There have been few, if any, attempts to translate the immense library of academic studies on gender norms for a lay audience, or to illustrate practical ways in which their insights could (and should) be applied. Similarly, there have been few attempts to build the case for gender in diverse fields like health, education, and economic security within a single book, one which also uses an intersectional lens to address issues of race and class. This book not only looks at the impact of rigid gender norms on young people who internalize them, but also shows how the health, educational, and criminal justice systems with which young people interact are also highly gendered systems that relentlessly police and sustain very narrow ideas of masculinity and femininity, particularly among youth.
Current treatments of a “gender lens” or “gender analysis” both at home and abroad usually conflate gender with women and/or trans. Gender Norms and Intersectionality shows conclusively how this is both inadequate and wrong-headed. It documents why gender norms must be moved to the center of the discourses aimed at improving life outcomes for at-risk communities. And it does so while acknowledging the insights of queer theorists about bodies, power, and difference.
This book provides a starting point for a long overdue movement to elevate “applied gender studies,” providing both a reference and guide for researchers, students, policymakers, funders, non-profit leaders, and grassroots advocates. It aims to transform readers’ view of a broad array of familiar social problems, such as basic wellness and reproductive health; education; economic security; and partner, male-on-male, and school violence—showing how gender norms are an integral if overlooked key to understanding each.
Foreword: Why this Book / Part I: Understanding Gender Norms / 1. A Gender Vacuum / About Gender Norms / Part II: Gender Norms and Education, Health, Violence / 3. Sexual and Reproductive Health / 4. Education: Academia, Arts and Sports / 5. Health and Wellness: Care Seeking / 6. Bullying and Violence / Part III: Gender Norms and Race / 7. Young Black Women and Health / 8. Young Latinas and Feminine Norms / 9. Young Black Men and Masculinity / 10. Violence against Transgender Women / 11. Women and Girls in The Global South / 12. International Lessons and Practices / Afterword: The Next Steps
What makes Riki Wilchins’ book important is the clear concise exposition of the ideas of gender norms and the complex intersections of genders and identities. What makes it necessary is how Wilchins then applies these concepts to those crucial policy arenas where we see them playing out in real time.
This is such a necessary book. Riki Wilchins provides deep insights on the impact of gender and identity biases and how our society views and confronts gender norms. It is hard to see how one can work effectively on systemic change and social justice without this knowledge or lens.
This book is interrogative, enlightening, and totally reorients both our views and understanding of gender norms. If practitioners, parents, and society would apply the lens that Wilchins artfully elevates, it would be transformative for families, communities, and our culture at large.
Gender and intersectionality and all the terms therein have too often stayed in the academic world. As important as that academic space has been for building a new language to take on patriarchy and sexism, we need that conversation to be held everywhere. By teachers, parents, coaches, the media, policymakers, and by the funders who decide which programs get supported and which don't. Wilchins has given us the personal as political, the intersectional gender lens as understandable, the roadmap for what to do as clear as it is undeniable. Read it, live it. Act on it.
We are amid a moment of widespread recognition of the centrality of gender identity as a social construct that shapes the contours of opportunity in America.
Wilchins interrogates gender hierarchy and its accompanying power structure to provide a clear-eyed analysis of the function of gender norms as drivers of social interaction, economic opportunity and health and wellbeing. Wilchins is calling upon us to evolve and rebuke gender tropes based on socially constructed myth rather than science.
This incisive primer on the expanding complexity of gender identity makes plain the many confounding intersections with race, class and opportunity, and in so doing, reminds us of the need for deep empathy and a widened aperture for viewing social justice. Wilchins challenges us to take seriously the quest of creating lasting social change through an unyielding commitment to deconstructing gender as we know it.
Riki Wilchins is an author, activist and gender theorist. Riki Wilchins has been a leading advocate for gender rights and gender justice for 20 years, one of the founders of modern transgender political activism in the 1990s, and one of its first theorists and chroniclers.