Sean Cosgrove’s research areas lie at the intersection of histories of medicine, science and technology, gender, and popular culture primarily in the late nineteenth century, united by an interest in the experiences of, and ideas surrounding, the human body. He is also committed to public engagement and actively interested in fostering greater inclusivity in higher education. He has previously conducted research focusing on patients, hermaphroditism, and sexual violence and criminality in the nineteenth century, but has also worked on projects outside of academia.
Questions in public discourse surrounding the issues of human gender and sexuality seem to revolve around (unchallenged) binaries of female and male, and hetero or homosexual. Now, that they exist in this form currently and shape our lived experience is absolutely true. That they have always existed, however, in the guise(s) that they do now is not, and it can be dangerous to assume the unchanging nature of these constructs when talking, particularly, about social policy.
Julia Gillard (Australian’s current, and first female, Prime Minister) has made waves both at home (which for me is Australia) and overseas after her explosive speech calling out the leader of the opposition (currently Tony Abbott) for not only being sexist but fostering an environment of sexism and misogyny.
You can read about it everywhere. Seriously, everywhere: The BBC, The Australian (and again) The Conversation, Crikey, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Jezebel, The New Yorker, The Vine.
Hands up if you’ve heard of The Second Sexism?
For those, like me, whose spidey-senses may be tingling at a mention of the title, but draw a blank regarding its substance, The Second Sexism is a book released earlier this year by philosopher David Benatar concerning what he sees as the disadvantage and discrimination faced by boys and men as a result of their sex. Benatar’s contention is that there exists a second form of sexism affecting males which is not only under theorised but remains largely undiscussed. The importance of this conversation, he contends, is that only through an awareness of the operation of all forms of sexism can we, as a society, begin to overcome it.
While a quick Google search (the first port of call for any accomplished scholar) confirms that I seem to have arrived at this party a little late, thankfully the notion of a second sexism is incredibly interesting and while the book lays down some serious gender talk, it also offers some food for thought as to the unique skills inherent in the historical discipline.