Sayegh notes Joan Scott, "Gender"



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SECTION I
She first asserts that historians' attempts to theorize gender have been rather formulaic falling under the rubric of the fashion of social science and this is utterly not conducive to truly understanding gender. The problem, she claims is that "they tend to contain reductive or overly simple generalizations" (31).

She then asserts that the approaches fall into two categories:

1. descriptive—it merely recognizes the existence of certain relationships, but offers no analysis or explanation

2. causal—it attempts to understand the how and the why of the social world. It asks questions about the nature of these phenomena and it wants to understand why "they take the form they do."


Why does she say that 'gender' is a synonym for 'women'? She argues that gender has been co-opted by women's historians because it seems more neutral (politically and personally), but the subject of the works remains distinctly about women. This can be problematic because it doesn't carry the analytical punch it should.

"Whereas the term 'women's history' proclaims its politics by asserting (contrary to customary practice) that women are valid historical subjects, 'gender' included, but does not name women, and seems to pose no critical threat."

Now, she says this assertion occurred on the one hand as part of the quest for academic legitimacy. At first glance, it may seem that she may not like this particular use of gender, but go to the next paragraph on page 32:

"This usage rejects the interpretive utility of the idea of separate sphere, maintaining that to study women in isolation perpetuates the fiction that one sphere, the experience of one sex, has little or nothing to do with the other. In addition, gender is also used to designate social relations between the sexes. Its use explicitly rejects biological explanations."

I see this as a crucial statement from Scott because with two sentences she has torn asunder the argument, made above, that one's understanding of a certain event can remain the same despite the inclusion of women. With the category of gender, one cannot marginalize the study of women or dismiss their history. Their history is necessarily interwoven with men's.

"[G]ender becomes a way of denoting 'cultural constructions'—the entirely social creation of ideas about appropriate roles for women and men. It is a way of referring to the exclusively social origins of the subjective identities of men and women. Gender is, in this definition, a social category imposed on a sexed body."






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