the achievements of feminist sociology


manda Cross (1981: 148) writes of ‘the new forms possible to women’. This chapter focuses on the achievements of feminist sociology in making those new forms, and in colonising the old forms which were male strongholds. Achievement is in the eye of the beholder. As there are many different beholders of feminist sociology, one group’s achievement is another’s retrograde step. A liberal feminist may see a gain which both an anti-feminist and a radical feminist could discount or even regard as a reversal of fortune. A radical feminist may cherish a publication or insight that makes some male sociologists uncomfort­able and is unknown to most men in the discipline. There are female sociologists extremely hostile to the work of all feminists, and men such as those lauded in Chapter 7 who have built the ‘new men’s studies’ enthusiastically scaffolding their concepts from feminist work. The Feminist Scholars in Sociology (1995) claim as major achievements, feminist work which had been condemned by a series of eminent men in Sociological Forum in a 1994 Symposium on ‘What’s Wrong with Sociology?’ The men felt feminism was one of the things wrong, the feminists felt it was one of the discipline’s strengths.

For the purposes of this chapter I have focused on five areas of achievement:

1 feminist presence in public manifestations of sociology;

2 tenured posts in top sociology departments;

3 the opening up of new topics;

4 the creation of new intellectual spaces;

5 the creation of new definitions of ‘knowledge’.

The area of research methods is the subject of Chapter 4. The chapter ends with one final indicator of impact and achievement: the backlash. There are never backlashes against ideas that are thought trivial: counter­arguments are lodged against ideas thought to be powerful.


Подпись: 36To capture the achievements I have juxtaposed some of the published manifestations of sociology in the 1970s with their equivalents today. Good examples are the contents of reference books, new journals, and the editorial boards of journals. Reference books do show changes pro­duced by feminist sociologists. In 1977 Bullock and Stallybrass edited the first edition of The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought. It had nine consultant editors, all men. The third edition came out in 1999 with 3,764 entries, by 326 contributors. There were 984 new entries. The editors recognised the change in their coverage of feminism: ‘Movements like feminism have now matured into full-blown disciplines with a history that is long and complex, complete with schools, factions, revisionists and a vanguard that continues not only to explore concepts but to exert powerful influence on our social structures’ (ibid.: v). In the first edition there was one entry on feminism about two-thirds of a column long. In the 1999 third edition, feminism has a three-column entry followed by separate entries on feminist criticism, geography, history, psychoanalysis, psychology, and theology. Elsewhere socialist feminism, radical feminism and liberal feminism have their own entries.

Reference works are only one public manifestation of sociology. The journals in which research is published are another. Feminist sociology has established its own journals and made inroads into the existing ones as editors, editorial advisors and authors. There are some obvious achievements. In the USA, Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) is 34 years old (founded 1975) and its journal Gender and Society had reached volume 15 in 2001. Arlene Kaplan Daniels (1999) provides a brief account of the growth of Sociology for Women in Society (SWS). Two women who were presidents of SWS became presidents of the ASA itself (Alice Rossi and Joan Huber). In the UK, there has not been a generic BSA journal officially sponsored by the British Sociological Association launched on gender or women, but there is a plethora of journals on gender or women which carry sociological papers. A femi­nist sociologist wanting to publish a paper on work has Gender and Work, on education Gender and Education, on violence Violence Against Women, on ageing Women and Ageing and so on. There are also the feminist journals, such as Signs in the USA (up to volume 26), and Feminist Review (67 issues), Women’s Studies International Forum (up to volume 24), and the European Journal of Women’s Studies and Feminist Theory.

