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EssaysFeatureSex & Gender

Social Constructs: Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them

There was a time, not so long ago, when men were men and women were women, when hetero-normativity prevailed, with the alternatives relegated to the margins, in closets, and in the shadows of lesbian and homosexual hidden locales, which were constantly under attack. Under such conditions, two sociologists explored the constitution of sex and gender: Harold Garfinkel, in his illuminating ethnomethodological study of sexuality, a case study of “Agnes,” and Erving Goffman, in his nuanced analysis of gender advertisements. Neither had a normative or political agenda. Both were careful observers of social life, and came to their specific insights as part of their overall intellectual projects: Garfinkel in his studies of the active way common sense is constituted and sustained, and Goffman in his studies of the drama in social order. …

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