chapter  6
Women’s Studies and the Question of Gender
WithBonnie G. Smith
Pages 18

The most common understanding of gender among the public is that it is a substitute for the term woman or women. In fact for the past twenty years people often talk about Gender Studies rather than Women’s Studies, and many universities have changed the name of the major to Gender Studies. Gender constitutes an important duality that is a basic building block of the world. Gender has marked the way men and women dress and behave, determined the spaces in which they conduct their lives, and awarded the power that they wield in the family and wider world. The assertion that women could escape biological destiny to forge an existence apart from the family also opened the way to gender theory by detaching femininity from the body. Some accept the idea of gender as a “construction” of sexual difference that is separate from the biological “reality” found in the body.