Harriet Bradley, Gender: Key Concepts

Melissa K. Houghtaling
2009 Canadian journal of sociology  
Harriet Bradley, Gender: Key Concepts. Oxford: Polity Press, 2007, 240 pp. $29.99 paper (978-0-7456-2377-1), $77.99 hardcover (978-0-7456-2376 Geared toward undergraduate students, Harriet Bradley's Gender provides a comprehensive introduction to the concept of gender, exploring the ways it has been theoretically developed, studied, and debated within the academy, as well as how it is experienced and understood in everyday social relations. The first three chapters examine the uses and meanings
more » ... of gender over the last 40 years and offer an accessible account of how modern and postmodern feminist perspectives have influenced studies of and ideas about gender. In the rest of the book, Bradley shows how these theoretical perspectives play out in our daily relations, interactions, and exchanges. She highlights the myriad ways that gender is constructed, performed, enacted, and limited in contrast to theories that situate it as a fixed, stable, or inherent quality. Bradley's discussions are theoretically rich, yet easy to follow for those less familiar with gender studies, as key concepts are italicized, clearly defined, and thoroughly discussed. The combination of empirical research and personal narratives throughout the book superbly illustrates both how gender is conceptually understood and how it is lived and experienced in the everyday world. Bradley ontologically posits gender as a social construct used to categorize humans in terms of "masculine" and "feminine" traits in order to make sense of (presumed) sexual difference in human behaviour. Because gender is a social construct, the meanings associated with it are not fixed but vary over time and from culture to culture. At the same time, gender is not merely an abstract social construction but also, as Bradley explains, a political force bound up in power relations between men and women -the personal is indeed political. Bradley's sociological analysis of gender combines elements of modernism and postmodernism. On the one hand, her approach is unabashedly influenced by Marxist theory: gender relations, she contends, are best grasped through the study of class relations, that is, of the relational and everyday productive, reproductive, and consuming processes of gender. It is in these relations that most, if not all, women are subjected to male authority and the threat of violence at home or work, pressured to have children, and constrained in access to public space. On the other Queen's University Melissa K. Houghtaling Melissa K. Houghtaling is a PhD candidate in the department of sociology at Queen's University, Canada. Her research interests include sexuality, existentialism and existential sociology, feminist theory, philosophy of science, ontology and epistemology. melissa.houghtaling@queensu.ca
doi:10.29173/cjs6430 fatcat:l6qrhxugufeenptp6owvzei4u4