Beyond Gender: An Advanced Introduction to Futures of Feminist and Sexuality Studies ed. by Greta Olson et al.
Beyond Gender: An Advanced Introduction to Futures of Feminist and Sexuality Studies, edited by Greta Olson, Daniel Hartley, Mirjam Horn-Schott, and Leonie Schmidt, brings together seventeen multidisciplinary contributors to examine the multiplicity of theories and methodologies used in feminist and sexuality research and advocacy today. The contributors in Beyond Gender expound on the ways theories of sexuality and gender-based research have extended, modified, and criticized Butlerian theories of gender performativity that gained credence in the 1990s. Beyond Gender invites questions surrounding issues of identity, sexuality, feminist, transgender, and queer advocacy, emphasizing the plurality of ways feminist and queer scholars and activists engage in unsettling “dominant economies of knowledge” (18). Following the introduction, the book is divided into two parts, part 1: “Undoing Gender Studies: Theoretical Positionings,” and part 2: “Forms of Practice: Doing the ‘after’ of Gender Studies.” Each chapter in the volume contains two introductions: an editorial introduction that provides important historical and theoretical context for the piece, and an authorial introduction that contains a longer chapter abstract and discussion of how and why authors came to their topics. These chapter introductions serve as a useful tool for reader engagement and provide a connection back to the broad themes outlined in the book’s introduction.
Editors Greta Olson and Mirjam Horn-Schott’s introductory chapter, “Beyond Gender—Toward a Decolonized Queer Feminist Future,” usefully [End Page 168] frames and provides context for the issues explored in Beyond Gender. Olson and Horn-Schott argue for the joining of decolonial feminisms and queer feminisms to understand the transdisciplinary plurality that comprises the history and future of feminist and sexuality studies. To help articulate this position, the introduction provides an overview of the history of feminist movements, noting that the predominant way these histories are told is from the dominant Anglo-American theory of waves, and discusses the common critiques of those movements as predominately focused on the lives of white, middle-class, cis women in the United States. Additionally, they provide a brief history of queer activism and issues. While the editors include important conversations in this history of queer and trans organizing and scholarship, from the position of the reviewer situated in the United States, some language used to discuss transgender people is from a now less-commonly used medical paradigm (e.g., slippages between the use of “transsexual” and “transgender”). Through their conversation of the history of feminist and queer activism, Olson and Horn-Schott cover the development of feminist theories, which leads to an analysis of the turn from women’s studies to gender studies in the 1990s and the proliferation of queer theory and queer and transgender studies. Following the turn to gender studies is the position from which Olson and Horn-Schott argue for scholars and activists to “move beyond an arbitrariness of gender that impedes effective political work” (emphasis original) and to engage in accounting for the lived experiences of difference such as “sexuality, class, race, age, dis/ability, and location” (9). Olson and Horn-Schott center decolonial and queer feminisms and activism as frameworks to destabilize categories of gender and critique Western centrism in feminist, gender, and sexuality scholarship.
The essays in part 1 demonstrate how gender has been categorized, used, and critiqued in theoretical models and research practices that relate to feminism, sexuality, and masculinity. These include Jennifer Coates’s examination of the development and evolution of sociolinguistic research on language and gender from 1970s to the present in “The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Mars and Venus in Language and Gender Research,” Dietze, Yekani, and Michaelis’s discussion of “queering” approaches to identities, situatedness, and political agency in “Modes of Being vs. Categories: Queering the Tools of Intersectionality,” and Daniel Hartley’s exploration of social reproduction theory as a tool to understand women’s oppression and for political organizing. Stefan Horlacher’s contribution, “Masculinity Studies: Contemporary Approaches and Alternative Perspectives,” provides a useful survey of contemporary approaches to masculinity studies in the United States and Europe and an engagement with the topics still left unresolved by masculinity studies such as female masculinities. Finally, Sabine Sielke’s essay, “Where Are We Going, Where Have We Been, Where Do We Return To, Repeatedly? The Seriality of Feminist Critique and Gender Studies,” offers a timely and useful conceptualization of feminist history as one of seriality rather than a linear progression. Her work emphasizes the ways [End Page 169] that feminist and gender theories are serial practices whose “effects frequently depend upon forgetting, which makes way for recurrence” (80). This work is poignant in the era of renewed feminist activism in the forms of the Women’s March and #MeToo movements.
Part 2 contains eight essays that explore different practical applications of troubling gender in research, teaching, and praxis. The contributors examine the impact of Butler’s gender paradigms at particular moments in time, research practices, and forms of political activism. The range of contributions includes examinations of textual strategies for undoing gender in nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century literature (Schabert), the rise of feminist icons and antiheroines in US popular culture (Horn-Schott), Sri Lankan women’s organizations engagement with LBT advocacy (Wijewardene), opening queer spaces through queer performance art (Ebmeier and Bovermann), the construction of US postfeminist bridal identities (Heise), and how fiction illustrates cultural discomfort with women’s aging and sexuality (Zilles). Greta Olson’s chapter, “Loving Feminism: Negotiating Differences in the Classroom,” explores her own experiences on “some of the wonderful messiness of teaching feminism” and the ways that students and teachers need to locate their feminist politics, particularly in relation to locally situated issues and conditions. In “The ‘Yes’ Which Is Not One: Consent, the Law, and the Limits of False Consciousness Feminism,” Jordana Greenblatt makes critical arguments as to how case law applying to marginal sexual populations such as queer people, sadomasochists, and sex workers, serves to “manipulate the concept of consent to reinforce conservative idea(l)s of the civil subject” (236). The interdisciplinary explorations in part 2 provide examples of “the potential to continuously rethink and refashion concepts, terminologies, and agency” (19).
Beyond Gender: An Advanced Introduction to Futures of Feminist and Sexuality Studies provides rich interdisciplinary perspectives on the history of feminist and sexuality studies and practical applications of future directions in the field. This handbook would be useful in advanced undergraduate coursework in feminist, women, gender, and sexuality studies classrooms, as well as for graduate students, faculty, and researchers. [End Page 170]