Portal:Gender studies

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Gender studies is a field of interdisciplinary study which analyzes the phenomenon of gender. It examines both cultural representations of gender and people's lived experiences. Gender Studies is sometimes related to studies of class, race, ethnicity and location.

The philosopher Simone de Beauvoir said: “One is not born a woman, one becomes one.” In Gender Studies the term "gender" is used to refer to the social and cultural constructions of masculinities and femininities. It does not refer to biological difference, but rather cultural difference. The field emerged from a number of different areas: the sociology of the 1950s and later (see Sociology of gender); the theories of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan; and the work of feminists such as Judith Butler. Each field came to regard "gender" as a practice, sometimes referred to as something that is performative. (Full article...)


Gender identity is a person's private sense, and subjective experience, of their own gender. This is generally described as one's private sense of being a man or a woman, consisting primarily of the acceptance of membership into a category of people: male or female. All societies have a set of gender categories that can serve as the basis of the formation of a social identity in relation to other members of society. In most societies, there is a basic division between gender attributes assigned to males and females. In all societies, however, some individuals do not identify with some (or all) of the aspects of gender that are assigned to their biological sex. (Full article...)

Selected article

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792), written by the eighteenth-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to the educational and political theorists of the eighteenth century who wanted to deny women an education. She argues that women ought to have an education commensurate with their position in society, claiming that women are essential to the nation because they educate its children and because they could be "companions" to their husbands, rather than mere wives. Instead of viewing women as ornaments to society or property to be traded in marriage, Wollstonecraft maintains that they are human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men.

Wollstonecraft was prompted to write the Rights of Woman by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord's 1791 report to the French National Assembly which stated that women should only receive a domestic education; she used her commentary on this specific event to launch a broad attack against sexual double standards and to indict men for encouraging women to indulge in excessive emotion. Wollstonecraft wrote the Rights of Woman hurriedly in order to respond directly to ongoing events; she intended to write a more thoughtful second volume, but she died before completing it.

While Wollstonecraft does call for equality between the sexes in particular areas of life, such as morality, she does not explicitly state that men and women are equal. Her ambiguous statements regarding the equality of the sexes have since made it difficult to classify Wollstonecraft as a modern feminist, particularly since the word and the concept were unavailable to her. Although it is commonly assumed now that the Rights of Woman was unfavourably received, this is a modern misconception based on the belief that Wollstonecraft was as reviled during her lifetime as she became after the publication of William Godwin's Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798). The Rights of Woman was actually well-received when it was first published in 1792. One biographer has called it "perhaps the most original book of [Wollstonecraft's] century".

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Selected biography

Elspeth Probyn (born 1958) is the Professor of Gender Studies at the University of Sydney. She received her Doctorate in Communications from Concordia University, 1989. She lectures and publishes in fields including cultural studies, media studies and sociology, with a particular focus on food, sexuality and the body. She also writes a fortnightly column in the Higher Education Supplement section of national newspaper The Australian. She has previously taught in Canada and the USA, and is of Welsh and Canadian background.

She was elected an Ordinary Member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 2002.

Topics

Women's studies:
Female educationFeminine psychologyFemininityFeminismFeminist movementGirlHuman female sexualityMatriarchyMisogynyViolence against womenWomanismWomen's historyWomen's rights
Men's studies:
AndrocentrismBoyHuman male sexualityMale privilegeMasculine psychologyMasculinityMasculismMen's liberationMen's movementMen's rightsMisandryNon-westernized concepts of male sexualityPatriarchy
In society:
Division of labourEqualityIdentityInequalityGender-neutralityGender rolePassingPrescriptions regarding gender rolesSociology of gender
Theories:
Feminist theoryGender binaryGender performativityQueer theorySex and gender distinction
Gender variance:
AndrogynyAtypical gender roleChildhood gender nonconformityCisgenderCross-dressingDragGender identity disorderGenderqueerThird genderTransgenderTranssexual

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WollstonecraftVindicationWomanTitle.jpg

Title page from the first edition of Rights of Woman

Did you know?

...that the Gender Empowerment Measure is a tool used by the United Nations Development Programme to measure inequalities between men and women?
...that, by 1980, most feminist writings had agreed on using the word "gender" only for socioculturally adapted traits?
...that Cicero wrote that "a man's chief quality is courage"?
...that many historical soldiers engaged in crossdressing during wartime?

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