From Theory to Praxis: Gender and Sexuality Studies as an Interdisciplinary Critique

In Gender and Sexuality Studies 101, I learned a lot about the ways in which the way in which monolithic ideas and cultural hegemonies inform the ways in which people think and behave. I realized through this course the ways in which these ideas seep into every facet of human life, even through most supposedly unbiased and objective academic disciplines. As someone who has always valued the tangible and facts, the application of gender and sexuality studies critiques of what we take for granted, as “common knowledge” has really been eye-opening.
I’m planning to major in history and biology, two disciplines that, despite their different methodologies and focuses, both tend to focus on the demonstrable and “provable”. However, something about both disciplines that I’ve learned to critique from GSS 101 is the ways in which these facts are interpreted and applied. Both disciplines require logical continuity and frown upon intellectual leaps without grounding in data. Still, scientists and historians are still human, and still Foucaultian subjects not only influenced but created by the world around them.
Our discussion of feminist science studies is a great example of the ways in which my views had been challenged. I knew, of course, that science has often been misinterpreted or employed as a rhetorical tactic to reinforce societal inequality; just look at a movement like eugenics. However, I wasn’t really aware of the ways in which, down to the very textbooks we use to teach biology, the way we frame and explain biological concepts reinforces the ideologies of gender difference and heteronormativity.
Similarly, I had always heard about the phrase “history is told by the winners” and knew on some level the ways in which history has been interpreted to soften the historical oppressions of non-dominant groups and bolster the dominant groups in society. However, GSS 101 opened my eyes further on these topics. The ways in which we interpret history to impose our own hegemonic ideas was surprising. For example, I found it interesting to learn the ways in which the idea of a “traditional marriage” is a construction of our modern society. It was also interesting to learn the ways people have thought about homosexuality and heterosexuality in the past, since such terms and identities didn’t even exist in many societies and therefore, aren’t an accurate representation of the ways in which people in the past saw their lives.
I would like to pursue a project that looks at the history of science through the lens of feminist science studies, and looks at the ways in which scientific fields, especially biology and medicine, have served to reinforce ideologies of gender difference, especially around the time that “heterosexuality” and “homosexuality” as terms came into being.
Through GSS 101, I’ve learned to look at the subjects I’m passionate about with a more critical eye. This course has taught me to challenge the hegemonic ideas that underlie much of human productions of knowledge. While I myself am a product of society, and can never truly free myself from its effects, I can still learn to be aware in which the ways my understandings are shaped by the society around me. Overall, I want to take what I’ve learned from this course to more fully investigate and interrogate the ways in which I understand the fields I’m passionate about.