Gender Studies considers the impact of gender and sexuality on a range of discourses embedded within cultures, identities and global histories. Through this major, you will consider ideas of sexual difference, sexual politics and sexuality through close engagement with a broad variety of theorists, case studies and media.  

Gender Studies is transdisciplinary and draws on the diverse interests of specialists located throughout the Faculty of Arts.


  • Academia
  • Community development
  • Government
  • Policy development
  • Research
  • Sociology

Subjects you could take in this major

  • Our world is thoroughly gendered. But what is gender? Is it biological or cultural? How do gender norms and stereotypes emerge and how do they impact on the lives of actually existing men and women? Using case studies that may include television, pop music, film, social media, politics, and sport, this subject analyses how gender operates both in representation and in people’s embodied everyday experience. The subject also analyses how gender intersects with other categories that may include sexuality, age, class, disability, race, and religion. Drawing from a range of disciplines across the humanities and social sciences, students will be introduced to major concepts in gender studies that may include biological determinism, social constructionism, gender inequality, hegemonic femininities and masculinities, sexuality, and gendered embodiment.

  • Aboriginal Women and Coloniality is a multidisciplinary subject looking at the various roles Aboriginal women have played in Aboriginal and Settler society. It examines stereotypical representations of Aboriginal women in colonial art and culture, the depiction of Aboriginal women in literature, cinema and fine arts, the role Aboriginal women have played in the economy as workers, as well as their roles as nurturers and carers, activists and community leaders. Theories and approaches from gender and post-colonial studies and new historicism will be utilised to provide the intellectual framework for this subject. The subject will conclude with consideration of the critique that female Aboriginal artists and writers have made of these representations, and the forms of self-representation produced in their work.

  • This subject offers a specifically anthropological perspective to understandings of gender and sexuality, providing an empirical, cross-cultural framework with which to evaluate and examine various theoretical perspectives. Topics covered include the influence of an anthropologist's gendered and sexual identity in shaping ethnography, the meaning of heterosexuality in a cross-cultural context, gender and Islam, gender and kinship, gendered experiences of migration, male and female sex tourism, and experiences of masculinity, femininity and third gender categories and identities in the world today. On completion of the subject students should have gained knowledge of gender-based systems of social classification in a global context and through this develop a critical awareness of the representation of women's and men's lives in ethnography.

  • How are genders and desires imagined, performed, reproduced and contested in the diversity of societies and cultures of the Asian region? How does mobility and sociocultural change influence, or impact on everyday notions of gender within Asia, and in discourses about Asia? What is the influence of histories, religions, languages and media on gender and sexualities in the Asian region and Asian diasporas? This subject critically engages with gender and desire in relation to the Asian region by drawing on contemporary gender theories and a diversity of perspectives from the humanities and social sciences. Topics will cover the Asian region and diasporas, with a focus on languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian and Japanese.

  • Contemporary cultural and political conflicts are increasingly articulated with the body, bodies, gender and sexuality at the heart of their concerns. This subject brings insights from contemporary theory and social research to our understanding of how and why this occurs. The subject begins by examining ways to think about the gendered body. It then moves to a consideration of the links between gender, sex, sexuality, cultural difference, class, popular culture and politics.

  • This subject examines Romanticism from the perspective of the massive, though long neglected, cultural force of women writers and readers in the late-18 th and early-19 th centuries. It locates the emergence of feminism in this historical context, when, in the wake of the French revolution, changing notions of literature, culture, sexuality and emancipation gave rise to the first concerted articulation of feminist ideas in modern European culture. Through close readings of some of the best writers of the last two centuries – Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Smith, Mary Robinson, Mary Wollstonecraft, Anna Barbauld, and others – students will gain a firm understanding of the literary, philosophical and cultural foundations of Romanticism and early Feminism, movements that have played key roles in the construction of the modern world.

