S ex and G ender

Authored by: Barbara Gurr , Nancy A. Naples

T he H andbook of S ociology and H uman R ights

Print publication date:  February  2013
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9781594518829
eBook ISBN: 9781315634227
Adobe ISBN: 9781317258391


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The intellectual history and topics of interest in the sociology of sex and gender are tied intimately to human rights scholarship and activism. The field was generated through the advocacy of activists inside and outside the discipline inspired by the women’s movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s (Fox 1995). Recognizing that women’s knowledge and experience had been either erased or diminished in importance by a discipline dominated by men and fueled by patriarchal assumptions of what counts as knowledge and who should be the primary conveyers of sociological insights, women sociologists challenged the gendered assumptions of the field (Smith 1987). In 1969, Alice Rossi, who would become one of the first women presidents of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in 1983, presented data at a business meeting demonstrating the underrepresentation of women and the discrimination they faced in the discipline. As a consequence, in 1971, feminist sociologists formed their own association, Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS), and produced a separate journal, Gender & Society, which is now one of the leading journals in interdisciplinary gender studies. SWS dedicated itself to establishing the importance of sex and gender research for sociology; ensuring that women’s contributions to knowledge and other aspects of social, economic, political, and cultural life were acknowledged in academic literature; challenging sexist language in sociology journals; and increasing women’s visibility in the ASA (Fox 1995). The ASA’s Sex and Gender Section was formed in 1973 and is now one of the largest sections of the ASA. SWS members hold prominent leadership positions in the ASA, including the presidency. Since the Sex and Gender Section’s founding, three new ASA sections have been added that developed directly from the feminist scholarship on sex and gender.

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