Gender, Sex and Sexuality Grand Challenge

Kath Woodward
2016 Frontiers in Sociology  
Sex, gender, and sexuality have increasingly become the focus of academic research, within different disciplines as well as contributing to interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary studies. Gender and sexuality studies are identifiable expanding, interdisciplinary fields (Richardson and Robinson, 2015) . This is a multifaceted area of research, which has increasingly become recognized as important and as one which can generate new ways of thinking, which challenge traditional
more » ... certainties and offer new avenues of exploration and new approaches to understanding social relations and transformations as well as addressing the dynamics of contemporary global politics and unequal power geometries. This fast moving field also presents challenges, not least of how to retain an identity and some shared purpose in changing times, when different axes of power compete for attention. Embodiment and the flesh have always been central, if troubling, to gender studies (Howson, 2005), but bodies are very different and are marked by very different sources of power (Woodward, 2009) . Sexual politics are often a key motor of activism and change and link theoretical and methodological concerns with praxis and politics, which impinge upon and arise from the personal and often intimate relationships in everyday life (Bates, 2014) . This is also a highly contentious field underpinned by debate and disputation, not least through claims that second wave feminism assumed a homogeneous category "woman, " which did not accommodate or acknowledge the heterogeneity of women's lives and situations, for example, in relation to class, race, ethnicity, generation, and disability (Yuval-Davis, 2006; Alexander et al., 2014) . The challenge is to develop interconnections that retain the integrity and identity of disciplinarity while crossing boundaries and forging new conceptualizations and to avoid the limitations of narrowly defined internal disputes. How do we hold onto the political promise and creative capacities of analyses based upon sex, gender, and sexuality, and incorporate critiques of social inequalities and relations, which are based upon diverse social political and cultural divisions and connections. leGacieS and hiStOrieS Gender and sexuality studies are distinctive in their engagement with the personal and the political, with the routine practices of daily life and the meta level of global economic systems and international and national governance and policies, which have developed though a synergy between thought and activism. These fields of research, which have emerged from the identity politics of the 1980s and 1990s (Woodward, 1997) , draw upon the traditions of women's and subsequently gender studies. Gender awareness has become integral to disciplinary fields as diverse as the arts, computer sciences, humanities, science, technology and engineering, mathematics, and social sciences, as well as being distinct fields of study in their own right. Sexual politics and gender studies engage with some of the dilemmas, which have been presented by diversity policies, not least the matter of equality and difference. How is the goal of equality best achieved? Is it through different or equal treatment? Does the claim that battles have been won in sexual politics have any purchase in any arena of social, economic, or political life? European Union equality policies might be seen to have gone beyond gender or have marginalized sex (Agustin, 2013) .
doi:10.3389/fsoc.2016.00004 fatcat:m6jryjloorhejosgjmd6v6dlpu