Gender as a Social Structure

  • Barbara J. RismanEmail author
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


In this chapter, I provide a history of gender theory in the social sciences. I highlight major themes for explaining apparent gender differences and inequality. While there are many different theories, my conceptual intervention illustrates how seemingly competing paradigms should be synthesized into a holistic integrative theoretical framework that I call gender structure theory. I argue that factors contributing to gender inequality include those at the individual, interactional, and macro level of human society. At each level of analysis, we must attend to material and cultural processes. Understanding gender as a social structure requires us to focus on dynamism in the system: a change at any given level of analysis may reverberate to others. While gender inequality is ubiquitous, change may originate at the individual, interactional or macro level of analysis, and via material or cultural processes. How change happens in the gender structure is an empirical question and one requiring more research in the future.


Gender Theory Culture Gender structure 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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