Gender & Society in The Classroom’s Guide for Syllabi on Intersectionality

Intersectional feminist scholarship moves beyond issues solely focusing on gender and sexuality in order to address the complex realities that we embody and experience. Race, ethnicity, class, nationality, age, ability, and other dimensions of difference or social locators do not exist apart from gender and sexuality. Instead, these aspects of individual identity, interpersonal relationships, social institutions, policies, politics, and cultures intersect to form myriad experiences and power arrangements. In pursuit of greater understanding of multiple perspectives and increased social equality, we must examine the most salient social locations in a given case or study.  

Powell, Amber Joy, Heather R. Hlavka and Sameena Mulla. 2017. Intersectionality and Credibility in Child Sexual Assault Trials. Gender & Society 31 (4): 457-480. 

Children remain largely absent from sociolegal scholarship on sexual violence. Taking an intersectional approach to the analysis of attorneys’ strategies during child sexual assault trials, this article argues that legal narratives draw on existing gender, racial, and age stereotypes to present legally compelling evidence of credibility. This work builds on Crenshaw’s focus on women of color, emphasizing the role of structures of power and inequality in constituting the conditions of children’s experiences of adjudication. Using ethnographic observations of courtroom jury trials, transcripts, and court records, three narrative themes of child credibility emerged: invisible wounds, rebellious adolescents, and dysfunctional families. Findings show how attorneys use these themes to emphasize the child’s unmarked body, imperceptible emotional responses, rebellious character, and harmful familial environments. The current study fills a gap in sexual assault research by moving beyond trial outcomes to address cultural narratives within the court that are inextricably embedded in intersectional dimensions of power and the reproduction of social status.

Lépinard, Éléonore. 2014. Doing intersectionality: repertoires of feminist practices in France and Canada. Gender & Society 28 (6): 877-903.

Lépinard applies the intersectionality framework to women’s rights organizations, looking to see if and how this concept has been adopted by various women’s rights organizations.  Doing qualitative and quantitative data analysis, the author draws from interview data with activists working in various women’s rights organizations in France and Canada. The author demonstrates how intersectionality is used and understood by these organizations (how they fail and succeed with the intersectional challenges), which she calls repertoires, as a way to understand the social experience and the political interests of women in various intersectional positionalities. There are also national differences across France and Canada that bring in notions of citizenship and immigration. This is a great piece for addressing issues in social movements and academic versus activist understandings of concepts relevant to both groups.

Flippen, Chenoa A. 2013. Intersectionality at work: Determinants of labor supply among immigrant Latinas. Gender & Society 28 (3): 404-434.

This interesting piece by Flippen uses the intersectionality framework to examine how legal status, labor market position and family shape the labor supply of Latinas in Durham, North Carolina, which is a new immigrant destination. The author uses data from a local, representative survey of Latino immigrants and interviews in Durham/Chapel Hill metro area. The initial survey, conducted between 2001 and 2002, included 209 women between the ages of 18 and 49. In 2006 and 2007, an additional 910 were interviewed, for a total sample size of 1,119 women. The author shows, for instance, that Latina women’s position in the economy constrains their labor supply. For example, human capital (e.g., education) does not translate into significant gains in labor market participation. English language skills and time work better at shaping whether women work and work full-time. However, legal status and family status are disadvantage for immigrant Latina’s labor market experiences. This is a good article to introduce to students because legal status and national origin seem to be an important piece in the intersections framework, and this study also cuts across other important arenas – family and work, and transnationalism.

Bose, Christine E. 2012. Intersectionality and global gender inequality. Gender & Society 26 (1): 67-72.

In a symposium on the work of Patricia Hill Collins, Bose describes global approaches to intersectional scholarship. Intersectional research plays an important role in social policy worldwide, particularly useful because this lens does not pit oppressions against one another. Scholars may choose from a variety of interpretations of what intersectionality is and how to employ it methodologically. Bose discusses group-centered, process-centered, and system-centered practices of intersectionality. She argues that researchers can amend a system-centered approach to study salient intersecting inequalities within and across nations.

Harvey Wingfield, Adia. 2009. Racializing the glass escalator: Reconsidering men’s experiences with women’s work. Gender & Society 23 (1): 5-26.

