Syllabus Gender and the Body Fall 2021

Gender and the Body GSFS/SOCI 0191 Fall 2021

Location: MBH 104

Prof. Laurie Essig

Office: 202 Chellis

Office Hours: Monday 3-4:30 and Wednesdays 10-12 sign up here.  Office hours will be on 

     Zoom Mondays and on Zoom or in person Wednesdays. Please schedule on

     Calendly even if they are in person.


Course Description: What is your gender and how do you know? That is the animating question of this course. Gender is not an innocent classification, but rather a form of power that undergirds many of the hierarchies of our society. We will look at when gender became a category of inquiry and, more importantly, why? How we “know” (and “don’t know”) gender produces our bodies and the social world through which they move. We will also always consider how knowledge of gender always intersects with other forms of power such as class, race, sexuality, and nationality. 

I have designed each class to be very interactive. You will be working with your classmates to figure out how the readings relate to our everyday lives. I will ask you to apply the readings to everything from Disney films to sports to our own gender presentations here at Middlebury 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. 


Book available through the Middlebury Bookstore:

Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Harvard University Press, 1990)

Book available as ebook at Middlebury Library:

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge, 2007).

All other readings online at the Course Blog under Readings. 

Course Requirements:
All assignments should be uploaded onto the course Canvas site (at course hub) 

1.  Reading Notes: 1% each for a total of 20%

Each student is expected to come to class having read the assigned readings and be able to discuss them. Please take reading notes (e.g. favorite quotes or keywords, unclear passages and questions, main ideas). Please UPLOAD to Canvas before class.   

Important: I do not accept any reading notes after the class itself since the point is to aid discussion. However, you only need to hand in 20 out of 22 discussion responses (that means there are days you can skip doing it and still receive full credit). If you hand in extra notes, they will count as extra credit points.  

2. Three Papers: 30% paper 1; 25% for 2 other papers for a total of 80%

Paper 1: Everyone must do Paper Assignment 1 since this one sets up theoretical framework for the rest of the class. This paper counts for 30% of your grade and is slightly longer than the other paper at 6-8pp.

Two of the next three papers: After that, you must do two more papers or one paper and one project (YOUR CHOICE WHICH TWO). These papers are slightly shorter at 4-6pp in length.

These papers should be double-spaced plus citations (which if citing from syllabus can just say author’s name and p. #). Papers are due on the date listed in the syllabus. Please see advice on course website “Everything you wanted to know about writing a paper for Gender and the Body but were afraid to ask” before you ask me a question about it.

OR Two Papers & 1 Project: 

Instead of one paper, you can choose to do a project. The project should be some sort of cultural text (e.g. a comic book, zine, board game, short video, or blog) that utilizes the readings in that section. This project can be individual or group, but must be cleared with me ahead of time (just send me an email- no formal proposal is necessary). 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” of gender presentations at Middlebury. You may do one project only- the rest of the assignments must be papers. Like papers, a project will count as 20% of your grade. 

A note on the importance of being here: I get it- Zoom has wrecked our ability to focus on a class and NOT test our friends. But I want us to take advantage of being in the same room together. Let’s try and really show up. I promise to make classes as interactive and engaging as possible. I encourage you to take responsibility for your learning experience and really ENGAGE.

A note on the messiness of gender: Gender is a highly fought over category and much of our discussions and readings involve painful topics. I do not give trigger warnings since everything we read and discuss involves social power, oppression, and the messiness of gender, race, class, sexuality, sex and more. I encourage you to look ahead on the syllabus and if you believe you need to skip a class or two, please do. I also encourage you to decide upon reading this whether you are comfortable in a class without trigger warnings and if not, wish you luck finding a class that better suits your needs. 

  1. The Discovery of Gender 

9/14 Introduction: What’s your gender and how do you know?  