Feminist sociologists have also made some impact on the manage­ment and content of the generic journals. In the UK the achievements can be traced by comparing 1967 with 1992 and 2000. We can com­
pare the three generic sociology journals in Britain, Sociology (the baby, but also the official journal of the BSA), The British Journal of Sociology and The Sociological Review. It is appropriate to look at the sex of the editors, the review editors, the editorial board/advisory board, and the authors of the papers. When Sociology began in 1967, it was embedded in a very different social context. The first set of edi­torial advisers is a glimpse into another world. They were listed as: Joe Banks, Basil Bernstein, P. Collison, Stephen Cotgrove, John Goldthorpe, David Lockwood, Donald MacRae, John Madge, F. M. Martin, J. Clyde Mitchell, Bryan Wilson and Mrs (sic) Margaret Stacey. Those advisers came from a restricted set of institutions, in terms of geographical spread and the status of their universities (and they were all universities): Liverpool, London (two), Newcastle, Cambridge (two), Oxford, Edinburgh, Manchester, UC Swansea, ‘Bath University of Technology’ (sic) and Political and Economic Planning, London. The editorial board in May 1992 looked quite dif­ferent. The 18 members (six more than 1967) were ten females and eight men, with the chairperson a woman. Two people were based in Wales and two in Scotland, and one was from a polytechnic. Oxford and Cambridge were conspicuously absent. The February 2000 issue of Sociology (volume 34, number 1) showed an editorial board of 21, 12 men and nine women, seven from post-1992 universities, and still none from Oxbridge. The editors were a man and a woman, so too were the review editors.

Подпись: 37In 1967 The British Journal of Sociology, which is based perma­nently at LSE, had an editorial board of ten; nine men and one woman. In 1992 the board had 13 members; ten men, three women. The 2000 volume of British Journal of Sociology (51) shows an editorial board of 14, with three women, a male editor and male review editor.

The Sociological Review for July 1967 (volume 15, number 2) had an editorial board of 14, all men. The institutions of the editorial board members were not given (they may all have been at Keele where the journal is based). The February 1992 issue (volume 40, number 1) shows an editorial board of 18, seven of them women. The three edi­tors were all men, one of whom acted as review editor. The February 2000 issue (volume 48, number 1) shows 28 people on the editorial board, seven of them women. One of two editors is a woman, the review editor male. These changes in board membership are sum­marised in Table 3.1.

The pattern of authorship of the articles, and the ways in which the authors are listed has also changed, as Table 3.2 shows.

In January 1967 in the first issue of Sociology there were six papers, produced by 12 authors, of whom one (Jennifer Platt) was female. The authors were sometimes listed by initials (S. R. Parker) and sometimes

by first names (Anthony P. M. Coxon). The contents of that issue can be contrasted with that of May 1992, when there were 11 articles; three by women. All the authors were listed by their first names and family names (e. g. Geoff Evans). What is really inconceivable today is a listing in the September 1967 issue, where a paper’s authors are W. P. Robinson and Miss (sic) S. J. Rackstraw! There were 11 papers in that issue, three by women, the same as May 1992.


Total (women) 1967


Total (women) 1992

Total (women) 2000


12 (1)

18 (10)

21 (9)


10 (1)

13 (3)

14 (3)


14 (0)

18 (7)

28 (7)

Table 3.1: Board membership of three generic journals



Total (women) Jan. 1967


Total (women) May 1992

Total (women) Feb. 2000


12 (1)

11 (3)

13 (3)


7 (1)

4 (2)

11 (2)


6 (1)

7 (2)

6 (2)

Table 3.2: Gender and authorship in three generic journals

If we turn to the content of BJS, in 1967 (volume 18, number 1) all the authors were listed by initials in the table of contents (J. Rex, J. Ford), and by their full names on the actual article. There were seven articles by men and one by a woman. In 1992 (volume 43, number 1) there were four papers by men and two by women. In 2000 (volume 51, number 1) there were 11 papers by men and two by women. The Sociological Review for July 1967 had six articles, one by a woman (Roisin Pill). Authors were listed by both names ‘Gordon Rose’. In February 1992 (volume 40, number 1) there were seven papers, two by women. Authors were listed by both names ‘Helen Roberts’. Authors are still referred to by both names, in February 2001 when there were six papers, two by women.

Sociology and to some extent Sociological Review have changed more than BJS. The BSA membership elects the board of Sociology, and so the number of women involved is a reflection of a culture change in
the association’s membership and their priorities. Similar analyses of the two generic journals in the USA, The American Journal of Sociology and The American Sociological Review were conducted by Ward and Grant (1985) and have already been summarised in Chapter 2. They scrutinised the years 1974-83. In 2001 both AJS and ASR had male editors, each supported by three assistant editors of whom two were women.