Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Course outline

Contemporary Sociology 302 Theory: Gender and Identity Lecturer: Vanessa-Lynn Neophytou

The focus of my theory course for the next seven and half weeks will be on gender and identity and what theory can tell us about this. We will begin by unpacking the concepts gender as it is often confused with the term sex. In fact, `sex’ and `gender’ are often used interchangeably when they have very different meanings.


Connell, R.W (2002) Gender Blackwell Publishing: Oxford Lϋtzen, K(1995) `La mise en discourse and Silences in Research on the History of Sexuality’ in Parker, R and J.Gagnon (eds) Conceiving Sexuality Routledge: New York Moore, H (1994 ) `The Cultural Constitution of Gender’ in The Polity Reader in Gender Studies Polity Press: Cambridge Skeggs, B (1997) Formations of Class and Gender: Becoming Respectable Sage Publications: Nottingham Week two: Mon 7th April-Thurs 10th April Foucault and Judith Butler From this starting point we will look at identity and power. Here I will concentrate on the ideas of Foucault and how he looks at power and knowledge. We will see that his notion of power is very different from the top down one of Marx. But Foucault wrote on sexuality and I want us to look at his original work where he traced how we became aware of ourselves as sexual beings. From this I want us to look at gender and identity even more closely through an examination of Judith Butlers’ work. She talks about identity as free-floating, as not connected to an 'essence', but instead more of a performance given to the world. We will explore what she means by performance and look at our performances, that is, yours and your friends around you. This means that we will see that identities aren't fixed, that power differences change in different situations, that your destiny and power and life are not determined by a few supposedly descriptive 'facts' about yourself such as gender, class, ethnicity, age and so on. readings

Butler, J (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity Routledge: New York

Butler, J (1997) `Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire’ in Feminisms Kemp, S and J. Squires (eds) Feminisms Oxford University Press: Oxford

McHoul, A and W. Grace (1993) A Foucault Primer: Discourse, Power and the Subject UCL Press: London

Natoli, J and L. Hutcheon (1993) Excerpts from The History of Sexuality: Volume 1: An Introduction in a Post Modern Reader State University of New York Press: Albany

Smart, B (1985 ) Michel Foucault Routledge: London

Week three: Mon 14th April-Thurs 17th April introduce the construction of masculinity and femininity We will look at masculinity and femininity, how they are perceived and constructed. Here we will draw on short stories, poetry and a movie. We will watch the movie Thelma and Louise (1991) directed by Ridley Scott, to focus our discussion. Some issues to consider in the movie

How is Thelma (housewife) and Louise’s (waitress) femininity constructed? Are they based on stereotypical notions of women? Yes or No (explain your answer) Note: Thelma and Louse are portrayed differently, almost as opposites. Define their characters. Who is the `strong’ one? Explain

Discuss the male characters in the movie and how their masculinity is constructed? Discuss the stereotypes, if any, that are drawn on for each character. a) Darryl (Thelma’s husband) b) Harlan (the rapist)Hal (FBI agent who wants to save them) c) J.D (hitchhiker, thief) d) Rasta Cyclist e) The trucker

Give examples from the movie of Thelma and Louise’s acts of freedom How is their freedom limited and discuss why?

Give examples from the movie of the different male characters’ control over the two women.

What do you think of the shooting of the rapist? Did Thelma `ask’ to be raped? How would you have handled the rapist if you had been there?

Discuss why the movie ended the way it did? How else could it have ended? Could there have been a happy ending. What is your emotional response to the movie?

Which feminist theories can you use to understand the movie? Discuss.


Barrett, M ( ) `Femininity, Masculinity and Sexual Practice’ in Women’s Oppression Today Verso: London

Connell, F.W (1995) Masculinities Polity press: Cambridge

D’Alessio (1993) `Born to be Gay’ in New Scientist 25th September

Maharaj, Z (1995) `A social theory of gender: Connells’ Gender and Power’ in Feminist Review. No 49 Spring

Miles, I (1989) `Masculinity and its Discontents’ in Futures

Rich, A (1997) `Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence’ in Feminisms Kemp, S and J. Squires (eds) Feminisms Oxford University Press: Oxford

Segal, L (1990) Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, Changing Men Virago Press: London

