Interfaculty centre for gender studies

Interfaculty centre for gender studies

Research

Persons and bodies

Our bodies organize our knowledge of the world around us, but they also teach us about our own personality. This line of research aims to investigate the role of gender in the constitution of personal identity. More specifically:

  1. How our body gives structure to our own personality and whether such a structuring role is modulated by gender differences.
  2. How we grasp other people’s experiences (by means of empathy, sympathy and more generally social cognition) through their bodily expressions, and the role of gender in doing so.
  3. How gender influences inter-subjective intentionality, and the moral implications of social cognition.

We investigate these topics with particular attention to the first-person perspective approach and the phenomenological method, starting from the analysis of sensory-motor experiences and activities, passing through the analysis of psychological (affective and cognitive) states, ending with personal acts and life, properly speaking.

 

Health and health care

Significant biological and behavioural differences between sexes and genders influence epidemiology and pathophysiology of a wide disease spectrum, and the approach to health care. Thus, gender medicine must consider biological and socio-cultural aspects of sex and gender to improve health and health care. Moreover, it is well known that gender differences exist in terms of the effects of pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of drugs and these variables can affect adherence to treatments.

In this context, we pursue different lines of research aiming at exploring:

  1. The impact of sex and gender as research variables to explain biological variations and discover novel disease mechanisms
  2. The clinical and socio-cultural relevance of sexual health as a proxy of general health.
  3. Cases where gender self-attribution does not match biological sex
  4. The influence of gender related variables on nursing care
  5. the developmental trajectory of gender traits as well as their initial onset
  6. behavioral and brain neurofunctional gender differences by means of advanced molecular, structural and functional neuroimaging techniques
  7. the different clinical and behavioral expressions and pharmacological responses related to gender in neurological and psychiatric diseases
  8. gender differences in iron metabolism related to neurodegeneration processes
  9. the efficacy of light therapy and sleep deprivation as non-pharmaceutical therapies for the everyday clinical treatment of depressed patients.

 

Rights, policies and justice

The debate on gender equality has grown dramatically in the last years, both in the public arena and in scientific and philosophical debate. Despite this apparent success, our societies are still far from achieving gender equality and several correctives are needed in order to realize this goal. In this line of research, we will argue in favor of gender equality and justice, addressing the problem not only from a theoretical standpoint, but also from a practical point of view, namely that of political theory and public ethics. Special attention will be devoted to the question of dependence and vulnerability. According to the most important theories of justice, personal dignity is closely related to independence, and the care that people with disabilities receive is seen as a way for them to achieve the greatest possible autonomy. Instead of viewing care as a limitation, we will consider it as a resource at the basis of a vision of society that is able to account for inevitable dependency relationships between “unequals”.

 

Language, gender identity and social reality

We aim at investigating whether gender identity is a social construct and, if so, whether, as other social entities, it is created and maintained through speech acts, collective intentionality and social practices.

Moreover, we focus on hate speech as a class of speech acts conveying and maintaining – if not even disseminating – stereotypes and social prejudice. Thus, we pose the question whether hate speech should be regulated or even prohibited.

Finally, we seek to illuminate social stereotypes to understand exactly what they are and how they are brought about. To this end, we will try to investigate these questions: What are gender stereotypes? Are they useful? If so, to what aim? Is there any truth in gender stereotypes? Is there something innate about gender differences, or are they merely social constructs?

 

Career, power and authority

Women are not paid as much as their male colleagues, they hardly have the same chance to reach pivotal positions in their jobs, and they are too often subject to discrimination in the workplace. Moreover, men are usually considered more powerful and authoritative than women even when they perform the same role. This may be due in part to women’s different style of leadership. The commonsensical sense of leadership relies heavily on what are understood to be masculine characteristics, such as assertiveness, just to give an example. Women often, but not always, possess a different leadership style.

Our first aim is to investigate this apparent difference to determine whether it is an actual one and, if so, what it implies. If the difference is confirmed, we will attempt to elaborate ways of having a social impact upon people.

Concerning the difficulties women have to face in their career, we aim, firstly, to gather data on the extent of these difficulties – by comparing male and female presence in significant positions, as compared to their respective educational backgrounds; secondly, we seek to propose ways of avoiding such bias, and thus promote gender equality.

 

Women in sciences and philosophy

As in all areas of work, women in science and philosophy are underrepresented, even though statistics show more women than men with Masters or PhDs in many fields. Firstly, we intend to collect data on this difference between graduation statistics and the number of people working in science and philosophy. Secondly, we wish to understand why such a difference exists. If women tend to leave science and philosophy, we need to identify such structural issues inherent to these fields as prevent them from pursuing their careers; as we are not dealing with isolated cases, there must be something internal to these fields to explain such a phenomenon. Thirdly, we aim to propose correctives for the underrepresentation of women in science and philosophy. Fourthly, even though the history of philosophy and science often misrepresents their contribution, women have in fact been crucial in terms of developments and revolutions in both fields. For this reason, we aim to discuss such figures, highlighting their significance in their specific domain, from both an historical and theoretical viewpoint.