UBC launches first EdX course on Gender and Sexuality


Gender and sexuality affect our lives, workplaces, and institutions. So what can we learn about gender and sexuality to ensure that we foster respect, understanding, and human rights?

UBC EdX course aims to help participants navigate the fascinating complexities of Gender and Sexuality Studies. It is the first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) offered by UBC and EdX to explore Gender and Sexuality Studies in depth.

Led by Dr. Janice Stewart, a faculty member at UBC’s Social Justice Institute, the course digs into some critical questions: What is gender and sexuality? How are gender and sexuality represented in media and popular culture? How can we think critically and creatively about gender and sexuality as they pertain to identity, knowledge, communication, and community?

Using an intersectional approach, the free 6-week online course features globally renowned scholars and covers key topics in the fields of literature, language, geography, history, political science, sociology, anthropology, cinema and media studies, law, and medicine.

We spoke to lead course designer and instructor Janice Stewart about why she created this course and why she believes that Gender and Sexuality Studies is more important now than ever before.

The next offering of “Gender and Sexuality: Applications in Society” starts March 3, 2020. 

Why did you create this course?

Janice Stewart is a faculty member in the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice (GRSJ) and Chair of Critical Studies in Sexuality (CSIS) at UBC.

Terms like gender identity are flooding the media. But with this increased visibility of diversity in gender and sexuality comes the danger of misrepresentations by misinformed or biased groups. This course is designed to make this material accessible to all willing to join the critical conversation. It will teach participants to better understand and apply knowledge about gender and sexuality through an intersectional approach of key topics.

It is the first EdX MOOC to focus exclusively on the aggregation of scholarship from Gender and Sexuality Studies. These are areas of scholarship that are marginalized in academic settings and cultures. With the global rise of populism, this marginalization of minority academic knowledge is intensified outside of the academy and in locations across the globe where the alt-right is gaining power. Let’s take Hungary as an example, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban has literally banned Gender Studies within the University context. This MOOC will make this knowledge much more accessible than it otherwise would be.

Who should take this course and what do you hope that participants will take away from it?

We are all implicated in regimes of knowledge pertaining to gender and sexuality, and so the content is relevant for everyone.

I hope that people who have not spent a lot of time thinking about social structures and marginalization will find it worthwhile to invest in becoming more competent when it comes to an element of human society that is vitally important.

How did you first become interested in the field of Gender and Sexuality Studies?

As a doctoral student studying at McGill University’s English Department, I encountered Psychoanalytic Studies, where gender and sexuality play a highly significant role. My study of Modernist authors like Virginia Woolf, as well as Feminist Studies scholars, assisted me to round out my understanding of Gender and Sexuality Studies where psychoanalytic theory could only go so far due to masculinist and colonial blind spots.

Why is knowledge about gender and sexuality a critical first step in addressing social, economic, and cultural inequalities?

Any theory of liberation will invariably place knowledge as foundational to liberation. This is also the case regarding gender and sexuality. We need only think of the current scenario in Ontario, where the Conservatives quickly identified Sexuality and Gender Studies in the public school curriculum as the first place to shut down practices of social transformation.