The Women’s and Gender Studies Program offers an interdisciplinary and multicultural series of courses that explore and question the intersections of gender, sexuality, culture, ethnicity, social class and race. Courses are taught by faculty members from various departments and fields of study and provide a critical framework to explore the significance of gender (along with race, sexuality, and class) in the shaping of women’s and men’s lives. The program focuses on the recovery of women’s contributions in a variety of fields, on women’s and men’s roles in society across cultures, and especially on critical questions about gender neutrality in the shaping of culture.
The Women’s and Gender Studies Program complements any course of studies and prepares you well for any career in the arts, sciences and technology, health professions, business, law, social and community service, and education.
Faculty members from across RIT contribute to Women’s and Gender Studies
Assistant Professor Alan Smerbeck is working with Q Center director Chris Hinesley on an updated edition of Gender Diversity: A Guide for Higher Education Faculty, which is set to come out in spring 2020. Originally published in 2016, the guide is meant to serve as a base-level reference book for learning about gender diversity, labels and pronouns, and the do’s and don’ts of talking about gender identities.
The women’s and gender studies immersion allows students to explore the significance of gender as it intersects with racial, ethnic, religious, national, class, sexuality, and dis/ability-based identities, past and present. The immersion introduces critical analysis and knowledge-building methods drawn from fields such as women's and gender studies, feminist theories, critical race studies, queer studies, social justice work, and activism. Courses build knowledge about the personal, social, cultural, economic, and historical dynamics that inform gender and intersecting social categories. It provides valuable skills and experiences applying these different lenses to real-world interactions with diverse individuals and communities, to current social challenges that impact multiple parties, and with an eye to improving equity and fair outcomes for everyone concerned.
The women’s and gender studies minor provides a critical framework to explore the significance of gender—as it intersects with racial, ethnic, religious, national, class, sexuality, and disability-based identities, past and present. Course builds knowledge about the personal, social, cultural, economic, and historical dynamics that inform gender and intersecting social categories. The minor builds fluency with critical analysis and knowledge-building methods drawn from women's and gender studies, feminist theories, critical race studies, queer studies, social justice work, and activism. The minor also provides valuable skills and experience applying these different lenses to real-world interactions with diverse individuals and communities to current social challenges that impact multiple parties, and with an eye to improving equity and fair outcomes for everyone concerned. Students will learn how to analyze and question power relations in all their rich complexities, locally, and globally.
Women’s and Gender Studies is the academic manifestation of feminism. This interdisciplinary course interrogates the social constructions, political systems, and historical rhetorics that have produced and maintain hegemonic power structures. In this course you will examine key feminist, queer, and critical race writings and discourses, study the rise of feminist thought, and consider the history of women’s activism and the women’s rights movements from Suffrage to the present day. The course will also consider the application of feminist theory made visible through the rise of new and intersectional social identity movements.
Feminist Practices of Inquiry
This course aims at introducing students to the diverse ways in which feminist and gender studies practitioners (scholars, writers, artists, and activists) have critically analyzed, challenged, and creatively reinvented predominant methods, models, and practices of knowledge production in various areas of the natural and social sciences, the medical arts, the humanities, and the visual and performing arts. Questions to be considered include: What constitutes feminist practices of inquiry? How do feminist research practices approach issues of objectivity and subjectivity? How does one formulate a feminist question? What key questions guide feminist researchers and how can we apply those questions to a variety of research topics? How do feminist practices of inquiry intersect with race, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexualities, identity-formation processes, (dis)abilities, age? How do feminist research practices produce transformations, emancipation, and increased fairness of representation?
Introduction to LGBT Studies
This introductory course examines a broad range of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues within the historical, psychological, racial, theological, cultural, and legal contexts in which we live. Students will learn the historical and theoretical foundations of GLBT studies as well as the contemporary implications for family, work, religion and law for GLBT people and the mainstream society. Students will have the opportunity to compare the regulation of sexual orientation across different gender, racial, and socioeconomic communities.
This course begins with the concept that sexuality, gender and gender identity is neither fixed nor innate. Many people who adopt a definition or expression of gender different from society often identify themselves as queer. The study of this movement is referred to as queer theory. This course examines the concepts of sex, gender, and gender expression of straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic classes within the context of the larger society in which we live. Students will explore the unique political, legal, and interpersonal challenges faced by those embracing queer identity as well as the diversity of gender identities and expressions.
