Understanding the sex/gender distinction and the social constructions of sex and gender are important learning outcomes in contemporary gender and women's studies introductory courses. These theories challenge hegemonic binary ideas about the relationships between sex and gender and between male and female identity formations. Little academic attention has been paid to how teaching materials, specifically textbooks, explore these topics, despite the potential for them to influence students and instructors. This study address this gap in the literature by using critical discourse analysis (CDA) to examine the methods being used to explore the sex/gender distinction and social constructions of sex and gender in contemporary gender and women's studies introductory textbooks. This analysis seeks to answer what methods are being used and how they either reinforce or challenge hegemonic ideas about the relationship between sex and gender. I utilize a historical review of the development of these theories as well feminist pedagogy as a critical lens to examine how often and in what ways these theories are explained in these textbooks. Additionally, I identify the importance of intersex conditions and the ways intersex identities are utilized to demonstrate the real world applications of theories about the sex/gender distinction. Further analysis and discussion focus around the reoccurrence of particular authors, especially Anne-Fausto Sterling and Judith Lorber, as well as the emergence of an overarching progress narrative that frames these theories as progressive and superior to previous forms of defining sex and gender.


Laura Harrison

Committee Member

Kirsti Cole

Committee Member

Ana Perez

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Science (MS)


Social and Behavioral Sciences

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.



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