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Transformations: Gender, Reproduction, and Parenting in Contemporary Society

Sociology has a long tradition of shaking up things we take for granted and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you take this module. Transformations takes something we might consider ordinary and routine – having and bringing up children – and makes it strange, something to be explained rather than assumed, certainly not natural but embedded in social and cultural values, practices and inequalities. We start by asking ‘why do we have children?’ (and ‘why do we not?’) and ‘who needs children and how does this matter?’. Then we look at the links between gender identity and parenting, asking ‘to what extent do femininities rely on motherhood?’ and ‘how do the dominant constructions of “good” fathering links to masculinities?’. You’ll be covering the full diversity of parenting today, including step-parents, trans-gender parents, disabled parents, single parents, gay and lesbian parents, teenage parents, adoptive parents, and surrogate mothers, focusing on ideas about who’s ‘fit’ to be a parent in the 21st century and what this tells us about social norms. For example, ‘who should have the right to adopt?’, ‘what does it mean when a trans-man has a baby?’ and ‘why are women with disabilities so often seen as “unfit” mothers?’.

Conceptually, we start the module by addressing reproductive rights – the idea that we should be able to decide whether, when and how many children to have – and end by shifting to reproductive justice – a concept coined by black feminists to better address intersectionality and recognise the barriers that still prevent some people from accessing the full range of choices about their reproductive lives. Based on feminist perspectives, Transformations has a predominantly UK focus, although we also incorporate some global perspectives.

Module Director:

Dr. Caroline Wright