Fall & Winter Quarters 8 credits
Saturday 9 am—5 pm SemII:E1105

Lori Blewett
Office B2127 Seminar II
Mailbox B2124 Seminar II
Tel. 360
867 6590 

Karen Hogan
Office B3110 Seminar II
Mailbox B2124 Seminar II
Tel. 360 867-5078

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Program description



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This two-quarter 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

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the principles and processes of evolution by natural selection
  • Understand the evolutionary function of sex, the variation in sexual systems, and their relationship with individual and social behavior
  • Develop 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.
  • Become skilled at evaluating biological and sociological accounts of gendered human behavior.
  • Become familiar with the sociological concept of Patriarchy.
  • Increase awareness of sex and gender variability within and across cultures.
  • Understand the fundamental principles of statistical reasoning and interpretation.
  • Address ethical issues related to historical and contemporary social uses of genetic research and theories of evolution.


1) 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.

: 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.