In this course we examine representations of queer sexuality in art, film and popular culture beginning in the repressive 1950s, followed by the Stonewall Riots of 1969. We situate the birth of gay liberation in the U.S. in the context of the civil rights struggles, feminism and the anti-war movement. We turn to the work of Andy Warhol that looms over the post-war period, challenged subsequently by the onset of AIDS and the work of General Idea and Act-Up, on the one hand, and the more graphically provocative work of Robert Mapplethorpe, on the other. We examine the diversification of the queer community as transgendered identity asserts itself and the opening of popular culture to issues of diverse sexual identities. We explore expressions of queer sensibility outside of North America and Europe. We turn finally to the issue of gay marriage, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Women, Work, and Culture
In this course, we analyze historical and contemporary patterns of gender, race/ethnicity, sexuality, and the organization of work. Using the theoretical perspectives we analyze the work historically undertaken by women in societies and its relationship to broader political and economic structures. While our primary focus is on the U.S., we will also conduct a cross-cultural analysis of gender and work in developing and industrializing societies. Specific issues include gender discrimination (e.g., wage discrimination, sexual harassment), sexuality, reproduction, and women organizing to control their work and working conditions.
Psychology of Women
The purpose of this course is to examine the psychology and lives of girls and women. In addition to the influence of culture, biological and genetic differences will be highlighted for each of the different topics. The topics covered include gender stereotypes, the development of gender roles, gender comparisons, love relationships, sexuality, motherhood and violence against women.
This course provides an overview of human sexuality through the lenses of biology and psychology. What causes sexual behavior and why do some individuals display different sexual behaviors than others? Human sexual physiology, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are highly diverse. Coursework will examine the ways in which human sexuality varies among individuals, across groups, and throughout the lifespan. Multiple explanations for sexual behavior will be considered, drawing from evolutionary psychology, learning theory, social psychology, and biology. Atypical and harmful sexual behaviors will be addressed as well. Throughout the course, students will learn how social science research techniques have been used to expand the field of human sexuality and how empirical inquiry can differentiate myths from facts.
Prostitution and Vice
This course will examine prostitution and vice in the United States and globally. Through empirical scholarship, various issues will be examined including issues faced by sex workers including crime, victimization, health and safety, and law and policy issues. Quality of life issues for communities will also be examined.
History of Women in Science and Engineering
Using biographical and social-historical approaches, this course examines the history of women's involvement in science and engineering since the birth of modern science in the seventeenth century; the historical roots of gender bias in the Western scientific enterprise; and the influx of women into science and engineering since the mid-to-late 20th century. Cross-listed with women's and gender studies.
This course focuses on domestic violence in the United States and globally. Various types of domestic violence will be examined, including intimate partner violence, child abuse, and elder abuse. The course will also examine criminal justice responses to domestic violence, including police, court processing of domestic violence cases and punishment of domestic violence offenders.
Seminar on Sexual Violence
This course focuses on sexual violence in the United States and globally. Various types of sexual violence will be examined, including incest, elder abuse, and male victimization. The course will also examine criminal justice responses to sexual violence, including police, court processing of sexual violence cases and punishment and treatment of sexual offenders.
Women and Crime
This course deals with women as criminal offenders and as victims of crime, focusing upon theories about women in crime, types of crimes committed, patterns of criminality and the treatment of women offenders. Also examines the role of women as law enforcement officers, judges, lawyers and correctional officers in the criminal justice system.
American Women's and Gender History
This course surveys women’s history in the United States from the colonial period to present. The course moves chronologically and thematically, focusing on the diversity of women’s experiences across race, class, and geography as well as the construction of dominant gender norms. Topics include Native American, African American, and Euro-American women in colonial America; the Industrial Revolution and the ideology of domesticity, Women in the American West; women’s paid and unpaid work; sexuality and reproduction; women’s activism; and women’s experiences of immigration and family life.
The History of Families and Children in the U.S.
The family is at the center of contemporary political debates involving social policies, gender roles, citizenship, marriage, and the role of the state. Politicians and commentators frequently invoke a mythical American family, one that is conflict-free, independent, and unchanging. These idealized depictions mask a far more complicated and richer historical reality of the development of family structures in the U.S. This course will examine both the diverse experiences of actual families in the American past, including queer families, and changing ideologies about the family and childhood. Students will have the opportunity to write a history of their own family, or to complete an alternative research paper.
This course examines the main currents in contemporary feminist thought. Feminist theory explores the nature and effects of categories of sex and gender upon our ways of living, thinking and doing, while also challenging how gendered assumptions might shape our conceptions of identity and inquiry more generally. Different conceptions of sex and gender will be discussed, and the course will investigate how these concepts affect our lives in both concrete and symbolic ways. Special attention will be paid to how gendered assumptions color our understanding of knowledge production, experiences of embodiment and emotion, public and private activities, and the nature of ethical decision making.
