Introduction, part I
As with general sociological theory, one of the persistent issues in gender theory is a focus on the tension between human agency and social structure. While most theories of gender—including radical feminism, intersectionality approaches, postmodernism, and queer theory—address both agency and social structure, implicit in their theoretical assumptions are the sources of social praxis. Because of their differing analyses on the source of social praxis, they analyze structure and agency differently. For example, radical feminism and intersectionality approaches to gender emphasize systematic oppressors like capitalism and patriarchy, while postmodern and queer theories emphasize the structural oppression—and liberation potential—of discourse. Radical feminism and intersectionality approaches tend to emphasize the material realities of women (as a universal category) and examine the juxtaposition of the global economy and individual places within production. Postmodern and queer theories examine the structure of language and discourse and operationalize identity as fragmented rather than as particular universals. In the following sections, I outline the theoretical assumptions of all four theories, how each operationalize agency and social structure, and the implications of these operationalizations for the study of gender and sexuality. As Alcoff (1988) does, I argue that the most effective way to create social change is by restructuring social structures at the material and discursive level rather than emphasizing one over the other. All the theories I address analyze agency and structure, though as stated, materialist perspectives emphasize the structures of capitalism and patriarchy while postmodern and queer theories emphasize the structure of discourse. These operationalizations have implications for the theories’ conceptualizations of agency. I define agency as the ability to move within social structures with the proper tools and resources to fight oppression. As opposed to false consciousness, which is the inability to recognize oneself as an oppressed piece of an overarching structure, agency for theories of gender is class consciousness for orthodox Marxists. Agency also implies choice. I define structure as any institution that organizes human activity, including institutions like the global economy, discourse, or language. In this paper, I explore how radical feminism, intersectionality, postmodern and queer theories understand agency and structure and how those understandings translate into theories of social change. For clarification purposes, I will use sex work and the sex worker’s rights movement as an example of social change in order to demonstrate the impact of the four theories on social praxis. Radical Feminism
Radical feminism was engendered from liberal feminism’s neglect of the private sphere, including the failure of liberal feminism to properly address mothering and sexuality in their fight for social change. Radical feminism looks at unified systems like patriarchy to critique power and knowledge from a fundamentally woman-centered perspective. Intersectionality approaches to gender, as well as postmodern and queer theories, criticize radical feminists, for example Catherine MacKinnon (1982) and Andrea Dworkin (1974), for ignoring women’s agency. The theses of much radical feminist work centers on the idea that patriarchy as a social structure devalues female biology so that men have agency and women do not. Furthermore, much radical feminist analyses emphasize the material basis for the sexual/political ideology of female submission and male domination. For example, Firestone (1970) and Millet (1970) argue that sexuality as a source of power comes from the sexual division of labor, which allows men to control women’s bodies and, therefore, control what constitutes knowledge. Male and female relations, then, are a series of dominations and submissions stemming...
Bibliography: Acker, Joan. 2006. ‘Inequality Regimes: Gender, Class, and Race in Organizations.’ Gender and Society. 20 (4):441-464
Alcoff, Linda. 1988. Cultural Feminism Verses Post-Structuralism: The Identity Crisis in
Alexander, Priscilla. 1987. “Prostitution: A Difficult Issue for Feminists.” In Sex Work: Writings
by Women in the Sex Industry, ed
Allison, A. 1994. Nightwork: Sexuality, pleasure, and corporate masculinity in a Tokyo hostess
Bachelard, Gaston. 1958. The Poetics of Space. Trans. Maria Jolas. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969.
Baldry, C. 1999. “Space—the final frontier.” Sociology. 33 (3): 535-553
Bem, Sandra. 1976. “Probing the Promise of Androgyny,” In Alexandra Kaplan and Joan P. Bean (Eds) Beyond Sex Roles Stereotypes. Boston, MA: Little Brown
Bernstein, Elizabeth. 2007. Temporarily Yours: Intimacy, Authenticity, and the Commerce of
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1985. The social space and the genesis of groups. Social Science Information.
24 (2): 195-220
Bradley-Engen, Mindy S. 2009. Naked Lives: Inside the worlds of exotic dance. NY: State
University of New York Press
Brents, Barbra and Hausbeck, K. 2007. Marketing Sex. Sexualities. 10(4):425-439.
