About the Course

Sexologists introduced the idea of “gender” in 1955 to describe the biological attributes, sexual characteristics and social roles that characterize a person as male or female. Subsequently, however, the idea of gender came to take on larger political, social, sexual and intellectual meanings. Following the social movements of the 1960s, all forms of identity — including biological sex and identities linked to human sexuality — have come to be understood as expressing relationships of power as well, often generating new political activisms, identity formations and gender identities that go beyond biological sex. Beginning with activist theories associated with feminism and the emergence of “women’s studies” as an academic field, this course highlights critical perspectives on how gender informs our thinking about ourselves, our knowledge of the world around us, and our own intellectual work.

Although there will be short lectures, classes will mostly be run as discussions and break-out sessions when we will work in small groups.

This is an introductory class to which you need bring no prior knowledge. At the end of the course you should feel as if you have achieved:

  • An understanding of what gender is; why it is important to critical thought; and how you might use theories of gender in your college and graduate work;
  • An understanding of the intellectual history of gender studies and its related fields (feminist, sexuality and queer studies);
  • A goal you set for yourself in the third week of class that speaks to your aspirations for your own education.

At midterm, there will be an in-class, ungraded exercise to help you evaluate whether, and if, you are achieving your goal; and if you need to adjust or re-frame that goal as you complete the class.

Course materials:

  • I am asking you to purchase one book, J. Jack Halberstam, Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of NormalĀ (Boston: Beacon Press, 2012). It is available from any major bookseller online or in e-book download.
  • All other required readings, documents and videos are available on this site.

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