Gender and the Body GSFS/SOCI 0191 Fall 2022
Location: 75 Shannon 224
Prof. Laurie Essig
Office: 202 Chellis
Office Hours: Monday 3-4:00 and Wednesdays 1-3pm 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 self 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, bodily configuration, and nationality.
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.
All assignments should be uploaded onto the course Canvas site (at course hub)
- 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). Use page numbers! It will help you do your projects/papers. You have to 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.One Paper plus 2 Papers or Projects: 30% paper 1; 25% for 2 other papers or projects for a total of 80%
Paper 1: Everyone must do Paper Assignment 1 since this one sets up the theoretical scaffolding 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 assignments: After that, you must do two more papers or projects. It is your choice which two topics you choose to work on.
If writing a paper, it will be slightly shorter at 3-5 pp 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.
Instead of the two shorter papers, 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. 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. Like papers, a project will count as 20% of your grade. All projects must include some sort of citations from that section’s readings- either in the form of an “artist’s statement” or incorporated into the project itself.
A note on the importance of being here: I get it- Zoom and the collapse of everything has wrecked our ability to focus on a class and NOT text 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. And just to be clear: I care about your mental health. I do not want my class to make it worse, but here’s fairly good data showing that trigger warnings might increase our anxiety.
I. The Discovery of Gender
9/13 Introduction: What’s your gender and how do you know?
9/15 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.
9/20 * 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.
9/22 * Anne McClintock, “Imperial Leather: Race, Cross-Dressing, and the Cult of Domesticity,” pp. 132-180 in Imperial Leather
II. Gender and Science
9/27 Thom Lauqueur, “Of Language and the Flesh” and “Destiny is Anatomy” in Making Sex.
9/29 Laqueur, “New Science, One Flesh” and “Representing Sex” in Making Sex.
10/4 Laqueur, “Discovery of the Sexes” and “Sex Socialized” in Making Sex
10/6 *Anne Fausto-Sterling, “Dueling Dualisms” and “Of Gender and Genitals” pp. 1-29, 45-77 in Sexing the Body
10/11 *Rebecca Jordan Young and Katrina Karkazis, “Five Myths about Testosterone”
*Laura A. Wackwitz, “Verifying the Myth: Olympic Sex Testing and the Category ‘Woman’
10/13 *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”
10/14 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 their answers to what we have been reading this month. Don’t forget to consider how race, class and sexuality shape our knowledge of gender. Use at least 6 of the 10 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
10/18 *Michael Kimmel, Guyland, Chapters 2 and 5 (Chapter 3 optional)
10/20 *Jae Basillere, “Staging Dissents: Drag Kings, Resistance, Feminist Masculinities” and *John Alberti, “I love you man: bromances and the Construction of Masculinity”
10/25 *Richard Giulianotti, “Gender Identities and Sexuality in Sport,” pp. 80-101, in Sport: A Critical Sociology and read this Saahil Desai, “College Sports are Affirmative Action for Rich White Kids.”
10/27 *Frederick Gagnon, “Invading Your Hearts and Minds,” and Mia Fischer, “Commemorating 9/11 NFL Style”
11/1 Ron Eglash, *“Race, Sex and Nerds” and *Abby L. Ferber “The Construction of Black Masculinity,”
B. Becoming a Woman
11/3 *Joan Brumberg, The Body Project, pp. xvii-xxxiii; 95-138.
11/4 Paper or Project 2 Due: What role have sports or video games played in your life? How have sports taught you to “be a man” or “be a woman” or to being “gender queer”? 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 or projects to canvas site
11/10* 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”
11/15 *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”
11/17 *Kate Bornstein, “Naming all the Parts,” from Gender Outlaw and
watch this Contra Points: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pTPuoGjQsI
11/18 Paper or Project 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? Upload your paper or project to the Canvas site.
NO CLASS THANKSGIVING BREAK
IV. Gender Falling Apart or Stronger than Ever?
11/29 Judith Butler, “Subversive Bodily Acts,” pp. 79-141 in Gender Trouble and *Bodies That Matter: “The End of Sexual Difference?” *Judith Lorber, “Using Gender to Undo Gender”
12/1 *”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,”
12/6 Sonny Nordmarken, “Queering Gendering: Trans Epistemologies and the Disruption and Production of Gender Accomplishment” and *Jen Manion, “The Performance of Transgender Inclusion: The pronoun go-round and the new gender binary”
12/8 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 doing so. 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 or Project 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 patriarchal gender ideologues 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? Upload projects or papers to the Canvas site.