7 Sep


The Sociology of Gender


What’s your gender and how do you know?


Prof. Laurie Essig                                                                                                 Fall 2011

Office hours: Wed 2-3, Thurs 9-11                                                                  9:05-9:55 MW

Or by appoointment                                                                                           Gifford Lecture

209 Carr  Hall                                                                                                      Disc: Thurs ATD 102

What is gender and what would a sociology of it look like?  That is the organizing question of this course. Gender is not an innocent classification, but rather a highly contested category.  We will look at when gender became a category of inquiry and, more importantly, why?

What do we “know” about gender and how is that knowledge about power- not just the power of gender, but of sex, class, race, sexuality, and nationality?

Each week we will look at some aspect of gender and power.  Lectures will be a time to consider the readings at hand, but discussion sections are designed as a way to rethink gender in your everyday life.  We will do everything from look at Disney films to sports to our own gender presentations as a way of shaking ourselves out of the habit of thinking about gender as a known quantity, a noun, and making it more of an unstable and slippery claim, a verb.




Available in bookstore or online

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble.

Rebecca Jordon-Young, Brainstorm

Thom Laqueur, Making Sex.


* Indicates e-reserves. Go to

password: 2231le


***Indicates a reading I will send to you during the semester

Course Requirements:

1. Participation: Each student is expected to come to lecture having read the assigned readings and be able to discuss them.

Each student is also expected to be an active participant in discussion section.  This means coming prepared to discuss the questions at hand AND handing in the research you did to answer them.


Participation will constitute 20% of your grade.

2. Four Papers: These papers will be 3-5 typed pages plus citations and each paper will be worth 15% of your grade.  Please see handout “Everything you wanted to know… but were afraid to ask.”


Three Papers & 1 Project: Instead of one paper, you can choose to do a project that is not a paper.  The project should be some sort of cultural text (e.g. comic book, short documentary, blog or vlog) that utilizes the readings in that section.  This project can be individual or group, but must be cleared with me ahead of time (an email will suffice to get approval).  Examples of previous projects include:  a comic book of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, Gender Trash, a zine of poetry and art in response to the readings, and “vlogs” in response to the readings.   You may do one project only- the rest of the assignments must be papers.  Like papers, a project will count as 15% of your grade.

3. There will be a take-home final exam that will constitute the final 20% of your grade. 


I.  The Discovery of Gender


9/12 Introduction

What’s your gender and how do you know?

9/14 Judith Butler, Preface and “Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire”, pp. vii- 34 in Gender Trouble and ***David Valentine, “The Categories Themselves,” GLQ 2004.

Take a look at

9/15 PLEASE NOTE: No discussion sections will meet this week, but please hand in the following to me by Monday’s class. Let’s consider Butler’s narrative style.  Take a particularly complex passage (a paragraph or two) from Butler’s work and rewrite it in a more accessible way- consider putting it into bumper sticker or comic strip form.   Why do you think Butler writes the way she does- do complex notions about gender require complex language?  

9/19  * Siobhan Somerville, Introduction and “ Scientific Racism”, pp. 1-38 in Queering the Color Line and ***Evelynn Hammonds, “Black (W)holes and the Geometry of Black Female Sexuaity,” from Skin Deep.

9/21 * Anne McClintock, “Imperial Leather:  Race, Cross-Dressing, and the Cult of Dometicity,” pp. 132-180 in Imperial Leather

9/22 Gender, this week’s theorists argue, was invented alongside other forms of power- particularly race, class, sexuality, and Empire.  Your assignment this week is to bring in an example from popular culture- an advertisement, song lyrics, etc.- that constructs gender differences by relying on one or more of these forms of power.

  1. II.              Gender and the Body


9/26  Rebecca Jordan Young, Brainstorm, pp. 1-64, 109-143

9/28   Rebecca Jordan Young, Brainstorm , pp. 198-292

9/29 Your assignment this week is to go through recent news stories and find an example of how gender is popularly located in the body (e.g. Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars type articles).  Do these popular articles use science to persuade the reader?  If not, how do they legitimate their claims that gender differences are located in our bodies, not our culture?

10/3 *** Anne Fausto-Sterling, “Dueling Dualisms” and “Of Gender and Genitals” pp. 1-29, 45-77 in Sexing the Body.

10/5 *** Anne Fausto-Sterling, “Sexing the Baby Part 1” and “Sexing the Baby Part 2” Social Science and Medicine, 2011.

10/6 Please Note: No Discussion Sections This Week. Instead of discussion section this week, I invite you to come to the Breadloaf  campus to hear Anne Fausto-Sterling speak about how science constructs gender and sexuality. Fausto-Sterling will be speaking in the Little Theater at 5pm. If you come, please write a short response (1paragraph) to her talk. If you can’t make it, please hand in the following based on this week’s readings: At a cultural level, how do we “know” there are two sexes and not one or six sexes?  Find newspaper articles or advertisements that assure us that there are two sexes. 

10/10 Thom Lauqueur, 1-24 and 63-114 in Making Sex.

10/12 Laqueur,  pp. 149-192 in Making Sex.

10/13 Can you find examples of the one sex model that exist still in popular culture? Ads or news stories? Does the increasing acknowledgment of intersex bodies represent a reassertion of the one sex model? Go to the Intersex Society of North America website at and tell me what you think?

10/13 Paper #1 Due:   What would happen if, when you were born, you were not given a sex? Use the authors we’ve read to consider the social power that would circulate around your sexually unclear body.

III.  Speaking Gender

10/17 * Jackie Orr, “’Keep Calm!’” for the Cold War:  Diary of a Mental Patient,” pp. 79-164 in Panic Diaries.

