It would be very easy to assume that all male sociologists were as oblivious as the silverbacks whose autobiographies I have just discussed. This is certainly not the case. The impact of feminism has been noticeable on some men since the early 1970s. As examples, Ronnie Frankenberg, David H. J. Morgan, Robert W. Connell and Mairtin Mac an Ghaill all demonstrate in their writing, their citation patterns, their acknowledgements, and their reception in the company of feminists, how they have avoided being or becoming silverbacks.
These four men, three British and one Australian, have been chosen to exemplify the way in which men who have embraced feminist sociology have enriched their own research, and come to occupy a new type of social niche in sociology where women and men are comfortably colleagues reading each other’s work profitably. There are other men who could be chosen as examples: the four I have chosen are men well known to me personally, have observed among feminists, have read, have had professional contacts with, and have spoken about with feminists over at least a decade. Because they range in age from 40 to 80, they span several ‘generations’ of sociologists.
These four men, listed in descending order of their ages, have all written sociological analyses which incorporate feminist ideas and selfconsciously reflect on how feminist sociology has changed their ideas. Frankenberg (1976) showed an exemplary response to feminist sociology. In a review of how community studies had conceptualised women, he criticised earlier work, including his own, and attempted a thorough revision of the genre. Morgan (1981) made a very early male contribution to feminist methods. Connell, after earlier research on political socialisation and educational inequalities, began to publish path-breaking work with his Gender and Power (1987). He followed this with Masculinities (1995) and The Men and the Boys (2000a). His 1987 book was a vigorous rejection of functional and reductionist theories of gender. Both Morgan and Connell were founders of the ‘new men’s studies’, but both set up the ‘new’ sub-specialism while making contributions to feminist ideas in sociology. Frankenberg, Morgan and Connell are all heterosexual men, who write warmly about the women in their personal lives. My fourth example of a male sociologist who relates positively to feminist ideas is Mac an Ghaill, a gay man. His first published monograph, Young, Gifted and Black (1988) and his subsequent study of Parnell School, The Making of Men (1994) both show how seriously feminist ideas can be taken by male scholars if they are so motivated.
Ronnie Frankenberg (1976) established himself as a scholar who had reflected on feminist ideas early in the 1970s in his critique of community studies. Highlighting the unconscious sexism of his own
overview of the genre (1966) and of his monograph (1957), on his journey through the classic studies, he produced the best feminist comment ever. He points out that in the classic coalfield ethnography (Dennis et al., 1956); ‘The relations of production at work are lovingly and loathingly described; the relations of production in the home and community are ignored with equal determination’ (1976: 37).
In the concluding remarks, Frankenberg noted that ‘Women… have begun to answer the sociologists back, to claim the right not to be the inferior objects of study, but equal subjects of dialogue’ (ibid.: 48). Frankenberg saw ‘the future of sociology’ in such dialogue. In his Introduction to Frankenberg (1982), a Festschrift for Max Gluckman the anthropologist, he highlighted the sexist nature of the academic profession (ibid.: 2) and drew out the gender dimensions of Gluckman’s work (ibid.: 3). Frankenberg spent the latter part of his academic career at Keele, where he published work on health and illness, childbirth, childhood, and a variety of other topics. His positive view of the scholarly potential of feminist sociology is clear from his gatekeeping. As an active editor of The Sociological Review he ensured that the editorial board included women, that articles by feminist sociologists appeared, and that feminist sociology was present in a mainstream general journal. Classic papers such as Acker (1981), Dominelli (1986), Charles and Kerr (1986), Finch and Mason (1990) and Kay (1990) in feminist sociology were published in this era, making a vital space for the perspective in the discipline.
David Morgan spent his career at Manchester, retiring in 2001 after more than 30 years. He worked in industrial sociology and the sociology of the family: his book The Family and Social Theory in 1975 was the first British book to take feminist ideas seriously and rethink the conventional sociology of marriage and the family. He appeared in the Roberts (1981) collection Doing Feminist Research, the only male contributor alongside eight women, and produced a landmark paper taking the ideas emerging from feminist sociology about methods into a new realm. His own research moved into autobiography, into establishing the new men’s studies in the UK, and then on to the body, again a newly emerging sociological topic. Here Scott and Morgan (1993) was one of the pioneering collections. His retirement event in Manchester was marked by its heavily female, feminist audience/participation. David Morgan’s position in feminist sociology is demonstrated by his willingness to act as external examiner for a PhD thesis on menstruation (George, 1990; George and Murcott, 1992). Only a man comfortable with women, feminism and feminist sociology could be appointable and accept the appointment to examine a thesis on the most polluting ‘sticky’ topic (Douglas, 1966).
