Psychology of Gender, Overview

This course has been organized into three units.

Unit 1 – Foundations for the Study of Gender

You will explore the meaning of gender and why it is important for us to place it under close scrutiny. You will cover the following topics: Gender-relevance in science and research; Objective vs. subjective ways of inquiry; Distinguishing gender from sex; Theories of gender socialization; Biology vs. socialization; Becoming gendered and doing gender; and Femininity, masculinity, and androgyny.

Unit 2 – Weaving the Gender Tapestry

You will explore specific topics known to be gender relevant. These topics include: agents of gender socialization; sexuality and relationships; parenting and reproductive issues; cognitive skills; employment, domestic labour, and affirmative action; power and violence; and mental and physical health and vulnerability.

Unit 3 – Connections and Future Directions

You will tie all of the previously presented evidence together. The class, as a group, will choose from a list of currently relevant gender topics those particular issues they would like to explore further. Students – in groups — will research and present arguments and counter arguments regarding complex gender issues and current topics selected by the class.

In addition, in this unit you will explore how the personal becomes political with respect to gender. That is, you will examine how gender issues not only affect you on a personal level, but how they influence societal structures, laws and policies. And finally, all students will read about and make their own suggestions for future directions for the study of gender.

Not a traditional lecture–based course.

This gender course differs from conventional lecture courses where the reading material alone will provide you the scientific and theoretical data needed to begin the exploration of gender. We (J.M.M. and E.D.) have put much thought into collecting texts, readings, videos, and online resources that will begin your journey into understanding gender. We have intentionally chosen material that fairly represents both women’s and men’s issues. The next step in your journey through gender will be to make this exciting and complex body of literature and other resources meaningful to YOU. We will not only give you opportunities to suggest, explore, and present gender issues of keen interest to you, but also, ask you to go beyond academic research alone. You are both expected and encouraged to examine the effects of gender first-hand in your own life.

Collaborative learning.

We have designed this course to provide an atmosphere of collaborative learning where we learn from each other. To accomplish this collaborative effort, we have provided discussion forums and we encourage students to work through the course in small study groups. However, study group participation is voluntary. We realize that some students prefer to work on their own, or can not fit another co-ordinated effort into their schedule. Students who wish to work on their own will be solely responsible for all the required readings, as well as completing the first part of the first group activity, while study groups may share that work.

It is one thing to read about gender topics in the required readings, but it is quite another to REALLY understand what this all means in real life, or to make sense of multiple – often contradicting statistical results and studies! In the small study groups, you will have the opportunity to alternate between teaching and learning roles. Within study groups, students are encouraged to further explore and discuss the gender issues covered in each area. Study groups may also ‘share’ the required readings, thereby reducing the work load on individual students. And finally, some group activities may be completed as a group, i. e. not by each individual student. Study groups are self administered. They are meant as a learning aid to you, the student, not as a teaching aid. This means that the instructors will not monitor or evaluate individual performance within a group. We simply provide a sign-up sheet for you to make contact with other students interested in working in a study group.

Class discussions.

A variety of discussion forums are provided so that students can share their thoughts with the whole class. In the discussion forums students can ask questions of each other, and most importantly answer each others’ questions and respond to postings. These discussion forums are an integral part of this course, and will help students integrate the material across all topics presented, as well as think backward to re–examine material, presented earlier on, in a different light. Students taking our course have appreciated the opportunity to engage in lively debates, laugh –– and cry –– together, sharing humour and other material building supportive and enjoyable relationships with each other. Participation in the discussion forums is informal, but will be marked with a participation grade, compared to the class average. We are confident, however, that you will find participating to be its own reward, as it will increase your understanding, as well as give you opportunities to vent, ask questions, clarify and teach beyond your study group, by interacting with the whole class. Our role as your instructors will be to stay on the sidelines during your discussions, only getting involved to help you maintain an atmosphere of tolerance and respect, or to correct gross factual misrepresentations.

Our collaborative course structure allows you to truly understand something by teaching. YOU will have the opportunity to teach your fellow students about YOUR way of understanding gender. There is no right or wrong here. Students will be marked on the vigour and quality of their participation. Quality here means: how comprehensively yet concisely you present your arguments and if you support it with secondary material. In addition, ‘quality’ refers to how well you share your unique and personal perspectives.

It is important to understand that the material under study, gender itself, can not be fully examined in a linear fashion only, as one might approach mathematics or chemistry. Rather, we want you to conceptualize gender as a cloth, with intricate and fascinating designs, woven out of many different threads. Like a tribal blanket, this cloth depicts our respective history, group (or tribal) identification, and personal legacy. The rich tapestry can reveal many different pictures, which may, however, seem exactly reversed, if one looks at the fabric from the other (back) side. There are clear surface threads showing a grand design, but just as many if not more hidden connections, where colours (themes) run beneath the surface, interweaving, until they erupt to show another fascinating design.