Building on the “glass escalator” concept of how men tokens enjoy advantages in women-dominated occupations, Harvey Wingfield argues that black men do not enjoy the same ride as their white counterparts. The author examines racialized aspects of the gendered mechanisms that move white men upward in traditionally female occupations that mitigate these effects for black men. These “glass barriers” include racist stereotypes about black men, acts of blatant discrimination, and white supremacist perceptions of occupation suitability. Another glass barrier involves black men as unwilling to dissociate from feminized aspects of their occupation, which points to a caring self that men of color adapt as a tactic to combat racial inequality and reject white hegemonic masculinity. These findings suggest efforts to promote equality in the workplace should combine undoing gender by blurring the boundaries between femininity and masculinity with upsetting systems of racial inequality that marginalize men of color.

Andersen, Margaret. 2005. Thinking about women: A quarter century’s view. Gender & Society 19 (4): 437-55.

Andersen provides a thorough overview of feminist sociology, advocating for an incorporation of power, historical, and structural analyses in studies of gender and sexuality. Gender and sexuality, however, cannot and should not be extracted from the web of social locations (or flavors or whatever metaphor you prefer) in which they exist. This intersectional view understands gender as a piece of larger puzzles of social realities including race, class, sexuality, and nationality. This theoretical perspective allows us to conceptualize how gender (and other locators) shape symbols, interactions, structures, and other social phenomena. This article analyzes central debates in feminist sociology, giving helpful background information alongside detailed critiques. These key focuses of feminist scholarship include structure and agency, power, sexuality, intersectionality, and inequality. Everyday realities, privileges, hardships as well as diverse experiences and practices form a social world chock full of complexities for us to examine.

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 Kyla Walters, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Updated by Linda Gjokaj, Oakland University. Comments and suggestions contact gendsoc@oakland.edu.

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Gender & Society in The Classroom’s Guide for Syllabi on Bodies and Embodiment

 

These articles are offered as resources for courses that address gender, the body and embodiment. They approach the topic from a variety of perspectives and identity and are useful in disrupting assumptions about sex, gender and the body.

Mora, Richard. 2012. “Do it for your pubic hairs!”: Latino boys, masculinity and puberty. Gender & Society 26 (3): 433-460.

This article highlights the embodied experiences of Puerto Rican and Dominican adolescences. Through ethnographic research, the body becomes the central way boys in puberty understand their masculinity and social world. The author examines how the boys construct masculinity through social practices and interactions that directly reference their changing bodies. Due to the research subjects’ positionality as second generation immigrants, they construct a masculinity that emphasizes toughness and physical strength.

Hammer, Gili. 2012. Blind women’s appearance management: Negotiating normalcy between discipline and pleasure. Gender & Society 26 (3): 406-432.

This article discusses how blind women use appearance management and use their body as a tool to disrupt or reject stigmatizing beliefs about themselves made by society. The author confronts how most literature about women’s appearance focuses on visual interactions where women “see and are seen” with them taking an active role in using sight with these interactions, which ultimately leaves out how disabled blind women negotiate these interactions. What she found were women taking on a visibility politic that challenged normative beliefs about how blind women perform or embody femininity to actively challenge how others view them.

Schrock, Douglas, Lori Reid, and Emily M. Boyd. 2005. Transsexuals’ embodiment of womanhood. Gender & Society 19 (3): 317-355.

This article draws on in-depth interviews with nine white, middle-class, male-to-female transsexuals to examine how they produce and experience bodily transformation. Interviewees’ bodywork entailed retraining, redecorating, and reshaping the physical body, which shaped their feelings, role taking, and self-monitoring. These analyses make three contributions: They offer support for a perspective that embodies gender, further transsexual scholarship, and contribute to feminist debate over the sex/gender distinction. The authors conclude by exploring how viewing gender as embodied could influence medical discourse on transsexualism and have personal and political consequences for transsexuals.

Hennen, Peter. 2005. Bear bodies, bear masculinity: Recuperation, resistance, or retreat? Gender & Society 19 (1): 25-41.

Looking into the subculture of Bear communities, this article takes a look at how gay men embody Bear culture through resistance against stereotypical association of homosexuality with effeminacy by embracing larger, fleshy hairy bodies. This article also discusses how Bears look, act and perform masculinity within the subculture. By looking at how Bear embodiment is performed, Hennen shows that while Bears can be subversive in challenging normative forms of masculinity they still repurpose it as an attempt to form normalization.

Beauboeuf-Lafontant, Tamara. 2003. Strong and large black women?: Exploring relationships between deviant womanhood and weight. Gender & Society 17 (1): 111-121.

