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This week we are going to look at the Gender History approach. First, there is a big difference between Women’s History and the historical interpretive approach of Gender. Women’s History is simply to make women the focus of your research topic, like studying politics, economics, or military events. Women’s History is not an interpretive approach, but instead it is a historical topic. Gender as an interpretive approach looks at the cultural meanings of what it meant to be a man or women in the past, but it can also define power relationships within a society or culture. Drawing from the methods of the Cultural History approach, gender is about culturally defined social definitions and how those can translate into social, cultural, economic, and political power. So don’t say that gender is about looking at only women.  It can be about men and women, just women, or as one of our readings this week illustrates, just men.

The first article by Scott is the most important, defining article about gender ever written. In this article, Scott was the first to define gender as an interpretive approach to understanding the historical past, noting that it was not just women’s history. Scott’s article has two parts. The first part (pages 1053-1066) is a summary of what others have argued about women’s history and gender; this is not Scott’s argument or definition of gender. The second part (pages 1066-1075) contains Scott’s definition of what gender is about. In the second article, Calavita combines and race in her historical analysis of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The third article by Jeffrey Glasco applies gender to military history and labor history.

For this discussion complete all of the above readings. Some, like Scott, might seem difficult, so read them more than once if you need to.

Then, please address the following questions in your initial post:

  -What is the Gendered approach to History about? What is Gender and how is it different from the topic of Women’s History? How does Scott define gender as an approach to understand the historical past? (Your task here is to define how historians define gender, which maybe different from your personal definition of gender).

-How is the Calavita article on how gender complicated the enforcement of the Chinese Exclusion Acts a good example of the use of the interpretive theory of gender?  What is Calavita’s argument (thesis), and what are her conclusions?

-How does Glasco use gender as a historical approach in his article? How can he use gender, but not include any women as historical subjects in his article? Why is it important that Glasco’s article was published in a leading labor history journal rather than a military history oriented journal?

Post your initial post here. Then come back and respond to at least two more of your peers’ initial posts along with any questions addressed to you. There is a lot to cover in this discussion, but hopefully you will find the readings valuable and enlightening. Remember this discussion is about how historians define gender rather than a debate about what the “true” definition of gender is.


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