BRINGING IN OTHER FATHERS
There has been a trend since 1968 to re-engage with founding fathers who did address gender issues, but had been marginalised in the ‘official’ histories of the discipline compared to their contemporaries. The rediscovery of writings about gender by the big names, and the calls to put other founding fathers forward as important because they did address gender, are best exemplified by the attention paid to Engels (e. g. Delamont, 1972, 1996b). Engels has been the focus of far more scholarship since the rise of feminist sociology than he received between 1950 and 1970. Marxist feminists have been particularly active in their re-examinations of Engels’s writings. Feminist attention to Engels began in the late 1960s, because he wrote The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State. This book, though absolutely suffused with nineteenth-century ideas about the evolutionary development of human societies including family forms, did address sex, gender and the reproduction of labour power. Quotes from Origins were an obligatory part of the manifestos of all the Marxist women’s liberation groups, and in the early academic feminism (e. g. Juliet Mitchell, 1966). Because Engels recognised that the Victorian bourgeois family was not the acme of an evolutionary process, but merely a transitory form, his ideas were useful for feminists arguing for social change. Sayers et al. (1987) is a collection of contemporary feminist essays on Engels.
So far, the chapter has presented a relatively non-contentious history of sociology, complicated only by interweaving some discussion of feminism. In Appendix 1 the focus turns to how that history is presented in the texts used to teach it to current students. Here the feminist voice becomes more intrusive into the grand narrative. So far, this
chapter has been a calm deep sea. In the next section the Gorgona rises.
The Gorgona is a giant mermaid, a sister of Alexander the Great. She appears beside a boat, grabs the gunwale, and asks if her brother, King Alexander, lives. Woe betide the sailor who tells her Alexander is dead. Wise mariners answer ‘He lives and reigns: zei kai vasileri/’ or ‘He lives, he reigns, he rules the world’. If she hears this, the Gorgona takes you swiftly to your next port of call. If the Gorgona is told Alexander is dead, she either hits the ship with her fist and sends it to the seabed, or she starts to chant mirologhia (the mourning laments, the songs of fate). The mirologhia of mermaids become powerful typhoons, she tears out her hair which becomes bolts of lightning, and her sobs cause great waves to batter the ship (Stewart, 1990; Storace, 1996). In modern Greek folklore, the Gorgona is condemned to swim the seas for all eternity because she spilt the water that would have given Alexander eternal life. She was cursed to live for ever as half a fish and half a woman. Fancifully, in the next part of the chapter, the Gorgona of feminist sociology has risen and grasped the gunwale of the theory boat. She is asking whether theory is a calm sea: that is an area of male consensus about dead white men: or is it a contested arena where feminist critics have to produce a typhoon?