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Gender Studies

The study of gender as a fundamental category of social and cultural analysis.

About

The study of gender as a fundamental category of social and cultural analysis, while also considering the intersection of gender with other substantive categories of identity, including sexuality, race, religion, class, disability, and nationality. Gender studies encourages scholars to think beyond common sense accounts of gender to examine its complex construction in a range of historical epochs, cultural arenas, and global processes. The field of gender studies utilizes a wide variety of innovative approaches and methodologies, broad in reach, yet unified through a critical angle of vision.

Featured | Spotlight on Black LGBTQ+ Poetry

Black LGBTQ+ Poets

Black LGBTQ+ poets write from the intersections of Black and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer identities and experiences. Black LGBTQ+ poets explore issues of gender expression and discrimination, love, sex, sexuality, desire, culture, race, and more through their creative work. Due to compounding oppressions, the history of Black LGBTQ+ poetry and poetics has not been given adequate attention by scholars or mainstream audiences. What follows is a list of poetry books by Black LGBTQ+ poets, anthologies of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) poets who are LGBTQ+, and scholarly articles on the topic, in celebration of Black History Month. We have also included a very brief introduction to African American poetry and recommendations for further reading on that subject.

 

Poet Danez Smith reading "Genesissy" for Button Poetry, 2015

 

Next Steps
As with many of these national commemorations, one month is never enough time to fully honor and celebrate the history and culture of marginalized communities, let alone heal the legacies (and ongoing reality) of harm they've experienced. We recognize that there is much more to be done, that racism and anti-blackness can't be eliminated simply through the creation of resource guides, and that the work of realizing justice won't soon be over. But nevertheless, we keep trying, contributing how we can and building upon the efforts of those who came before us, and we continue to learn from and with one another.

If you'd like to engage more deeply with Black History Month, the IU Libraries Arts & Humanities department has created a number of interrelated resources and features to provide more holistic coverage of this remembering. You'll find those, below:

And for all things Black culture, you can never go wrong with the resources, services, and collections of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center Library.

Additionally, throughout the '21 spring semester, our department is hosting an ongoing Racial Equity & Social Justice Challenge. This program encourage participants to engage with items from our collections that will facilitate and deepen their awareness of a variety of social justice issues, and features a number of titles relevant to Black History Month. If you'd like to join us, take a look at the Challenge Guide.

Open Access Resources with African American Poetry Features

Scholarly sources on Black Queer Poetics:

Lists of books, articles, and media related to Black Queer Studies:

A very brief introduction to the African American / Black Poetic Tradition

African American poetry predates the written word and has its roots in a rich oral tradition. shares sonic qualities with Black musical forms like gospel, jazz, blues, hip-hop, and rap, and includes a rich array of poetic sound devices: alliteration, rhyme, anaphora (the repetition of lines or fragments), to name a few. Black Poetry can be about any theme or subject, but the Black experience is often at the center of Black Poetry, which is informed by the distinctiveness of Black culture. Black Poets often unpack and critiques the systemic oppressions and individual discriminations that they, as Black Americans, have endured, like slavery, segregation, and police brutality. Notable writers and movements in Black Poetry are described in the Power of Poetry series of blog posts from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Critics and supporters of the distinction between African American and American literature abound. The positions of each side are outlined in this wikipedia article on the subject. 

Books and essays on African American poetry

IU Resources

Open Access Resources with African American Poetry Features

 

Featured | Academic Style & Gender-Inclusive Writing

A white person holds up a whiteboard with the words "hello my pronouns are" and two blanks with a slash so one could write them in. The words are written in rainbow colors.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash


Academic style guides agree: honoring and using a person’s correct personal pronoun is a matter of respect, and it's good style

All three major Academic Style Guides (APA, the Chicago Manual of Style, and MLA) agree that a person’s correct personal pronouns (they, he, she, etc.) should be respected and used at all times in formal and academic writing. It is not possible to infer a person’s pronouns just by looking at them. To determine the pronouns of someone you are writing about, refer to their biography, or if possible, ask them what personal pronouns they use. If their personal pronouns are unknown or cannot be determined, using singular “they” may be the solution, if you are writing in APA or MLA. For those using Chicago, the guide recommends rewriting the text in a way that does not require using personal pronouns (Chicago, 5.255). Always take care in your writing to use the correct personal pronouns. Never assume a person’s pronouns when writing about them.

