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Gender studies is a field of interdisciplinary study which analyzes the phenomenon of gender. Gender Studies is sometimes related to studies of class, race, ethnicity, sexuality and location.[1]

The philosopher Simone de Beauvoir said: “One is not born a woman, one becomes one.”[2] In Gender Studies the term "gender" is used to refer to the social and cultural constructions of masculinities and femininities. It does not refer to biological difference, but rather cultural difference.[3] The field emerged from a number of different areas: the sociology of the 1950s and later (see Sociology of gender); the theories of the psychoanalyst Jaques Lacan; and the work of feminists such as Judith Butler. Each field came to regard "gender" as a practice, sometimes referred to as something that is performative.[4] Feminist theory of psychoanalysis, articulated mainly by Julia Kristeva[5] (the "semiotic" and "abjection") and Bracha Ettinger[6] (the "matrixial trans-subjectivity" and the "primal mother-phantasies"), and informed both by Freud, Lacan and the Object relations theory, is very influential in Gender studies.

Studying gender[]

Studies of gender have been undertaken in many academic areas, such as literary theory, drama studies, film theory, performance theory, contemporary art history, anthropology, sociology, psychology and psychoanalysis. These disciplines sometimes differ in their approaches to how and why they study gender. For instance in anthropology, sociology and psychology, gender is often studied as a practice, whereas in cultural studies representations of gender are more often examined. Gender Studies is also a discipline in itself: an interdisciplinary area of study that incorporates methods and approaches from a wide range of disciplines.

Influences of gender studies[]

Gender studies and psychoanalytic theory[]

Sigmund Freud[]

Some feminist critics have dismissed the work of Sigmund Freud as sexist, because of his view that women are 'mutilated and must learn to accept their lack of a penis' (in Freud's terms a "deformity").[7] On the other hand, feminist theorists such as Juliet Mitchell, Nancy Chodorow, Jessica Benjamin, Jane Gallop, Bracha Ettinger, Shoshana Felman, Griselda Pollock[8] and Jane Flax have argued that psychoanalytic theory is vital to the feminist project and must, like other theoretical traditions, be adapted by women to free it from vestiges of sexism. Shulamith Firestone, in "Freudianism: The Misguided Feminism", discusses how Freudianism is almost completely accurate, with the exception of one crucial detail: everywhere that Freud writes "penis", the word should be replaced with "power".

Jacques Lacan[]

Lacan's theory of sexuation organizes femininity and masculinity according to different unconscious structures. Both male and female subjects participate in the "phallic" organization, and the feminine side of sexuation is "supplementary" and not opposite or complementary.[9] Sexuation (sexual situation) — the development of gender-roles and role-play in childhood — breaks down concepts of gender identity as innate or biologically determined.[10] Critics like Elizabeth Grosz accuse Jacques Lacan of maintaining a sexist tradition in psychoanalysis.[11] Others, such as Judith Butler and Jane Gallop have used Lacanian work to develop gender theory.[12][13]

Julia Kristeva[]

Main article: Julia Kristeva

Julia Kristeva has significantly developed the field of Semiotics. In her work on abjection, she structures subjectivity upon the abjection of the mother and argues that the way in which an individual excludes (or abjects) their mother as means of forming an identity is similar to the way in which societies are constructed. She contends that patriarchal cultures, like individuals, have had to exclude the maternal and the feminine so that they can come into being.[14]

Literary Theory[]

Psychoanalytically oriented French feminism focused on visual and literary theory all along. Virginia Woolf's legacy as well as "Adrienne Rich's call for women's revisions of literary texts, and history as well, has galvanized a generation of feminist authors to reply with texts of their own".[15] Griselda Pollock and other femininsts have articulated Myth and Poetry[16] and literature[17],[18],[19] from the point of view of gender.

Post-modern influence[]

The emergence of post-feminism affected gender studies,[10] causing a movement in theories identity away from the concept of fixed or essentialist gender identity, to post-modern[20] fluid or multiple identities .Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many

See Donna Haraway, The Cyborg Manifesto, as an example of post-identity feminism.

Visual Theory[]

The development of gender theory[]

History of gender studies[]

Women's studies[]

Main article: Women's Studies

Women's studies is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning women, feminism, gender, and politics. It often includes feminist theory, women's history (e.g. a history of women's suffrage) and social history, women's fiction, women's health, feminist psychoanalysis and the feminist and gender studies-influenced practice of most of the humanities and social sciences.

Men's studies[]

Main article: Men's studies

Men's studies is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning men, masculism, gender, and politics. It often includes masculist theory, men's history and social history, men's fiction, men's health, masculist psychoanalysis and the masculist and gender studies-influenced practice of most of the humanities and social sciences.