Browne, Irene and Joya Misra. 2003. ‘The Intersection of gender and race in the labor market.’ Annual Review of Sociology. 29: 487-513.
Butler, J. 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York:
Chapkis, W. 1997 Live sex acts
world, 1890- 1940. New York: Basic Books.
Cramer, D. and Howitt, D. 1998. “Romantic Love and the Psychology of Sexual
Behavior: Open and Closed Secrets.” In V.C
Cohen, Philip N. and Matt L. Huffman. 2003. "Individuals, jobs, and labor markets: The devaluation of women 's work."
D’Emilio, John. 1993. “Capitalism and Gay Identity.” In Richard Parker and Peter Aggleton (eds) Culture. Society and Sexuality Reader. London, UK: UCL Press.
Delany, S.R. 1999. Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. New York: New York University
DeVault, Majorie. 1996. Talking back to sociology: distinctive contributions of feminist methodology.
Dinnerstein, Dorothy. 1977. The Mermaid and the Minotaur. New York, NY: Harper Colophon Books.
Dworkin, Andrea. 1974. Woman Hating. London, UK: Women’s Press
Ehrenreich, Barbara and Arlie Russell Hochschild
Ellis, Havelock. 1936. Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Vol. 2. Philadelphia: FA Davis Company.
Engels, Friedrich. 1884. The Origin of the Family. In R. C. Tucker (Ed) The Marx-Engels Reader, 1978.
England, Paula. 2005. ‘Emerging theories of care work.’ Annual Review of Sociology. 31:381-99.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke. 1981. Public Man, Private Women: Women in Social and Political
Firestone, S. 1970. The Dialectic of Sex. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Foucault, Michel. 1978. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Frank, Katherine. 2002. G- Strings and Sympathy: Strip Club Regulars and Male Desire.
Durham: Duke University Press
Freud, Sigmund. 1986. On Sexuality: Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and Other Works. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Friedan, Betty. 1974. The Feminine Mystique. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Giddens, Anthony. 1992. The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism
in Modern Societies
Gieryn, Thomas F. 2000. A Space for Place in Sociology. Annual Review of Sociology. 26: 463-496.
Gilligan, Carol. 1977. ‘Woman’s Place in Man’s Life Cycle.’ In Sandra Harding (Ed) Feminism and Methodology. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Grant, Linda, et al. 1987. ‘Is there an association between gender and methods in sociological research?’ American Sociological Review. 52 (6): 856-862.
Greenwald, Harold. 1958. The Elegant Prostitute: A Social and Psychoanalytic Study. New
York: Walker and Company
Haraway, Donna J. 1999. “ ‘Gender for a Marxist Dictionary: The Sexual Politics of a
Word”, in Culture, Society and Sexuality
Harding, S. 1983. “Why has the sex/ gender system become visible only now?”, in
Hartman, Heidi. 1981. “The Unhappy Marriage Between Marxism and Feminism.” In Women and Revolution, ed. Lydia Sargent, 1–42. Boston, MA: South End Press.
Hawkes, Gail. 1996. A Sociology of Sex and Sexuality. Berkshire, England: Open University Press
Hirschfeld, Magnus. 1948. Sexual anomalies: the origins, nature and treatment of sexual disorders. Buffalo, NY: Emerson Books.
Hochschild, A. 1983. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling.
Berkeley: University of California Press
Holland, Janet, Caroline Ramazanoglu, Sue Sharpe, and Rachel Thomson. 1999. ‘Feminist Methodology and Young People’s Sexuality.” In Richard Parker and Peter Aggleton (eds) Culture. Society and Sexuality Reader. London, UK: UCL Press.
Illouz, Eva. 1997. Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and the Cultural Contradictions of
Jaggar, Alison. 2004. Feminist politics and epistemology: the standpoint of women. In S. Harding (Ed) Feminist Standpoint Reader. New York, NY: Psychology Press.
Kempadoo, Kamala, and Jo Doesema, eds. 1998. Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance, and
Kimmel, M. 2000. The Gendered Society. New York: Oxford. Oxford University Press.
Kinsey, A., Pomeroy, W. and Martin, C. 1948. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. London: W. B. Saunders.
Leidner, Robin. 1991. “Serving hamburgers and selling insurance: Gender, work, and identity in
interactive service work.” Gender and Society 5: 154-77.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document