The politics of gender: Social and historical perspectives on gender, feminism and the family

Dr Zeynep Gurtin

Politics of genderThis course offers students a critical analysis of gender, feminism and family life in the context of 20th and 21st century Britain. The first half looks historically at men and women’s involvement in the political process (through subjects such as suffrage, second wave feminism and Thatcherism) as well as more thematically at issues like changing patterns in marriage and sexual cultures, work and the management of reproduction. The second half takes a more sociological, contemporary perspective, looking at subjects like cultures of motherhood and fatherhood, ‘work-life balance’, infant feeding and new reproductive technologies. We therefore place contemporary controversies around gender, employment and family within a broader chronological framework, to give students both a historical education about modern Britain, and a contemporary perspective on gender in British culture.

This course is aimed at: Undergraduate level students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, but particularly those in the social sciences and humanities. Students with an interest in family, gender and politics will find the content of the course both informative and stimulating.

Pre-requisite knowledge required: None required, but experience of social science and humanities approaches is valuable. Reading will be provided.

Transferable Knowledge and Skills: The course will encourage students to hone their analytic skills, deepen their textual analysis and develop their presentation skills. It will also offer experience of writing extended essays for examination

Required Pre-Arrival reading

  • Barbara Caine, English Feminism, 1780—1980 (1997) chapters 4-6
  • Tong, R. 1989/1998. Feminist thought. London: Routledge. (2nd. ed.1st ed. 1989).
  • Ann Oakley, The Captured Womb: A History of the Medical Care of Pregnant Women (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984)
  • Hays, S. 1996. The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood Yale: YUP
  • Furedi, F. 2002. Paranoid Parenting: Why Ignoring the Experts May Be Best for Your Child. Chicago: Chicago Review Press.


Further Pre-arrival reading

  • Hera Cook, The Long Sexual Revolution: English Women, Sex and Contraception, 1800-1975 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), parts II and III
  • Amanda Vickery, Women, Privilege and Power: British Politics 1750 to the
  • Present (2001)
  • Jeffrey Weeks, The World We Have Won (2007)
  • Riley, D. 1988. Am I that name? Feminism and the Category of Women in History. Mineapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Douglas, S. and Michaels, M. (2004) The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How it has Undermined All Women (New York: Free Press)


Additional reading will be provided in the course reader, for discussion in seminars, in conjunction with extended readings lists for individual research projects.


  • 1 Final Exam: 50%
  • 1 Final Essay: 50%


Lecture hours: 12 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 15 hours)

Seminar hours: 8 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 10 hours)