"(...) discussions on more than two genders are not specific for our time but have been around for centuries. I would like to prove that by analyzing literature from several centuries and show how diverse descriptions of gender have been for a long time already"
What if the stories that we tell each other would not reproduce existing gender stereotypes but instead create imaginations? Mareike Schumacher is an assistant professor at the University of Regensburg and researches stereotypical and diverse characterisations in fiction. Her research is a bit like profiling. She uses computer programs to help her find descriptions of characters and identify the gender they are assigned to. Then, she creates a character profile with all the descriptions and then analyses individual and shared features. Thus she and her team can see wich characteristics are often ascribed to wich gender. This goes beyond the two binary categories of "male" and "female".
Analyzing gender in literature from several centuries ago reveals diverse descriptions of gender
Mareike Schumacher does research on gender because she finds the topic highly relevant to everyday life and discourse. According to her research, discussions on more than two genders are not specific for our time but have been around for centuries. With her research, she would like to contribute to this knowledge by analyzing literature from several centuries and show how diverse descriptions of gender have been for a long time already. Finally, she wants to highlight (and also celebrate) diversity as a colorful topic which is fun to analyze.
Characters might have the potential to break gender norms - and to transfer this tolerance into the real world
Mareike says that: "In my utopian vision I manage to contribute with my research to a more tolerant society with a high awareness about the beauty and fun of diversity." As her research is focused on literature as a cultural product, it comes with the power to change society. She explains: "As readers often strongly identify with fictional characters or develop strong bonds of sympathy, it is important to highlight how these characters fit or misfit with current norms. When beloved characters are highlighted in their individuality and with their potential to break gender norms, I hope that the tolerance that people develop reading can be transferred into the real world."
We would like to thank Mareike for contributing to the Academia Spotlights and wish her all the best for her research. If you'd like to learn more about Mareike's research and the topic of gender stereotypes in literature, check out her website or message her directly through the email on the website.
IN-VISIBLE ACADEMIA - a platform for Gender Studies researchers
This feature is part of IN-VISIBLE ACADEMIA, a platform for research from the fields of Gender Studies, with the goal to make it more visible and accessible to a broader public from areas of politics, business and administration. For this purpose, we feature a researcher and their work every 4-6 weeks on our Social Media channels. The goal is to help Gender Studies research gain more visibility and thereby to build awareness about its meaning and relevance for society. We thus hope to provide alternative content to the anti-feminist hate speech and backlash that is increasingly associated with Gender Studies on social media.
The open call is still open to all researchers in the field of Gender Studies
You can participate here. This project is run by IN-VISIBLE and MARGHERITA-VON-BRENTANO-ZENTRUM. For us, it is of secondary importance whether you are a professor, research assistant, or doing post-doc research - we are interested in your research if you feel like your results should be made more available to a broader public. We explicitly do not want to exclude anyone on the basis of their academic degree. The only criteria here is that you have had some sort of publication success with your topic and that, accordingly, our community could peek into it. If this applies to you, then you are welcome to participate. The incoming applications will be viewed by us and - if suitable - shared via our channels in the form of features.