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Syllabus for the Course: Introduction to Women’s Studies

Penn State University


Women’s Studies 001.8

Introduction to Women’s Studies

TTh, 4:15-5:30

205S Henderson Human Development South

Spring, 2005




Michael Johnson, 415 Oswald Tower

Allison Freedman    (axf234@psu.edu)

Office Hours: TTh, 12:00-1:00

Brenna Hassinger   (blh194@psu.edu)

865-1937, mpj@psu.edu, www.personal.psu.edu/mpj


Submit papers: in class or 211 Oswald Tower



 “Men are privileged relative to women. That’s not right.

I'm going to do something about it, even if it’s only in my personal life.”


That’s my favorite definition of feminism, and feminism is what women’s studies is about. Because the academic discipline of women’s studies is an outgrowth of twentieth century feminism, we’ll start this course with some stuff on feminism and the women’s movement. Then we’ll go on to spend most of the course on just a few of the ways that men are privileged relative to women. We’ll look at how and why women face more barriers to happiness and fulfillment than do men, and how we might go about helping our world to move in the direction of gender equity. 

My goal in introductory courses is to leave you with some long-term memories that will change the way you see the world around you. Of course, one person’s memorable event may be another’s “So-what?” Therefore, I try to approach each topic with a variety of potentially memorable tactics, and to construct a grading system that allows (even encourages) students to learn in their own preferred manner. This course outline will offer you much more than you need to do to get an A out of this course, and you will pick and choose as suits your interests, your schedule, and the approach to scholarly issues that works best for you. 


But, before we get into the details of the grading system that accomplishes these goals, let me give you a rough idea of the specific topics we’ll cover this semester. So much interesting material, so little time! I’ve had to be very selective. Although I may not have chosen all the topics you’d like to see addressed, and I may have chosen some you'd just as soon not deal with, I think we’ll all have a grand old time. In general, we will focus heavily on the nature of men’s and women’s (and boys’ and girls’) lives in the contemporary United States . That way, you walk out of here into the world we are studying, and the lessons learned in here are reinforced in your everyday life outside the classroom. I begin with contempt for women (misogyny) and violence against women, so that we don’t start this course with the notion that men’s “privilege” is in any sense a trivial matter. We must never forget that lurking behind the other forms of male privilege that we will study is the raw fact that, all over the world, women are bought-and-sold, beaten, raped, and murdered—because they are women.


I.     Introductions

        A. Introduction to the course structure

        B. Introduction to each other

II.    Why Feminism

A. Misogyny and violence against women

B. Women’s movements in the United States

C. Diverse incarnations of feminism

III. Gender Socialization

A. Turning human neonates into boys and girls—and men and women

B. Turning women’s bodies into objects of lust

IV. Gender and Work

A. Paid work

B. Unpaid work

V.    Gender and Families

VI. Gender and Relationships

VII. Changes

A. Personal changes

B. Societal changes



A Few Ideas About How To Do This Course


If you want intense, focused, participatory, feminist analysis of women’s issues, consider organizing your semester around the Thursday sessions. And if you want a really full feminist experience, I’d suggest you attend the Tuesday sessions as well, assuming that in most cases you won’t need to write a paper about them and you can just kick back and relax (perhaps writing a few papers in case you miss some Thursday sessions). 


If you prefer a sit-back-and-listen introduction to feminism and women’s studies, a combination of Tuesday classes and readings on the topics that interest you the most may be your best choice. If you write up each Tuesday class and one reading per week, you are two papers from an A.


Occasionally I get students who use the flexibility of this sort of grading system to create an independent study course for themselves. To do this, you just pick six books about women’s issues and write six book reports for your A. (This takes discipline, since there are no deadlines and if you wait too long, you could end up having to read a book and write a 5-10 page paper every week at the end of the semester.) Another independent study approach would be to pick 30 readings from the reading list on which to write papers (each would be due the Friday of the week for which it was listed).


Of course, any mixture of these tactics will also do the trick. Consider your learning style, and your interests, and make what you will of this course. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation for a disability or have questions about physical access, please let me know as soon as possible.


Reading Materials


Textbook: Laurel Richardson, Verta Taylor, and Nancy Whittier (Eds.), Feminist Frontiers (6th edition). New York : McGraw-Hill, 2004. Available at the book stores.


