Gender Studies

Director: Suzanne Morrissey, Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies
Susanne Beechey, Politics
Jack Jackson, Politics
Kristen Kosmas, Theatre, (on Sabbatical, Fall 2014)
Lydia McDermott, General Studies/Writing Center
Melissa M. Wilcox, Gender Studies and Religion
Zahi Zalloua, French and Interdisciplinary Studies (on Sabbatical, Fall 2014)

Gender Studies Department Website »

Gender studies courses focus upon gender identity and gendered representation as central categories of analysis. Gender studies uses the concept of gender to analyze a wide range of disciplines. Although many lines of argumentation in gender studies are inspired by feminism, a broad variety of theoretical approaches are used to study the categories of gender. Gender studies includes women’s studies, men’s studies, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender studies.

Distribution: Courses completed in gender studies apply to the cultural pluralism distribution area.

Learning Goals: Upon graduation, a student will be able to:

  • Major-Specific Areas of Knowledge
    • Demonstrate knowledge of gender studies methods and content in history, humanities, social sciences, theory, and global context. Understand and apply feminist theory, queer theory, and men's and masculinity studies. Demonstrate knowledge and appreciation of human diversity. Demonstrate knowledge of different approaches to a single issue within gender studies. Understand the role of intersectionality in the gendered realities of human life.
  • Communication
    • Demonstrate ability to write clearly, expressively, and creatively. Demonstrate ability to discuss and verbally defend academic ideas.
  • Critical Thinking
    • Demonstrate ability to apply gender studies theories to new problems. Apply critical perspectives on gender and sexuality to situations beyond the context of Whitman College.
  • After College 
    • Demonstrate adequate preparation for graduate-level work.

The Gender Studies major: All gender studies majors must take Gender Studies 100, Gender Studies 490, and Gender Studies 497 or 498. Gender studies majors must complete at least 28 additional credits; at least 12 of these additional credits must be at the 300 to 400 level. Students will work closely with an adviser to select courses, which meet the following two criteria:

At least one course must be taken in each of the following five areas: gender studies in global context (e.g., Anthropology 358, History 325, Politics 359, General Studies 245), history (e.g., History 300, History 325, Classics 140), humanities (e.g., Religion 358, Rhetoric Studies 240), social sciences (e.g., Anthropology 358, Politics 357, Psychology 239, Sociology 258), theory (e.g., Politics 328, Philosophy 235). Courses that fulfill the global context requirement may also fulfill other area requirements.

At least three courses at or above the 200 level must be closely related in topic or methodology. This concentration can be achieved by taking three courses from one department (e.g., history) or by taking three courses with the same focus (e.g., Latin America) from different departments. In all courses, the student’s work should focus on issues of gender, even if the course itself is not a gender studies course. Before preregistration for the senior year the major adviser must agree that the student has proposed an acceptable means of meeting the concentration requirement.

A course in biology (e.g., Biology 120 or 125) is recommended. Students considering graduate programs are strongly advised to complete a minor in a related discipline (e.g., anthropology, history, politics, psychology, sociology).

In the final semester the student must pass a senior assessment consisting of a senior thesis and an approximately one-and-a-half-hour oral examination, which will include questions concerning the thesis and coursework taken for the major.

No more than 12 credits earned in off-campus programs and transfer credit, nor more than four credits in independent study, may be used to satisfy the gender studies major requirements. Students who enter Whitman with no prior college-level coursework in gender studies would need to complete 40 credits to fulfill the requirements for the gender studies major.

The Gender Studies minor: A minimum of 20 credits to include Gender Studies 100 and at least four hours of coursework at the 100 or 200 levels and at least eight hours at the 300 or 400 levels. The student, in consultation with a gender studies adviser, will plan a program which will meet requirements of special interest and intellectual coherence, and will include courses in the social sciences, humanities and, when possible, the sciences.

The following courses are available for a gender studies major or minor. GC (global context), Hi (history), Hu (humanities), SS (social sciences), or Th (theory) indicates the cluster area within the major to which a course may be applied.

