Fall 2010

Gender and Science



What can science tell us about gender?  Can we depend on empirical research focused on the biological bases of gender to give us the truth about what is male or female, masculine or feminine?

We will look first at gender stereotypes--beliefs about the characteristics, abilities, traits, and behaviors that distinguish women and men--and explore how these beliefs differ by race and class and culture.  We will then compare theories and data from the natural and social sciences that describe and explain gender differences and similarities.  We will encounter arguments that sex differences are large, that they are small if they occur at all, that they are fixed and stable properties of individuals, and that they vary by situation and context.  We will attempt to make sense of these conflicting contentions by looking closely at the nature of the evidence, by considering the political and social contexts in which gender differences and similarities are studied, and by questioning whether the doing of science is itself a gendered activity.

This is a discussion-based course that pays particular attention to the development of competency in the written and oral presentations of arguments.  Our reading of texts from the natural and social science literatures will provide the opportunity to contrast disciplinary points of view as well as to explore the more comprehensive understanding provided by taking an interdisciplinary perspective.

This seminar will be writing attentive.  A series of brief writing assignments focused on analysis of the arguments posed in the assigned texts will provide the foundation for a longer final paper and oral presentation in which students propose an empirical study based on library resources as well as on the course materials.

Fall semester.  Professor Olver.

Cost: 41 ?


2021-22: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2010