PREFACE TO THE RUSSIAN EDITION
Gender is very familiar. Gender arrangements are part of our everyday experience – the way we talk to people, our offices and factories, our loves, our dreams, our art and entertainments. Therefore, this book starts with the story of a working-class Australian family, an undramatic story, to emphasise the daily reality of gender.
But gender is not so easy to understand. The belief that women and men have opposite characters, which reflect their different biology, and that social arrangements reflect these differences, turns out to be factually wrong on almost every point. As I argue in Gender and Power, the social arrangements always go beyond, and often contradict, the biological statute.
Gender is basically a social fact. It is the way in which societies, through time, deal with human reproduction and organize social life in relation to our reproductive bodies. Gender is a process in history. Though conservative ideology pretends that gender is fixed, actually gender is dynamic, always changing, and gender arrangements can be remarkably different in diverse cultures.
Developing an understanding of gender that is adequate to the facts, as revealed by research, is the task of this book. I draw on the resources of the social sciences and humanities, from economics to history to psychoanalysis, to develop an integrated theory of gender.
My argument centres on the insight that gender is a structure of social relations, created and continuously transformed in history. Gender is an important dimension of social structure – greatly underestimated by mainstream social theory written by men. It is also a complex structure. Gender and Power proposes a three-dimensional model of gender relations, with substructures that I call power, division of labour, and cathexis (emotional attachment).
These structures provide the background to the everyday practices in which we experience and enact gender – the way we speak, work, dress, love, and imagine. The practices, clearly, are not random. There are recognizable patterns of practice, which we call “femininity”, “masculinity”, “heterosexuality”, etc. The gender order of a society produces multiple patterns, and what turned out to be one of the most influential parts of Gender and Power introduces the idea of “hegemonic masculinity” in an arena of multiple femininities and masculinities.
Much of our everyday understanding of gender concerns emotions, self-concepts, and psychological difference. Therefore a considerable part of the book examines ideas about gender in psychology, and what the psychological evidence really says about difference between women and men. The evidence is, to most people, surprising.
Modern discussions of gender arose out of social struggles over gender inequality. The field of gender studies is still driven by concerns with gender justice, gender-based violence, sexual diversity and reform of patriarchal institutions. The final part of the book concerns itself with gender politics, again recognising the many forms that political practice can take. Since writing the book I have continued to be engaged with these issues. I have been involved in research and action about AIDS prevention, boys’ education, gender equality policy, corporate masculinities, peacemaking, and the struggle to end gender-based violence. I have continued to think about gender theory, as I hope readers of this translation will do, because good theory is important for good practice.
This book was written by an Australian, though the writing was done far from home. Most of it refers to ideas and research from north America and western Europe; I now think theory must take more account of the social experience and intellectual work of the rest of the world. A global discussion of these problems is vital. I am very pleased that this text will be available for Russian-speaking readers, in a careful and accurate translation. I hope this will help the global dialogue we greatly need.