The presenter of the College’s first Professorial Lecture of 2017 will share her research into the history of so-called “anti-gender” and sexuality campaigns across the world, and their implications for Australia.
Professor Mary Lou Rasmussen’s address will include assessing opposition to the Safe Schools initiative which aims to create an inclusive environment for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and their families.
“I’ll be looking at the idea of gender and developing an argument about how gender is understood differently in different cultural contexts,” the School of Sociology professor says.
“Regarding “anti-gender” campaigns – which I think is a problematic term – those behind them are trying to make the case that discussions about the idea of gender are dangerous, and especially dangerous when they happen with schools and with young people.”
“I’m trying to understand how this idea emerged, plus give some of the history behind it, for example in France, where debates about gender in education have occurred for a while.”
Professor Rasmussen will argue how gender is moving into something that’s contested in Australia, and cite examples of how she thinks gender is being conflated with sex and sexuality in specific ways, with specific agendas in mind.
“I hadn’t really appreciated that gender has once again become a hot topic,” Professor Rasmussen says.
“Sex and sexuality has always been contested in education in Australia, but the recent examples of it show that it’s now a transnational movement.”
She hopes her audience develops an understanding about how ideas about gender continue to be unsettled, and unsettling.
“I think that sometimes there’s an assumption that debates about gender are in the past, that what’s contested now is more to do issues with sexuality or trans-debates,” she says.
“But I actually think we’re still in the midst of transnational debates about the idea of gender itself.
“It’s important that we understand it’s a very powerful movement that’s happening in different places, and it’s important to understand where debates in Australia might move, post the Safe Schools Coalition debate.”
Professor Rasmussen teaches first year students Sex, gender and identity: an introduction to gender studies (GEND1001) and to second years it’s gender, sex and sexuality: an introduction to feminist theory (GEND2023).
She joined ANU in mid-2016, completed her Bachelor of Arts (Hons) at the University of Melbourne, and her doctorate at the University of South Australia.
Before ANU, Professor Rasmussen spent 11 years at Monash University, and prior to that worked at Deakin University.
Among her research projects is an Australian Research Council study of gender, sexuality and generations in Australia.
In her spare time, Professor Rasmussen likes walking and hiking.
“I’ve done parts of the Australian Alpine trail from the Victoria side, but I’m really keen to do more from the ACT side.”
Learn more about Professor Rasmussen’s research here, and follow the ANU School of Sociology on Twitter.