When Sex Became Gender is a study of post-World War II feminist theory from the viewpoint of intellectual history. The key theme is that ideas about the social construction of gender have its origins in the feminist theorists of the postwar period, and that these early ideas about gender became a key foundational paradigm for both second and third wave feminist thought. These conceptual foundations were created by a cohort of extraordinarily imaginative and bold academic women. While discussing the famous feminist scholars—Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret Mead—the book also hinges on the work of scholars who are lesser known to American audiences—Mirra Komarovsky, Viola Klein, and Ruth Herschberger, The postwar years have been an overlooked period in the development of feminist theory and philosophy and Tarrant makes a compelling case for this era being the turning point in the study of gender.
"[Tarrant's] daunting and inspiring project…fills a void in feminist history and feminist scholarship; Tarrant has successfully located the feminist roots of Gender Theory’s and Second Wave feminism’s understanding of gender as socially constructed in a period believed to be entirely bereft of feminist thought." -- Catherine R. Mintler, Journal of International Women’s Studies Vol. 9 #3 May 2008
1. Confronting the Bonds of Ideology: Feminist Theory in the Cold War Years 2. The Setting: Postwar Politics in Britain, France, and the United States 3. On the Path to Gender: Margaret Mead, Socialization, and Sex Role Ideology 4. Mirra Komarovsky: Functional Analysis and the Poignant Signs of Discontent 5. Viola Klein: Sociology of Knowledge and the So-Called Feminine Character 6. Simone de Beauvoir and The Second Sex 7. No Woman Is an Island: Ruth Herschberger and Postwar Pollination 8. When Sex Became Gender
Perspectives on Gender represents the very best feminist scholarship on gender in the social sciences. The books in the series advance the understanding of how inclusive of difference our perspectives need to be to capture what gender means and emphasize the important role of social change in and for gender relations.