Anthropology 358 (GC, SS), Sex and Gender in Anthropological Perspective
Classics 140 (Hi), Gender in Greece and Rome
Classics 200A (Hi), ST: Mothers, Witches, and Nymphs: Concepts of Women and Nature in the Ancient World
Economics 345 (SS), Political Economy of Women
English 387 B/Rhetoric Studies 377 (Th), ST: Rhetorical Bodies
Film and Media Studies 220 (Hu), Identity, Gender, and Media
French 401 (GC, Th), French Feminism
French 427 (GC, Hu), Subjectivity and Otherness in Medieval and Renaissance Literature
History 254 (Hi), The Social History of Stuff: Power, Technology, and Meaning in the United States from the Cotton Gin to the Internet
History 300 (GC, Hi), Gender in Chinese History
History 319 (GC, Hi) Women in Africa
History 325 (GC, Hi), Women and Gender in Islamic Societies
History 370 (Hi), Gendered Lens on U.S. History
History 393 (Hi), Gender and Sexuality in the Middle Ages
Music 354 (Hu), Women as Composers
Philosophy 235 (Th), Philosophy of Feminism
Philosophy 332 (Hu), Reproduction
Politics 100 (SS), Introduction to Race, Gender, and the Politics of the Body
Politics 236 (GC, SS), Concepts of the Political in Southeast Asia: An Introduction
Politics 254 (SS), Gender and Race in Law and Policy
Politics 307 (Th), Political Theory and the Body Politic
Politics 311 (SS), Deservingness in U.S. Social Policy
Politics 325 (SS), Queer Politics and Policy
Politics 328 (Th), Contemporary Feminist Theories
Politics 337 (GC, SS), Globalizing Southeast Asia
Politics 351 (GC, SS), Necropower and the Politics of Violence
Politics 359 (GC, SS), Gender and International Hierarchy
Politics 365 (SS), Political Economy of Care/Work
Psychology 239 (SS), Psychology of Women and Gender
Psychology 309 (SS), Science of Sexual Orientation
Religion 287 (Hu), Queer Religiosities
Religion 358 (Hu), Feminist and Liberation Theologies
Religion 359 (Hu), Gender, Body, and Religion
Rhetoric Studies 240 (Hu), Rhetorical Explorations: Race, Class and Gender
Rhetoric Studies 247 (SS), ST: The Rhetoric of Work
Rhetoric Studies 341/Sociology 341 (Hu), The Rhetoric of Hip Hop
Rhetoric Studies 353 (Hu), The Rhetoric of Civil Rights: From the Courts to the Streets
Rhetoric Studies 378 (Th), ST: Rhetoric, Politics & Post-Modernity
Rhetoric Studies 379 (Th), ST: Queer Theory in Rhetorical Studies
Sociology 257 (SS), Sociology of the Family
Sociology 258 (SS), Gender and Society
Sociology 287 (SS), Sociology of the Body
Spanish 411 (GC, Hu), Desperate Housewives: Feminism in Latin American Fiction
Spanish 439 (GC, Hu), The Horror, the horror: Gore, Sex, and Politics in Peninsular Film and Literature
Spanish 450 (GC, Hu), Night Chicas: Sex Workers in Film from Spain, Mexico, and Brazil
Spanish 455 (GC, Hu), Vagos y maleantes: Queer Iberian Literature and Film
SSRA 328 (SS), Women and Sport
World Literature 343 (GC, Hu) Women Writers in Imperial China: In Search of the “Real” Female Voice
World Literature 395 (Th), Contemporary Literary Theory

Please check the Gender Studies website for updates to this list and for information about gender studies courses offered in alternate years.

Note: A course cannot be used to satisfy both major and minor requirements, e.g., History 370 cannot be used to apply toward the 38-credit requirement for the gender studies major and history minor or vice versa.