9/16 Judith Butler, Preface and “Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire”, pp. vii- 34 in Gender Trouble. Take a look at this blog which really helps break some of Butler’s ideas about gender down. Maybe read it before you try the Butler out. Remember this is a really complex book. Do NOT get discouraged. I promise it will make more sense when we discuss it.     

9/21 * 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 Sexuality,” from Skin Deep

9/23 * Anne McClintock, “Imperial Leather: Race, Cross-Dressing, and the Cult of Domesticity,” pp. 132-180 in Imperial Leather 

II. Gender and Science  

9/28 Thom Lauqueur, “Of Language and the Flesh” and “Destiny is Anatomy” in Making Sex.

9/30 Laqueur, “New Science, One Flesh” and “Representing Sex” in Making Sex. 

10/5 Laqueur, “Discovery of the Sexes” and “Sex Socialized” in Making Sex

10/7 *Anne Fausto-Sterling, “Dueling Dualisms” and “Of Gender and Genitals” pp. 1-29, 45-77 in Sexing the Body  

10/12 *Rebecca Jordan Young and Katrina Karkazis, “Five Myths about Testosterone”

 *Laura A. Wackwitz, “Verifying the Myth: Olympic Sex Testing and the Category ‘Woman’

10/14 *David Rubin, “An Unnamed Blank That Craved a Name”: A Genealogy of Intersex as Gender” and *Veronica Sanz, “No Way Out of the Binary: A Critical History of the Scientific Production of Sex”

10/15 Paper #1 Due: On the first day of class I asked you “what is your gender and how do you know?” Go back to what you thought a month ago and compare it to what you know about “knowing” gender. If you can’t remember what you said, ask some friends what their gender is and how they know and compare them to what we have been reading this month. Don’t forget to consider how race and class and sexuality shape our knowledge of gender. Use the authors from the Discovery of Gender and Gender & Science sections. Please upload papers to class canvas site. 


III Growing Up Gendered
A. Becoming a Man 
10/21 NO IN PERSON CLASS: Watch this short video of me discussing the readings and asking some questions instead. *Michael Kimmel, Guyland, Chapters 2 and 5 (Chapter 3 optional) 

10/26 *Jae Basillere, “Staging Dissents: Drag Kings, Resistance, Feminist Masculinities” and *John Alberti, “I love you man: bromances and the Construction of Masculinity”

10/28 *Richard Giulianotti, “Gender Identities and Sexuality in Sport,” pp. 80-101, in Sport,: A Critical Sociology. Discussion  

11/2 *Frederick Gagnon, “Invading Your Hearts and Minds,” and Mia Fischer, “Commemorating 9/11 NFL Style”

11/4 Ron Eglash, *“Race, Sex and Nerds” and *Abby L. Ferber “The Construction of Black Masculinity,” 

11/8 Paper 2 Due: What role have sports or video games played in your life? How have they taught you to “be a man” or “be a woman” or neither? If you have never participated in sports or gaming, what effect does that have on your claims to be a man or woman or gender nonbinary or some other gender configuration? Why? Use the authors we’ve discussed in the Becoming a Man Section and don’t forget to consider class and race and sexuality in addition to gender when thinking about your own experience of sport. Please upload papers to canvas site 

B. Becoming a Woman

11/9 *Joan Brumberg, The Body Project, pp. xvii-xxxiii; 95-138. 

11/11* Susan Bordo,  “Anorexia Nervosa: Psychopathology as the Crystallization of Culture,” and139-164 in Unbearable Weight and *Javier & Belgrave, “I’m not white, I have to be pretty and skinny”

11/16  *Evelynn M. Hammonds, “Toward a Genealogy of Black Female Sexuality: The Problematic of Silence” and  Patrice D. Douglass, “Black Feminist Theory for the Dead and Dying”

11/18 NO IN PERSON CLASS. Instead watch this video of me discussing readings and asking questions*Kate Bornstein, “Naming all the Parts,” from Gender Outlaw and  

watch this Contra Points:

11/21 Paper 3 Due Find two images: one of someone you see as the “perfect” woman and another as someone you see as a failed or monstrous woman. What makes a woman perfect? How does a woman fail? What does that have to do with race, sexuality, class, and embodiment?

