Brandeis will be joining the ranks of many other liberal arts schools this fall, by offering a new interdepartmental minor in Sexuality and Queer Studies.

Read Brandeis’ description of the minor:

The undergraduate interdisciplinary minor in Sexuality and Queer Studies offers students the opportunity to examine socially and historically specific experiences, meanings, and representations of sexuality and gender and the centrality of sexuality and gender to personal and collective identities in modernity. Students in the program critically consider the relationships among sex, gender, and sexual orientation, desire and identification, and erotic and affectional behavior, as these intersect with other cultural formations including gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, and class.

(Let me specify that I am using the Wikipedia definition of Queer as “an umbrella term for sexual minorities that are not heterosexual, heteronormative, or gender-binary” for this post.)

I’m glad we’re offering the minor, since I think it’s an interesting area of study and it will surely expand people’s conceptions of sexual orientation and gender.

But I’m not happy about the name, for the same reason that I don’t like the title of the Women’s and Gender Studies major: Why include one specific group in the name, to the exclusion of the others?

While I understand some of the reasoning: both women and queers have been discriminated against historically, and they are definitely underrepresented in textbooks and course offerings across America, I do not see why they should be named in the broader, overarching category title. Sexuality encompasses sexual minorities, just as gender encompasses women.

By saying “Sexuality and Queer Studies,” true, we are giving prominence to a group of people who do not usually receive the recognition they deserve, however what kind of principle is it to name something illogically in order to make up for past wrongs? The “and” serves to differentiate two groups, even though one group comes under the heading of the other!?

If the true intent was to state that the focus of the minor will be on the minority group (Queers), then why not make the title “Sexuality, especially Queer Studies,” or “Sexuality feat Queer Studies?”

I’m sure there are a plethora of ways to demonstrate emphasis, without having to grammatically compromise the meaning of the title.

One comment on ““Sexuality, especially Queer Studies””

  1. Nat Says:

    Queer people have done most of the leg work on the study of sexuality, much like women have done much of the leg work on the study of gender equality. To acknowledge their primacy in these studies is necessary, especially given that women and queers have a real stake in challenging the status quo.

    It’s obvious to me in the same way that contending that feminism should be appropriately called something more falsely neutral is an obvious concern troll.