100 Introduction to Gender Studies
x, 4 Wilcox, Zalloua

This interdisciplinary course is designed to introduce students, particularly those intending to complete a gender studies major or minor, to questions in which gender is a significant category of analysis. Topics will include the construction of gender identity and sexuality and the relationship of gender to past and present social and cultural institutions, gendered representations in the arts and literature, and feminist and related theoretical approaches to various disciplines. Open to first- and second-year students; others by consent of instructor.

110-119 Special Topics

This course explores selected topics in gender studies. Any current offerings follow.

238 Men and Masculinities
4, x Wilcox

From A-Rod to Arnold, Obama to O’Reilly, masculinity is presented and represented in a variety of ways in the contemporary United States. Across cultures and historical periods, this variety becomes even greater. This class focuses on the task of analyzing hegemonic and counter-hegemonic masculinities. Students will undertake a critical, interdisciplinary examination of the social construction of men and masculinities in multiple cultural and historical contexts.

291, 292 Independent Study
1-4, 1-4 Staff

Discussion and directed reading on a topic of interest to the individual student. The project must be approved by the staff. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

300-309 Special Topics

This course explores selected topics in gender studies. Any current offerings follow.

326 The Femme Fatale: the Question of “Woman” in Modern Japanese Fiction
4; not offered 2014-15

Women have often been represented as idealized, seductive, and dangerous femme fatales in Japanese literature. In this course we shall trace and analyze various literary configurations of femme fatales specifically in the context of late 19th-century and 20th-century Japan. The questions we shall engage with will include: what are the implications of the femme fatale in the construction of male subjectivity and what constitutes a modern subject? We shall also investigate how some literary works, particularly those written by women writers, offer understandings of female subjectivity that are irreducible to an idealized object of male desire or to a marginalized figure lacking full-fledged selfhood. The writers whose works we will read include Mori Ôgai, Izumi Kyôka, Tanizaki Jun’ichirô, Kawabata Yasunari, and Enchi Fumiko. We will bring primary works of fiction into dialogue with supplementary critical and theoretical materials. May be elected as World Literature 326.

328 Queer Studies
4; not offered 2014-15

Queer studies, in the guise of queer theory, developed in the early 1990s out of the conjunction of feminist theory, sexuality studies, and queer activism. This course introduces students to some of the key authors and texts in queer theory, as well as the next generation of works that brought about the establishment of queer studies as a field. It is recommended that students who take this class have previous college-level exposure to theoretical writing in either the humanities or the social sciences. Applies to theory area requirement.

333 Feminist and Queer Legal Theory
x, 4 J. Jackson

Broadly, this is a course on gender, sexuality, and the law. More particularly, this course will 1) explore the relationship between queer theoretical and feminist theoretical projects and will 2) consider how these projects engage legal doctrines and norms. In question form: Where do feminist and queer theories intersect? Where do they diverge? How do these projects conceive of the law in conjunction with their political ends? How have these projects shifted legal meanings and rules? How have the discourses of legality reconfigured these political projects? These explorations will be foregrounded by legal issues such as marriage equality, sexual harassment, workers’ rights, and privacy. Theoretically, the course will engage with issues such as identity, rights, the state, cultural normalization, and capitalist logics. We will read legal decisions and political theory in this course. May be elected as Politics 333.

490 Senior Seminar
4, x Morrissey

Taught by a gender studies faculty member with guest participation by others, this seminar is intended to engage senior majors in sustained discussion of contemporary gender issues. Readings, discussion, and papers, including a proposal for the thesis. Required of and limited to senior gender studies majors. Fall degree candidates should plan to take this seminar at the latest possible opportunity.

491, 492 Independent Study
1-4, 1-4 Staff

Directed study and research on a topic of interest to the individual student. The project must be approved by the staff. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

497 Thesis
4, x Morrissey

Completion of a thesis based on the previous semester’s plan.

498 Honors Thesis
x, 4 Staff

Completion of an honors thesis. Required of and limited to senior honors candidates in gender studies. Prerequisite: admission to honors candidacy.