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Ramblings from a gender studies-oriented sociology student


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Hey all,

I'm preparing for applications in the fall, and I'm trying to do better research on the departments that I'm going to apply to this time around. I initially deferred to a lot of the rankings various sites/publications provide (and even the ASA guide to departments) to find departments that have a strong background in gender studies and sexuality.

The problem is, these guides generally suggest departments that focus on traditional research of gender studies/sexuality -- women's studies, The Family, childrearing, etc. All good stuff, but I'm a new wave gender studies student. I'm interested in constructivist perspectives on gender, sexuality, and desire...trans experience, queer theory, and masculinities/femininities. I'm getting frustrated by looking through departments at all these "top" schools and not finding curricula or even professors that address this kind of stuff.

I guess I'm just looking for general advice -- if I want to be trained to be a sociologist and possibly get a job, should I be happy applying to these top schools with strong "gender studies" departments? I imagine I would spend 6-ish years working with people that study gender stuff on the periphery of what I really care about. Or should I instead try to find schools that have more professors with my own specific interests? I've heard lots of criticism about going somewhere just because you like a professor.

Any thoughts? Any other gendery people feel similar frustrations?

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I did gender studies in undergrad (the type you want to do, relatively non traditional), and my best advice is to go with a person who does the type of stuff you want to do. Traditional quantitive sociology in family stuff is going to bore you and is not going to get you the type of job you want. Yeah, people warned me too about going places just because of a person, but realistically, your main advisors are really going to be the only people you care about in the department beyond your second or third year.

Steve Epstein was at my undergrad and is now at Northwestern. He does the type of stuff you want to do and is cool, maybe check him out.

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If you are considering schools outside of the t-25, I would suggest taking a look at Wayne Brekhus (http://sociology.missouri.edu/New%20Website%20WWW/Faculty%20and%20Staff/Wayne_Brekhus.html) of the University of Missouri. He does a lot of Queer Theory stuff, but he isn't a standard Gender Studies scholar at all (though Missouri does have a few of the more traditional gender studies types of which you speak). Plus he's like the nicest guy ever and genuinely cares about his students.

It probably shouldn't be your first-choice department, but if you're going to apply to a bunch of schools it isn't a bad option.

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Hip2b!!! The dreaded round 2... (Don't worry, it's actually much easier the second time around. :):P)

I know what you mean about being frustrated with traditional gender studies ("women's studies")! What I've found is that the courses/curriculum that schools offer hasn't really caught up, so it's best to look at profs' more recent works to find common interests. Even if you don't find yourself in exact alignment to a prof's research, the important thing is that they are supportive of your interests, can provide the intellectual resources you need (point you in the right direction), and be a valuable committee member.

I have three schools to recommend, just because I had personal experience with them this year: Florida State, UMass Amherst, and USC.

Florida State has a reputation for gender based on their gender & labor curriculum, but in the last 5 years or so, they've started pushing the sexuality route. Doug Schrock in particular has done a LOT of work on trans identity and experience, and he's offering a new masculinities course, starting Fall 2009. He is a really cool guy.

UMass Amherst has queer theory courses, access to faculty and resources at Smith and Amherst College etc., and Amy Schalet, who has an ongoing grant for culture and adolescent sexuality. What's most attractive about them though is they have a TON of grad students interested in the same things we are, so there is a lot of potential for coauthorships and community.

USC was my pick, even though on the surface they may seem a little more traditional "gender studies." Tim Biblarz is my mentor - he's doing the quant. family stuff that ewurgler warned you about :D . But again, for me it was more about support, combining talents of several faculty members, and having those resources.

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