In Fall 2019, a new course will be offered to political science students at Missouri Southern.

The new course is called Politics of Sex and will be taught by Dr. Nicole R. Foster Shoaf, assistant professor of political science.   

The class will meet from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is offered under the new PSC 361 number.

Shoaf has offered a version of this course once before but as a PSC 494 seminar. Students are required to have completed a course in American government. 

It is one of several courses Shoaf teaches including Public Policy and American Politics, Religion and Politics, Environmental Policy and Politics, and Public Administration. 

About the course

Politics of Sex will focus on the intersection of sex, power and politics, how gender identities influence political behavior, the role of gender norms and stereotypes, the role women play in contemporary politics and the historical contribution of women in American political development. 

The course will also examine government regulation of sexual behavior and the evolution of LGBTQ politics. 

“The course evolves each time I offer it,” Shoaf said. “With the mix of topics shifting in light of current events and the particular interests of the students enrolled.”

Overall, Shoaf said the course examines women and their roles in politics.

“We look closely at the fight for women’s suffrage, the right for women to have access to equal education, and the right for women to pursue the careers they are passionate about,” Shoaf said. “We will also trace the rise of women in political power and discuss how having women in elected and appointed positions impacts policy – and we consider why women have been unable to achieve political parity in the US. 

“This becomes a fascinating, complex discussion as we consider not only the history of politics of women in general, but the unique experiences of minority women, as well.” 

Shoaf said the course also provides an introduction to LGBTQ politics.

 “While we have seen a progressive shift on many LGBTQ issues over the last 20 years, there are some areas where progress for equal civil rights has stalled, and other places where it has been rolled back,” she said. “We discuss international, national, state and local policies that affect LGBTQ people specifically and we discuss how these policy areas impact our broader political and cultural environment.”

The class fulfills a requirement for students with Political Science or International and Political Affairs majors, for students minoring in Political Science, and for students pursuing the Gender Studies Certificate.

For students in other programs, it would count as an upper division elective, and some programs may allow it to be petitioned to cover other program requirements.

“It is a course where traditional political divisions are disrupted – as the interests of women and LGBTQ citizens are not universally conservative or liberal,” Shoaf said. “Women, in particular, are often deeply divided on political issues and this has profound consequences for our society. We get to embrace the complexity – and often inconsistency - of our preferences, and we get to grapple with interesting questions.”

Shoaf said the course is designed to help students develop a better understanding of how current and historical policies impact women and LGBTQ citizens.

 “These are topics that are often left out of traditional courses and K-12 education – or else relegated to side notes or oversimplified to avoid diverting attention from the ‘main’ points,” Shoaf said. “In this course, we flip that focus. 

“The course does not advocate for a specific political objective – students with conservative, liberal and undeveloped political perspectives are all able to contribute to our understanding of how cultural traditions and political decisions impact all members of our communities.”

Some topics for discussion will include sex trafficking, LGBTQ employment discrimination, reproductive rights, cultural understandings of masculinity and femininity, descriptive representation in public office, sexism in dress codes and nudity laws, family leave policies, pay gaps and patterns of poverty, sexual violence, definitions of feminism, and the backlash of “men’s rights” groups. 

“It is always my goal that this course will encourage students to think more broadly about political issues and understand how small policy changes can have large, and often uneven consequences for our citizens,” Shoaf said. “I often find that students experience disbelief, anger, and bewilderment at various points of the course, regardless of their personal political preferences. 

“The understanding they gain allows them to develop both empathy and a sense of resolve that is inspiring. For some students, it is just a class with interesting discussions, but for others it changes the way the see the world around them.” 

All Southern students also have the opportunity to apply for a research internship working on a project that will examine the campaigns and media coverage of 2020 presidential candidates. 

Shoaf said students can earn academic credit conducting this research, alongside of or independent of, the Politics of Sex course. The ad for this will be available on Hire a Lion soon.

For more information, persons interested may contact Shoaf at Shoaf-N@mssu.edu.

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