Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

PWR 2SCB: Bodies in the 21st Century: Gender and Rhetoric

Main content start


2021-2022 Not offered

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

This class explores the politics of gender, beginning with this particular moment in this particular place. Stanford is both an idyllic campus where every other laptop bears an “Of Course I’m a Feminist” sticker, and the site of the infamous Brock Turner case. This is the first year that our campus will have all-gender gym facilities; last spring, the 47th Annual Stanford Powwow honored MMIW [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women]; yet Stanford surveys report that 43% of female graduates “have experienced sexual assault or misconduct.” How can we understand what gender might be, in this moment of trans visibility, #MeToo, and intersectional feminism?

Together, we’ll investigate how bodily identities are shaped and interpreted, what that process means for us, and what we might want to do about it now. We’ll look at artworks, digital culture, first-person narratives, and contemporary theories of gender and sexuality. Delving into gender doesn’t just mean analyzing women, or just looking to cisgender experiences, or just adopting white feminist frameworks, or thinking monoculturally: in this class, we’ll try to figure out where we all are in this complicated time. After all, the task of rethinking the category of gender for the 21st century needs as many thoughtful, curious, creative, courageous, diverse people as it can possibly get.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words) To investigate a case study in gender, you begin by presenting a meaningful question, framing the issues, giving necessary context, and sketching out your lines of inquiry for this project. Projects might range from the impact of Title IX revisions at Stanford to the role of gender & racial bias in developing algorithms. Students are encouraged to consider how gender operates ‘locally’ for them, in their communities (which might well be transnational), and at Stanford.

Delivery of Research

(10-minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) This is your chance to move the people in the room with you towards new ways of thinking and doing gender. In translating your project from the page to a live space, you craft your message for the present audience. How can you effectively convey the most important aspects of your project—supported by research—in a way that will be compelling for your audience? What will you bring back to us from your research and thinking, and how can you show us the value of what you are giving?

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages) Drawing on substantial research from diverse sources, this essay frames the questions at the heart of your project and draws your readers into thinking along with you. In crafting a coherent, persuasive, engaging writing project of your own, you make choices about your own ethos as well as which voices to center.

Genre/Modes Assignment

(300-500 creatively written words) For this assignment, you’ll write a thick description, a mode of vivid writing developed in cultural anthropology (by Clifford Geertz, among others), which combines detailed descriptions and analysis. The goal of this assignment is to help your audience feel what your case study feels like, using techniques from creative writing, long-form journalism, poetry, lyric essays, and ethnography to make your observations come alive; this can be folded into the RBA.