Gender and Society (Section 1) [CRN 77125]

Discipline: Sociology
Instructor: Ferguson
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 0800
End: 0920
Field Work: Day 1 - Monday, 3 October | Spain
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

Gender is both an object of study and a critical lens through which we analyze our world. Like race and social class, gender also is a social construct, and this course will explore what it means to say gender is a social construction. In addition to social constructionism, this course considers other theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions of current sociological scholarship on gender. Moreover, since both sex and gender are contested categories in our society, a sociological lens will help clarify the ways in which sex and gender are social phenomena that change over time and vary across cultures.

Three additional frames will inform our study of sex and gender. First, gender will be examined at a micro-level because gender organizes and shapes our everyday lives. Gender is performative; it is experienced; and it is in flux. A critical question we will contemplate is: how does gender shape women’s, men’s, and transgendered individuals’ lives? A second frame is studying gender at the macro-level, which means viewing gender as a system of social stratification. We will explore how gender inequalities are revealed through social patterns, and how the gender system is both reproduced and challenged through the link between interpersonal experiences and social structures. A third critical frame for understanding gender is intersectionality, and where appropriate, we will deliberate on the intersections between gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, and social class.

Possible topics for this course include: the social construction of gender; doing gender and theories of performativity; intersectionality; queering the sociology of gender; situated knowledge; masculinity and men’s studies; gender and emotion; gender and identity; gender and social institutions; gendered violence; gender and the body; and gender in national and global contexts.

Course Objectives

  1. Understand what is meant by saying gender is a social construction
  2. Understand how sociologists define and study sex and gender
  3. Explain how gender manifests itself in both global and U.S. contexts
  4. Distinguish between the micro-level of identity and the macro-level of social structure
  5. Describe the relationships between gender and social stratification
  6. Articulate why intersectionality is central to a sociological understanding of gender

Field Work

Country: Spain
Day: 1 - Monday, 3 October

Contemporary Western/affluent industrialized nations increasingly feature low-income single mothers with children, a family pattern that might seem to stem from personal troubles and/or individual choices, but have their roots in the interplay of gender, the state, and the market.  A number of different factors contribute to the proliferation of these kinds of families; in the United States, these include:  how women and men conceive of their care work responsibilities; how employers, state policies, and the court system institutionalize particular models of gendered obligations at work and at home (and punish those who diverge from these models); how gender-based violence and kinship systems can shore up inequalities between men and women; how increasing incarceration and the evisceration of stable jobs for men with high school degrees have led to men’s decreasing attachment to families; how low-income women view children as a sign of conventional adulthood responsibility but marriage as a capstone event signaling financial and relationship stability.  Yet these families also involve special challenges, including how to simultaneously care for and provide for young children.  What are the most important factors generating Spain’s single mothers, and how does that country handle its neediest cases?  What is the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in their support? In this field class, we will visit the Fundacio Mario Raventos, an NGO that for more than sixty years has been dedicated to helping single mothers without resources, who are “at risk of social exclusion” and in need of help. We will meet with the NGO’s current president, who will explain the group’s current projects and how they try to help women suffering from difficult circumstances.  We will then eat lunch in a local vegetarian restaurant.  Finally, we will cap off the field class with a walking visit to Barcelona’s famous market, La Boqueria, passing through Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter (sites where the state has an express interest in enabling tourism), and where we will observe gender, the state, and the market in action. Learning objectives:

  1. Read and reflect upon the multiple factors generating both the proliferation and the experience of low-income single mothers in advanced industrialized countries;
  2. Observe the efforts of one enduring NGO focusing on women in need, evaluating the way they analyze and conceive of how and why the women are there, and how best to help them;
  3. Observe instances of gender on the Barcelona street, at tourism sites, and at La Boqueria market.
  4. Evaluate the interplay of gender, the state, and the market for different sub-groups in Spain.