What is gender? Feminist theory and the sociology of human reproduction


Address for correspondence: Ellen Annandale and Judith Clark, Department of Sociology, Warwick University, Coventry, CV4 7AL.


Feminist theory and research on the sociology of human reproduction have historically been bound together as each has developed. Yet recently sociologists of reproduction and ‘women's health’ have lost sight of core debates in feminist theory. They still tend to work with the assumption that feminism is an internally coherent body of thought, despite the emergence of significant internal divisions since the mid-1980s. In this paper we evaluate the challenge that feminist post- structuralism poses to prior conceptualisations of gender in the context of reproductive health through a critique of sociological work in this area from the 1970s and 1980s. We conclude with a critical exploration of the new insights that might emerge from a post-structuralist ‘deconstruction’ of gender in the context of human reproduction.