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About this book

What is gender and who has it? History, theory and gender are inextricably linked, but how exactly do they fit together? How do
historians use theories about gender to write history?

In this jargon-free introduction, Susan Kingsley Kent presents a student-friendly guide to the origins, conceptual framework, subjectmatter and methods of gender history. Assuming no prior knowledge, Gender and History:

? sets out clear definitions of theory, history and gender
? explains that gender is not solely applicable to women, but to men as well
? tackles the hotly debated topic of power and gender relations
? explores gender history from a variety of angles, including anthropology, psychology and philosophy
? spans a broad chronological period, from the times of Aristotle to the present day
? includes a helpful glossary that explains key terms and concepts at a glance.

Lively and approachable, this is an essential text for anyone who wishes to learn how to use theories of gender in their historical
studies.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Gender: What Is It? Who Has It?

Introduction: Gender: What Is It? Who Has It?

Abstract
If you are reading this book, chances are you are enrolled in a course that hopes to teach you at least one — and probably more — of three things: how historians think about and write history; how historians use theory to write history; and how historians use theories about gender to write history. For a long time, especially in the English-speaking world, history and theory were thought to be enterprises that should have nothing to do with one another, but fortunately, over the past few decades, even the most adamant among us have come to recognize that pretending history can be theory-free itself rests upon a theory. (In fact, this series contains a book called Empiricism and History, by Stephen Davies. You should read it.)
Susan Kingsley Kent

Theorizing Gender

Frontmatter

1. Woman: From the Imperfect Male to the Incommensurate Female

Abstract
Almost every society we know of has organized itself according to gender, assigning certain responsibilities, obligations, and privileges to some people — and forbidding them to others — on the basis of the different attributes those people were purported to possess as gendered individuals. In the modern period, differences between the natures and capabilities of men and women came to be explained by their differing sexual and reproductive systems. But in ancient times, philosophers and physicians like Aristotle and Galen, while believing strongly in the differences between men and women, did not explain those differences by referring to the differences of male and female bodies. In fact, they and other ancient Greeks and Romans regarded men’s and women’s bodies as remarkably similar. Where those bodies differed from one another, it was a matter of degree, not kind. That is, they regarded women’s bodies as less perfect versions of men’s bodies, as variations along a hierarchical ordering. It wasn’t until the end of the eighteenth century that scientists and philosophers began to speak about male and female anatomy as being distinctly different from one another.
Susan Kingsley Kent

2. ‘One is not born a woman’: The Feminist Challenge

Abstract
The above quotation comes from Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 classic, The Second Sex, whose seventeenth edition’s blurb read, ‘The first manifesto of the liberated woman.’ Hardly. By the time Beauvoir wrote, a vast international feminist movement had already come and gone, and the ‘second wave’ of feminism was still two decades away. But it was a good sales pitch, especially in 1970, when feminists in the West were just getting going and didn’t have a much understanding of what had gone before.
Susan Kingsley Kent

Gender History

Frontmatter

3. The Road to ‘Gender’

Abstract
Gender history grew out of women’s history. In what follows, it may seem as if women’s and gender history are not just different things altogether, but that one — gender — in flowing from the other — women — superseded it. That’s only because of the order I am going to impose on the material. Remember in the Introduction, when I said that there isn’t any ‘past’ out there for us to faithfully recover? Well, here’s a perfect example of that: my choices about what to include in this chapter will create a narrative — tell a story — that appears seamless and complete. Let me assure you that it is not. Others would choose different characters and different turning points; they’d focus on different subjects; and as a result, they’d tell it differently. My version tries to be accurate in its representations, but it is made up of how I see the process unfolding, not necessarily how everyone sees it, and you need to know that up front.
Susan Kingsley Kent

4. Theorizing Gender and Power

Abstract
The impact of Scott’s article was immediate and profound. Scott’s formulations enabled historians to do more than merely write women into history, an enterprise that had had little success in compelling historians to rethink their conclusions and that seemed to relegate women’s history to a separate sphere, to ghettoize it. Conceived in the way Scott formulated it, gender created a lens through which various societies had to be seen anew. Gender could no longer be so easily dismissed as having little effect on traditional historical studies. Scott’s theory gave women’s and gender history great impetus, provoking an outpouring of works that have transformed the discipline by taking seriously her injunction that identities, categories, and concepts have histories that need examination. It became far more difficult to treat women as if they possessed an essential character, which made treatments of them more nuanced and more true to the reality of women’s very complicated lives.
Susan Kingsley Kent

Doing It

Frontmatter

5. Writing Gender History: War and Feminism in Britain, 1914–1930

Abstract
You’ve spent a lot of time reading about a variety of theories about gender. This chapter seeks to show how gender as Scott defined it can be used in practice. It focuses on feminism in the interwar period, and offers a counter to history that regards ‘experience’ as a foundation of human agency. One such example would be Brian Harrison’s Prudent Revolutionaries: Portraits of British Feminists between the Wars. Harrison included Margaret Bondfield and Susan Lawrence in his study, despite the fact that they did not, he conceded, ‘see the world in feminist terms.’ Their presence in the book derived from the fact that they sat in parliament. ‘What does feminism owe to these parliamentary careers?’ Harrison asked. ‘Merely by getting into parliament and by operating efficiently there, whatever their views, these … Labour MPs helped to raise society’s respect for women.’ Virtually any women involved in any politics, if we follow this thinking, qualify as feminists.1 It won’t do.
Susan Kingsley Kent

Conclusion: Where We Go From Here

Abstract
In December 2008, the American Historical Review published a forum entitled ‘Revisiting “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis.”’1 In it, a number of historians of the United States, Latin America, Eastern Europe, medieval Europe, and China spoke about the impact Scott’s article had had on their own work on gender and that of their fields generally. The pieces testified to quite a bit of variety in the reception and usages of gender as an analytic category, but all of them acknowledged how important Scott’s theorizing had been for them and their sub-disciplines.
Susan Kingsley Kent
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