When Sex Became Gender (Perspectives on Gender)

When Sex Became Gender (Perspectives on Gender)

Shira Tarrant

Language: English

Pages: 294

ISBN: 0415953472

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


When Sex Became Gender is a study of post-World War II feminist theory from the viewpoint of intellectual history. The key theme is that ideas about the social construction of gender have its origins in the feminist theorists of the postwar period, and that these early ideas about gender became a key foundational paradigm for both second and third wave feminist thought. These conceptual foundations were created by a cohort of extraordinarily imaginative and bold academic women. While discussing the famous feminist scholars―Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret Mead―the book also hinges on the work of scholars who are lesser known to American audiences―Mirra Komarovsky, Viola Klein, and Ruth Herschberger, The postwar years have been an overlooked period in the development of feminist theory and philosophy and Tarrant makes a compelling case for this era being the turning point in the study of gender.

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patriarchal power rather than to God: “Many men enjoy feminine misery and repudiate the idea that it is desirable to ameliorate it … here are those, for example, who hold that the pain of childbirth is necessary for the appearance of maternal instinct: hinds that have given birth under anesthesia have abandoned their fawns. he alleged facts are by no means clear; and in any case women are not hinds. he truth is that some men ind it shocking to lighten the burdens of femininity.”40 But by 1952

David Riesman complimented Women in the Modern World as thoughtful, interesting, and good-tempered “despite provocations from neo-anti-feminists, like Marynia Farnham, who have used psychoanalytic data in their efort to persuade women to limit their aims to the pre-Enlightenment ones.”16 In American Sociology Review that same year, Jessie Bernard called the book a valuable contribution to sociological understandings of the modern family. And the Spring ield Republican reported, “It is heartening

help.’”73 Komarovsky conjectured that training girls into generalized dependency made it easier for them to transfer from a sheltered existence to life with a husband, while keeping intact a ready acceptance of a woman’s role as wife in a family that has retained “many patriarchal features.”74 Rather than leave the issue at that, however, Komarovsky pried deeper. If women were raised to perpetuate an infantile submissiveness and dependency on their family of origin it was assumed that this

the U.S. women war workers had been in the labor force before the war and either wished to—or did—remain there afterward.7 Women’s labor rates in France grew throughout the twentieth century, and approximately 50 percent of British mothers worked outside the home before the Second World War. What began to shift during World War II was not only what women were doing but also the perceptions of women’s roles. In turn, these changes on the home front due to wartime necessity generated ideological

twenty-two, had three children, and spent thirty years as an empty nester before dying in her seventies.94 “Whereas ifty years ago a woman spent on the average ifteen years of a considerably shorter life in actual child-bearing and nursing of babies, the corresponding average is three-and-a-half years to-day.”95 Myrdal and Klein applauded a new trend they called “staying fresh at forty,” which they used to describe women who were now returning to work later in life, mostly in white-collar

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