In this course, you will learn about the weft and warp (terms for the strong horizontal and vertical threads on a loom) that make up the supporting structure of gender. This supporting structure is presented in Unit 1.

Then, you will pick up individual colour threads, to explore how they weave together with other threads, and to uncover hidden connections. You will follow each thread forward and backwards, to understand how they combine to make up certain patterns. And you will begin to understand how you, yourself, are not only shaped by this cloth, as you wrap yourself in it, but contribute to the continual weaving of this cloth. These individual threads, and the patterns they produce together, are the subject of Unit 2.

The tribal blanket of gender may provide identity, security, and warmth, — or it may be scratchy, uncomfortable, and restricting. In any case, it will be helpful to understand how it is made! In Unit 3, you will explore how the process of weaving this cloth of gender does not only shape — and is being shaped by — the individual, but how it also influences the whole ‘tribe’, i.e. society, and is, in turn, continually shaped by society. You will look at some brand new, or emerging patterns, as well as try to predict future trends in the colours and patterns of the cloth of gender.

Course Components

This course, to be sure, has as its basis the textbooks and commentary readings in this manual. These printed resources will provide you with the scientific and theoretical data you need to begin your study. There are, also, components to this course which differ from traditional classroom and lecture–based learning. These components are discussed below.

Working in study groups.

We encourage students to work through the course material in small (4-5 members) study groups, in which they will discuss the gender topics covered in the readings. These discussions will not be marked, but rather remain ‘private’ between the group members. Study groups may also ‘share’ the work load by dividing the required readings by the number of students in the group, then teaching the other group members what they have learned. In addition, the first part of the first group activity may be answered as a group – again reducing the workload on individual students.

However, students may instead chose to work on their own and not join a study group. In this case, students are responsible for all the required readings as well as completing the first group activity on their own.

Topic-based Discussion Forums.

Each unit consists of several gender topics followed by open-ended questions relating to what you have learned so far. You are encouraged to respond to these questions in the respective topic-based discussion forums, in order to help you integrate and digest the material you are exploring. By posting your own, and reading other students’ responses, you will have the opportunity to see the issues not just through your own eyes, but you benefit from each others’ thoughts on the issues. Most importantly, students are expected to respond to each others’ postings, questions and comments, so that, hopefully, we will have some lively discussions.

Your discussion posts are not assignments, per se, but participation in the collaborative learning process. The degree of your contribution in these discussion forums will be reflected in your participation mark. You will notice that topic-based discussion forums are divided into the respective topics and will also be open for the duration of the course.

Main Forum.

Students are encouraged to post questions or comments they may have about any of the course material in the MAIN discussion forum. Postings to all discussion forums can be spontaneous and informal, and will only be marked for participation. Both, the “Topic-based” forums and the Main forum will be open continually throughout the course. Again, we encourage you to use them often.

“Helping each other” forum.

There are several ways you can get assistance in this course. By far, the quickest way is to post your question to the “Helping Each Other Forum” first. Your instructor and the help desk staff all have office hours and are online and available to help you during the specified times. Your classmates, in contrast, will have a much wider range of working hours and by sheer numbers (depending on class size) will have a far greater presence in the online classroom. Many learners have swing-shift hours or are “commuting” from other countries where there is a time zone. As a result, we have learners in the classroom practically around-the-clock with the potential to ask and/or be available to answer questions.

Most issues of a practical nature can be asked of –– and answered by –– someone in your class. If you were wanting a quick response, we strongly recommend that you post your question to the “Helping Each Other Forum” in the hopes that another learner who is also online will be able to give you a quick response. We are very grateful to those learners who take time to read and respond to the request of others.

Discussion forums, such as a “Gender Jokes”, a gender-relevant “Movie or Video Reviews”, and a “Most Embarrassing Gender Moment” are further topics you may wish to explore.

You are encouraged to post to any of these boards items or anecdotes you find of interest and would like to share, with or without your own commentary.

WIMBA voice tools.

We are very pleased to offer WIMBA voice tools to enrich the personal and social aspects of our classroom. Have you ever written an e-mail to someone and thought to yourself, “This would be so much easier if I could just TELL the person my message?” To help give you that personal touch, we have included voice messaging, voice discussion boards, and the LIVE-Classroom tool precisely for that reason –– ease of communication. Our voices tell us so much about each other’s personality, emotional tone, international and cultural “flavours,” as well as, subtle nuances of communication not possible in e-mails. Voice communication –– like our treasured web conferences –– brings vibrancy and personality into our classroom. We literally “wake up” and feel each other’s presence more solidly when we hear each other speak as opposed to reading each other’s writing.

