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Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach. by Suzanne J.

Kessler; Wendy McKenna; Gender


and Work: A Comparative Analysis of Industrial Societies. by Patricia A. Roos
Review by: Hary Lou Wylie
Social Forces, Vol. 65, No. 2 (Dec., 1986), pp. 575-577
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2578695 .
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Book Reviews / 575

spicuously absent in this section is detailed discussion of the work of such schol-
ars commonly associated with the dramaturgicalperspective as Kenneth Burke,
Erving Goffmnan,and VictorTumer.Their ideas and others' are relegated to sum-
maries in the firstappendix, functioningmore or less as background.This arrange-
ment is consistent with Hare's aim to extend the dramaturgicalperspective by
"addinginsights from the study of interactionprocess and of functionalanalysis in
groups as well as from the writings of persons associated with the theater."While
certainlya worthwhile undertaking, the end result is less than satisfactory.Since
much work traditionallyassociated with dramaturgyin the social sciences is not
integratedwith Hare'sadditions, the product has something of the flavor of a wine
served before its time or a stew of potentially savory ingredients neither suffi-
ciently cooked nor properlyblended.
A hint of that potential manifests itself, however, in the second part of the
book. In these four chapters, some of the previously developed concepts are ap-
plied to protest demonstrationsin South Africa and Curacao,to conflict between
Greek and TurkishCypriots and among ethnic groups in Namibia and South Af-
rica, and to the Camp David summit meeting orchestratedby President Carterin
September 19,78.Two ideas are featured most prominently: the role of creative
ideas and definitions by one or more groups of actors, and the function and impor-
tance of staging.
Although Hare'svariantof dramaturgymay have considerableutility in ad-
vancing our understanding of collective action and intergroupconflict, its applica-
tion does not demonstrate systematically or compellingly its analytic advantage
over other perspectives. This shortcoming is largely due to the failure to discuss
any of the literatureon collective action other than Smelser'svalue-added theory.
In consequence, the readerunfamiliarwith this literaturehas little basis for assess-
ing whether Hare'sanalysis yields new or richerinsights.
This and the other limitationsnotwithstanding, Hare'sbook ought to be of
particular interest to social psychologists, especially those with an interest in
group processes, and to students of collective behavior and intergroup conflict.

Gender: An EthnomethodologicalApproach.
By SuzanneJ. Kesslerand WendyMcKenna.Universityof ChicagoPress, 1985. 233 pp.
$10.95.

Gender and Work:A ComparativeAnalysis of Industrial Societies.


By PatriciaA. Roos.State Universityof New YorkPress, 1985. 233 pp. Cloth, $34.50;
paper, $10.95.

Reviewer:
HARY LOU WYLIE, JamesMadisonUniversity

These two books explore issues of gender, but from very different perspectives.
Kessler and McKenna provide a theoretical approach to gender as a social con-
struction rather than a biological reality. They examine how and why we make
attributionsinto two separate genders. As they point out early in their book, we
generally consider genitals to be the ultimate criteriain making gender assign-

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576 / Social Forces Volume 65:2, December 1986

