Gender & Society’s Classroom Guide for Syllabi on Teaching Sociology of Gender

We are always curious here in the G&S offices as to which articles from our journal are being used in the classroom. We decided to ask a few of our editorial board members to share this information with us and all of you for the upcoming school year. George Sanders, Oakland University, agreed to be the first to share what G&S articles he will be using for  Sociology of Gender. We hope you find this list helpful as you too get ready for another year in the classroom!

While ostensibly an article focused on embodiment, in “‘Getting your Body Back’: Post-Industrial Fit Motherhood in Shape Fit Pregnancy Magazine” [Dworkin, Shari L. and Faye Linda Wachs. 2004. “Getting your Body Back”: Post-Industrial Fit Motherhood in Shape Fit Pregnancy Magazine. Gender & Society 18 (5): 610-624], Dworkin and Wachs address a variety of important sociological themes, making it highly versatile. In this article, the authors conducted a content/textual analysis of Shape Fit Pregnancy magazine (quite thoroughly, it should be noted, since they looked at every issue since its very first one). Dworkin and Wachs, in short, find that the messaging to women is straightforward and consistent—the pregnant body is something akin to a necessary evil and once women have given birth they ought to strive to “bounce back” as quickly as possible in order to conform to the ideal typical body of emphasized femininity. Beyond revealing ways in which norms shape our understanding of our bodies (and, indeed, guide us to actually shape our bodies), the authors also address: emphasized femininity, second shift and third shift, commodification of feminist social movements, matrix of domination, and post-industrial society.

In “Hetero-Romantic Love and Heterosexiness in Children’s G-Rated Films” Martin and Kazyak examine the role of popular kids’ movies in reinforcing heteronormativity [Martin, Karin A. and Emily Kazyak. 2009. Hetero-Romantic Love and Heterosexiness. Gender & Society 23(3): 315-336]. In their article they discuss two prominent themes related to heteronormativity. First, heterosexual relationships are highly idealized, “not ordinary or mundane but, rather… powerful, exceptional, and magical” (p. 317). Second, women are presented as the objects of the male gaze. One of the reasons this article is so appealing for a sociology of gender classroom is that it lends itself to concrete examples instructors can use during a class session. While the article’s time parameters are limited to movies that appeared between 1990 and 2005, there are an abundance of clips online that feature more recent movies. Students can then be encouraged to reflexively consider movies they remember seeing as a child and can deploy their own sociological imagination by seeing how abstract sociological concepts apply to their socialization into our heteronormative society.

Betsy Lucal’s article “What it Means to be Gendered Me: Life on the Boundaries of a Dichotomous Gender System” [Lucal, Betsy. 1999. What it Means to be Gendered Me: Life on the Boundaries of a Dichotomous Gender System. Gender & Society 13(6): 781-797], has been a mainstay in my Sociology of Gender course. Lucal is a woman who describes her outward appearance (both in body and dress) as being prototypically masculine. In her article she deftly describes numerous occasions that, because of her appearance, disrupt the otherwise well-greased flow of social interactions. Here, students learn how deeply entrenched our taken-for-granted expectations around gender norms really are. Too, because the article draws on auto-ethnographic strategies, they can broaden their appreciation for lived experience as a legitimate resource for social scientific research. Furthermore, Lucal highlights the ways individual agency is best understood along a continuum as opposed to something more dichotomous and static (i.e., as something one has or doesn’t have).

Hybrid masculinities, Bridges and Pascoe’s conceptual corrective to Connell’s classic work on masculinities, has found traction in a number of Gender and Society articles. I am excited to try out one recently published piece in the forthcoming semester: “Aggressive and Loving Men: Gender Hegemony in Christian Hardcore Punk” by Amy D. McDowell [McDowell, Amy D. 2017. Aggressive and Loving Men: Gender Hegemony in Christian Hardcore Punk. Gender & Society. 31(2): 223-244]. In it, McDowell examines how musicians and audience members alike perpetuate gender and sexual inequalities through compromise and complicity. The article not only serves as a nice exploration of religion and gender, it also reveals ways men navigate dominant, subordinate, and marginalized forms of masculinity. I imagine my students will gain a stronger understanding of the negotiation involved with performing any identity (not simply men performing masculinities). Additionally, I think some students can identify with the ways in which a broad array of cultural “scenes” reinforce heteronormativity and norms around gender and sexuality.

In “Not Yet Queer Enough: The Lessons of Queer Theory for the Sociology of Gender and Sexuality” [Valocchi, Stephen. 2005. Not Yet Queer Enough: The Lessons of Queer Theory for the Sociology of Gender and Sexuality. Gender & Society.  19(6): 750-770], Valocchi provides us with both a wonderfully approachable overview of queer theory (via an examination of four popular books in the field) as well as suggestions for further integrating queer theory into the sociology of gender. For students, the article can serve as one component of a broader primer in queer theory. Here students can learn more about core concepts like intersectionality, ethnographic methods, and sexual identity as well as more advance ideas like performativity, fluidity, and subjectivity. While queer theory may be considered intellectually challenging to students in a lower-level sociology of gender course, the author does a marvelous job of highlighting its importance and usefulness to the up-and-coming sociologists in any gender classroom.

Gender & Society in the Classroom is curated by scholars in the field and is a listing of articles that would be relevant in certain classrooms. These lists are not exhaustive but contain a small section of important articles that can begin to start classroom discussion on a variety of topics.

Organized by: George Sanders, Oakland University. Comments or suggestions please e-mail gendsoc@oaklnad.edu.

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