Gender (Key Concepts) (Polity Key Concepts in the Social Sciences Series)

Bradley, Harriet
Polity Press, Cambridge
9780745623771 (pb)

Order this book?

Cover of book Studies of gender and sexuality have enjoyed increasing popularity in higher education since courses emerged in the field of Women’s Studies during the ‘second-wave’ of Feminism of the 1970s and 1980s. It is an area of research popular with undergraduate students due to its relevance to, and connections with, their own lives. From one-on-one interactions to inequalities in the workplace, experiences of gender affect everybody in our day to day lives. As a student of gender studies however, it can be difficult to navigate the - often hotly contested - current debates. This book offers a clear and engaging introduction to concepts of gender as they have been developed by academics in the field throughout the last four decades. Bradley has presented a very useful starting point for those embarking on research projects addressing gender. She has quite successfully presented many of the current sociological debates about gender inequality using intersectionality theory to discuss related inequalities on the basis of race and class.

Bradley frames her book around three key areas of what she refers to as the ‘social ordering’ of gender. These three concepts draw on Marxist and Post-Marxist ideas about the interlocking elements of social life. Bradley first highlights production as a sphere of social life in which gender inequalities exist in relation to work, employment and the labour market. Reproduction is the second area in which the author views inequality in terms of the role of women as being primarily responsible for sexual reproduction and the household. Bradley highlights consumption as the third social sphere of gender inequality and in particular current trends surrounding the creation of identity through the consumption of ‘needs’ and ‘must-haves’.

Contextualising gender within production, reproduction, and consumption provides the book with a solid base from which to highlight the gendered inequality that exists in British society (as well as many other countries). By organising the book this way Bradley sends a message that is often overlooked: that striving for gender (and other) equality is something positive not just for women but for everybody. By making this point in such a context the book seems to be firmly aimed at addressing the challenges of our current age.

A discussion of the relevance of intersectionality to current and future work in gender studies resides and the end of this book, although earlier chapters will contribute to an overall understanding of the concept. The various forms of inequality or subordination that tend to be focussed on in any discussion of intersectionality are raised through the framework of production, reproduction and, consumption. The framework of this text enables the reader to branch out from a Marxist-Feminist tradition of locating inequality within the realm of the purely economic into a consideration of how Post-Modernist or Post-Structuralist approaches might facilitate conceptualising gender inequality in the sense of both ‘structure and category’.

The structure of this book greatly contributes to its overall readability. By interweaving biographical and semi-autobiographical vignettes through each chapter the author is able to identify key concepts, old and new, and apply them easily to relevant sociological ideas. Written perhaps for a British or American readership this book offers positive impetus to adopt some of the research that Bradley has presented and apply it to other communities.

The first three chapters offer an account and discussion of the current debates around the sociological concept of gender. With the help of the enlightening vignettes this book presents an excellent foundation for understanding the concepts and their background in order to bring the reader up to date. The three core chapters of this book focus on the contextualisation of gender in terms of production, reproduction, and consumption. These chapters use a conceptual understanding of the sociology of gender to present lively discussion about contemporary examples from the authors own experiences and research. The book is therefore an excellent starting point for sociologists at preliminary stages of research and will ignite a passion for conducting contemporary research of gender in a changing world.

Tristan Kennedy
Flinders University