ments, yet, in our everydayinteractions,we continuallymake gender assignments


with a complete lack of informationabout others' genitals. They discuss the issues
of gender identity, gender role, and gender attribution.
The discussion of "special cases"-transsexuals, transvestites, and homo.
sexuals-points out that identity, manner of dressing, and sexual preference have
some impact on gender assignment. But even these factors are not sufficient;and
so, certainly,interests and activities are not. Examiningcross-culturaldata makes
it clear that there is considerable variation in activities, interests, and traits, but
that all cultures tend to categorizepeople into two genders. An exception might be
"berdache"and the berdache-likepeople of other cultures:Kessler and McKenna
point out that although observers writing descriptions of berdache or intersexed
individuals have preconceptions of only two genders, the cultures in which they
exist might consider them to be a third gender.
A third chapter addresses the various biological developments and compo-
nents of gender-chromosomes, internal and external reproductive organs, and
hormones. Although the biological attributionof gender might be very different
from the everyday attribution of gender, neither questions the existence of two
genders. Biological criteria are relevant in gender attribution primarilyat birth,
with an examination of external genitals, and for Olympic participation, with
chromosome testing. However, our use of physical signs for gender attribution
(for instance, a beard) is an indication of our belief that the ultimate criteriaare
biological.
The discussion of developmental aspects of gender in Chapter4 is based on
psychological theories of gender identity and gender role. The authors compare
psychoanalytictheory, social learning theory, and cognitive developmental theory
in terms of their explanations of gender; each, however, has an underlying as-
sumption of two dichotomous genders.
The fifth chapter examines the case of transsexuals'relation to gender attri-
bution. Although everyone displays his or her gender in every interaction, trans-
sexuals are probablythe only group who face the constant worry of insuring that
the "correct"gender attributionis made of them.
The final chapter, "Towarda Theory of Gender," describes an interesting
study by the authors in which a series of overlays with physical characteristics
such as breasts, long or short hair, penis or vagina, and wide or narrowhips were
combined in various ways and shown to 960 subjects. In all but two cases, the
drawings were classifiedas male or female, and the primarydeciding characteristic
was the penis. A drawing was likely to be classified as male if a penis was present,
even if all other characteristicswere female; the vagina was not as significant a
determining factor. Based on signs of gender, we tend to assume the "correct"
genitals, and we see individuals as female only when we cannot see them as male.
The authors suggest that, rather than imposing dimorphism where there exists
continuity, we shift our view and see gender attributionas primaryand gender as
a practicalaccomplishment. They conclude by discussing the implications of see-
ing gender as a social construction.
Kessler and McKennaaddress a question that is so basic and so much a part
of our assumptions that it is rarely posed: How is it possible that there are two
sexes? Of course, there are many questions they do not answer, such as why there
is gender-based inequality,and why we feel a need to attributegender in all inter-

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Book Reviews / 577

actions. However, this book deals with an importantquestion that underlies other
questions usually discussed in the context of gender issues. This book will be
difficult for lower-levelstudents, but should be read by advanced undergraduates,
graduate students, and those teaching and researchingin the area of gender.

Roos' book is an empiricalanalysis of the division of labor by sex in twelve indus-


trial societies. She discusses two purposes of this book: describing cross-cultural
pattems of occupationalsex segregation and the attainment process, and examin-
ing the impact of family responsibilitieson this segregation.
Roos is aware of the limitations of her study, and is appropriatelycautious
about drawing conclusions throughout the book. The description of the data and
the methods early in the book prepares the reader for the highly technical discus-
sion of results in the following chapters.
After examining data from all twelve countries, Roos concludes that there
are consistent gender differencesin laborforce participation,occupationalsegrega-
tion, and pay. The author then uses the data to test the human-capitalperspective.
Roos explores gender differences in intergenerationaloccupationalmobility
and finds that sex-typing of occupations is a crucialfactor affecting the outcomes
of men and women. However, the author does find some differences among the
countries studied. Since most of the data are examined in comparisonto U.S. data,
generalizationsfrom U.S. data are more risky.
To examine the human-capitalperspective more fully, Roos studies sex dif-
ferences in the process of occupationalattainment. In general, several factorshave
positive effects on men's occupationalattainment,while only education has a posi-
tive effect on women's attainment. Maritalstatus differences among women are
also examined, to test the human-capitalexpectation that differing family respon-
sibilities account for observed gender differences in occupational attainment. Al-
though the data offer some support for this hypothesis, never-marriedwomen did
not have much higher occupational attainment than married women. Roos sug-
gests that institutionalexplanationsmight be more useful, but the present data are
limited for testing this perspective. She also discusses the policy implications for
the U.S. of her findings.
This book contains a wealth of data, but it would be more valuable if there
were less emphasis on detailed presentation of a great quantity of data and more
exploration of the meaning of the findings. It is easy for the reader to get lost in
the tables and the description of findings and to lose the point of the issues being
discussed. This book is highly technical and directed toward a specialized audi-
ence, and provides only limited explanations of terms, theoretical perspectives,
and statistical techniques. It should be valuable for graduate students and re-
searchersin occupationalsex segregation.

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