This article questions the societal and cultural image of Black women as strong and suggests that this seemingly affirming portrayal is derived from a discourse of enslaved women’s deviance. In highlighting connections between perceived strength and physical size among Black women, the analysis extends current feminist theory by considering the ways in which the weight many strong African American women carry is reflective of the deviant and devalued womanhood that they are expected to embody both within and outside their culture. This article also provides a stark contrast to the many of the themes found within literature about the body, eating disorders and body image that focuses on white women by taking into account the how the intersections of race and gender impact how black women’s bodies are framed in society.

Williams, Susan. 2002. Trying on gender, gender regimes, and the process of becoming a woman. Gender & Society 16 (1): 29-52.

In this article it discusses how adolescent girls “try on” or experiment with gender as a means to fully create sense of womanhood. Based on a 4 year study of 26 adolescent girls this article is a good reference to understanding how femininity or sense of gender is created not only through experimentation but also how communities have differing forms of femininity due to class, due to class, race and gender differences.

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: Amanda Levitt, Wayne State University.  Comments or suggestions please e-mail gendsoc@oaklnad.edu.

Gender & Society in The Classroom’s Guide for Syllabi on Women, Activism and Social Movements

Women have been important advocates for social justice; however, much of the research on social movements focuses on male experiences or does not use a gendered approach in its analysis. The experiences of women activists, their motivations, and reasons for becoming involved in political action often differ from men and these differences are important to understand for future movement building. This collection of articles discusses women activists and women’s social movements from around the world. Together, they illustrate the wide variety of injustices women are working to rectify as well as the challenges and successes. Many of these research articles discuss the importance of understanding the role played by individual and collective identity in motivating political action. This is particularly vital when an individual holds multiple minority statuses (e.g. the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality). Students will be inspired not only by the contributions of women to social change, but to also explore how their own social identity shapes their involvement in social justice work.

Coe, Anna-Britt. 2015. I am not just a feminist eight hours a day”: Youth gender justice activism in Ecuador and Peru. Gender & Society 29 (6): 888-913.

This article focuses on youth feminist political action in Ecuador and Peru and its relationship to contemporary gender hierarchies. I examine how and why youth gender justice activists understand their political action differently from the professionalized adult feminists who mobilize them. Grounded theory was used to collect and analyze interviews with 21 young women and men activists on gender justice. Youth activists seek cultural changes using social advocacy to target the family, household, and intimate partnerships, what I describe as politicizing the sociocultural. They develop new ways of perceiving political action in response to challenges produced by emergent gender hierarchies, which they understand as blurred gender inequalities or processes that simultaneously enable and constrain gender equality.

Bell, Shannon Elizabeth and Yvonne Braun. 2010. Coal, identity, and the gendering of environmental justice activism in Central Appalachia. Gender & Society 24 (6): 794-813.

Environmental justice movements differ from environment activism in that the focus is on justice for the people who live, work and play near polluted or toxic areas.  Women are typically at the forefront of environmental justice movements, often spurred by their identities as mothers. Bell and Braun explore this trend by analyzing how women and men’s identities shape environmental justice activism in Central Appalachia coalfields. They conducted 20 interviews with men and women involved in environmental justice movements. They found that in Central Appalachia, masculinity is closely linked with employment in coal mining as well as a “code of silence” that prevents many men from speaking out about injustices. However, some men in the study feel that these issues can be overcome. Other findings support the literature that suggests that it is women’s identities as mothers which prompts their environmental justice activism.

Gordon, Hava Rachel. 2008. Gendered paths to teenage political participation: Parental power, civic mobility, and youth activism. Gender & Society 22 (1): 31-55.

This article proposes that gender shapes “the development, involvement, and visibility” of teenagers as activists. The focus is on understanding the forces that contribute to a teenage girl’s involvement in activism and social movement. A key factor in a youth’s likelihood of engaging in political activity is the role of the parent. While a parent’s ideologies can motivate a young person to become involved in activism, parental concern for the safety of their child may present a barrier.  Findings suggest that girls are more likely than boys to exhibit a disconnect between their political consciousness and degree of action due to parental power. This can have ramifications for future political participation.

Culley, Marci R., and Holly L. Angelique. 2003. Women’s gendered experiences as long-term Three Mile Island activists. Gender & Society 17 (3): 445-461.