10/19 *Kate Bornstein, “Naming all the Parts,” from Gender Outlaw and *Ricki Wilchins, from Read My Lips.


10/20 Please note: NO Discussion Sections. For credit hand in the following: Find some representation of the gendered speaking subject in classic children’s movies- Sleeping Beauty, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, etc.  Who is marked as “insane,” “irrational,” or “not worth listening to” and what does it have to do with gender?  What about other forms of social power, like race or class or nationality?


10/24 Fall Break



  1. III.   Growing Up Gendered


A. Becoming a Man


Part 1:  War and Sport


10/26  ***Sue Curry Jansen, :The Sport/War Metaphor: Hegemonic Masculinity, the Persian Gulf War, and the New World Order” and

*Henry Jenkins III, “Never Trust a Snake” pp. 33-66 in Nicholas Sammond, ed. Steel Chair to the Head. *Richard Giulianotti, “Gender Identities and Sexuality in Sport,” pp. 80-101, in Sport,: A Critical Sociology.

10/27 Bring in examples of how the ritual of Halloween is gendered- as well as raced, classed, sexualized, etc. Do some research- what will you and your friends dress up as? What does that say about gender? And other forms of social power?

Part 2:  Men as Monsters and Myths


10/31 *Michael S. Kimmel, “Masculinity as Homopobia” and *Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, “’The Mind That Burns in Each Body’ Women, Rape, and Racial Violence” in Snitow et al., eds. Powers of Desire.

11/2  *Robert G. Lee, “The Third Sex: Asian American Men in Popular Culture” and *Herman Gray, “Black Masculinity and Visual Culture.” 89-122.*

11/3 Bring in examples of successful men and men as monsters. What do these examples have to do with class and race? Sexuality? Geography?

11/3  Paper 2 Due:  What role have sports played in your life?  How have they taught you to “be a man” or “be a woman”?  If you have never participated in sports, what effect does that have on your claims to be a man or woman?  Why?  Use the authors we’ve discussed and don’t forget to consider class and race and sexuality in addition to gender when thinking about your own experience of sport.

B. Becoming a Woman

Part 1:  Girl Culture:  Consuming the Body

11/7 *Joan Brumberg, The Body Project, pp. xvii-xxxiii; 95-138.


11/9  * Susan Bordo, “Whose Body is This?” and  “Anorexia Nervosa:  Psychopathology as the Crystallization of Culture,” pp. 45-70 and139-164 in Unbearable Weight. *Kathy Davis, “’My Body is My Art’:  Costmetic Surgery as Feminist Utopia?” and *Simone Weil Davis, “Loose Lips Sink Ships.”


11/10   How do girls and women learn to be their bodies?  Find a magazine or advertisement aimed at young women.  What does it teach girls/women about their bodies?  How does that relate to marketing?  Where are race and class and sexuality in these texts?


Part 2:  Women as Myths and Monsters

11/14 Evelynn M. Hammonds, “Toward a Genealogy of Black Female Sexuality:  The Problematic of Silence” and *Patricia Hill Collins, “Prisons for Our Bodies, Closets for our Minds.”

11/16  *Rosi Braidotti,  “Signs of Wonder and Traces of Doubt,” pp. 290-300 and *Shildrick and Price, “Breaking the Bondaries of the Broken Body,” pp. 432-444 in Shildrick and Price, eds. Feminist Theory and the Body.

11/17 Who are the monsterous women in our culture?  Bring in examples of them- Hillary Clinton?  Lady Gaga? Michele Bachmann? Who else, and why? 


11/21 ***Hanne Blank, Virgin, pp. 146-257..


11/21 Paper 3 Due:  Find a representation of a human body that is clearly gendered (e.g.  in an advertisement, a porn site, or whatever else catches your eye).  What does the image say about what it means to be a woman or a man?  What other forms of power are at play? (i.e. age, race, sexuality, able-bodied, size, class, etc.).  Don’t forget to include the authors in this section.


11/23 and 11/24 Thanksgiving Break

  1.  Unlearning Gender?

11/28  Judith Butler,  “Subversive Bodily Acts,” pp. 79-141 in Gender Trouble and

Judith Halberstam, “Oh, Behave!: Austin Powers and the Drag Kings”, pp. 125-151 in In a Queer Time and Place.

11/30 *Judith Butler, “The End of Sexual Difference?” in Undoing Gender and *Judith Lorber, “ A World Without Gender.”

12/1 Butler and other postmodern theorists of gender tell us that gender is always trouble- or more specifically, that a politics born of gender identity always creates more fractures than unities.  This week, I want you to a world without gender. How would we organize sexuality? Work and play? Is such a world possible?

12’5 * Sandy Stone, “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttrannsexual Manifesto,” in Epstein and Straub, eds., Body Guards and *Leslie Feinberg, “We Are All Works in Progress.”

12/7  ***Paisley Currah and Tara Mulqueen, “Securitizing Gender: Identity, Biometrics, and Transgender Bodies at the Airport”

12/9 Unlearn one aspect of your gendered behavior- at least for discussion section.  Come to class and perform gender in a way that is different than you normally do.  Sit differently, talk differently, dress differently, etc.  What does your gender presentation have to do with other forms of power- like class, race, or sexuality?

12/9 Paper 4 Due:  It is twenty years from now.  After Milddlebury you became an architect.  You’ve just been hired to build a huge new building on campus, but what will you do about the bathrooms?  If the gender binary is blurring or even disappearing to the point of no longer being recognizable, how will we divide up urinary space?  And why?  Don’t forget to use the theorists from this section. 



12/20 Take home final exam due by 4pm in Sociology Office 201 Munroe.  I will pass out questions on the last day of class as well as posting it online.






One Response to “Syllabus”

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