BA Politics and German

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Gender, Sex and Politics

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI30231
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Why does a person’s gender affect their opportunities and life chances so much? How is gender constructed? What are the roles of “choice” and “social construction” respectively in determining gender roles, sexual preferences, sexual behaviour, and norms of appearance? Should we worry that women are still underrepresented in the public sphere, or should we take this as an expression of free choice? Should the state regulate, let alone prohibit, practices such as pornography or prostitution? Should we worry about norms of appearance and gender stereotypes in the media and pop culture, or accept them as the expression of legitimate preferences? Can gender equality be achieved through liberal equality, or does it need different categories altogether? How does gender interact with class, race, sexual orientation and other axes of oppression?

The aim of this course is to understand and evaluate the importance of sex and gender as relevant categories in politics, whether and how they give rise to inequalities and disadvantages, and what should be done about it. In so doing, we shall also ask how certain areas of life, which are traditionally considered to be entirely private and thus lying beyond the realm of political concern (such as family life) might also have important political ramifications. We shall address these questions mainly from a normative perspective. We shall ask what, if anything, is wrong about gender representations and relations in our society and what, if anything at all, should be done about it.

The course will be structured along two main parts. In the first we shall address conceptual and theoretical issues concerning sexual and gender differences. In doing so, we shall look at some prominent feminist perspectives as well at as theories of differences between genders and their implications – such as liberal and radical feminism, intersectionality, standpoint theory, and theories of gender identity. In the second part we shall look at particularly salient policy issues which concern the relationships between genders, and ask which moral and political concerns they may raise on the basis of the theoretical perspectives we have studied – such as family and work policy, prostitution, and pornography. 

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to employ a rigorous theoretical approach to critically evaluate the main arguments regarding the significance of gender, sex, and sexuality; use analytic reasoning to draw their own conclusions about how contemporary liberal democracies should respond to the significance of gender, sex, and sexuality; discuss political movements, policies, and claims in terms of their underlying theoretical assumptions.

Teaching and learning methods

1  2 hrs lecture per week
Weekly 1 hr seminar in groups of roughly 15 students each

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 55%
Written assignment (inc essay) 45%

Feedback methods

Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 21 working days of submission via Blackboard (if submitted through Turnitin).

Students should be aware that all marks are provisional until confirmed by the external examiner and the final examinations boards in June.

For modules that do not have examination components the marks and feedback for the final assessed component are not subject to the 21 working day rule and will be released with the examination results. This applies to Semester 2 modules only. Semester one modules with no final examination will have their feedback available within the 21 working days.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor. Tutors and Course Convenors also have a dedicated office hour when you can meet with her/him to discuss course unit specific problems and questions.

On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff.

Recommended reading

Saul, Jennifer. 2003. Feminism: Issues and Arguments. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Clara Sandelind Unit coordinator
Miriam Ronzoni Unit coordinator

Additional notes

This course is available to all students.


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