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CANDACE WEST University of California, Santa Cruz DON H. ZIMMERMANUniversity of California, Santa Barbara
The purpose of this article is to advance a new understanding of gender as a routine accomplishment embedded in everyday interaction. To do so entails a critical assessment of existing perspectives on sex and gender and the introduction of important distinctions among sex, sex category, and gender. We argue that recognition of the analytical independenceof these concepts is essential for understanding the interactional work involved in being a gendered person in society. The thrust of our remarks is toward theoretical reconceptualization, but we consider fruitful directions for empirical research that are indicated by our formulation.
In the beginning, there was sex and there was gender. Those of us who taught courses in the area in the late1960s and early 1970s were careful to distinguish one from the other. Sex, we told students, was what was ascribed by biology: anatomy, hormones, and physiology. Gender, we said, was an achieved status: that which is constructed through psychological, cultural, and social means. To introduce the difference between the two, we drew on singular case studies of hermaphrodites (Money 1968, 1974; Moneyand Ehrhardt 1972) and anthropological investigations of "strange and exotic tribes" (Mead 1963, 1968). Inevitably (and understandably), in the ensuing weeks of each term, our students became confused. Sex hardly seemed a "given" in
AUTHORS' NOTE: This article is based in part on a paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Chicago, September 1977. For theirhelpful suggestions and encouragement, we thank Lynda Ames, Bettina Aptheker, Steven Clayman, Judith Gerson, the late Erving Goffman, Marilyn Lester, Judith Lorber, Robin Lloyd, Wayne Mellinger, Beth E. Schneider, Barrie Thorne, Thomas P. Wilson, and most especially, Sarah Fenstermaker Berk. GENDER&SOCIETY, Vol. 1 No. 2, June 1987125-151 0 1987Sociologistsfor Womenin Society 125
GENDER& SOCIETY / June 1987
the context of research that illustrated the sometimes ambiguous and often conflicting criteria for its ascription. And gender seemed much less an "achievement" in the context of the anthropological, psychological, and social imperatives we studied-the division of labor, the formation of gender identities, and the social subordination of women by men. Moreover, the...