More about personal pronouns and how to use them

In English, personal pronouns are gendered. Historically, English offers only three personal pronouns: masculine (he), feminine (she), and the un-gendered “it” (which is widely seen as rude or disrespectful to use when referring to a person). These few personal pronouns do not adequately express the variety of gender expressions that have been present throughout history. Grammar is not static, but changes over time, adapting to, reflecting and perpetuating biases and social constructs present in the culture. Many people have been excluded by this rigid and artificial binary representation of gender codified in the English language and have had to find or create alternatives to identify themselves in speech and writing.

Below is a chart that lists some of the most commonly used personal pronouns and gives examples for how to use them.

This pronoun chart is directly based off of one created by the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Gender & Sexuality Campus Center.
  Nominative (subject) Objective (object) Possessive determiner Possessive pronoun Reflexive
He He laughed I called him His dog barks That is his He likes himself
She

She laughed

I called her Her dog barks That is hers She likes herself
They They laughed I called them Their dog barks That is theirs They like themself
Per Per laughed I called per Per dog barks That is pers Per likes perself

Ze/Hir

(Zee/Hear)

Ze laughed I called hir Hir dog barks That is hirs Ze likes hirself

 

Academic Style Guides on the importance of achieving gender-neutral writing

Academic style guides agree on the importance of achieving gender-neutral writing, and the problem of using “he” as a universal pronoun. For a time, academic style guides suggested the use of “he or she” or alternating between “he” or “she” in writing. This construction is now acknowledged as being not only clunky and awkward, but exclusionary because to use “he or she” suggests a rigid gender binary, excluding all persons whose gender identities are outside of that binary. Luckily, singular “they,” in use since the 14th century in informal and spoken speech, has started to gain traction as a gender-inclusive pronoun to refer to a person of unknown gender in formal and academic writing. More on the history of singular “they” can be found at the Oxford English Dictionary’s website and Historians.org.

In 2021 Academic Style Guides are divided on the use of singular “they” as a gender-neutral unknown referent

Academic Style Guides adapt slowly to changes in grammar, and like grammar, are socially constructed texts that are constantly in flux. To understand Academic Style Guides’ current and past positions on singular “they” as a gender-neutral unknown referent, it is important to keep in mind that Academic Style Guides do not create grammatical rules. Rather, they establish formal guidelines that follow spoken and grammatical conventions which are set by informal writing and speech. Academic Style Guides are often slow to adopt conventions they might see as temporary. Despite the long history of singular “they” in this usage, which mirrors the grammatical evolution of singular “you,” some style guides have waffled on sanctioning its use.  

As of 2021, all three major guides (APA, MLA, and Chicago) acknowledge the ubiquity of singular “they” for use with an unknown referent in informal writing and speech. However, only one of the three guides, the 7th Edition of APA’s Style Guide, fully endorses the use of singular “they” as “a generic third-person singular pronoun to refer to a person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant to the context of usage” (APA, 120). MLA, which leaves grammar largely up to the discretion of the author, neither endorses nor prohibits the use of singular “they” in this sense. As a result, it is acceptable in MLA Style. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) has a particularly complicated history with singular “they” as a gender-neutral unknown referent. In the 1993 edition, it endorsed “they/their” in this sense (Chicago, 13th Ed. 2.98). However, this was removed from subsequent editions. Though CMOS acknowledges the ubiquity of this usage, it continues to prohibit its use and instead recommends rewriting the sentence in some way that eliminates the need for a pronoun. For more on the history of singular “they” and the Chicago Manual of Style, take a look at this 2017 article written by Cai Fischietto on IU Libraries’ website.

New Titles in Gender Studies

Sisterly Networks

Tracing the development of the field of southern women?s history over the past half century, Sisterly Networks shows how pioneering feminists laid the foundation for a strong community of sister scholars and delves into the work of an organization central to this movement, the Southern Association for Women Historians (SAWH). Launched in 1970, the SAWH provided programming, mentoring, fundraising, and outreach efforts to support women historians working to challenge the academic establishment. In this book, leading scholars reflect on their own careers in southern history and their experiences as women historians amid this pathbreaking expansion and revitalization of the field.

Stripped

Stripped examines the ways in which erotic bodies communicate in performance and as cultural figures. Focusing on symbols independent of language, Maggie M. Werner explores the signs and signals of erotic dance, audience responses to these codes, and how this exchange creates embodied rhetoric. Informed by her own ethnographic research conducted in strip clubs and theaters, Werner analyzes the movement, dress, and cosmetic choices of topless dancers and neo-burlesque performers. Drawing on critical methods of analysis, she develops approaches for interpreting embodied erotic rhetoric and the marginal cultural practices that construct women's public erotic bodies.

