The dominant voice in sociology is white, heterosexual and male. This is certainly true of the “Classical” theorists and forefathers Georg Simmel and Max Weber. Over the years Sociology has recognized different voices in the tradition, opening the doors for feminist theory and theorists such as Candace West, Don H. Zimmerman, Judith Butler, Patricia Hill Collins, Dorothy E. Smith, and Raewyn Connell. These sociologists attempt to offer a different standpoint from the dominant one, a standpoint that can find some of its roots in the works of the sociological forefathers.
West and Zimmerman’s Doing Gender was a seminal sociological work. The authors asserted, “the essential male and female natures are an achieved status of objective fact, they provide the rationale for the differing fates of women and men” (Kivisto 2011: 319). Max Weber’s views on status compliment this idea. Weber states “a status group can exist only to the extent that others accord its member prestige or degrading, which removes them from the rest of social actors and establishes the necessary social distance” (Coser 1977: 229). West and Zimmerman go on to discuss the difference between sex, sex category, and gender. They also concentrate on gender, submitting that instead of an essential part of our nature it is an act we portray daily (Kivisto 2011).
West and Zimmerman take on gender was revolutionary but at its very foundation is the idea of status in American society. Generally, gender difference has been used to subjugate the female sex category. Georg Simmel also dealt with status in his essay on Fashion. He discussed the lower class acquiring material items to mimic higher classes. Similarly, West and Zimmerman discussed gender displays and transvestites trying to pass for a particular sex category. Culture capital is at play in both situations; as people of the lower status seek try to acquire the norms and culture cues of the higher status. Both articles examine status and socially constructed systems gender and fashion put in place to maintain status in society. Societal systems are present in other author’s feminist perspectives.
Judith Butler’s Subversive Body Acts details the body as a boundary that is politically regulated (Kivisto 2011). The regulation deals with gender and is hierarchal. Hierarchy and regulation are characteristics of Weber’s Bureaucracy. The difference of course is Weber is explaining hierarchy and regulation in an organization, his analysis is on a grand scale and Butler’s body is more individualistic. Georg Simmel also offered ideals that have a similar essence of Butler’s body.
The body is a boundary that encases the soul in Butler’s work (Kivisto 2011). Boundaries are also present in Simmel’s Stranger. Society constructs boundaries that in some ways imprison foreigners from gaining full access to a community. In both works, boundaries function to separate but they differ because the stranger has partial access,...