  • How do sex and gender operate in the world today, and what are their possible futures? Indeed, do these concepts have a future? Can they adequately capture the breadth, range and fluidity of contemporary and global sexed and gendered lives? Key themes explored in this subject include: current theories and experiences of sex and gender in the world today; the increasing instability of the concepts of sex and gender and their transformations; gender fluidity; the persistence of gender inequality; gender as a cultural category versus gender as lived bodily experience; and the uses and abuses of the gender concept. The subject culminates by considering imagined futures of everyday gender practices and of sexualities. These themes will be explored in a global and cross-cultural context.

  • What do pictures want in relation to sex and sexuality? How is art gendered? How do painters use the materiality of oil on canvas to make gendered critiques of the history of art and its cultures? Structured around the rich collections of the National gallery of Victoria, each class will focus upon a specific work considering what insights a gendered analysis of it can provide. Lectures will be delivered in front of the paintings in situ in the gallery. Curatorial and expert academic staff from the NGV and the University of Melbourne, as well as international experts from outside of Victoria, will provide the lectures which will address a range of works drawn from the 18 th century to the present. We will consider how gender, sex and sexuality impact on both the production and the reception of art and how artists utilise sexual codes at specific historical moments. Themes surrounding discourse, equality, ideology, and protest, will be addressed. We will consider how curatorial practises reinforce sexual difference through considering the artworks currently on display and how these produce meaning when they are taken as an aggregate in the context of an exhibition. We will study how works are conceptually framed by the information that the gallery provides about them through audio-guides, catalogue entries, hanging, and labelling. The subject will introduce you to key ideas from a number of thinkers including Judith Butler, Barbara Creed, Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigiary, Michele Foucault, W.J.T.Mitchell, Nicholas Chare, Svetlana Alpers, Michael Baxandall, Lynda Nead, Fred Orton, Griselda Pollock, carol Duncan and Lisa Tickner.

  • This subject introduces ideas developed in feminist theory about the social and political construction of areas of experience relating to the body, gender and sexuality. Issues analysed in the subject include transsexualism, reproduction, eating disorders, pornography, sex work, sexual violence and sexual orientation. Students who complete this subject should be able to understand the ways in which issues connected with the body and sexuality are socially and politically constructed, understand the ways in which the construction of masculinity and femininity affects the learning and regulation of such areas of experience, and apply a variety of feminist approaches to the analysis of these issues.

  • How have sexual practices and identities evolved, been represented and expressed from prehistory to the present? This subject will interrogate ideas about sexualities, with particular attention to developments from nineteenth century sexologists and psychoanalysis to feminism, queer theory and intersectionality. Categories of classification and identity including transgender, cisgender, heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality will be examined alongside the history of political activism around sexuality. By charting a historical genealogy of sexual practices and ideas about sexual practices, the subject will show how the gendered body and sex have been simultaneously linked to social liberation and control. On completion of this subject, students should understand the ways in which sexualities have multiple histories and and that they remain highly contested in the majority of cultures.

  • Kinship studies has a long, important and contentious history in Anthropology. Drawing on this historical legacy this subject applies both classic and contemporary anthropological theories of family, kinship and social relatedness to a range of ethnographic case studies. The subject addresses three inter-related themes. Firstly, there is an anthropological focus on the links that exist between kinship and the nation-state in terms of national identity, ethnicity, migration and state policy. Secondly, the subject considers yet complicates imaginings of blood ties and biogenetic substance by examining the influences of black magic, ghost marriages, Skype, spiritual conception, milk, guns, deities, surrogate mothers and medical practitioners in the shaping of kin ties today. Finally, there is a focus on continuity and social change and the ways in which the meaning of family, kinship and social relationships are transformed or otherwise by new reproductive and genetic technologies, polygamy, same-sex relationships, friendships and the influence of internet and mobile-phone based forms of communication.

  • This subject offers a close study of film noir texts from Friz Lang’s M to David Lynch’s new noir with a focus on the history and evolution of film noir, and its changing representations of sexuality and society. The subject will consider the way in which social, political and moral factors influence cinematic style and subject matter. Topics studied will include the silent period; noir and German expressionism; noir horror; classic Hollywood noir of the 40s; postmodern noir and the evolving image of the femme fatale. Students should complete the subject with an understanding of the relationship between film and history; the stylistic development of the film noir body of texts from the silent period to the present; of new approaches to historiography; of the symbolic relevance of the changing image of the femme fatale in the film noir; and of postmodern cinematic practice in relation to contemporary film noir.

