Gone are the times when gender was a mostly female domain of enquiry. In our list of recent publications, two publications exemplify novel ways of approaching the topic from a male perspective. In What Makes a Man? authors Rashid Al-Daif and Joachim Helfer explore their own and others’ attitudes towards sex, love and gender, in the format of an innovative “novelized biography.” The second publication, Moral Wages: The Emotional Dilemmas of Victim Advocacy and Counseling by Kenneth Kolb shows how a male ethnographer enters a field in which women are seeking help from male violence. Both books, as well as the others on our list, help us to stretch the #gender perspective to include not only the “white space” between (see the publication by Jo Paoletti), but also transgender issues (Marcia Ochoa’s book), the relationship between gender and class subjectivity (Julie Bettie’s monograph) or the gendered production of “good” and “bad” genes (Kate Reed’s breathtaking study). Enjoy!
Al-Daif, Rashid and Helfer, Joachim. 2015. What Makes a Man? Sex Talk in Beirut and Berlin. Texas: University of Texas Press. 300 pp. Pb: $30.00. ISBN: 978-0-292-76310-4.
In 2003, Lebanese writer Rashid al-Daif spent several weeks in Germany as part of the “West-East Divan” program, a cultural exchange effort meant to improve mutual awareness of German and Middle Eastern cultures. He was paired with German author Joachim Helfer, who then returned the visit to al-Daif in Lebanon. Following their time together, al-Daif published in Arabic a literary reportage of his encounter with Helfer in which he focuses on the German writer’s homosexuality. His frank observations have been variously read as trenchant, naïve, or offensive. In response, Helfer provided an equally frank point-by-point riposte to al-Daif’s text. Together these writers offer a rare exploration of attitudes toward sex, love, and gender across cultural lines. By stretching the limits of both fiction and essay, they highlight the importance of literary sensitivity in understanding the Other.
Bettie, Julie. 2014. Women Without Class: Girls, Race, and Identity. California: University of California Press. pp 296. Pb $29.95. ISBN: 9780-520280014.
In this ethnographic examination of Mexican-American and white girls coming of age in California’s Central Valley, Julie Bettie turns class theory on its head, asking what cultural gestures are involved in the performance of class, and how class subjectivity is constructed in relationship to color, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. A new introduction contextualizes the book for the contemporary moment and situates it within current directions in cultural theory.
Kolb, Kenneth H. 2014. Moral Wages: The Emotional Dilemmas of Victim Advocacy and Counseling. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. 232 pp. Pb: $29.95. ISBN: 9780520282728.
Moral Wages offers the reader a vivid depiction of what it is like to work inside an agency that assists victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Based on over a year of fieldwork by a man in a setting many presume to be hostile to men, this ethnographic account is unlike most research on the topic of violence against women. Instead of focusing on the victims or perpetrators of abuse, Moral Wages focuses exclusively on the service providers in the middle. It shows how victim advocates and counselors – who don’t enjoy extrinsic benefits like pay, power, and prestige – are sustained by a different kind of compensation. As long as they can overcome a number of workplace dilemmas, they earn a special type of emotional reward reserved for those who help others in need: moral wages. As their struggles mount, though, it becomes clear that their jobs often put them in impossible situations – requiring them to aid and feel for vulnerable clients, yet giving them few and feeble tools to combat a persistent social problem.
Mata, Irene. 2014. Domestic Disturbances. Texas: University of Texas Press. 236 pp. Hb: $55.00. ISBN: 978-0-2927-7131-4.
The issue of immigration is one of the most hotly debated topics in the national arena, with everyone from right-wing pundits like Sarah Palin to alternative rockers like Zack de la Rocha offering their opinion. The traditional immigrant narrative that gained popularity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries continues to be used today in describing the process of the “Americanization” of immigrants. Yet rather than acting as an accurate representation of immigrant experiences, this common narrative of the “American Dream” attempts to ideologically contain those experiences within a story line that promotes the idea of achieving success through hard work and perseverance. In Domestic Disturbances, Irene Mata dispels the myth of the “shining city on the hill” and reveals the central truth of hidden exploitation that underlies the great majority of Chicana/Latina immigrant stories.
