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Gender & women's studies.

Kathy Davis, Mary Evans, & Judith Lorber, eds., HANDBOOK OF GENDER AND WOMEN'S STUDIES. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2006. 494p. index. $130.00, ISBN 0761943900.

  Women's studies was thus first the claim by women for the study of
  women, a paradigm shift in focus which would (and did) demonstrate the
  biases of the academy's male-centered viewpoint. Gender studies was
  made possible through this process of the recovery of women: once the
  human subject had been gendered, there arose the possibility of
  extending the knowledge of the complexity of human gender to the study
  of both women and men and their interactions in the personal, in civil
  society, and in public and political life. (p.3)

The Handbook of Gender and Women's Studies is an exceptional academic text for a broad examination of gender. The well-organized, eight-section volume focuses on gender through a wide range of academic lenses. Its twenty-six chapters offer diverse theoretical, geographical, historical, and academic perspectives, yet display a common desire to understand the human division of male and female. The handbook moves beyond biological definitions and understandings of sex to delve into the learned culture and socialization of gender by concentrating on "the Current State of Women's Studies, Gender Studies, and Studies of Men"; "Cultural Representations and Critiques"; "Knowledge; Globalization and the State"; "Work and Family"; "Intimate Relationships and Sexualities"; "Embodiment in a Technological World"; and "Making Change." Individual chapters can be consulted for research in a particular area or the book read in its entirety.

The contributors offer a strong social constructivist perspective in relation to gender in the Western post-industrial world: that gender roles are learned, and that they persist due to social institutions such as religion, the workplace, and education. "Our gendered practices construct and maintain the gendered social order," writes one author. "But our practices also change it. As it changes and as we participate in different social institutions and organizations throughout our lives, our gendered behavior changes" (p.470).

This resource stresses the importance of the feminist movement as the foundation for the academic field of women's studies and the in-depth study of gender. The handbook closes with the editors' "utopian visions" of social change, gender, and feminist politics. They speak to the "politics of location;" the impacts of Western feminism in this world of globalization; and the necessity of reframing views and embedded definitions of gender and practicing degendering in language, tasks, and our daily lives. A back-of-the-book index presents a comprehensive listing of people, institutions, subject area, and theory.

The Handbook of Gender and Women's Studies succeeds in demonstrating that "no discipline in the university curriculum remains untouched by the intervention of thinking about gender" (p.1), and encourages further study of how gender affects all individuals through every social institution.

[Erin Gratz is the Chair of User Services for Wilson Library at the University of La Verne.]

Reviewed by Erin Gratz

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Title Annotation:Handbook of Gender and Women's Studies
Author:Gratz, Erin
Publication:Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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