Engendering the social
by Alana Lentin, Associate Professor in Cultural and Social Analysis at University of Western Sydney on Nov 21, 2011
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Much of our understanding of the social is based on the ability to make sense of the interaction between the self and society by categorising individuals as belonging to distinct groups. No ...
Much of our understanding of the social is based on the ability to make sense of the interaction between the self and society by categorising individuals as belonging to distinct groups. No classification is as powerful as that of gender. It is the central organising principle that is used for interpreting the apparent differences between how 'men' and 'women' approach the social, political, economic world, etc. 'Third-wave' or so-called postmodernist feminist theorists have been at the forefront of the challenge to the equation of anatomical sex with gender as a social definition. Work on transgender identities, but also masculinities (in the plural) have enabled new means of theorising the gendered subject. This work has deep implications for the distinctions between the 'male' and 'female' worlds made by second-wave theorists focused on challenging the hegemony of 'patriarchy' as it disrupts the neat categorsations implied by feminist standpoint theorists and others. Is the postmodern perspective compatible with the ongoing struggle for 'women's rights' that cannot as yet be thought of as won? What do theoretical and real-life challenges to essentialist views of gender add to the feminist critique of the public-private divide that dominates much of 'malestream' social theory?
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