  • This subject explores diverse scenes, sites and spaces of gender as they occur in contemporary life and culture. It will draw on key theories and approaches to gender to study sexual difference and sexuality in relation to real world contexts including culture, home, education, media, politics, public and private institutions, and the law. The subject will provide Gender Studies students with the opportunity to reflect on, expand and synthesize the rich skills base from the Humanities and Social Sciences which they have cultivated during their studies. Additionally it offers an essential forum for discussion about how these skills can productively be applied in the professional workplace. This includes a consideration of how having a background in Gender Studies will enable potential future leaders in the workplace to challenge and counter discrimination and prejudice, to institute cultures of change and to champion Human Rights. The subject will feature regular guest lectures by arts, community, industry, and public sector leaders.

  • Issues related to gender and sexuality are key to understand social and cultural practices in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas. In this subject such issues are explored in relation to their representation in cultural texts – including fiction literature, film and TV. Major themes to be explored include gender violence, gay marriage legislation, gender reassignment legislation, post-colonial feminisms, new masculinities, and sexism in language.

  • This subject will look at issues of gender and sexuality in an international context. It will cover war and militarism and their effect on women, the international division of labour, the effects of religious fundamentalisms, the politics of population and reproductive technologies, international trafficking in women, sexual violence and harmful cultural practices. Students who complete this subject should understand the ways in which gender politics might affect the study of international relations, understand how government policy and other forces operating in Australia and other Western countries are affecting the lives and opportunities of women and relationships between men and women in the rest of the world, be familiar with developments in feminist theory on the issues of human rights, cultural relativism, and have an understanding of international gender politics which can enrich their study of other subjects in the social sciences.

  • This subject introduces students to the ways in which language indexes and constructs identities in social contexts. It introduces students to a range of theoretical approaches, and the distinctive research methodologies associated with each. These include language socialization. studies of language in social interaction using the techniques of Conversation Analysis and discourse analysis (including critical discourse analysis). and poststructuralist approaches to language and subjectivity. Topics covered will include gender-related language use, language and racism, language and sexuality, the negotiation and deployment of identities in face-to-face interaction, and the way language and discourse construct and maintain a sense of "otherness". On completion of the subject, students should be able to recognise ways in which language and discourse construct particular social identities of relevance to themselves, and critically analyse ways of thinking about the complex phenomenon of language and identity.

  • This subject surveys recent developments in our philosophical understanding and critiques of the social categories of race and gender. The subject will first explore issues in metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of language that arise for biological vs social constructivist accounts of race and gender. Special attention will be paid to the similarities and differences between race and gender and the ways in which they interact. If race and gender are biological categories, they may involve erroneous assumptions. If they are socially constructed categories, it follows that our current categories can be reshaped. This raises a number of moral and political questions regarding the best means to bring about change, including whether limiting freedom of speech can be justified. Philosophers studied include Anthony Appiah, Elizabeth Anderson, Sally Haslanger, Tommie Shelby, and Rae Langton.

  • How do we come to experience ourselves as having a gender and a sexual orientation? How do social constructions of gender relate to understandings of sexuality? How have categories like masculinity and femininity; heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality transformed over time? This subject approaches gender and sexuality as historically and culturally contingent rather than as natural expressions of a private self. It provides the historical and theoretical frameworks for understanding the rise of specific genders and sexualities in relation to available medical, psychoanalytic, philosophical, political and popular discourses. Drawing from recent formations in both feminism and queer studies, this subject engages with a diverse range of cultural texts from the proceedings of court cases to personal advertisements, from celebrity gossip columns to popular film. On completion of this subject students should be able to explicate the complex imbrications of gender and sexuality and to analyse the representation of gendered and sexual identities and desires in selected cultural texts, which may include television, film, Internet and print media.

Entry requirements & Prerequisites

This major is available through more than one course, both of which have their own separate entry requirements.

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Bachelor of Arts&Bachelor of Arts Extended