In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gender

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Classic Works
  • Journals
  • Theoretical Developments
  • Social Class
  • Families
  • Employment
  • Intersectionality
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • State and Welfare Policy
  • Sexuality and Sexual Identity

Sociology Gender
Janeen Baxter, Heidi Hoffmann
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 November 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 November 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0022


The term gender refers to the cultural and social characteristics attributed to men and women on the basis of perceived biological differences. In the 1970s, feminists focused on sex roles, particularly the socialization of men and women into distinct masculine and feminine roles and the apparent universality of patriarchy. More recent work has critiqued the idea of two distinct genders, calling into question the notion of gender dichotomies and focusing attention on gender as a constitutive element of all social relationships. Gender has been described as a social institution that structures the organization of other institutions, such as the labor market, families, and the state, as well as the social relations of everyday life. In addition, scholars have pointed to the ways in which gender is constructed by organizations and individual interactions. Gender not only differentiates men and women into unequal groups, it also structures unequal access to goods and resources, often crosscutting and intersecting with other forms of inequality, such as class, race, and ethnicity.

General Overviews

A number of works have been produced that provide general overviews of current issues and understandings of gender and gender inequality. As opposed to textbooks that review the current state of play, these works move the field forward by synthesizing, critiquing, and developing key concepts. Some focus on the field of gender broadly, as in the case of Hess and Ferree 1987; Ferree, et al. 1999; and Connell 2002, while others focus on specific aspects of gender inequality in key sites, such as the labor market (Reskin and Padavic 2002) or the family (Coltrane and Adams 2008). Kimmel 2000 and Connell 1987 highlight the necessity to consider the social construction of masculinity as well as femininity, and Lorber 1994 draws attention to the seemingly irrevocable and immutable nature of gender.

  • Coltrane, Scott, and Michele Adams. 2008. Gender and families. 2d ed. Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield.

    This book was originally published in 1998. It is part of a series encouraging readers to use a “gender lens” to investigate how social processes differ in systemic ways for men and women. Coltrane argues that gender and family are inextricably linked, and applies a social constructionist approach to topics such as love, sex, marriage, parenting, care work, engendering children, and the state.

  • Connell, Raewyn W. 1987. Gender and power: Society, the person, and sexual politics. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

    This book introduces and develops Connell’s concept of a gender order, a set of social institutions and relations that produce and maintain gender differences and gender inequality. The book addresses four aspects: theorizing gender, the structure of gender relations, femininity and masculinity, and sexual politics. Key concepts examined in the book include hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity.

  • Connell, Raewyn W. 2002. Gender. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

    This book provides an introduction to gender studies, gender theories, and gender politics. Connell synthesizes structural and poststructural analyses to provide a contemporary framework for gender inequality. The book also provides a concise overview of contemporary gender studies.

  • Ferree, Myra Marx, Judith Lorber, and Beth B. Hess, eds. 1999. Revisioning gender. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    This book builds on the volume’s predecessor (see Hess and Ferree 1987), by considering advances in gender studies in the previous decade. The authors adopt an interdisciplinary perspective and provide a comprehensive overview of key topics, including theorizing gender, gender discourse and culture, gender in social institutions, and gendering the person.

  • Hess, Beth B., and Myra Marx Ferree, eds. 1987. Analyzing gender: A handbook of social science research. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

    This volume was one of the first to synthesize research on women’s issues, feminism, and gender within social institutions. The handbook is divided into five sections: Gender and Society, Social Control of Female Sexuality, Gender Stratification, Gendered Worlds, and Gender and the State.

  • Kimmel, Michael S. 2000. The gendered society. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Kimmel argues that gender is not simply a classification for biological sorting but leads to inequality in hierarchy and power. The volume covers explanations of gender, gendered identities, gendered institutions, and gendered interactions.

  • Lorber, Judith. 1994: Paradoxes of gender. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

    Lorber critiques beliefs about male and female differences and shows that many suggest female advantage over men, such as women’s procreative capacities. To understand why these capacities have led to gender inequality for women, Lorber develops an understanding of gender as a social institution linked to conflict over scarce resources and social relationships of power.

  • Reskin, Barbara F., and Irene Padavic. 2002. Women and men at work. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

    Originally published in 1994, this book combines accounts of men’s and women’s everyday experiences on the job with historical evidence, data, and sociological and economic theories to provide a thorough investigation of the connections between work, inequality, and gender. The book covers a range of topics, including the history of gendered work, sex segregation in the workplace, sex differences and earning, and links between paid work and family life.

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