Judith Butler[]

Main article: Judith Butler

The concept of gender performativity is at the core of Butler's work, notably in Gender Trouble. In Butler’s terms the performance of gender, sex, and sexuality is about power in society. [4] She locates the construction of the "gendered, sexed, desiring subject" in "regulative discourses." A part of Butler's argument concerns the role of sex in the construction of "natural" or coherent gender and sexuality. In her account, gender and heterosexuality are constructed as natural because the opposition of the male and female sexes is constructed as natural.[4]


Template:Criticism section Rosi Braidotti has criticized gender studies as: "the take-over of the feminist agenda by studies on masculinity, which results in transferring funding from feminist faculty positions to other kinds of positions. There have been cases...of positions advertised as 'gender studies' being given away to the 'bright boys'. Some of the competitive take-over has to do with gay studies. Of special significance in this discussion is the role of the mainstream publisher Routledge who, in our opinion, is responsible for promoting gender as a way of deradicalizing the feminist agenda, re-marketing masculinity and gay male identity instead."[How to reference and link to summary or text] Calvin Thomas counters that, "as Joseph Allen Boone points out, 'many of the men in the academy who are feminism's most supportive 'allies' are gay,'" and that it is "disingenuous" to ignore the ways in which mainstream publishers such as Routledge have promoted feminist theorists.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Gender studies is criticized by Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young for being a discipline that "philosophizes, theorizes and politicizes on the nature of the female gender" as a social construct, to the point of excluding the male gender from analysis. They also claim that the 'gender' in gender studies is "routinely used as a synonym for 'women'.[21]

Historian and theorist Bryan Palmer argues that the current reliance on poststructuralism — with its reification of discourse and avoidance of the structures of oppression and struggles of resistance — obscures the origins, meanings, and consequences of historical events and processes, and he seeks to counter the current "gender studies" with an argument for the necessity to analyze lived experience and the structures of subordination and power.[22]

Theorists associated with gender studies[]

  • Michel Foucault
  • bell hooks
  • Audre Lorde
  • Kate Bornstein
  • Christine Delphy
  • Marie-Helene Bourcier
  • Gayle Rubin
  • Jeff Hearn
  • Anthony Giddens
  • Chantal Nadeau
  • Kaja Silverman
  • Sylvia Walby
  • Sarojini Sahoo
  • Karin Hausen

See also[]


  1. Healey, J. F. (2003). "Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Class : the Sociology of Group Conflict and Change".
  2. de Beauvoir, S. (1949, 1989). "The Second Sex".
  3. Garrett, S. (1992). "Gender", p. vii.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Butler, J. (1999). "Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity", 9. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "performativity of gender" defined multiple times with different content
  5. Anne-Marie Smith, Julia Kristeva: Speaking the Unspeakable (Pluto Press, 1988)
  6. Griselda Pollock, "Inscriptions in the Feminine" and "Introduction" to "The With-In-Visible Screen", in: Inside the Visible edited by Catherine de Zegher. MIT Press, 1996.
  7. Karen Horney was one of the first to question the theory of penis envy. She argues that it is "the actual social subordination of women" that shapes their development: not the lack of the organ, but of the privilege that goes with it. Karen Horney (1922). "On the Genesis of the Castration Complex in Women." Psychoanalysis and Women. Ed. J.B. Miller. New York: Bruner/Mazel, 1973.
  8. Griselda Pollock, Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space and the Archive. Routledge. 2007.
  9. Lacan, J. (1973). Encore. Paris: Seuil, 1975.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Wright, E. (2003). "Lacan and Postfeminism (Postmodern Encounters)" Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Lacan & Post-feminism" defined multiple times with different content
  11. Grosz, E. (1990). "Jacques Lacan: A Feminist Introduction", London: Routledge
  12. Butler, J. (1999). "Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity".
  13. Gallop, J. (1993). "The Daughter's Seduction: Feminism and Psychoanalysi", Cornell University Press
  14. Kristeva, J. (1982). "Powers of Horror."
  15. Mica Howe & Sarah A. Aguier (eds.). He said, She Says. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001.
  16. Vanda Zajko & Miriam Leonard (eds.). Laughing with Medusa. Oxford University Press, 2006.
  17. Humm, Maggie, Modernist Women and Visual Cultures. Rutgers University Press, 2003. ISBN 0813532663
  18. Nina Cornietz, Dangerous Women, Deadly Words. Stanford University Press, 1999.
  19. Vanda Zajko & Miriam Leonard (eds.). Laughing with Medusa. Oxford University Press, 2006.
  20. Grebowicz, M. (2007). Gender After Lyotard. NY: Suny Press, 2007.
  21. Nathanson, P. and K. K. Young (2006). "Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture." Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press
  22. Bryan Palmer, "Descent into Discourse: The Reification of Language and the Writing of Social History", Trent University (Peterborough, Canada)


