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NYU class has students write a ‘gender autobiography’

‘An effort to make sense of your life…as influenced by your gender’

A sociology class at New York University requires students to write a “gender autobiography,” a paper in which the students will show “how [their] life relates to the conditions of gender inequality and gender differentiation.”

The class, “(Sociology of) Sex and Gender,” taught by instructor Robert Max Jackson, explores “gender distinctions [that] permeate the institutions, opportunities, and ideas around us.”

“Through reading and discussion, and through critically examining our own lives, we will build our analytical tools to understand and talk about sex inequality knowledgeably and perceptively. We will also try to expand our general skills in theoretical criticism and social analysis,” the course’s website states.

Central to the class is the course term paper: Every student must write a “gender (auto)biography” in which students are given the opportunity to “make sense of your life–past, present, and future–as influenced by your gender.”

“At the end of the course, you will submit a gender social biography that shows how your life relates to the conditions of gender inequality and gender differentiation, using a range of materials from the class.”

According to the assignment’s guidelines: “The main idea here is simply that ‘gender identity’ is not a simple, singular quality. Rather, it is the combination of many personal characteristics and dispositions that we think of as differing between the typical woman and typical man. Furthermore, our gender identity is not only changeable over time, but may vary by context or by the point of view of the person evaluating it.”

Jackson did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The College Fix seeking to learn more about the assignment. New York University also did not respond to The Fix’s repeated requests for comment.

The course website states that the biography will be graded in part on how it examines “the biographical significance of gender in a thoughtful and analytically sound manner.”

In his own personal biography on New York University’s website, Jackson writes that, during his childhood, he “came to value women as friends, to expect that women worked, to not believe women were nurturing, to consider marriage suspect and families untrustworthy, and to anticipate that people from affluent backgrounds were always ready to screw you over.”

A list of other classes taught by Jackson include “What Causes Gender Inequality?” and “Future of Gender.”

In “What Causes Gender Inequality?” students “explore diverse facets of gender inequality and varied ideas about what causes might be decisive.” Students also “look carefully at the ways we can identify and verify the causes of social phenomena” in order to “enhance our understanding of what produces gender inequality and to improve our general ability to do causal social analyses effectively.”

MORE: New tool checks professors’ syllabi for gender, racial equality

MORE: Harvard Women’s Center to roll out ‘Gender 101’ training courses

IMAGE: chrupka / Shutterstock.com

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About the Author
Chase Watkins -- Utah Valley University