This article examines women who have been antinuclear activists at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant for two decades. Qualitative interviews focus on their perceived transformations over time that are based on gender and everyday experiences. They perceive gender as both a barrier and a facilitator to activism, even after 20 years. Women describe their technological education as one strategy to overcome the barrier of gender. On the other hand, they consider the gendered role of motherhood as a primary catalyst for action. In addition, they discuss individual everyday experiences focused on the health concerns for family members that influenced their political activity. Over time, women linked personal transformations with increased political understanding and involvement.

Einwohner, Rachel L., Jocelyn A. Hollander, Toska Olson. 2000. Engendering social movements: Cultural images and movement dynamics. Gender & Society 14 (5): 679-699.

This article discusses the role of gender in social movements. First, the authors create a typology of the ways in which social movements are gendered – gendered composition, gendered goals, gendered tactics, gendered identities, and gendered attributions. Second, they explore the processes by which movements are or become gendered. Finally, the implications for social movement outcomes are discussed with a focus on the “double bind” faced by movements attached to femininity. The authors write that gender in a social movement may be beneficial or detrimental to its goals and legitimacy. Social movements from the United States, Europe and Latin America are used for illustration. They conclude by calling for more gendered analyses of social movements.

Also see: Verta Taylor and Nancy Whittier edited two special issues on Gender and Social Movements. Part 1: Vol. 12, No. 6 (Dec., 1998), pp. 622-625. Part 2: Vol. 13, No. 1 (February 1999).

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 Jennifer L. Bronson, Howard University, Department of Sociology. Updated by Jenny Lendrum, Wayne State University. Comments and suggestions contact gendsoc@oakland.edu.

The Beauty and Strength of Wonder Woman

By Francesca Tripodi

I recently took in a poignant guest lecture on hook-up culture by Lisa Wade. During the talk, Wade detailed the link between rape culture and hook-up culture. While hooking up encourages women to behave “like men,” it simultaneously creates an environment that rejects feminine traits (kindness, care, empathy). Since then I’ve continuously noticed how we celebrate women who display traditionally masculine characteristics (be aggressive! lean in!). But, we often do so in ways that devalue feminine attributes. It is with this framework in mind that I went to see Wonder Woman.

Donning my “feminist mama” sweatshirt, I expected to be underwhelmed given the mediocre reviews describing the film as just another boilerplate superhero movie. With my critical 3D glasses on, I understood why many were frustrated. Steven Trevor always has a protecting arm over Diana, even after she demonstrates that she’s indestructible. The persistence of the male gaze was also disappointing. I recognize the need to reflect Marston’s 1940’s creation, but expecting Diana to run through forests, scale mountains, and beat down villains in a sensible wedge was as laughable as Steven Trevor’s ridiculous assurance to the audience that his genitalia was “above average.” It is no coincidence that Wonder Woman’s strong but “sexy” image was the one chosen by Douglas to represent her concept of enlightened sexism nearly a decade ago.

At the same time, I think it is important to recognize the film’s strengths. The women cast as Amazonians are athletes in real life with muscular bodies that challenge anglocentric beauty ideals. Diana is a unique combination of sex appeal, acumen, and wit. She is fierce but nurturing, emboldened to take down Ares but driven by her desire to protect children. Her outfit choices are elegant but practical and she even managed to stash a sword in her stolen evening gown. Diana asserted confidence and ability while her male sidekicks over-promised and under-delivered. In short, Wonder Woman seems to encapsulate the kind of feminism Wade described as lost: embracing aggression and kindness, strength and beauty.

Given Diana’s character complexity, I find language lauding the film for its ability to break the curse of Catwoman” particularly offensive. Perhaps if Hollywood had chosen to produce Joss Whedon’s version of Wonder Woman, where Diana’s uses a “sexy dance” to thwart the villain, it might warrant a film comparison. After all, the Catwoman “plot” was a lurid focus on Halle Berry in a tight-fitting costume, a hypersexualized (de)evolution of a female protagonist. It tanked in the box office because, like most female characters in superhero films, Patience Phillips was a two-dimensional stereotype of femininity – meek, fickle, a tease. She had to “overcome” her feminine traits to succeed and used sex appeal as a weapon. Comparing the films conflates the presence of a female lead with the notion that both films were made for women. It’s like those who questioned if Clinton supporters might vote for McCain in 2008 because he put Palin on the ticket. Having a woman lead doesn’t mean women’s interests are being considered.