11/23 No readings today- Instead your job is to come to class ready with examples of how men and women are made at Middlebury- take photos, take fieldnotes, conduct interviews-but bring EVIDENCE. 


IV. Unlearning Gender?

11/30 Judith Butler, “Subversive Bodily Acts,” pp. 79-141 in Gender Trouble and *Bodies That Matter: “The End of Sexual Difference?”

12/2 *”Elizabeth Corredor, “Unpacking ‘Gender Ideology’ and the Global Right’s Antigender Countermovement.” and *Carly Gieseler, “Gender-reveal parties: performing community identity in pink and blue,” 

12/7 *Judith Lorber, “Using Gender to Undo Gender” 

12/9 For the last day of class, your assignment is to change one (possibly very small) aspect of your gender presentation. For instance, if you normally wear cosmetics or jewelry, try coming to class without. If you normally do not wear nail polish, try painting your nails. Wear differently gendered underwear or sit differently than you usually do – like spread your legs at the knees or cross your legs at the ankle. In your reading notes, write down how this makes you feel? What your change of gender presentation might say not just about gender, but how your gender is entangled in your race, class, and sexuality? 

12/12  Paper 4 Due: It is twenty years from now. Imagine the world and gender in it. Is the gender binary stronger than ever? Multiple and flexible? Did the anti-gender ideologists win or did the feminists? Is it possible that a multiplicity of gender possibilities flourish and yet the world still values male and masculine over female and feminine?  And what does all this mean for urinary space? Pretend you are an architect and your alma mater, Middlebury College, has hired you to design a large new building. What will you do with the bathrooms?

Writing for Gender and the Body

Everything you wanted to know about writing for Gender and the Body, but were afraid to ask

Papers will be 3-5 typed pages (double-spaced) plus citations. Papers are due on the date listed in the syllabus.

1. Look at the prompt question. If you don’t like it, change it. The prompt question is NOT important. What is important is that you show me that you did the readings and understood them. There are no exams in this class so the papers are a way for you to show that you understand the material.  Let me repeat that: the point of the papers is to show you have read and understood the assignments. Do not ignore the readings when you write your paper.

2. Make sure to use the majority of the authors in that section in your paper. So if there are six authors, you should use at least four of them.

3. Use key concepts and quotes from the readings. Do not be so general that I cannot tell whether you are referring to the reading or what we discuss in class.

A good paper will

  1. Set out with a clear question or idea

  2. Lay out evidence from the readings to answer the question

  3. Cite the readings, but also use specific quotes and concepts from the readings so it is not just class notes that you are using. Page numbers are necessary as well.

Please note that I do NOT care what style of citation you use- MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.- but just pick a style of citation for that paper and use it throughout.

An A paper will do all of these things, be well written, have no major factual or grammatical errors and possibly teach me something new (e.g. come to a reasonable conclusion that we did not come to in class).

An A- paper does these things but might have a typo or two.

A Bplus paper understands the major concepts and cites the readings, but is perhaps not as well argued.

A B paper understands the major concepts, but is perhaps not as well written and doesn’t use the readings sufficiently.

A Bminus paper fails to show me that you did the readings or has a level of writing that seriously detracts from what you are saying.

Anything lower than a Bminus indicates that I am concerned that you either did not understand the readings or failed to do them. If you receive a grade lower than a Bminus, please make time to come see me during office hours so you can figure out how to improve your grade on the next paper.

Remember that you have resources for writing a good paper. Check out the Writing Center (in the Center for Teaching, Learning and Research) at

Oh, and seriously, have fun with the papers. They can be creative as well as informative. They can include pop culture or personal experience as well as the readings. They can include original art work or videos or whatever else you wish.

*Please note these are due on the course Canvas site.