perceived differences” (9). Promoted through processes of racialization and engendering, and occur at many levels, including representation (“the deployment of symbols, language, and images to express and convey race/gender meanings”, micro-interaction (“application of race/gender norms, etiquette, and spatial rules to orchestrate interaction within and across race/gender boundaries”) and structure (“the allocation of power and material resources along race/gender lines” – (9)).

Stability of race offered when power and meanings that allocate it become hierarchical and often dichotomous – where dominants can attribute meaning to selves and others. This permeates structures and often impacts people’s day-to-day experience. These meanings and structures are not static.

Class often co-constructed with race, gender  – “In nineteenth century England, skilled artisan men experiencing changes in their conditions due to industrialization were able to organize and articulate their class rights by drawing on available concepts of manhood – the dignity of skilled labor and family headship” (12, see also Rose 1995). …”Their counterparts in the United States drew on symbols of race, claiming rights on the basis of their status as ‘free’ labor, in contrast to Black slaves, Chinese contract workers, and other figures symbolizing ‘unfree labor’ (12, see also Roediger 1994, Forbath 1996).  “Class formation in the United States was then and continues to be infused with racial as well as gender meanings.” (12) Rubin’s (1994) study discussing working-class men and women’s racialized narratives about stagnating or declining income – participants did not address class, but more so focused on racialized problematization of social welfare programs, Affirmative Action – affirmation of Whiteness, instead of class. Citizenship status as “status of being full member of the community in which one lives” (Hall and Held 1989) – based in a presumption of equality in a condition of inequality. Citizenship as identical right and responsibility, regardless of individual characteristics; however, membership is often defined through boundary creating and defining noncitizens.  Institutionalized in 1790 Naturalization Act  where Whiteness was dictated as necessary for citizenship status, preventing immigrants from full rights (Haney Lopez 1996). “Independence was thought of primiarily in economic terms, as a condition made possible by owning property, which negated the necessity of having to work for or under someone else”  (24, see also Fraser and Gordon 1994, Gunderson 1987). “For White workingmen, independence was what distinguished them from despised slaves and protected them from the possibility of ‘White enslavement’. Whereas previously, dependence had been accepted as a status by many, it came to be viewed as incompatible with White masculinity. Independence became race and gender specific: All white men were independent and all women and Black were dependent” (24-25). “By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the growth of industrial capital and urbanization was eroding the position of small farmers, self-employed artisans, and craftsmen and increasing the proportion of men reliant on wage labor. In a society in which the small producer was viewed as the backbone of a democratic polity and in which masculinity was equated with independence, the transition to wage labor created a crisis for White male identity” (25). “Artisanal men staked their claim to suffrage and to a family wage on their positions as fathers and heads of household and on their independence through honorable labor and membership in skilled trades. In short, White working-class men’s claim of independence (and therefore of full rights of citizenship) was premised on the dependence of women and the subordination of people of color” (26, see also Rose 1995). “The rationale for stratified rights used seemingly universalistic criteria, however, incorporated the same conceptual dichotomies that had justified categorical exclusion.  […] independence and activity in the public sphere were linked to the capacity to exercise citizenship and to entitlement to full rights, whereas dependence and activity in the private sphere were deemed outside the realm of citizenship and rights” (27).

Power as critical to the definition and articulation of race and gender – gender as signified relations of power (Scott 1986), gender as labor, power, cathexis (Connell 1989), race as impacted by political struggle and racism in stabilizing structures that operate on the essentialism of race. Personalization of power relations – ‘the personal is political’ – (Echols 1989), and Gramsci’s hegemony – “the taken-for-granted practices and assumptions that make domination seem natural and inevitable to both the dominant and the subordinate” (13) – power is evident in interactions, art, ritual (kx^ texts?), and thus power can be fought in these arenas. “Power in these loci [art, literature, ritual, custom, and everyday interaction] is not often recognized because it is exercised not through formal domination but through disciplinary complexes and modes of knowledge” (13).


Acker, Joan. 1990. “Hierarchies, Jobs, and Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizations.” Gender and Society 4: 139-158.

Connell, R.W. 1989. Gender and Power. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Echols, Alice. 1989. Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Forbath, William. 1996. “Race, Class and Citizenship.” Unpublished manuscript.

Fraser, Nancy and Linda Gordon. 1994. “A Genealogy of Dependency: Tracing a Keyword of the U.S. Welfare State.” Signs 19: 309-336.
Gunderson, Joan. 1987. “Independence, Citizenship, and the American Revolution.” Signs 13: 59-77.

Hall, Stuart and David Held. 1989. “Citizens and Citizenship.” Pp. 173-188 in New Times, edited by Stuart Hall and Jacques Martin. London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Haney Lopez, Ian. 1996. White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race. New York: New York University Press.

Laslett, Barbara and Johanna Brenner. 1989. “Gender and Social Reproduction: Historical Perspectives.” Annual Review of Sociology 15: 381-404.

Lorber, Judith. 1994. Paradoxes of Gender. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Roediger, David. 1994. Toward the Abolition of Whiteness. London: Verso.

Rose, Sonya O. 1995. “Class Formation and the Quintessential Worker.” Unpublished manuscript.

Rubin, Lilian Breslow. 1994. Families on the Fault Line. New York: HarperCollins.

Scott, Joan W. 1986. “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis.” American Historical Review 91: 1053-1075.

Thorne, Barrie.  1993 Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

West, Candace and Don Zimmerman. “Doing Gender.” Gender and Society 1: 125-151.


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