Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference

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Edited by Deborah L. Rhode

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No issue has been more central to the American women’s movement than sexual difference.  This book offers a unique study of the nature, origins, and consequences of sexual difference.  Leading scholars in history, philosophy, law, literary theory, biology, sociology, psychology, political science, and anthropology explore the difference difference makes. 


Several traditions of feminist response to difference are reflected in this volume.  One approach has been to challenge the long-established tendency to mischaracterize culturally influenced gender differences as biological or psychological imperatives.  Among the essays that draw on this tradition are Karl Degler’s, John Dupré’s, Ruth Hubbard’s, and Herma Hill Kay’s reviews of sociobiology; Nancy Chodorrow’s challenges to conventional psychoanalytic frameworks; and Barrie Throne’s discussion of sex stereotypes and situational influences.  A second strand of feminist work has sought to challenge not the significance of gender differences but the importance society has attached to them.  Alison Jaggar, Nel Noddings, Susan Moller Okin, and Koaren Offen review the capacities and constraints of this approach.  A third strategy attempts to dislodge difference by challenging its centrality and its organizing premises, thus recasting the debate about gender relations.  Essays by Bell Hooks and Julianne Malveaux on race, Jane Collier and Sylvia Yanagisako an anthropology, Kay Deaux and Brenda Major on social psychology, Catharine MacKinnon and Deborah Rhode on law, and Estell Freedman, Marilyn Frye, and Regenia Gagnier on feminist theory explore the ideological and policy implications of this perspective.  With its wide range of distinguished scholarship, this important new volume deepens our perceptions of both the gendered nature of theory and theories about gender.


“An outstanding collection that promises to become a classic.” –Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, author of Deceptive Distinctions: Sex, Gender, and the Social Order

"Without hesitation, this reviewer judges Rhode’s book as the best ever written on the issues of sex, gender, and sex differences. No fewer than 21 brilliant scholars, ranging from N. Chodorow to E. B. Freedman, pose ’cutting edge’ questions concerning theory, research, philosophy, ethics, history, biology, ethology, social sciences, law, politics, and social policy concerning sexual differences. . . . Although this book addresses current issues, it will undoubtedly be cited by researchers and theorists for years to come. . . . This book should unquestionably be in every library with any holdings on women’s studies, feminist scholarship, social sciences of sex roles and sex differences, and legal studies."—Choice

"Extremely rich, thoughtful, and provocative, addressing a literate and well-informed audience. . . . The editors have provided particularly good overviews of the history of feminist theory and the political implications of the postmodern critique for practical feminist politics. . . . An excellent volume for students of feminist theory and practitioners of all disciplines and at all levels of accomplishment."—Adria E. Schwartz, Readings: A Journal of Reviews and Commentary in Mental Health

"This volume reflects upon the current struggle for direction within the feminist movement. . . . The value . . . to family psychologists is in understanding the societal context and the sexual politics surrounding and influencing our work. . . . Material is provided which will help the family therapist examine their own working assumptions about sexual differences."—John R. Rudisill, Family Psychologist

"A superb anthology of consistently valuable, terse, original essays. Each essay is worth reading on its own, but the multidisciplinary whole is even more than the sum of its parts, displaying the range, verve, and healthy internal conflicts within feminist scholarship as it now enters its third decade."—Nancy F. Cott, Stanley Woodward Professor of American Studies and History, Yale University

"An outstanding collection that promises to become a classic."—Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, author of Deceptive Distinctions: Sex, Gender, and the Social Order

"Rhode has done a remarkable job in collating almost 20 chapters on issues related to sexual difference from various fields of inquiry and different methodological slants. Each essay contributes handsomely to the intellectual discussion followed throughout the book and is enhanced by the feminist scholarship contained within it. . . . It is impossible to do justice here to the richness and diversity of Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference. It is a book that should be read in its entirety for an appreciation of its complexity and brilliance. . . . These studies are replete with information that will enhance our understanding of our patients."—Robert D. McCormick, Psychoanalytic Books: A Quarterly Journal of Reviews

"Diverse, wide-ranging and . . . useful. . . . Here are contributions by sociologists, historians, philosophers, anthropologists, psychologists, biologists, lawyers, political activists, cultural critics and representatives of various other cross-cutting categories (including two men)."—David H. J. Morgan, Journal of Gender Studies

"An excellent introduction to the contemporary feminist discussion about sexual/gender difference and the influence of postmodern feminist theory on feminist psychological research and theory. . . . Impressively illustrates the range of feminist alternatives, including acceptance of gender difference, a critique of gender difference, and a proposal to go beyond gender difference. . . . An excellent summary of contemporary feminist postmodern theory and research."—M. Brinton Lykes, Contemporary Psychology

The jacket won the 1990 Bookbuilders of Boston Book Show
ISBN: 9780300052251
Publication Date: January 29, 1992
326 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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