Goffman on Gender, Sexism, and Feminism: A Summary of Notes on a Conversation with Erving Goffman and My Reflections Then and Now


  • Mary Jo Deegan

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Nebraska
    • Direct all correspondence to Mary Jo Deegan, Department of Sociology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 711 Oldfather Hall, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0324; e-mail: mdeegan2@unl.edu.

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Often known as cynical, contentious, and exhibiting a complicated approach to objectivity, Erving Goffman could also be generous, civil, insightful, open to feminist ideas, and surprisingly political. A 1977 collective feminist writing project led to my conversation with Goffman in 1980 about his ideas on gender, sexism, and feminism. A summary of that conversation is presented, together with my formal reflections then (1980) and now (2013). While documenting the sociological practice of an earlier era, this paper concludes that feminist sociological theory must move beyond its locations in the past and the present into the liberating knowledge of the future.