Gender studies is a field for interdisciplinary study devoted to gender identity and gendered representation as central categories of analysis. This field includes women’s studies (concerning women, feminism, gender, and politics), men’s studies and queer studies. Sometimes, gender studies is offered together with study of sexuality.
These disciplines study gender and sexuality in the fields of literature, language, geography, history, political science, sociology, anthropology, cinema, media studies, human development, law, and medicine. It also analyses how race, ethnicity, location, class, nationality, and disability intersect with the categories of gender and sexuality.
Regarding gender, Simone de Beauvoir said: “One is not born a woman, one becomes one.” This view proposes that in gender studies, the term “gender” should be used to refer to the social and cultural constructions of masculinities and femininities and not to the state of being male or female in its entirety. However, this view is not held by all gender theorists. Beauvoir’s is a view that many sociologists support (see Sociology of gender), though there are many other contributors to the field of gender studies with different backgrounds and opposing views, such as psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan and feminists such as Judith Butler.
The history of gender studies looks at the different perspectives of gender. This discipline examines the ways in which historical, cultural, and social events shape the role of gender in different societies. The field of gender studies, while focusing on the differences between men and women, also looks at sexual differences and less binary definitions of gender categorisation.
After the revolution of the universal suffrage of the twentieth century and the women’s liberation movement of the 1960 and 1970s promoted a revision from the feminists to “actively interrogate” the usual and accepted versions of history as it was known at the time. It was the goal of many feminist scholars to question original assumptions regarding women’s and men’s attributes, to actually measure them, and to report observed differences between women and men. Initially, these programs were essentially feminist, designed to recognise contributions made by women as well as by men. Soon, men began to look at masculinity the same way that women were looking at femininity, and developed an area of study called “men’s studies”. It was not until the late 1980s and 1990s that scholars recognised a need for study in the field of sexuality. This was due to the increasing interest in lesbian and gay rights, and scholars found that most individuals will associate sexuality and gender together, rather than as separate entities.
Women’s studies is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning women, feminism, gender, and politics. It often includes feminist theories, 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 is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning men, masculism, gender, and politics. It often includes feminist theory, men’s history and social history, men’s fiction, men’s health, feminist psychoanalysis and the feminist and gender studies-influenced practice of most of the humanities and social sciences. Timothy Laurie and Anna Hickey-Moody suggest that there ‘have always been dangers present in the institutionalisation of “masculinity studies” as a semi-gated community’, and note that ‘a certain triumphalism vis-à-vis feminist philosophy haunts much masculinities research’.
The concept of gender performativity is at the core of philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler’s work, notably in Gender Trouble. In Butler’s terms the performance of gender, sex, and sexuality is about power in society. 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 perceived as natural in the social imaginary.