Gender Studies Subject Headings

ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee Question/Answer on cataloging issues – Mar. 2011
What subject headings are applied to works on gender studies and related fields?
Interdisciplinary programs focused on human gender issues have proliferated in academia over the past 50 years. In response, the Library of Congress has established a group of subject headings that are currently applied to works on such programs both as elements of the curriculum and as bodies of knowledge. Since the term “gender” is widely used in the social and behavioral sciences, one might expect that headings applied to works in this field would be based on this term. But when looking under “Gender (sex)” in the LCSH volumes one is referred to the term Sex(i);and “Gender studies” doesn’t even appear as cross-reference. Furthermore, when looking for the heading Sex – Study and teaching, which one might expect would be applied to this area of study, one is instead referred to Sex instruction, which appears to be used primarily for works on sex education. Instead, the Library of Congress chose to establish the following terms for works related to three subdivisions of gender studies:


1. Women’s studies (may subdivide geographically)

  • UF (ii) Feminist studies
  • Female studies
  • Women – Study and teaching (former heading)
  • Women studies
  • BT (iii) Education – Curricula

2. Men’s studies (may subdivide geographically)

  • UF Men – Study and teaching (former heading)
  • Studies, Men’s
  • BT Education – Curricula

3. Gay and lesbian studies (may subdivide geographically)

  • UF Gay studies
  • Homophile studies
  • Lesbian and gay studies
  • Lesbian studies
  • BT Education – Curricula


In addition to matching the formal titles of many academic programs in this area, the headings Women’s studies and Men’s studies appear to reflect the fact that the Library of Congress uses the headings Women and Men for works on human females and human males respectively; in a similar manner, Gay and lesbian studies reflects the use by the Library of Congress of Gays for homosexuals in general and Lesbians for “female” homosexuals, although the combination of a general term and one of its narrower terms in a single heading seems a bit odd. And while some gender studies programs deal with other Sexual minorities (as the Library of Congress refers to them), such as bisexuals, transsexuals, and transgender people, none of the terms for these groups has been used to create a heading for a field of study focusing on such groups. It should be noted, however, that the Library of Congress provides a very rich vocabulary for such “alternative” genders, although a detailed look at this vocabulary is beyond this scope of this Q&A.


  • i Terms in bold are established LCSH terms
  • ii UF = Used For (cross-references to terms that LCSH does not use)
  • iii BT = Broader Term

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