Philosophies of Love,Sex, and Gender
Love is indeed one of the most central concerns in everyone’s life; yet, we spend very little time thinking conceptually about love in its various forms, aspects, implications, nuances, benefits, detriments, and harms. In this course, we will examine views from classical, medieval, modern, and contemporary thinkers on various kinds of love, including some controversial versions of it; we will consider the relation of love in its various forms to desire, emotions, physical intimacy, seduction, sex, sexuality, sexual orientation, and the construction of personal identity; and we will analyze how the various forms of love affect and are affected by gender norms, roles, and images.
Performing Identity in Popular Media
This class is a critical, theoretical, and practical examination of the constitution and performance of personal identity within popular media as it relates to identity politics in everyday life. Through lectures, readings, film, and critical writing, students will examine elements of personal identity and diversity in popular media in order to foster a deeper understanding of how identity is constructed and performed in society.
Women and the Deaf Community
Deaf history, as a field, has often neglected the story of deaf women. Scholar Arlene B. Kelly has recently asked, Where is deaf herstory? This course seeks to correct that gender imbalance in deaf history. We will study deaf women's history. This will include a consideration of deaf-blind women, as well, as women like Helen Keller were often the most famous deaf women of their era. But this course also seeks to look at the role of hearing women in deaf history. Hearing women dominated the field of deaf education in the late nineteenth century. They had a tremendous impact on the lives of deaf children and the events of deaf educational history. Hearing women were also important figures in deaf history as mothers. As mothers of deaf children, hearing women were frequently asked to behave as teachers in the home. Their embrace of this role often led them to endorse oral education, and oppose the sign language. Hearing mothers in this way were pitted against their adult deaf daughters, who frequently went on to learn sign language against their mothers' wishes. The historically complex relationship between women and the deaf community will be explored in this course.
Gender, Science, and Technology
This course explores the importance of gender within Western science and technology. It considers how masculine and feminine identities are socially and culturally shaped, how sex and gender are being significantly transformed, and how rethinking gendered practices may help make science and technology fairer and more responsive. Cross-listed with women's and gender studies.
Gender and Sexuality in Hispanic Studies
This course introduces students to the study of gender and sexuality in cultural production from the Hispanic world. Students will read, view, and discuss diverse works from a variety of historical periods and geographical regions that deal with gender identity, sexuality, and interrelated social movements. This course refines students' skills through discussions, presentations, and writing exercises on readings, lectures, and film screenings. Students will also develop research skills as they complete a project on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor. The critical approach that will inform this course is feminist thought.
Communication, Gender, and Media
This course examines the relationship between gender and media communication with specific attention to how gender affects choices in mass media and social media practices. Students explore how gender, sexual orientation, sexuality and social roles, affect media coverage, portrayals, production and reception. They consider issues of authorship, spectatorship (audience), and the ways in which various media content (film, television, print journalism, advertising, social media) enables, facilitates, and challenges these social constructions in society. The course covers communication theories and scholarship as it applies to gender and media, methods of media analysis, and topics of current interest.
This course examines the role of women in the visual arts as both images makers and subject matter in order to see how gender plays a role in the conceptualization of creativity and art. Among the topics to be discussed are: the construction of femininity and gender in the patriarchy; art as an ideological practice; women, art, and society; art history, art education, and art evaluation; women artists and their contemporaries.
This course investigates visual culture and its imagistic response to life's crises. Problems of identity and identification will be explored and confronted through works of photography, painting, mixed media, new media and film of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Beginning with the late 19th Century vogue for images of hysterical women, crippled black-sheep family members and dead loved ones (as corpses and as ghosts), we then move on to consider the last century's fascination with pain and suffering, disease and violence, struggle and survival and then the 21st century's emphasis on terrorism. Specifically, we will focus on the gendering of images and imaging as disturbing pictures work to defy the formal and theoretical distinction between private and public, personal, and collective experience and manage the often conflicting responsibilities to self, family, religion, race, nation, and society.
Art of Dying
This course explores the experience of dying a profoundly human and universal experience as it is represented by artists who are themselves facing immanent death. The unique and deeply personal process of each dying artist is crucially informed by social, cultural and historical as well as artistic contexts. The course will focus primarily on visual artists and writers living with and dying of disease - such as AIDS, cancer and cystic fibrosis as well as mortality and age. Topics such as aesthetics, artistic media, representation, grief, bereavement, illness, care-giving, aging, and the dying process will be considered within the context of issues of race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, gender and community values. Some of the artists covered will be Jo Spence, Hannah Wilke, Elias Canetti, Bob Flanagan, Herve Guibert, Tom Joslin, Laurie Lynd, Audre Lorde, Charlotte Salomon, Keith Haring, Frida Kahlo, Bas Jan Ader, Ted Rosenthal, Felix Gonzalez Torres, Keith Haring, Eric Steel, Derek Jarman, Eric Michaels, and David Wojnarowicz. We will also explore some of the critical theory of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Elaine Scarry, Susan Sontag, and Ross Chambers.
