AS 363.255, Fall 2015

Marion Schmidt


Do genes determine our gender and sexual behavior?  Does gender matter in debating reproductive rights, biotechnology and bioethics? What does mothering and fathering mean in 20th and 21st century America?

Throughout the last century, people have understood traditional gender roles as the outcome of evolution, have studied animal behavior to explain male/female difference and tried to identify a genetic basis for “male dominance”, “female empathy” or “homosexual behavior.” Rather than as natural truths, this course explores these beliefs as expressions of the society and culture of their time. We will look at hereditary models to explain gender roles in reproduction in the eugenic period, baby-boom America and the age of genetic technology and analyze the overlap and conflict with the women’s movement, feminism or disability activism.

This class will explore questions of gender in a larger framework of physical and cultural diversity. Thinking about genes and gender means thinking about what we make of difference.