Our academic and activist experiences and influences represent a generational and gender divide. Martha got her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1977 and Mike from New York University in 2006. Martha became an active member of the women’s liberation movement in 1970 at Kent State University and has continued her activism throughout her academic career. As a graduate student, Mike was involved in organizing a graduate student union and challenging sexism in the academy. As a faculty member, he has continued his feminist campus activism in anti-militarism, anti-violence, and other issues. Despite our differences, we recognized early on that we shared an understanding of gender and a commitment to social justice.
Our process of writing this textbook together has not only involved the task of writing, but also of pushing each other to recognize our intellectual and social justice priorities and to work together to articulate those into common themes. At the same time, by thinking of our past and current students, we asked ourselves the question, “what distinguishes students who ‘get’ feminist sociology from those who do not?” We quickly realized that what students who “get” feminist sociology have in common is the ability to mobilize their feminist sociological imaginations to conduct analyses of their own.
This realization set us on the path of designing a textbook to inspire students to ask questions and seek answers about gender and to provide them with tools to investigate gender from a feminist perspective. A jumping off point for us was to organize the textbook around the central ideas we distilled from our own engagement with feminist theories and activism, encouraging students to infuse their analyses with attention to gender inequality, gender’s intersections with other systems of inequality, a relational global perspective, and social change. As feminist scholars and activists deeply committed to social justice, it was also important to us that we help students develop strategies for engaging in their personal and political lives in socially just ways.
Martha E. Thompson is professor emeritus of sociology and women’s studies at Northeastern Illinois University. Michael Armato is associate professor of sociology and women’s studies at Northeastern Illlinois University. They are the authors of Investigating Gender, out in December 2011.