Week four: Mon 21st April-Thurs 24th April

continue the construction of masculinity and femininity

Week five: Tues 29th April and Wed 30th April (note we follow Thursday timetable)

Introduction to homosexuality debates Week six: Mon 5th-Thurs 8th May

homosexuality We will look at homosexuality and the nature versus nurture debate as well as trans sexuality where it is interesting to look at how children develop gender identities and when they begin to consider themselves as boys or girls (excerpts from novel Middlesex) For instance, do you think children, would see themselves as boys or girls if they weren’t labeled as such by their parents and at nursery school. Two positions will be considered: the essentialist one that views identity as innate, for, eg, you are born straight, or gay, and the social constructionist one. Video Go Fish (1994, directed by Rose Troche). Go Fish Is a light hearted romantic comedy that touches on some serious issues.Video Go Fish

Some issues to consider in the movie 1. In the movie Evy’s mother disapproves of her being a lesbian. Evy remains in the closet because of this.What dooes `in the closet' mean? What do you think of Evy’s mother’s response? Do you think Evy should be open about her lifestyle? Why do gay people stay in the closet? Discuss homophobia. Are you homophobic?

2. When Daria has sex with a man she is condemned by the `jury’ for not being a lesbian. She says that when a gay man has sex with a woman he is "bored, drunk [or] lonely" but if a lesbian has sex with a man "her whole life choice becomes suspect." what do you think of Daria’s response? If you are straight and you have sex once with a member of the same sex does that make you gay? What determines your sexuality? Is it simply who you have sex with?

3. Why do you think the group of women discusses the various names for vagina? Why is it important for women to do this? Why are so many words for vagina derogatory or swear words, and even more so if used against men? What does this say about women’s status in society?


Knight, M (1994) `Transexuality explained' in Diva

Leghorn, L and K. Parker (1981) Woman’s Worth: Sexual economics and the world of women Routledge and Kegan Paul: Boston

Tiefer, L (1987) `Social Construction and the Study of Human Sexuality’ in Sex and Gender Shaver, P and C. Hendrick Sage: London

Weeks, J (1992) `The body and sexuality’ in Social and Cultural Forms of Modernity Bocock, R and K. Thompson

Weeks, J (2nd ed) (1981) Sex, Politics and Society: The regulation of sexuality since 1800 Longman: New York

Week seven: Mon 12th-Thurs 15th May the variety of contemporary feminist theories

We will study the variety of feminist theories and how they contribute to our understanding of gender, that is moving from liberal feminism through to socialist feminism and black feminism. This includes group presentations on the Thursday.


Barrett, M and M. McIntosh (1982) The Anti Social Family Verso: London

Dryden, C, Erlank, N Haffejee, Y, Hardy, K, Nhlapo, S, Tonkin, S and J. Tshamano (2002) T`he many voices of feminism' in Agenda: No 54 African Feminisms Two

Collins, P (1994) `The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought’ in The Woman Question (2nd ed) Evans, M Sage: London

hooks, B (1984) Feminist Theory: from Margin to Centre South End Press: Boston

hooks, B (1997) `Feminism: A movement to End Sexist Oppression’ in Feminisms Kemp, S and J. Squires (eds) Feminisms Oxford University Press: Oxford

hooks, B (1997) `Black Women and Feminism’ in Feminisms Kemp, S and J. Squires (eds) Feminisms Oxford University Press: Oxford

Jackson, S, Atkinson, K, Beddoe, D Brewer, T, Faulkner, S, Hucklesby, A, Pearson, R, Power, H, Prince, J, Ryan, M and P. Young (1993) Women’s Studies: Essential Readings New York University Press: New York

Ritzer, G and D. Goodman ( 2003) `Gender and feminism in Modern Sociological Theory Ritzer, G and D. Goodman McGrawhill: New York

Romm, N and M. Sarakinsky (1994) `Feminism and Sociological Theory’ in Social Theory Romm, N and M. Sarakinsky (eds) Lexicon Publishers: Johannesburg

Tong, R (1989) Feminist Thought: A comprehensive introduction Unwin Hyman London

Wittig, M (1997) `One is not born a woman’ in Feminisms Kemp, S and J. Squires (eds) Feminisms Oxford University Press: Oxford

Week eight: Mon 19th-Thurs 22nd May feminist theories continued

group presentations



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