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

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Theoretical Foundations and Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • Socially Constructed Bodies
  • Femininity and Female Bodies
  • Masculinity and Male Bodies
  • Labor and Laboring Bodies
  • Body, Gender, and Technologies

Sociology Gender and Bodies
Samantha Kwan, Trenton M. Haltom
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 February 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0236


Scholars from various disciplines (anthropology, gender studies, history, philosophy, and sociology, among others) have written about gender and bodies. The interdisciplinary nature of this topic has resulted in scholarship on many different aspects of the body across the life course. The works included here are foundational to knowledge about the gendered body and particularly the sociology of the body. Moreover, they exhibit intersectionality and begin with the assumption that social constructs such as race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, age, and dis/ability intersect with gender to shape life experiences, social outcomes, and self-concept. While there are many areas that fall under the topic of gender and bodies (such as medicalization, sport, disability, gendered violence, sexual practices, and eating disorders) this article focuses particularly on theory and research on the social construction of female and male bodies, as well as bodies that disrupt sex, gender, and sexuality binaries, i.e., intersex and LGBTQ Bodies. Specifically, there is an abundance of scholarship that examines how social and cultural structures patrol normative femininities and hegemonic masculinities thereby reinforcing binary understandings of sex and gender. Nonetheless, there is some work that emphasizes the undoing of gender, social activism, and embodied resistance. Writings on gendered constructs and the body also examine how some bodies are privileged over others, showing a body hierarchy based on, for example, beauty, skin tone, and body size that furnishes some people with physical capital while disadvantaging others. Finally, the article acknowledges research and theory that engages labor-related processes about the body; the body as a modification project (including body building, tattooing, and Cosmetic Surgery); and the role of medical and other technologies on gendered bodies and lives.


Because gender and the body touch on many facets of social life, theoretical and empirical work in this area appears in a wide range of journals. These include sexuality journals (e.g., Sexualities, Sexuality & Culture, Transgender Studies Quarterly); culture journals (e.g., Poetics, Signs, Theory, Culture & Society); disability journals (e.g., Disability & Society, Disability Studies Quarterly); and health journals (e.g., Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Science & Medicine, Sociology of Health and Illness). Notably, scholarship on gender and bodies is published in the leading body studies journal, Body & Society, as well as leading gender journals such as Gender & Society and Men & Masculinities. As work in this area tends to be qualitative, empirical research can also be found in Qualitative Research and the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.

  • Body & Society. 1995–.

    Based in the UK, Body & Society is a peer-reviewed journal in the field of body studies. It is expressly open to theoretically diverse and innovative research that exhibits a critical approach to the body. Scholarship is interdisciplinary.

  • Gender & Society. 1987–.

    The official journal of Sociologists for Women in Society, Gender & Society is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes theory-driven sociological research on all aspects of gender dynamics in contemporary society—micro, meso, and macro. Scholarship is both national and international and exhibits methodological diversity, including statistical analyses, content analyses, qualitative interviews, and ethnography. It also publishes reviews of new books in the field.

  • Men & Masculinities. 1998–.

    A peer-reviewed journal in the field of masculinity studies, Men & Masculinities publishes empirical and theoretical scholarship that addresses the role of men and masculinities in contemporary society. Articles are interdisciplinary and grounded in critical theoretical perspectives such as feminist theory and queer theory.

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