R. W. Connell’s feminist credentials are more public: he is included in the Laslett and Thorne (1997) collection Feminist Sociology, and is one of only two men in the Allen and Howard (2000) collection Provoking Feminisms. Connell’s (1997) autobiographical essay in Laslett and Thorne is quite unlike the men’s essays analysed earlier in the chapter, both stylistically and in its referential frame. He has produced a ‘messy’ text, with vignettes of events from his life set in italics that dramatise them as turning points. His text is both sociological and reflexive at the same time as he says: ‘I was fighting against hegemonic masculinity at the same time as I deployed its techniques’ (1997: 154). He reveals mistakes he has made, and the mixture of accidents, decisions and personal events that have shaped his life. Connell writes of his daughter, and his partner, Pam, as well as many women whose work he admires. He publishes Gender and Power (1987) and finds that he has become a founder of men’s studies:
What is most striking is the difficulty many journals and reviewers have in categorising the book. Can’t be social theory because it’s not about Marx and Weber. Can’t be women’s studies because it’s written by a man… Seven journals work out a solution that completely throws me… Because it’s about gender, and because it’s by a man, it must be men’s studies. … I have not felt so firmly positioned since the days when reviewers decided that because I wrote about class, I must be a Marxist. (1997: 159)
One way in which feminist-friendly men reveal their altered academic worlds is their citation patterns. The references in Connell (2000b) include Judith Butler, Nancy Chodorow, Cynthia Cockburn, Bronwen Davies, Rebecca Dobash, Cynthia Epstein, Sandra Harding, Arlie Hochschild, Margaret Eisenhart, Sue Lees, Adrienne Rich, Barrie Thorne, Sylvia Walby, and Lyn Yates. Because these feminist publications are woven into his book it is a thoroughly contemporary read.
Mac an Ghaill is the youngest of my four. He has worked in the sociology of education since the 1980s, with a pair of ethnographies of English secondary schools. In the books the interrelationships of gender, class, race, sexualities and educational success are thoughtfully plotted. He has also written books and articles on masculinities and the new men’s studies, and on race and ethnicities (Mac an Ghaill, 1988, 1994, 1996, 1999). His contribution to feminist sociology is developed further in the next section.
The next section focuses on current empirical areas, where feminist perspectives are more fully integrated. Education and medicine are both sociological areas which are strong in the UK, and areas which look very different in 2002 from the way they did in 1968. Feminist sociology has had far more impact in the empirical areas of health and education than it has on the self-conscious reflections of silverbacks.
CURRENT EMPIRICAL AREAS
In these two empirical areas, each of which has a specialist journal based in the UK but with an international reputation (British Journal of Sociology of Education, Sociology of Health and Illness), which has existed for over 20 years, it is possible to demonstrate changes in the gender regime. Education will be considered first.
Sociology of education was almost devoid of research on gender, and of feminist perspectives, before 1980. Acker (1981) demonstrated the absence of gender as a topic and an analytic device by coding all the 184 articles published on education in the three generic sociology journals (Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Sociology) between 1960 and 1979. She concluded that a Martian arriving in Britain
would conclude that numerous boys but few girls go to secondary modern schools; that there are no girls’ public schools; that there are almost no adult women influentials of any sort; that most students in higher education study science and engineering; that women rarely make a ritual transition called ‘from school to work’ and never go into further education colleges. Although some women go to university, most probably enter directly into motherhood… and except for a small number of teachers, social workers and nurses, there are almost no adult women workers in the labour market. (1994: 30-1)
Lightfoot (1975) drew similar conclusions in a review of the American literature. In both countries feminist sociologists of education changed the sub-specialism, and mainstreamed their new ideas after 1980.
The changes can be seen in the specialist journals, and in the monographs and edited collections. In the UK BJSE was founded in 1980 with anti-sexism as one of its basic tenets, and had eight women and 17 men on its initial editorial board. Throughout its 22-year history it has showcased feminist work. In 2001 there were 17 women and 23 men on the board. British sociology of education also provided most of the editors and much of the content of a specialist journal, Gender and Education, founded in 1989. The explosion of research can be seen in the differences between the material available for Delamont (1980) compared to that around for Delamont (1990) and then for Coffey and Delamont (2000). A collection such as Francis and Skelton (2001) would have been unimaginable in 1981, as would the review of the qualitative research in the field by Gordon et al. (2001).
Of course, feminists cannot be complacent about their contribution to the sociology of education, or the changes they have produced in the field, or even about their scholarship being cited, recognised or remembered. There may also be a gendered, sexist, pattern of forgetting. Work by women may be forgotten when work by men from the
same era survives. In Delamont (1989b: Appendix 1) there is a detailed analysis of sociology of education which includes some analysis of forgotten women researchers. Today such sexist forgetting continues. Peter Woods (1996), for example, provides a list of exemplary ethnographies in the sociology of education discussing 55 authors. He cites 33 men and only 15 women. Worse, four of the men are cited and quoted repeatedly throughout the chapter, while only one woman is cited more than once (Delamont, 2001). The women’s, and the feminist, contributions to ethnographic work on sociology of education are already being ‘forgotten’. A parallel analysis of contemporary quantitative work needs to be done, but it seems likely that Jean Floud, Olive Banks, Hilda Himmelweit and other women who did quantitative sociology may also be being forgotten.
