March 01, 2010 | Myrna Anderson

March is Women’s History Month, and the gender studies minor at Calvin is marking the occasion by featuring three books about gender issues.

March is Women’s History Month, and the gender studies minor at Calvin is marking the occasion by featuring three books about gender issues. The authors of two of the books will speak during the celebration, and there will be a panel discussion of the third.

The first author on the schedule is Martha McCaughey, author of The Caveman Mystique: Pop-Darwinism and the Debates over Sex, Violence and Science. McCaughey will speak at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 11, in the Meeter Center Lecture Hall, an event co-sponsored by the biology, communication arts and sciences, philosophy and sociology departments.

Men can't help it

“There have been arguments that, essentially, masculinity derives from the genetic makeup of males,” Calvin political science professor Simona Goi explained the thesis of The Caveman Mystique. According to these arguments, she went on, traits like assertiveness are programmed into men, “The idea here is to make an argument about whether that’s good science,” she said, “and it turns out, it’s not good science to treat men that way.” Goi, the chair of the gender studies program, praised McCaughey: “She’s a very dynamic speaker, and her research addresses issues of gender in a very original way.”

Next up at the Women’s History Month podium will be Calvin communication arts and sciences professor Helen Sterk and Dr. Annelies Knoppers, co-authors of Paradoxes and Taboos: Gender, Culture and Physicality. Knoppers is a professor at University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, and her research focuses on gender and ethnicity/race as they manifest themselves in organizational management and in sports, health and physical education.

Sterk and Knoppers will speak about their book beginning at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 16, in the Meeter Center Lecture Hall. Paradoxes and Taboos explores how the body is perceived with relation to gender and culture, said Sterk. “We present a wealth of examples of how people's bodies are given meanings. These meanings matter because they frame the potentials and boundaries of women's and men's actions in important life contexts, such as birthing, touching, engaging in sport and managing businesses.” The lecture is co-sponsored by the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship.

Non-western issues

The final Women’s History Month event will be a panel discussion of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The book, co-authored by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, focuses on gender issues as experienced by women in developing countries. “Often, we have too narrow a perspective about the difficulties we encounter as women,” said Goi. Women’s issues that belong to non-western cultures—such as very early marriage or wearing a burqa—are difficult for westerners to understand or address, she said. “How do you engage with these issues respectfully and yet raise these issues of human rights and allow these women to flourish?” she asked. “What’s great about this book is that it doesn’t presume that we in the west have the answers to problems in the developing world.”

Goi hopes that the Calvin community, particularly Calvin students, will attend the Women’s History Month events, all of which are free and open to the public. “I think it’s important to look at how life has changed for women—and hasn’t changed—over time and to appreciate the changes women are making worldwide,” she said.

Professor Simona Goi

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