Gender and Contemporary Art
This course traces the historical development of women’s activism in the art world from the 1970s to the present. We will interpret how this art activism, which artists and scholars alike have referred to as the feminist art movement, has examined how gender informs the ways art is made, viewed, conceptualized in history and theory, and exhibited in museums and visual culture, in a range of cultural contexts. We will also analyze how current artists, critics, and curators continue to build on this history, in particular how they use the concept of gender intersectionally to develop a variety of new creative practices, theories, modes of exhibition and social engagement.
Topics in Women's and Gender Studies
This course will explore a key theme or critical question in women's and gender studies as an introduction and line of inquiry into how and why women's and gender studies matter in the contemporary world and in our individual lives. Drawing from and reflecting on approaches to women's and gender studies from a variety of disciplines and cultures, we will use these theoretical lenses to read social, cultural, and artistic texts and cultural practices in a new light. How has women's and gender studies and the creative, activist and academic practices theorized in this multidisciplinary, global space, challenged gendered and racialized power structures in the past, in the present, and how might it transform its methods to confront current challenges?
Economics of Women and the Family
Women make choices concerning marriage, fertility and labor market participation on the basis of many factors, including government policies targeting those decisions. This course uses economic theory and empirical research in order to describe the changing demographic profile of families, poverty, and the labor force and to explore how economic theory and practice fit into the larger social science goals of describing human behavior by focusing on women and on the family.
Women in Politics
A study of feminist thought as it applies to the political, economic and social status of women and how it has been expressed through the women's political movement. Students study a number of public policies as they apply to and affect women and examine the opportunities for women to participate in the political process.
In exploring the relationships between language and sexuality, we investigate the language used by members of sexual minority groups, discuss how sexual orientation shapes language use, and examine the role of language in the social construction of sexual identity. We will focus on several aspects of the language used by and about gay men, lesbians, and bisexual and transgendered people.
Bodies and Culture
Our bodies are more than mere physical entities; they are conditioned by culture, society, and history. We will take a comparative approach to the cultural construction of bodies and the impact of ethnic, gender, and racial ideologies on body practices (i.e. surgical alteration, mutilation, beautification, surrogacy, erotica). We will critically investigate the global formation of normative discourses of the body (regarding sexuality, AIDS/illness, reproduction, fat/food) in medical science, consumer culture, and the mass media. The course features discussion, writing, and project-oriented research, encouraging students to acquire a range of analytic skills through a combination of text interpretation and research.
By exploring issues of gender and sexuality in a global context, students will be introduced to anthropological perspectives on the experience of men and women, as gendered subjects, in different societies and historical contexts, including colonialism, nationalism, and global capitalism. In turn, we will explore how cultural constructions of masculinity and femininity are configured by race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Course materials are drawn from an array of sources, reflecting various theoretical perspectives and ethnographic views from different parts of the world.
This course brings together two of the most significant strains of recent art historical scholarship: the study of gender in representation and the critical examination of exhibitions and museums with particular focus given to key examples of curatorial practice from the late 19th century to the present day. Through readings, possible museum visit(s), class discussions, and guided individual research, questions of gender in exhibitions will be considered in relation to other aspects of identity including sexuality, race, and class.
Women Pioneers in Design
This course will center on the contributions made by Modernist women designers. Emphasis will be placed on their unheralded pioneering efforts. Exemplars from the field will be presented, set in a historical context. Lectures are complemented by guest speakers, videos, participatory exercises, discussion, and critical essay writing.
Introduction to Global Health
This introductory course will evaluate the modern challenges of global health from a multidisciplinary perspective. The key concepts of global health will be discussed, including various health determinants, human rights, healthcare systems, culture’s impact on health, environmental concerns, nutrition, communicable and noncommunicable diseases, women’s health issues, child and adolescent health, injuries, natural disasters and complex humanitarian emergencies, poverty’s impact on health and more. Students will be expected to be active learners, lead classroom activities on certain days as part of group research project presentations, and actively participate in discussions.
CyberActivism: Diversity, Sex, and the Internet
Sociologists look to cyberspace to test theories of technology diffusion and media effects on society. This course explores the Internet’s impact on communities, political participation, cultural democracy, and diversity. How have digital technologies and electronic information flows shaped or diminished inequalities of gender, sex, and race? For instance: new electronic technologies have pushed the cultural and physical boundaries of how we have sex; with whom we have sex; and with what we have sex and/or have observed having sex, such as sex toys and avatars. The sociological implications of this new technology depend on economic, legal, and policy decisions that are shaping the Internet as it becomes institutionalized. The course analyzes such new forms of cyber-democracy with a focus on issues of gender, sex, and race.