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COURSE NAME: "Introduction to Gender Studies"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Benjamin Lee Scribner
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 9:55-11:15 AM
OFFICE HOURS: virtually only, by appointment

Gender Studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines gender and sexuality. This course offers an introduction to historical and current debates taking place within gender studies. Students will explore historical and contemporary feminist, masculinity and queer theories, paying close attention to both local and global issues, and learning the tools for critically engaging issues related to gender.
We will consider a wide variety of texts—from personal narratives and historical documents to films and cultural criticism across a range of disciplines. Through the readings, activities and assignments in this course, students will develop tools to critically analyze the ways in which social and cultural forces shape us as gendered individuals in the context of the world in which we live. The class will analyze a range of perspectives and consider how the intersections of gender, sex, biology, race, class, nationality, power, politics, and social movements influence our understanding of gender and culture.

At the end of the course, students should achieve the following:

  • Demonstrate an introductory understanding of the field of gender studies, and apply interdisciplinary methodologies for understanding and analyzing sex, gender, and sexuality in culture.

  • Develop a critical understanding of feminist, masculinity and queer approaches to the social and cultural construction of gender and sexuality, and their complex intersections with other social, cultural, and biological categories, including but not limited to sex, race, ethnicity, class, nation, sexuality, ability, and age. 

  • Cultivate a language framework for thoughtfully articulating the critical vocabulary in the field of gender studies.

  • Develop critical thinking skills towards a deepened understanding of how social, cultural, and biological categories shape our lives, and our understandings of the world.


Midterm paperStudents will be required to write a five page paper reflecting on the development of their own gender identity and expression in the context of their culture, family and community20%
Final paperStudents will be required to write a seven page research paper investigating a subject of interest to them agreed upon in advance with the professor. 30%
QuizzesQuizzes will be given at unannounced dates through the semester to test student knowledge of the assigned readings.20%
PresentationStudents will present a summary of their final papers to their peers10%
Weekly reading reflectionsStudents will submit 350 word reading reflections in response to each week’s readings10%
Attendance and ParticipationStudents are expected to be fully present and participative during class lectures and discussions. 10%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Attendance and participation are a crucial part of the class. More than two unexcused absences will result in penalty to your final grade.  Three absences = 5% penalty. Four absences = 10%, etc. If you are absent due to health reasons or family emergency, please let me know so that I can accommodate you.  Absences will not be excused due to non-emergency travel or family visits. Please refer to the university catalog for the attendance and absence policy.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


A note on civility: This course will bring up challenging topics requiring critical thinking and openness to diverse points of view.  Within reasonable limits, each of us, including your professor, have a right to learn and grow through mistakes, including making statements that may at times cause offense.  The willingness to accept that we make mistakes is particularly important in the classroom.  The alternative is that we silence the discussion, and limit our growth. What will not be tolerated, however is behavior that creates a hostile learning environment: that is, repeated, willfully ignorant or hateful statements targeting any category of persons in a dehumanizing or crudely stereotyped way.  

Content warning: This course includes topics to which many of us (including myself) are sensitive, such as racism, sexism, and sexual violence. If you do not feel you can safely and civilly discuss such topics, I suggest that you consider avoiding this course. While I will follow the course schedule, I cannot predict when sensitive subjects will be brought up in open discussion. I will only halt a discussion of sensitive topics if it is irrelevant to course material or being discussed in an uncivil manner.



TEXTBOOK: There is no required textbook.  Course readings will be made available to students.

Selected readings will be taken from these and other sources:

  • Michael Kimmel and Amy Aronson - The Gendered Society Reader, 6th Edition (Oxford University Press, 2017). 

  • Fixmer-Oraiz, N., & Wood, J. T. (2019). Gendered Lives (13th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage. 

  • hooks, bell. Aint I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. (Routledge, 2015).

  • Friedan, Betty, et al. The Feminine Mystique. (W.W. Norton, 2013).



In order to create an inclusive learning environment, language in the class strives to be gender-inclusive and non-sexist and acknowledging of people of any gender, recognizing the difference between biological sex and gender expression. Students, faculty, and staff may share their preferred pronouns and names, and these gender identities and gender expressions should be honored. 