  • Armstrong, Carol and de Zegher, Catherine (eds) (2006). Women Artists as the Millennium. Cambridge Massachusetts: October Books, MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-01226-3 '.
  • Boone, Joseph Allen and Michael Cadden, eds., 1990. Engendering Men, New York: Routledge. ISBN 04159-0255-X '.
  • Butler, Judith, 1993. "Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of 'Sex", New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415-90366-1 '.
  • Butler, Judith, "Feminism by Any Other Name", in differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies June, 1994. ISSN 1040-7391
  • Butler, Judith, 1999. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge. ISBN 04159-2499-5 '.
  • Cante, Richard C. (March 2008). Gay Men and the Forms of Contemporary US Culture, London: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 0 7546 7230 1.
  • Cranny-Francis, Anne, Joan Kirkby, Pam Stavropoulos, Wendy Waring, eds., 2003. "Gender studies : terms and debates", Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0333-77612-7 '.
  • De Beauvoir, Simone, 1989. The Second Sex. New York: random House Inc. ISBN 06797-2451-6 '.
  • Ettinger, Bracha L., 2001. "The Red Cow Effect." Reprinted in: Mica Howe & Sarah A. Aguiar (eds.), He Said, She Says. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001. 57-88. ISBN 0-8386-3915-1 '.
  • Ettinger, Bracha L., 2006 (Essays 1994-1999). The Matrixial Borderspace, University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-3587-0 '.
  • Ettinger, Bracha L., 2006. "From Proto-ethical Compassion to Responsibility: Besidedness, and the three Primal Mother-Phantasies of Not-enoughness, Devouring and Abandonment". Athena: Philosophical Studies. Vol. 2. ISSN 1822-5047.
  • Foucault, Michel, 1988. "Care of the Self the History of Sexuality", Random House Inc. ISBN 0394-74155-2 '.
  • Foucault, Michel, 1990. "History of Sexuality: An Introduction", London: Random House Inc. ISBN 06797-2469-9 '.
  • Foucault, Michel, 1990. "Use of Pleasure: The History of Sexuality", London: Random House Inc. ISBN 0394-75122-1 '.
  • Foucault, Michel, 1995. "Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison", translated by Allen Sheridan, London: Random House ISBN 0679-75255-2 '.
  • Fraser, Nancy, Judith Butler, Seyla Benhabib, and Drucilla Cornell, 1995. "Feminist Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange." New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415-91086-2 '.
  • Frug, Mary Joe. "A Postmodern Feminist Legal Manifesto (An Unfinished Draft)," in "Harvard Law Review", Vol. 105, No. 5, March, 1992, pp. 1045 - 1075. ISSN: 0017-811X
  • Grebowicz, Margaret, (2007). Gender After Lyotard. NY: Suny Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-6956-9 '.
  • Healey, Joseph F., 2003. Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Class: the Sociology of Group Conflict and Change. London: Pine Forge. ISBN 07619-8763-0 '.
  • Kristeva, Julia, 1982. "Powers of Horror. Trans. Leon Roudiez." New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 02310-5347-9 '.
  • Palmer, Bryan D., "Descent into Discourse: The Reification of Language and the Writing of Social History", Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999, ISBN 08772-2720-9 '.
  • Pinker, Susan, 2008. The Sexual Paradox: Extreme Men, Gifted Women and the Real Gender Gap. Random. ISBN 0679314156 '.
  • Pollock, Griselda, 2001. "Looking Back to the Future". G&B Arts. ISBN 90-5701-132-8 '.
  • Pollock, Griselda, 2007. Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space and the Archive. Routledge. ISBN 0415413745 '.
  • Wright, Elizabeth, 2000. Lacan and Postfeminism. London: Icon Books Ltd. ISBN 18404-6182-9 '.
  • McElroy, Wendy, 2001. Sexual Correctness: The Gender-Feminist Attack on Women, Jefferson: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786402261 '.
  • Oyewumi, Oyeronke, ed., 2005. African Gender Studies: A Reader, London: Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 1403-96283-9 '.
  • Scott, Joan W. "Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis," in Gender and the Politics of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).
  • Spector, Judith A, ed., 1986. Gender Studies: New Directions in Feminist Criticism, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0879-72351-3 '.
  • Thomas, Calvin, ed., 2000. "Introduction: Identification, Appropriation, Proliferation", in Straight with a Twist: Queer Theory and the Subject of Heterosexuality. Champaign: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252-06813-0 '.
  • Zajko, Vanda and Leonard, Miriam, 2006. "Laughing with Medusa". Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-927438-X '.
  • de Zegher, Catherine (ed.) (1996). Inside the Visible. MIT Press, Boston. '.

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