Despite these attempts at male wish fulfillment, Wonder Woman’s success was not due to men aged 15-25. Unlike other superhero flicks, Wonder Woman’s audience was roughly 52 percent women, and women and older audience viewers continue to build its momentum. When the Alamo Drafthouse risked litigation to host an all-female screening it sold out so quickly it added more women-only events to respond to the demand. Nevertheless, the comparison to Catwoman persists as does the dominant narrative that films outside of the Captain America framework are a “gamble.”  Ignoring the success of films like Wonder Woman (Arrival or Get Out or Moonlight) allows executives to deflect the fact that most “flops” were made with an exclusively white, heterosexual, male audience in mind (I’m looking at you Cowboys & Aliens).  Yet celebrating Wonder Woman as a “triumph,” allows us to pretend that similar female protagonists dominate the screen instead of calling more attention to the fact that women still only accounted for 32 percent of all speaking roles in 2015 or that non-white actors are continuously overlooked at the Oscars.

wonder-woman

Diana showcases a physical resilience seldom credited to women – let’s celebrate that. She encapsulates a kind of feminism that Wade rightfully notes is nearly nonexistent. Diana is a warrior who is agentic, driven, nurturing, protective, and merciful. She exhibits masculine strength without having to cast aside her feminine traits.  She voices concern for those who cannot protect themselves but she is a trained killer. By labeling Wonder Woman not feminist enough we overlook the crux of the problem: Wonder Woman’s empowerment narrative was likely tempered because Hollywood doesn’t really care about appealing to women. Highlighting the importance of Diana’s feminist dichotomy challenges Hollywood to build on that momentum and make a sequel without pandering to young, heterosexual, male audiences. In doing so, my hope is that in the future we have so many superheroes like Diana (strong because of their femininity, not strong despite it) that critics will have ample—and equivalent—characters for comparison.

Francesca Tripodi is a sociologist who studies how participatory media perpetuates systems of inequality. This year she is researching how partisan groups interact with media and the role community plays in legitimating what constitutes news and information as a postdoctoral scholar at Data & Society. Francesca would like to thank Caroline Jack and Tristan Bridges for their helpful feedback on this piece.

Moving Beyond the Gender Symmetry Debate: Ongoing Opportunities for IPV Research

By Wendi Johnson

One cannot begin to enumerate the number of articles, papers, and book chapters that have addressed the gender symmetry debate within the literature on intimate partner violence (IPV).  Yet the academic sparring between family and feminist scholars has led to a circular argument with no clear winner and has ultimately hindered progress on IPV research.  Thus, this entry will not be another weighing in of the debate, but instead I will focus on providing several suggestions to IPV researchers. While most of my comments are likely to reflect my quantitative orientation, by no means are they meant to exclude qualitative researchers.  I do not claim credit for any of these ideas, as they have been introduced previously in other outlets.  Rather, this is meant to simply serve as a reminder to myself and other IPV researchers of areas that could benefit from scholarly attention. Continue reading “Moving Beyond the Gender Symmetry Debate: Ongoing Opportunities for IPV Research”

No Place for a Feminist: Intersectionality and the Problem South

By Wanda Rushing

Each generation of feminism produces new questions, responses, debates and critiques. Yet, old perceptions of the South as no place for a feminist continue to dominate popular culture and negatively affect academic researchers. From my standpoint as a white southerner, a feminist, and a sociologist, I want to challenge perceptions about feminism and the South. I suggest using a framework that considers the importance of place or locality.  A place framework may potentially change understandings of social actors in particular places, not only in the American South but also in other regions. It also may affect perceptions and studies of feminism. Paying attention to intersectionality, region, and place offers an additional level of complexity and explanatory power for understanding gender, sexualities, and social movements, as well as southern feminism. Continue reading “No Place for a Feminist: Intersectionality and the Problem South”

Hints of the Coming of the Women’s Marches

By Jo Reger

As someone who studies the contemporary U.S. feminist movement, I should not have been surprised by the global outpouring of protests on January 21, 2017. After all, you could feel the rumblings coming during the Clinton-Trump campaign. The outright misogyny of Donald Trump’s casual evaluation of women, in contrast to the empowered women rhetoric of Hillary Clinton. Emotions were running high, insults were being flung, and once agreeable neighbors began to argue with each other’s choice of yard signs.

Reger-Hints-of-the-Coming-of-Womens-Marches

But stepping back from the heat of those moments, there were seeds planted for the global spread of women’s marches long before Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton threw their hats in the electoral ring.  Drawing on the old adage “hindsight is twenty-twenty,” I offer a few examples that offered hints of the women’s marches to come: Continue reading “Hints of the Coming of the Women’s Marches”