Bilinda Straight

Department of Anthropology

1020 Moore Hall

bilinda [DOT] straight [AT] wmich [DOT] edu


Anthropology 2600: “Sex, Gender, and Culture”


Catalog Description: Sexual differences around the world are culturally elaborated into gender-specific behaviors, normed relations between gender-coded people and objects, and various ideologies supporting the differences. In this course, biological and cross-cultural data will be used to explore the foundation of this process and the social, cultural, and psychological consequences of gender coding on men and women in different cultural settings.


Course Goals: The course will introduce students to the ways in which sex assignments and gender roles are culturally understood and constructed, the power inequalities associated with sex and gender differences, and the impact of these differences and inequalities on people’s lived experiences.


Assignments: Avatar Creation; Discussion Board; Mini-Virtual Exhibit [can include photos with captions, sound with captions, some limited text – a minimum of 20 slides], Final Paper


Course Objectives:

(1)  Students will be able to distinguish between sex differences and gender differences and the cultural role in shaping each;

(2)  Students will be able to identify at least three kinds of sex and/or gender inequality

(3)  Students will be able to discuss ideologies surrounding sex and gender inequality

(4)  Students will be able to empathize with a sex assignment or gender role different from their own


Reading Schedule


Module 0: Introduction


Syllabus, Course Schedule, Etiquette

Introducing Each Other

Creating Avatars


Module 1: Constructing Sexed Bodies in a World of Gendered Culture


Suzanne J. Kessler and Wendy McKenna. “Toward a Theory of Gender,” In Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach


Anne Fausto-Sterling. 2000. “Dueling Dualisms,” In Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality, pp. 1-29.


Joan Roughgarden. 2004. “12: Sex Differences,” In Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People, pp. 207-237.


Matthew H. McIntyre and Carolyn Pope Edwards. 2009. The Early Development of Gender Differences. Annual Review of Anthropology 38: 83-97.


Module 2: Beyond Dual-Sex/Gender Systems


Alice Domurat Dreger. 1998. “Doubtful Sex,” In Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, pp. 15-45.


Anne Fausto-Sterling. 2000. “That Sexe Which Prevaileth,” In Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality, pp. 30-44.


Sabine Lang. 1999. “Lesbians, Men-Women, and Two-Spirits: Homosexuality and Gender in Native American Cultures.” In Evelyn Blackwood and Saskia Wieringa, eds. Female Desires: Same-Sex Relations and Transgender Practices Across Cultures, pp. 91-116.


Michael G. Peletz. 2006. “Transgenderism and Gender Pluralism in Southeast Asia since Early Modern Times.” Current Anthropology 47(2): 309-340.


Films: Paradise Bent and XXXY


Module 3: Constructing Gender – and Power


Sherry Ortner. 1974. “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” In Rosaldo and Lamphere (eds.), pp. 67-87.


Gayle Rubin. 1975. “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex.” In Rayna Reiter (ed.) Toward an Anthropology of Women, pp. 17-42.


Susan Sperling. 1997. “Baboons with Briefcases vs. Langurs with Lipstick.” In Roger N. Lancaster and Micaela di Leonardo, eds. The Gender Sexuality Reader, pp. 249-264.


Matthew C. Gutmann. 1997. “Trafficking in Men: The Anthropology of Masculinity.” Annual Review of Anthropology 26: 385-409.


Module 4: Contemporary Marriage and Kinship


Douglas J. Falen. 2008. “Polygyny and Christian Marriage in Africa: The Case of Benin.” African Studies Review 51(2): 51-75.


Jennifer Cole. 2014. Marriage Migrants in France: Managing Horizons of Expectation. Current Anthropology 55(Supplement 9): S85-S94.


Emma E. Cook. 2014. “Intimate Expectations and Practices: Freeter Relationships and Marriage in Contemporary Japan.” Asian Anthropology 13(1): 36-51.


Corinne P. Hayden. 1995. “Gender, Genetics, and Generation: Reformulating Biology in Lesbian Kinship.” Current Anthropology 10(1): 41-63.


Film: The Kids Are Alright (2010)


Module 5: Marriage, Inequality, and Failure


Sara Butler. 2006. “Runaway Wives: Husband Desertion in Medieval England.” Journal of Social History 40(2):337-359.


Ruth Behar. 1993. “Introduction” and “Translated Woman” in Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza’s Story, pp. 1-20 and 275-302.


Bilinda Straight. 2005. “Cold Hearths: The Losses of Home in an Appalachian Woman’s Life History.” Bilinda Straight, ed., In Women on the Verge of Home, pp. 89-107.


Arzoo Osanloo. 2006. “Rights Talk”: Women, Subjectivity, and Law in Iranian Family Court.” American Ethnologist 33(2): 191-209.


Film: A Separation


Module 6: Policing Sex/Gender Systems


Shilpa Phadke. 2013. “Unfriendly Bodies, Hostile Cities: Reflections on Loitering and Gendered Public Space.” Economic and Political Weekly 58(39): 50-59.


Tiantian Zheng. 2015. “Masculinity in Crisis: Effeminate Men, Loss of Manhood, and the Nation-State in Postsocialist China.” Ethnografica 19(2): 347-365.


Doug Meyer. 2012. “An Intersectional Analysis of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) People’s Evaluations of Anti-Queer Violence.” Gender and Society 26(6): 849-873.


Veena Das. 2008. “Violence, Gender, and Subjectivity.” Annual Review of Anthropology 37: 283-299.


Module 7: Wrapping Up/Unraveling stereotypes


Anna Kirkland. 2006. “What’s at Stake in Transgender Discrimination as Sex Discrimination?” Signs 32(1): 83-111.


Final Essays Due Last Day of Semester