The publication of Feminine Endings (now in its second edition) is considered to have been a significant step in the acceptance and proliferation of feminist musicology within academia. Largely because of this influence, McClary was a 1995 winner of a MacArthur Fellowship.
In Feminine Endings, McClary describes, among other things, how sonata form may be interpreted as sexist or misogynistic and imperialistic, and that, "tonality itself - with its process of instilling expectations and subsequently withholding promised fulfillment until climax - is the principal musical means during the period from 1600 to 1900 for arousing and channeling desire." She analyzes the sonata procedure for its constructions of gender and sexual identity. The primary, once "masculine", key (or first subject group) represents the, always in narrative, male, self, while the secondary, "feminine" key (or second subject group), represents the other, a territory to be explored and conquered, assimilated into the self and stated in the tonic home key.
A sentence by McClary which has been very widely quoted is given below. Here, "the Ninth" refers to Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
"The point of recapitulation in the first movement of the Ninth is one of the most horrifying moments in music, as the carefully prepared cadence is frustrated, damming up energy which finally explodes in the throttling murderous rage of a rapist, incapable of attaining release. "
Come Armageddon, come Armageddon, come...