(final version will be made available in class)


Week 1: Introduction 

Gender and the patriarchal family


Ruggles (2015). “Patriarchy, Power, and Pay: The Transformation of American Families, 1800–2015.”


Week 2: Waves of Feminism

Second wave theory and movements in the United States and Europe


Chapters 1, 2 and 14 in Friedan (1963). The Feminine Mystique

Week 3: The third wave and beyond

Tuesday: Gender and race, the limits of “white suburban feminism”

Reading: Chapters 1,2 and 4 in hooks (1981). Ain't I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism. 

Thursday: Gendered Organizational Communication (Gender and the Workplace)

Reading:  Ch.10, Gendered Lives 


“Dig Deep: Beyond Lean In”, The Feminist Wire. October 28th, 2013

Friday, October 9th (MAKE UP DAY FOR DEC 8th): 

Film: Roadtrip Nation “A Balanced Equation” (25mins):


Week 4:  Comparative case studies 

Tuesday: Italian Feminist history in comparative perspective

Reading: To be announced

Thursday:  Traditional and modern ideas of gender through a postcolonial lens

Case study: India 

Reading: Chaudhuri, Maitrayee, “Indian “Modernity” and “Tradition”: A Gender Analysis’, Polish Journal of Sociology 2(178)12 Analysis pp. 281-293.

Friday, October 16th (Make up day for Tues/Thurs. classes): Traditional and modern ideas of gender through a postcolonial lens

Case studies:  Egypt

Reading: MacLeod, Arlene Elow, “Hegemonic Relations and Gender Resistance: The New Veiling as Accommodating Protest in Cairo.” Signs, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Spring, 1992), pp. 533-557 


Week 5: Biology, Language, and the Construction of Gender and Sexuality


“The Truth about Girls and Boys” (Kimmel and Aronson)

“Testosterone Rules” (Kimmel and Aronson)

“Beards, Beasts and Bodies: Doing Sex in a Gendered World” (Kimmel and Aronson)

Recommended: Ch. 5, 6, Gendered Lives

Week 6: Gay Liberation and Transgender

Film: Screaming Queens (57mins)

Required Reading:   Prologue, Ch. 1, 2, 6. Transgender History, the Roots of Today’s Revolution. Stryker, 2017 edition.

Recommended reading: 

“From Homophile Movement to Gay Liberation” in Ch. 5 in LGBT+ Studies, An Open Textbook

Week 7: Review and Midterm Exam 

Tuesday: Review & Catch up day

Thursday: Midterm Examination

Week 8: Queer Theory

Required Reading: 

Introduction, Ch.1 and two other short essays of your choice from Non Binary. Rajunov and Duane, 2019

Recommended Reading: “Chapter 2: Thirty Years of Queer Theory” in “ LGBT+ Studies, An Open Textbook

Week 9: Queering Masculinity and Femininity


Reading:  “Patriarchy, Power, and Female Masculinity”. Athena Nguyen 

Pages 665-683 | Published online: 12 Dec 2008

Week 10: Third Gender in India

In-class videos:

  1. Demigods: Inside India´s Transgender Community


  1. “India´s Third Gender Movement.” The Zainab Salbi Project Episode 2. 


Required reading:

Goel, Ina. “India´s Third Gender Rises Again.”  Sapiens. February, 2020.

Week 11: Gendered Close Relationships

Required reading: 

“The Gender of Desire: The Sexual Fantasies of Women and Men” (Kimmel and Aronson)

“‘That’s Just How it Is’” (Kimmel and Aronson)

Recommended Reading: Ch. 9, Gendered Lives

Week 12: Gendered Power and Violence

***Content Warning - this session discusses sexual violence  

Required reading: “An Intersectional Analysis of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People’s Evaluations of Anti-Queer Violence (Kimmel and Aronson)

Recommended Reading: Ch. 12, Gendered Lives 

Week 13: Catch up, conclusions, review for final exam.