Gender Studies is a field of academic study devoted to gender identity, sexuality, race, women’s struggles, disability, and nationality. These topics are usually studied in literature, language, history, political science, sociology, anthropology, film, media studies, human development, law, and medicine.
Gender studies uses the concept of gender to analyze a wide range of disciplines. Although many aspects of gender studies are influenced and inspired by feminism, there exists a broad variety of theoretical approaches. Gender studies includes women's and men's studies, as well as gay and lesbian studies.¹
Famous philosopher and feminist Simone de Beauvoir once said that “one is not born a woman, but becomes one”.² This quote implies that gender should be associated with masculinities and femininities, not a person’s sex.
After women achieved the right to vote in the United States near the beginning of the 20th century, a push for more equal rights began until it reached its climax during the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s. However, the beginning of women's rights movements dates back to 1848 to the signing of a Declaration of Sentiments, which outlined grievances and set the agenda for women's movements.³
Sub-studies of gender studies:
- Women’s Studies is devoted to exploring areas related to women, feminism, gender, and politics. It includes feminist theory, women’s health, women’s history, and social history. Women’s studies is taught in many post-secondary institutions and took root in the 1980s and 1990s after the women’s liberation movement.
- Men’s Rights are far more controversial. Men’s studies, by definition, is the study of masculinity, men, gender, and politics. However, unlike women’s studies, men’s studies is a reaction to the rise of women’s studies, where men feel as though a double standard has been created. Men’s rights is a movement against feminism, which disregards the 3 waves of feminism.
Gender Studies also investigates the actual physical and biological differences between women and men, but critically investigates the differences in a socio-cultural context.⁴
Gender is a classifying principle in society and culture. It is also a strong discriminating tool in labor, healthcare, income, education, and disease.⁴ An example of gender as a classifying tool is whether the colors blue or pink are male or female colors, respectively. Social and cultural gender patterns are internalized to an extent where self-image is determined by a person’s biological sex.⁴
It is important to understand how race, gender, and sexuality all intersect and influence each other. For example, an individual is not only black, but could be black, female, and homosexual, all of which affect her experiences within society.
1. Whitman College. Gender Studies. Retrieved May 1, 2014, from http://www.whitman.edu/academics/courses-of-study/gender-studies
2. Philosophy & Philosophers. Simone de Beauvoir. Retrieved May 1, 2014, from http://www.the-philosophy.com/de-beauvoir-born-woman
3. infoplease. Women's Rights Movements in the U.S. Retreived May 1, 2014, from http://www.infoplease.com/spot/womenstimeline1.html
4. Institute fro Gender Studies. What is gender studies? Retrieved May 1, 2014, from http://www.ru.nl/genderstudies/english/institute_for_gender/what_is_gender/