How does one write a historical sketch of sociological theory in the United States that includes women sociologists, black sociologists, radical sociologists, and multicultural theorists, etc?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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To write a historical sketch of sociological theory in the United States, you want to first explain each theory that has been developed by a sociologist and the history of its development. Then, since one theory will lead to the development of other theories, you will also want to show in your sketch how the theories relate to each other. Below are a few ideas concerning feminist and black sociologists to help get you started.

One of the first recognized feminist sociologists is Betty Friedman, famous for her book The Feminine Mystique. In her book, she argues that women are not happy in their restrictive roles of wives and mothers. Her idea stemmed, in part,  from Simone de Beauvoir's view that women are nothing more than an "Other," since they are defined in relation to men, in relation to being other than men, rather than being defined in relation to themselves. De Beauvoir further argued that this sense of "Other" directly stems from a woman's physique, since "childbearing, childbirth, and menstruation are draining physical events" that tie women to their bodies and place them in subservient positions (Appelrouth, S, & Edles, L. D., "Feminist and Gender Theories," Sociological Theory in the Contemporary Era: Text and Readings (2nd. ed., pp. 312-380). De Beauvoir was the first to encourage women to reject the role of "Other," and Friedan followed in her footsteps.

Once one starts protesting against the idea of women being considered an "Other," it's only a small step to developing standpoint theory. Sociologist Dorothy E. Smith is considered one of the primary founders of standpoint theory. Standpoint theory asserts that knowledge and social position are linked; therefore, those in the "oppressed class have special access to knowledge that is not available to those from the privileged class" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Standpoint theory").

The development of standpoint theory helped lead to sociologist Patricia Hill Collins's Black feminist thought. Collins developed Black feminist thought based on standpoint theory and applied it to Black women displaced by the African Diaspora. Since Black women are a unique group in the US, their race, gender, and class all work together to shape their consciousness. Hence, their status gives them an understanding that is unique to other groups in the US. Since Black women are a unique group, though they may experience discrimination similarly to white women and even Black men, Collins argues that they really "experience double-discrimination," based on both race and sex (York College of Pennsylvania, "Black Feminist Thought," p. 2).

Hence, as we can see, one feminist sociology theory can lead to the development of other feminist and race sociology theories.

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