Disclaimer: I am not a professional! If you want to find a professional sex educator please look at my "Resources" page. If you have any questions, feel free to ask on my ask site: FYsexeducationquestions, though check out my FAQ first!
Anonymous asks: “I’d love to study or get a career in sex or gender studies. Where do I start?”
This is such a huge question, as there are so many options, but hopefully we can give you some tips & things to think about.
First off, studying. It’s probably the easiest way to get a basic introduction to gender & sexuality, whilst also meeting people who share your interests.
Depending on your choice of college or university, if you’re an undergraduate, you may not be able to get a degree solely focusing on gender & sexuality, but most places will run one or two courses relating to gender studies (for example, Edinburgh usually runs Global Politics of Sex & Gender, Gender & Sexuality in Early Modern Europe, Gender, Sexuality, & the City & Theology, Gender & Sexuality) & taking these as outside courses & the going on to write your dissertation focused around gender & sexuality, is a good way to get a solid grounding in the basics of theories of gender & sexuality.
If you’re studying for a Masters or a Postgraduate degree it should be much easier to focus your study entirely on topics which interest you, in this case gender & sexuality, there’s a list of Postgraduate Gender Studies programmes in the UK here. If you’re not planning on going to university then you could still look into taking a one-off course, which many universities offer, or consider online options.
If taking a course isn’t going to work for you or you feel confident in having the basics down, then our best advice is to read. Read everything you can get your hands on, from Judith Butler to Caitlin Moran, & think critically about what you’re reading. How are these people theorising gender? How do they fit into the history of feminist & queer literature? What criticisms do you have of what they’re saying, & what criticism do you think others might have? If you’re unsure what to read there are plenty of helpful introductory reading lists around, for example this one from the University of Texas’ Women’s Studies course or this list from Fuck Yeah Gender Studies! (which also includes films & comics) but don’t be afraid to stray from the beaten path & read less well known texts or even blog posts - anything which gets you thinking about the issues is great.
Whether you take a course or not, it’s also a great idea to practice vocalising your thoughts & discussing them with others. Obviously this is going to be easier if you are studying alongside people who share your interests, but even if you’re not there are still plenty of options. Starting a blog documenting your readings & thoughts about topics, & getting involved in online forums & communities which focus on gender & sexuality, are both great way to challenge yourself & your ideas.
All the things listed above will stand you in great stead for the future, whether you decide to pursue gender & sexuality further or not. However, taking the next step can be trickier, since there are about a million & one choices!
If you’re looking for a career focused solely around the theory of sexuality & gender then the obvious choice is to take an academic route. This requires you to have completed an undergraduate degree (this doesn’t necessarily need to be gender or sexuality based) & some form of post-graduate study based around the topic you’re interested in pursuing. As an academic you’d have a chance to pursue your own research as well as teaching others about a subject you’re really excited about, which could be really interesting although not particularly hands on.
If you’re looking for something more practical, the opportunities are really endless: you could do anything from working for an organisation that promotes women’s rights in developing countries to providing support for LGBTQIA youth . It’s all about what you’re interested in & what path you decide you want to follow.
We really hope this has been helpful for you - it’s fantastic to hear from someone who’s so passionate about this subject - & if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask!
If anyone has anything they’d like to add to this post then feel free to message us & we’ll pop it in.
FYSE: Someone just pointed out Caitlin Moran was on this list and she really shouldn’t be because she recently said that she “could not give a shit about” there being portrayals of women of color in mainstream media.
Intersectionality is SO important because in things like gender studies it tends to become about the cis white able bodied neurotypical woman and so many people are left out or our actively oppressed. Definitely critique “feminist” or gender study media just as you’d be critical of high school history books that fail to mention women or POC scientists or other great people in our history.
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