We encourage you to use the voice tools in any of the following circumstances:

  1. the gender jokes or any humour, which cannot be effectively communicated by e-mail (e.g., sarcasm, etc.);
  2. When you don’t want to bother composing a message, typing, proof-reading, and would rather just send a voice message;
  3. Use the LIVE-classroom tool –– either the central “room” where you can record your session –– or the side private “room” –– for a quick way to collaborate with your group, share views of your desktop with others, surf the web while everyone watches, and/or listen to each other talk in real time. LIVE-classroom is like a super web conference where you can share documents, slide shows, and real-time screen views of your computer with your group;
  4. You can use LIVE-classroom to record and submit your group presentation;

You will get all your journal feedback via WIMBA voice mail.

Scheduled Group Activities Forums.

At the end of Units 1 and 2, there are scheduled group activities, which will be described in detail in “Graded Activities”. These two activities (one at the end of Unit 1 and one at the end of Unit 2), are required components of the course, time specific, and MUST be completed at the scheduled time. They are worth 25 % of your total mark.


You are required to record your self-reflections on gender topics, which come up for you while working your way through this course. You will submit your journal entries, 3 in total, at three points during the course, and will receive instructor feedback and comments after the first two journal submissions. Again, please note, and mark down the due dates given under ‘Schedule’. These journal submissions will be described in detail in the course requirements section of this introduction and are worth 20 % of your course mark.

Web Conferences.

There will be a number of one-hour long web conferences, distributed throughout the course. The exact number of conferences will be determined by the number of students in the class. You are required to attend a minimum of four conferences and to make a five minute presentation at one of them. Your active conference participation (i.e., more than simple attendance) and presentation will be marked. Please see more about web conferences in the ‘Course Requirements’ section of the Introduction, as well as under ‘ Web conference’ on the course home page. If you have not already done so, ensure that you register for a web conference at which you will present (see the signup sheets on the home page)

Private Study Time lists and Self Test Mini Quizzes.

For topics which introduce a large number of new terms or concepts, a number of self-test concept lists, as well as quizzes are included. These will not be marked, but are intended to assist you in testing your own understanding, and to serve as examples of the final exam questions.

A final exam, consisting of 60 multiple choice questions, will be given at the end of the course.

Course Materials

In addition to the authors’ on-line commentaries on the principal course topics and the assignments, Psychology 320 has the following components:

There are three required textbooks. Note: If you are buying your textbooks new, the first two texts will be shrink wrapped together in a discounted “Custom Course Text Bundle”:

Jessica Motherwell McFarlane and Evelyn Dalian. Psychology of Gender, Online (first of two texts in your “Custom Course Text discount bundle”) 2012. Pearson Canada. ISBN: 9780133077148).

Claire A. Etaugh, and Judith S. Bridges. Women’s Lives, 3rd ed. (second of two texts in your “Custom Course Text discount bundle”) 2012. Pearson Canada. ISBN: 9780133077148)

Christopher Kilmartin. The Masculine Self, 4th ed. Sloan Publishing, 2009. ISBN: 9781597380249

These textbooks are available at the UBC Bookstore and may be purchased by any of the four methods outlined on the Textbook Order Form sent to you upon registration. Please note that some textbooks are also available through, or in the used bookstore in the UBC village at lower cost.

In addition, throughout our commentary, you will find links to web sites that provide additional relevant information. These are recommended reading (not examinable but highly recommended). As is the nature with material on the Internet, sometimes links break, so we would appreciate it if you would contact your instructors if you find any broken links in the course. We will do our best to fix them quickly, so that you have access to the materials. If you are able to find an updated alternative to a “broken link” please share that information on the “Helping Each Other” forum.

A selection of hard-copy recommended readings has also been placed in the UBC Extended Library (in the Koerner Library) for you to borrow. These supplementary references, which will not be covered in the exams, are listed following this introduction. Refer to your Learners Guide for information on how to borrow materials held in this collection. You can find a list of the print resources available to you by clicking the Extension Library Resources link, or going to the Resources Page (on the left navigation bar) and clicking on Extension Library Resources

Similarly, a collection of recommended videotapes has been selected for Psychology of Gender and is available through the Extension Library. For a full list of the available videos, please visit the Extension Library Resources page.

Course Requirements
Two Group Activities

At the end of Units 1 and 2, you are asked to integrate and synthesize what you have learned so far. The framework for analysis you are expected to use here consists of the gender research you have read about so far (the magnifying glass material), the results of your self-examination as a gendered person (the mirror activity results), as well as what you have learned from your fellow students (the societal context). Note that, as you move through the course, you will have more and more information to integrate, and you will find that you can make many backwards connections to previous material.

