program will examine sex and gender from several perspectives, including
biology, evolution, sociology, psychology, and anthropology. In the
first quarter we will focus on prevailing theories of evolution and
gender. What is sex for? What is gender for? In sexual species only
half of the individuals produce offspring, so they should be at a
competitive disadvantage relative to asexual species. Yet sex is virtually
ubiquitous in biology—what is its evolutionary function? Human
societies have developed many ways to mark and accentuate sexual differences.
What are the social functions of gender? How are gender differences
constructed and how have they changed over time and across cultures?
What role has scientific discourse played in the development of gender
roles and attitudes? In the second quarter we will focus on contemporary
controversies around sexual orientation, sex roles, biology, and gender
identity with particular emphasis on family and intimate relations.
Credit will be awarded in Gender and Society (4 Credits) and in Evolutionary
Biology (4 Credits)
Class fee: $10
the principles and processes of evolution by natural selection
the evolutionary function of sex, the variation in sexual systems,
and their relationship with individual and social behavior
an understanding of the social construction of femininity and masculinity,
particularly the role of verbal and non-verbal communication in
maintaining and challenging gender norms.
skilled at evaluating biological and sociological accounts of gendered
familiar with the sociological concept of Patriarchy.
awareness of sex and gender variability within and across cultures.
the fundamental principles of statistical reasoning and interpretation.
ethical issues related to historical and contemporary social uses
of genetic research and theories of evolution.
Seminar Questions/Comments. Write one or two questions
or comments pertaining to each week’s readings. These should be
conceptual questions that stimulate discussion and aim for a broader
synthesis of ideas discussed in this program. Bring your questions and
comments (typed) to class each week.
2) Genetics questions. Work out some simple problems
illustrating patterns of inheritance, the genetic structure of populations,
and the consequences of mutations.
3 ) Communication “Experiment.” After
learning about masculine and feminine communication norms, try communicating
with others using a “gender specific” communication behavior
that you typically do not use. Write a 5-6 page paper describing your
experiment and analyzing the communication behavior using social constructivist
and evolutionary biologist argumentation. What did you change, what
did you predicted would happen, what, if anything, was different about
your interactions when you used the new communication behavior (in
comparison to your typical behavior), and how did you feel when using
the new behavior? The paper should also attempt to explain why the
selected communication behavior might be associated with one sex/gender
more often than another. How would you explain the sex difference
using the arguments of biological determinism? How would you explain
the difference using the arguments of cultural determinism?
4) In-class Quiz. Respond to brief questions about
readings and primary course concepts.
5) In-class Writing Experience™. Write a short
essay drawing on knowledge and skills acquired throughout the quarter.
6) Group Research Paper and Oral Presentation. Analyze
a cultural gender norm using concepts introduced in class. The research
paper should describe both biological and social manifestations of
the cultural norm, analyze its possible evolutionary and systemic
social functions, evaluate competing explanations of the norm, and
discuss the social implications of your analysis (including implications
for individual responsibility or social change).
Because we all learn from each other, it is vital that students participate
in seminar, be prepared to share out-of-class work, and take equal
responsibility for completing group projects in a conscientious manner.
It is also important for students to reflect on their participation
in relation to other students and strive to improve both their listening
skills and their speaking skills.
Privacy: While this program is not a support group, we should
recognize that given the nature of the material, there may be individuals
among us who wish to expand their understanding of these issues for
personal reasons. In order to facilitate the open exchange of ideas
and perspectives, we expect that all participants when outside of
class will refrain from discussing information about other participants
unless all potentially identifying information is omitted. Nevertheless,
all participants should recognize that there is no way that the faculty
can ensure confidentiality.
Credit and Evaluation Criteria: In order to receive full
credit for this course, students must attend every class, come to
class prepared, participate in seminar, equitably contribute to group
projects, and meet the minimum standards for satisfactory completion
of all assignments. Receiving full credit does not guarantee a positive
evaluation (mediocre work will receive a mediocre evaluation). Credit
may be reduced for unexcused absences (including partial day absences).
Please notify Kevin or Lori as soon as possible (preferably in advance)
should any circumstances arise that interfere with your ability to
meet these criteria for credit and evaluation.