Learning Gender

Gender study is an interdisciplinary researching practice, which uses the cognitive abilities of the social sex (gender) theory for analyzing social phenomenon and its evolution.

In 1958, American psychoanalyst Robert Stoller had invented the term “gender” (as a social display of reference to the sex or as a “social sex”) into the science (Stoller 24). In 1968, he appeared in the congress of psychoanalysts in Stockholm and presented a speech considering the notion of gender self-identity. His idea was based on separation of “biological” and “cultural”. The sex research, according to Stoller, is an objective area of biology and physiology, while the gender analysis can be regarded as an objective area of research for the psychologists and sociologists and for the analysis of the culture-historical phenomenon. Stoller’s offer to separate biological and cultural gave an incentive for the formation of a special direction in the modern humane learning – gender studies.

Thanks to the appearance and development of the gender studies, sex is now regarded as an instrument of social determination and stratification (at the level of class, ethnos, religious denomination, culture). The actual social problems such as power, violence, self-identity, and freedom are connected with an accessory to the definite sex. The problems of human essence, sense and mission have appeared thanks to the gender studies the gender dimension. They are connected with the socio-sexual (gender) roles of each individual and exist in the society as well as discrimination according to the sex characteristics (Momsen 132).

Gender learning is connected with the women’s studies. Appearance of the “women’s topic” in the modern human studies refers to the late 60-s. The socio-political context of the women’s studies was based on the liberal ideas (emancipation, equality, autonomy, progress), which have found reflection into the youth movement of the late sixties, revolution of the New Left, and the sexual revolution. As a result, women have won more than men, which led to the “second wave” of feminism, connected with the sexual revolution.

Theoretical analysis of sex relationship reflected the feministic goals, which were changed in comparison with the goals of the nineteenth century and “the first wave” of the feministic movement Moreover, they have evolved from the fight for the equal rights to the fight for the equal abilities for women, from “the feminism of equality” to “the feminism of differences”. In other words, it was a demand to admin the peculiarity of the female social experience (Borstein 25). The Sixties Women of the XX century aimed at creation of an autonomous and free female personality.

The disputes concerning this aim had made the genetics, psychologists, anthropologists, ethnologists, philosophers, historians, sociologists and philologists start the research on the “women theme”. In 1970, in France, the appearance of “The Movement for the Woman’s Liberation” has led to the appearance of the first feministic magazines. The similar process started in the USA, where a large edition of such magazines as “Signs”, “Feminist Studies”, and  “Women’s Studies Quarterly” has appeared in a relatively short time. The rise of neofeminism influenced the intellectual field: the scientists of Europe and the USA have started to choose a woman as an object of their researches. The woman’s roles in a family, at work, in the system of law and education, in the spheres of science, politics, literature and arts were regarded. The first special course of study considering the history of “women’s movement” was lectured in Seattle, in 1965. In the late sixties, the special courses “about women” were also lectured in Washington, Portland, Richmond, and Sacramento. In 1970, the explorer from the Cornell University, Sheila Tobias, had offered a generalizing nomination for all these special courses – Female Studies. A team of the social studies professors (psychologists, sociologists, historians), headed by Tobias, lectured the interdisciplinary course “Female Personality” in the same university. Simultaneously, the “female” program of students’ education was founded in the University of San-Diego. Sheila Tobias has organized the edition of the “Female Studies”, which published the courses’ program, the list of literature and was aimed at experience exchange among the professors, interested in the women’s studies. In the same year, in Baltimore, the publishing house “Feminist Press” was established by Florence How and Pall Lawter. It has played a great role in the advocacy of the scientific knowledge of sex mutual relations.

In the end of the 60-s and at the beginning of the 70-s, gender learning appeared in many universities of the USA and Europe. The historians were recovering the forgotten names of those who contributed to the cultural development. The theorists of literature were taking up the exclusiveness of imaginative and verbal style of women writers. The pedagogues were raising a question concerning the particularities of boys’ and girls’ nurture. The psychologists were applying to the earlier known but slightly forgotten classical works written by women. The sociologists were trying to display the difference between the males’ and females’ social roles and the demographical effects arising under them. In their works, the term “gender” was correlated only with a female experience and was used considering social, cultural or psychological aspects of woman’s norms, stereotypes, social roles in comparison to those of man’s (Walby 49). These researches, which were published in the 70s, were called “gender”. The “Women Studies” were held by the female scientists, who had a feministic life-position. They also could be named “Female Studies”, “Feminist Studies” or “Women’s Studies”. On this stage, the gender studies were a scientific movement without a center and a leader; there were also no common style and goal. Its devotees did not want to analogize with the representatives of the “male science”, full of competition, leadership and hierarchy. To avoid this and reach more unity, the feminologists offered to subscribe collectively for the scientific magazines and keep diaries with personal reflections.

The second stage of gender learning development is appearance of the “men studies” (or andrology) in 1980s. It was a reply on the enforcement of the feministic movement and aspiration of the “Women Studies” devotees to explore the intersex relationship. What is more, the reframe of male’s gender role can be mentioned as one of the reasons of appearance of the “Men Studies”  Limitation and ambition to destroy the sex-role stereotypes are the themes identified in public conversations on the wave of the sexual revolution development and success of the sex affirmation surgery (Chant 122). 

The “Men Studies” were trying to determine the main stages of formation of the masculinity conception, potential depressions and deviations, particularities of the mechanism of sex formation. They also tried to offer the variants of negotiation the inclemency of male’s gender role (especially through the so-called “new parenthood”, when both parents take active part in their child nurturing). This kind of studies has become high-demanded not only from the academic point, but also by different organizations that fought against gender bias and were gays’ and lesbians’, transsexuals’ and  bisexuals’ rights defenders. 

The third stage of gender learning, the stage of unity and separation, refers to the end of the 90s. At that period, a word “gender” meant the system of relationship, which was a base of the society, according to the sex characteristics (Jackson and Scott 47). The content of gender researches has expanded and included the problems of masculinity and sexuality. After unifying men’s and women’s studies, the gender studies have become an acknowledged part of the educational programs in the century of higher education institutions (600 colleges in 34 states) and independent faculties in 30 universities of the USA. More than 300 programs of undergraduate education were found in the field of “Women and Gender Studies”. The holders of the master’s degree were trained, and the PhD degree appeared for those who study this science.

The gender researches of the epoch of modernization, which were started in the late 90s, are still essential nowadays. Moreover, gender learning has become an admitted movement of the humane science development not only in the USA but also in the countries of Africa, Asia, South Europe and in Russia. Such a progress is connected with an increasing attention to the worldwide women’s problems. Nowadays, the regular international summer or winter schools, institutes, conferences, congresses that are held by the different women’s organizations draw a huge audience. The educational programs have gained a global orientation, especially those that are aimed at the Third World countries. They lay an emphasis on the political points, problems of discrimination of women and sexual minorities on the labor market, problems of militarism, refugees, reproductive rights, and family.

The principles of modern gender learning are based on the open recognition of personal bias of a scientist and on his participation in the movement of gender equality. The gender studies of the XX-XXI centuries were mentioned by the official government (at least in the USA). The courses of activity of the local, federative and central authorities, such as gender inspection of the legislation and activism of political representatives, have appeared under their influence.

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