Fifty Key Concepts in Gender Studies By Jane Pilcher. What is gender studies and from where has it originated? We begin our introduction to this book by providing a brief account of the development of gender studies, before going on to make some general remarks about the key concepts themselves and how readers might make best use of them.
The academic study of gender has a relatively short history. Its emergence can be dated as recently as the late 1960s, and its development
triggered by second wave feminism. Along with developing a critique of gender inequalities, in both personal relationships and in social positioning (especially economically and politically), second wave feminism began to draw attention to the ways in which academic disciplines and sets of knowledge acted to exclude the experiences, interests and identities of women. For example, prior to the 1970s, the social sciences in general, and sociology in particular, largely ignored gender. The ‘people’ it studied were mainly men and the topics it focused on were aspects of the social world especially significant for men, such as paid work and politics. Women were almost invisible in pre-1970s’ gender-blind sociology, only featuring in their traditional roles as wives and mothers within families.
Differences and inequalities between women and men at this time were not recognized as an issue of sociological concern and were not seen as problems to be addressed. In the context of second wave feminist critiques, however, a number of disciplines across the social sciences, the
arts and humanities began to pay increasing attention to gender. Thus, in sociology during the 1970s, differences and inequalities between women and men came to be regarded, especially by women sociologists, as problems to be examined and explained. Initially, studies were focused on ‘filling in the gaps’ in knowledge about women, gaps left by the prior male bias. Attention gradually moved to those aspects of experiences especially significant to women, including paid work, housework, motherhood and male violence. Fifty Key Concepts in Gender Studies By Jane Pilcher.