The Topic-based Discussion Forums will assist you to synthesize and integrate individual topics.

For the 1st Group activity, you are asked, either together with your study group, or individually if you chose to work on your own, to integrate ALL previous material into your answers to the unit end questions. You will have one week (specific week determined by the progression through the course material, please refer to the schedule), in which to compose a concise response (please note word limits. One response per group, or one per student working independently) to those questions and then post it to the respective group activity forum. At the end of that week, EACH student will select three of the other postings to which you feel you could contribute something more. Your criteria for deciding which postings to respond to should be that, while you were reading the posting, you thought to yourself: ‘Yes, but…’ Try to make your response concise and constructive. Constructive criticism is encouraged, but it must always be given in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect! At times, in the absence of any compelling evidence one way or the other, we sometimes simply have to agree to disagree. Feel free to respond to a learner’s response, as well. This welcomed activity will only deepen the discussion.

You will have, again, one specific week to read and respond to your fellow students’ postings.

Similarly, for the 2nd Group activity, you will first work in small groups (not your study groups, but groups formed around a common topic) to produce a presentation. This time, there is NO option to work individually, but rather, all students have to work in groups, formed around topics. Then, individually, you will respond to at least three other presentations, as you did for the first group activity.

This means that there are two specific weeks (please note and mark down the due dates under ‘Schedule…’), both at the end of Unit 1 and Unit 2, in which you MUST post your responses to the group activities forums, as they involve your collaboration with your fellow students.

For further details on the group activities requirements, please refer to the ‘Graded Activities’ page.

Three Journal Submissions

(3 entries in total)

Throughout this course, you are required to keep a journal of YOUR self-exploration as a gendered being in a gendered world. The effects of gender, as you will learn, are often mistaken as natural, or not even noticed at all. When one begins to examine the concept, however, one begins to see gender issues everywhere. This journal is meant as a way for you to chronicle your discovery of how gender influenced/influences YOU.

For full details on what the journal entries should contain and how to submit them, please refer to the ‘Graded Activities’ page.

One Web conference Presentation

There will be a number of one-hour web conferences spaced throughout the course, during which all students will be conferenced together via Wimba Live Classroom. These conferences will be scheduled in the early evening, usually between 6 pm and 7 pm, and always on a Monday.

You will need to make one 5-minute presentation and will have 5 minutes for questions and feedback from your class mates.

Web conference Participation

You are required not only to attend, but PARTICIPATE in the minimum of four web conferences.

For further details on the Web conferences, including how to sign up, expectations and participation requirements, please refer to the ‘Graded Activities’ page.

Final Examination

The final exam is your last course requirement. For details on the format and expectations for the final exam, please refer to the ‘Graded Activities’ page.

Course Evaluation

How to Proceed Through the Course

Psychology of Gender is a 6 credit, eight month course (or a 4-month accelerated course with the instructors’ permission). It is divided into three units with the following time allotment per unit:

Unit 1 = 3 months

Unit 2 = 3 months

Unit 3 = 2 months.

That means that if you begin the course in January (Session 99C), Unit 1 has to be finished by the end of March, Unit 2 by the end of June, and Unit 3 by the end of August.

If you begin the course in May (Session 98A), Unit 1 has to be finished by the end of July, Unit 2 by the end of October, and Unit 3 by the end of December.

If you begin the course in September (Session 99A), Unit 1 has to be finished by the end of November, Unit 2 by the end of February, and Unit 3 by the end of April. Accelerated schedules are calculated (by students) on a case-by-case basis and need your instructors’ approval.

Within units, we have provided you with timelines as to how much time you have for each main topic. As the different topics require different amounts of reading, research, and reflection, different amounts of time are allotted to them. Please be sure to note, at the beginning of each unit, how much time you have for each topic, and plan your time accordingly. To help you organize your time, please refer to the Schedule under Course Content in the left navigation bar.

Please note: The group activities at the end of Unit 1 and Unit 2 are time specific, which means that the respective discussion forums will only be open for you to post your responses for a period of two weeks. The first week will be reserved for your initial posting, the second for your responses to others’ postings, as well as discussions. If you fail to make your postings in those two weeks, you will NOT receive credit for them!

The journal instructions as well as the journal submission procedure can be found under Graded Activities. Due dates are included in the Course Schedule.

The Webconference dates, too, are listed in the Course Schedule.

The Gender Companion, copyright 2012 – Dr. Jessica Motherwell McFarlane, Ph.D. Creative commons attribution, non-commercial sharing only (translation: feel free to quote me in context or use this entry but please always credit me for my work, thanks.) See also Psyc 320 course description: