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Undergraduate Program

Welcome to the Gender & Sexuality Studies Program! Gender & Sexuality Studies is home to a popular major and minor for undergraduates in WCAS and is often a second major, minor, or concentration for students in SESP, MEDILL, and the School of Communications.

If you are interested in pursuing a major or minor in Gender & Sexuality Studies we encourage you to enroll in one of our two core courses: GNDR_ST 220 Sexual Subjects: Introduction to Sexuality Studies and GNDR_ST 230 Traditions in Feminist Thought. Each of these courses will introduce you to key terms, issues, and approaches to the study of gender and sexuality in the humanities and social sciences. To discuss the option of majoring or minoring in the program you can also schedule an appointment with the Director of Undergraduate Studies:

Tessie Liu, Director of Undergraduate Studies,

Liv Caldwell, Program Assistant for Gender & Sexuality Studies,

What is Gender and Sexuality Studies?

"Girl or boy?" is often the first question anyone asks about us, preceding our own memories or our ability to speak for ourselves. In many ways, we never stop responding, consciously or otherwise. Our answers are expected to be automatic, and confined to these two options. Our female or male sex, our feminine or masculine gender, and our straight or gay desires are presumed as natural, individual facts, but at the same time, they are forced into binaries and regulated by culture at every level: in the clothing we wear, the popular culture we create or consume, the family structures we inhabit, the laws and public policies we obey or defy, and even the words we use. How do we navigate this paradox whereby sex, gender, and sexuality are taken to be fully natural but also profoundly cultural? How can we identify or alter the social inequalities built into these ways of thinking and being? In other words, how can we understand sex, gender, desire, and the complex relations among them as malleable products of culture, changing tremendously over time and across different societies?

The faculty and students in Gender and Sexuality Studies investigate these and related questions from multiple standpoints within the humanities and social sciences. Courses emphasize feminist, gay/lesbian, transgendered, queer, and other ways of knowing specific to sex and gender, as applied through fields like history, literature, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, film and media, political science, and public health. The program pays particular attention to how gender and sexuality intersect with race, class, ethnicity, national belonging, and transnational movement(s). In classes and in pursuing their own research, students focus on gender and sexuality as key categories of political, social and cultural analysis. For example, in recent years our students have done research on such topics as women’s empowerment and micro-loan programs in Uganda, “hook-up culture” on college campuses, depictions of transgendered identities in Hollywood films, medical diagnoses of female sexual dysfunction, and the effect of the 1977 Hyde Amendment on debates over abortion in the U.S.

Students majoring or minoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies have gone onto rewarding careers in law, medicine, education, journalism, business, advocacy work, and the arts. Many of our students have won prestigious Coro Fellowships in Public Affairs, secured teaching placements through the Teach for America program, or gone onto graduate school, law school, or medical school upon completing their B.A. at Northwestern.