Sylvia Pankhurst

On the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the definitive biography of suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst-political rebel, human rights champion, and radical feminist ahead of her time. Sylvia Pankhurst fought militantly for a woman's right to vote, inspiring movements around the globe. But the vote was just the beginning. A talented artist, a free-spirit, a visionary, Sylvia was seen as "wild," even by the standards of her activist mother and sister. She became a radical feminist, committing herself to the fight for reproductive rights, equal pay, access to welfare and education, and freedom of sexual expression. She converted her experiences of torture, imprisonment,and violence into a lifelong quest to champion human rights.

Think Like a Feminist

Think Like a Feminist is an irreverent yet rigorous primer that unpacks over two hundred years of feminist thought. In a time when the word feminism triggers all sorts of responses, many of them conflicting and misinformed, Professor Carol Hay provides this balanced, clarifying, and inspiring examination of what it truly means to be a feminist today. She takes the reader from conceptual questions of sex, gender, intersectionality, and oppression to the practicalities of talking to children, navigating consent, and fighting for adequate space on public transit, without deviating from her clear, accessible, conversational tone. Think Like a Feminist is equally a feminist starter kit and an advanced refresher course, connecting longstanding controversies to today's headlines.

Unfinished business : the fight for women's rights

For centuries, women and their allies have fought for women's rights in all areas of life--bodily autonomy, education, work, culture, science, politics, and history. Their efforts have fundamentally changed the world we live in. And in the midst of today's highly politicized debates over equality, it is clear that the struggle is not yet over.

Violent Manhood

This book touches on all of the hot-topic issues of masculinity and violence, including gun violence, sexual assault and the #MeToo movement, violence against women, LGBTQ people, and people of color. Its unique approach will add to many conversations that should, as Sumerau explains, be focused on masculinity and are far too often focused on something else. Taking the approach of talking with young college men who are privileged provides a unique look at how manhood and masculinity may not be progressing like many people hope and provides insights from all angles to critically examine the ways men construct and explain relationships between violence, manhood, and inequality in society.

What's in a Name? Perspectives from Non-Biological and Non-Gestational Queer Mothers

Queer parenthood: It's multifaceted. It's complex. And it is constantly changing, as laws and culture shift around us. What's in a Name? reflects on this complexity through the voices of nonbiological/non-gestational queer mothers/parents who explore our experiences parenting across our different social and familial locations. The authors have all taken different routes to parenting, live in different countries, and understand our relationships to parenting through our own personal experiences. What we share is a commitment to parenting beyond the limits of biology, and of building families that are drawn together and maintained by the love and labour of parenting. The fifteen essays in this book address three key moments in our parenting journeys.

Widows : poverty, power and politics

Historically seen as figures of pity and foreboding – poverty stricken receivers of charity, tragic figures dressed in black and even sometimes sexually voracious predators or witches – widows have been subject to powerful stereotypes that have endured for centuries. But for many women, widowhood unfolded into a vastly more complex story. From being property of men and housekeepers – the owners of nothing – they found themselves suddenly enfranchised, empowered and free to conduct themselves however they wished. From determined suffrage campaigners and politicians, to entrepreneurs and newly self-made women, the effect of widows’ might can be seen throughout history.

Working Class Homosexuality in South African History

The very existence of homosexual working-class men in South Africa has long-been suppressed--or worse. Iain Edwards and Marc Epprecht have recovered representative stories of these men who were previously deemed "outside of history." Based on a previously unpublished primary source from the early twentieth century, as well as unique interviews with men remembering their lives in the gay settlement of Mkhumbane, this book is meant to inspire both a reimagination of the past and the creation of a more inclusive present and future.

Women, Food, and Diet in the Middle Ages

What can anthropological and folkloristic approaches to food, gender, and medicine tell us about these topics in the Middle Ages beyond the textual evidence itself? This book uses these approaches to look at the textual traditions of dietary recommendations for women's health, placed within the context of the larger cultural concerns of gender roles and Church teachings about women. This work illuminates what we can know about women, food, medicine, and diet in the Middle Ages, and examines how the written medical tradition interacts with folk medicine and other cultural factors in both understanding women's bodies and their roles as healers and food providers.

All Gender Studies Guides

Contributors' Notes

Brett Hoffman (he/him) - Arts & Humanities Library Assistant

Wendy Lee Spaček (she/her) - Arts & Humanities Library Assistant