The feminist contribution to the sociology of education opened up new areas for research, such as sexual harassment, sex education, and the gender stereotypes in pupils’ folklore (Delamont, 1991). Mac an Ghaill’s (1988, 1994) two landmark ethnographies of secondary schools in England are emblematic of the dimensions feminism has added to sociology of education, thus transforming the sub-specialism. In his study of Parnell School, Mac an Ghaill focuses on a paradox: that although masculine values and standpoints dominate English education, there had been relatively few projects making those masculine standpoints problematic (1994: 1). He opens the book with two incidents from his teaching career: a fight over homophobic insults and a boy pupil giving him a bunch of flowers. The head found the latter incident more threatening to the discipline and reputation of the school. In the exemplary, fine-grained ethnography of the staff room, the classroom and the playground, Mac an Ghaill explores subtleties of sexist behaviour and attitudes among teachers and pupils. Among the staff, for example, he explores how the ‘liberal’ male teachers:
were unable to see the limits of personal consciousness-raising in relation to their own position in the institutional sexual structuring of the school. As with many politically progressive activists, in trying to understand their own contradictory position in a system of oppression, they tended to take for granted the privileges of white straight middle-class masculinity that were ascribed to them. (1994: 29)
In his exploration of this area, Mac an Ghaill’s work parallels analyses by feminists such as Datnow (1998). The analyses of sex, gender, sexuality and sexual orientation among the pupils, both female and male, are built on feminist classics such as Stanworth (1983) and Skeggs (1988). By integrating and building upon work such as Holly (1989) Mac an Ghaill displays both his own engagement with feminism and how feminist perspectives have changed sociology of education for the better.
Moving on from the sociology of education to that of health and illness, a parallel enrichment can be traced. There was no equivalent British paper to Acker’s (1981) devastating expose in the sociology of health and illness. However, in the USA Lorber (1975) reviewed the field, and the subsequent explosion can be seen from Lorber (2000). When the journal Sociology of Health and Illness was launched in 1978, it did not have an explicit feminist agenda. However, there were eight men and only four women on the editorial board. The editor and the review editor were men. The international panel of editorial advisers contained 20 men and eight women. Feminist perspectives were not particularly apparent in the first volume. In 2002, three of the four editors, both review editors, four of the ten editorial board and five of the 13 advisers were women. Its pages provided an intellectual space for displaying the strengths of feminist analyses. Women’s health had been a feminist cause throughout all three waves of feminism, so it is not surprising that women sociologists were active in changing the research on health and illness.
Central to this explosion in the feminist sociology of health and illness was Meg Stacey, and the papers published to celebrate her life and work display the ways in which the feminist ideas stimulated men and women (see Bendelow et al., 2002). Stacey’s (2002) reflections on her career and on the volume dedicated to her explore several themes, but the impact of feminism on the sub-specialism of health and illness is shown to have been powerful. Bloor’s (2001) review of the qualitative research in the sociology of health and illness does not explicitly celebrate feminist angles, but the topics, methods and reflexivity de facto reveal an empirical area transformed by feminism.
Opening up gender differences in morbidity, mortality and illness behaviour was itself a major task, especially with a feminist emphasis on studying illness behaviours, not behaviour. Challenging the med – icalisation of pregnancy and childbirth, especially in the USA, and making problematic the hysterectomy, HRT and the widespread prescription of anti-depressants to women were among the topics added by feminists to the research agenda of medical sociology. Interactionist studies of doctor-patient and doctor-nurse encounters, and analyses of gender and professionalisation were also advanced by feminists (Annandale and Hunt, 2000). Feminists were instrumental in studying health workers other than doctors, especially the low-paid and the unpaid. The state of sociology of health and illness in 2002 has changed unrecognisably from the 1960s (Olesen, 2002), in large part because of a feminist engagement.
Sociologists of science have shown that when a new paradigm arrives in a research area, its acceptance is largely due to an older cohort of ‘disbelievers’ and ‘rejecters’ retiring, moving out of what Collins (1985) called the ‘core set’ and eventually dying. That is, few scientists change their own paradigm, rather, they are replaced in the core sets by younger colleagues who treat the new paradigm as the correct one for that sub-specialism. The silverback narratives can be seen as an example of an older, retired, dying generation who will take their pre-feminist, sexist, impoverished sociology to their graves, leaving the discipline in the hands of a new generation including Dean MacCannell. Reading Mac an Ghaill in education, this seems plausible. However, there are some reasons to be wary. Many of the topics and approaches which feminist sociology addressed in the 1970s and 1980s went out of favour in the discipline during the 1990s when, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and under the influence of postmodernism, the whole discipline abandoned those topics and appropriated others. The next chapter addresses the problems this has posed for feminist sociologists.