Ochoa, Marcia. 2014. Queen for a Day: Transformistas, Beauty Queens, and the Performance of Femininity in Venezuela. Durham: Duke University Press. 296 pp. Pb: $24.95. ISBN: 978-0-8223-5626-4.
Queen for a Day connects the logic of Venezuelan modernity with the production of a national femininity. In this ethnography, Marcia Ochoa considers how femininities are produced, performed, and consumed in the mass-media spectacles of international beauty pageants, on the runways of the Miss Venezuela contest, on the well-traveled Caracas avenue where transgender women (transformistas) project themselves into the urban imaginary, and on the bodies of both transformistas and beauty pageant contestants (misses). Placing transformistas and misses in the same analytic frame enables Ochoa to delve deeply into complex questions of media and spectacle, gender and sexuality, race and class, and self-fashioning and identity in Venezuela.
Oso, Laura and Ribas-Mateos, Natalia (eds.). 2013. The International Handbook on Gender, Migration and Transnationalism: Global and Development Perspectives. Edward Elgar Publishing. 512 pp. PB: £45.00. ISBN: 978-1-78254-772-3.
The International Handbook on Gender, Migration and Transnationalism represents a state-of-the-art review of the critical importance of the links between gender and migration in a globalizing world. It draws on original, largely field-based contributions by authors across a range of disciplinary provenances worldwide.
This unprecedented and ambitious Handbook addresses core debates on issues of gender, migration, transnationalism and development from a migration – development nexus. The volume explores the influence of global changes – and more specifically transnational migration flows – from the perspective of the articulation of production and reproduction chains. Particular attention is paid to so-called ‘global care chains’ with new analytical models developed around the emerging trends played out by women in contemporary mobility Dynamics.
Paoletti, Jo B. 2015. Sex and Unisex: Fashion, Feminism, and the Sexual Revolution. Indiana: Indiana University Press. 216 pp. Cloth: $25.00. ISBN: 978-0-253-01596-9.
Notorious as much for its fashion as for its music, the 1960s and 1970s produced provocative fashion trends that reflected the rising wave of gender politics and the sexual revolution. In an era when gender stereotypes were questioned and dismantled, and when the feminist and gay rights movements were gaining momentum and a voice, the fashion industry responded in kind. Designers from Paris to Hollywood imagined a future of equality and androgyny. The unisex movement affected all ages, with adult fashions trickling down to school-aged children and clothing for infants. Between 1965 and 1975, girls and women began wearing pants to school; boys enjoyed a brief “peacock revolution,” sporting bold colors and patterns; and legal battles were fought over hair style and length. However, with the advent of Diane Von Furstenberg’s wrap dress and the launch of Victoria’s Secret, by the mid-1980s, unisex styles were nearly completely abandoned. Jo B. Paoletti traces the trajectory of unisex fashion against the backdrop of the popular issues of the day – from contraception access to girls’ participation in sports. Combing mass-market catalogs, newspaper and magazine articles, cartoons, and trade publications for signs of the fashion debates, Paoletti provides a multigenerational study of the “white space” between (or beyond) masculine and feminine.
Reed, Kate. 2012. Gender and Genetics: Sociology of the Prenatal. London: Routledge. 198 pp. PB: $46.95. ISBN: 978-1-13-882289-4.
Prenatal screening for genetic disorders is becoming an increasingly widespread phenomenon across the globe. While studies have highlighted the importance of women’s experiences of such screening, little is known about men’s roles and direct involvement in this process. With a focus on the experiences of both women and men, this text offers an innovative and passionate account of the gendered nature of prenatal screening.
Drawing on interview data with pregnant women and their male partners in a UK city, Reed provides a compelling analysis of maternal and paternal roles in prenatal screening. Through this analysis, the book raises important issues around genetics, gender and screening practice. With a focus on the gendered production of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ genes, the book explores differences between visual technologies and blood screening. It also explores the gendered nature of genetic responsibility and the impact this has on parenting roles.