Media, Culture, and the Politics of Gender

Course Description

This course aims to provide a survey of various media and their role in the discursive construction of gender in and through culture. The first three weeks serve as an introduction to the historical and sociopolitical dimensions of gender, its intersection with media, and theoretical approaches to understanding it and political approaches to challenging it. Beginning with historical constructions of the gender binary, Foucault’s Herculine Barbin – an unearthed diary of a French hermaphrodite who lived an adolescent life in a Catholic orphanage for girls from about 1860-1870, is reclassified as a man, and commits suicide – provides a provocative look at the historical construction of gender binaries. The remainder of the course then tackles a range of media and examples of how they portray gender as well as examples of how they may be used to subvert oppressive gender roles or binaries, focusing on: the novel, film, music videos, news, and social media. Far from exhaustive, the readings and the topics covered are to provide a better, broader, but still-limited understanding of how media and culture construct gender, and how this also dramatically impacts the lives of queer and gender nonconforming individuals. For this reason, while the course does deal extensively with notions of masculinity, sexualization and objectification of, or the effects of sexism on, cisgendered women, a heavy focus of the course across many topics is on transgender individuals in media. These individuals, like Herculine in her time, unsettle this simplistic opposition through their very being and representation in public. Students will take a midterm exam, write weekly response papers, and complete a final 8 page paper.

Course Details

  • Grading Basis: Letter Grade or Credit/No Credit
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