Electronic Reserve: A number of readings, including the first one, are available on the Web. They are indicated by (Ereserve) in the list of readings.  Go to www.angel.psu.edu, access this course, click on the “Tools” tab, click on “PSU Reserve Readings” and you should be taken straight to the readings.


Classroom Events and Readings


T 1/11          Introduction to the course

Th 1/13         Introduction to each other


T 1/18          Lecture and film on domestic violence (“To have and to hold” 1981 21m 23743-pickup)

Th 1/20         Discussion of Dworkin’s speech on her feminist agenda. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Andrea Dworkin, “Feminism: An agenda.” Pp. 133-152 in Andrea Dworkin, Letters from a War Zone: Writings 1976-1989. New York : E. P. Dutton, 1989.


              Other readings:

              Marilyn Frye, “Oppression.” Pp. 6-8 in Feminist Frontiers.


Mary Ann Tétreault, “Accountability or justice? Rape as a war crime.” Pp. 415-426 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 1/25          Lecture on women’s movements in the United States

Th 1/27         Discussion of McIntosh's classic article on privilege.  Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Peggy McIntosh, “White privilege and male privilege: A personal account of coming to see correspondences through work in women's studies.”


Other readings:

R. W. Connell, “Gender politics for men” and Michael Kimmel, “Judaism, masculinity, and feminism.” Pp. 532-539 from a previous edition of Feminist Frontiers. (Ereserve)


Ellen Neuborne, “The next feminist generation: Imagine my surprise.” Pp. 512-514 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 2/1            Guest speakers on LGBT issues

Th 2/3           Discussion of Cohen’s article on queer politics and Vaid’s thoughts on the Lesbian Rights Summit. Ticket (Feminist Frontiers): Bring your paper on Cathy J. Cohen, “Punks, bulldaggers, and welfare queens: The radical potential of queer politics?” and Urvashi Vaid, “Linking arms and movements.” Pp. 495-511 and 531.


              Other readings:

Rosalinda Mendez Gonzalez, “Distinctions in Western women’s experience: Ethnicity, class and social change.” Pp. 9-17 in Feminist Frontiers.


Amrita Basu, “Hindu women’s activism in India and the questions it raises.” Pp. 458-467 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 2/8            Lecture on gender socialization

Th 2/10         Discussion of Steinem’s article on advertising. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Gloria Steinem, “Sex, lies, and advertising.” Pp. 316-330 in Jo Freeman, Women: A Feminist Perspective. Mountain View , CA : Mayfield, 1995.


              Other readings:

Barrie Thorne, “Girls and boys together…but mostly apart: Gender arrangements in elementary schools.” Pp. 144-153 in Feminist Frontiers.


Barbara Risman, “Ideology, experience, identity: The complex worlds of children in fair families.” Pp. 169-180 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 2/15          Film on images of women’s sexuality in MTV (“ Dreamworlds 2" 1995 56m 62022-pickup) WARNING: GRAPHIC GANG RAPE SCENE

Th 2/17         Discussion of Cowan’s article on pornography.  Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Gloria Cowan, “Pornography: Conflict among feminists.” Pp. 347-364 in Jo Freeman, Women: A Feminist Perspective (5th ed.). Mountain View , CA : Mayfield, 1995. 


                     Other readings:

bell hooks, “Selling hot pussy: Representations of Black female sexuality in the cultural marketplace.” Pp. 119-127 in Feminist Frontiers.


Debra L. Gimlin, “Cosmetic surgery: Paying ofr your beauty.” Pp. 94-108 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 2/22          Film on pornography (“Not a love story” 1981 70m 80055-pickup) WARNING: OFFENSIVE SEXUAL AND VIOLENT CONTENT

Th 2/24         Discussion of the Tuesday film. Ticket (Film): Bring your paper on “Not a love story.”


  Other readings:

Gloria Steinem, “Erotica vs. pornography.” Pp. 247-60 in Gloria Steinem, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. New York : Holt, 1983. (Ereserve)


Susan Bordo, “In hiding and on display.” Pp. 306-312 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 3/1            Lecture on gender and paid work

Th 3/3           Discussion of Hertz’s paper on work and family. Ticket (Feminist Frontiers): Bring your paper on Rosanna Hertz, “Working to place family at the center of life: Dual-earner and single-parent strategies.” Pp. 250-259.


              Other readings:

                     Barbara Reskin and Irene Padavic, “Moving up and taking charge.” Pp. 209-227 (including the Boxed Inserts) in Feminist Frontiers.


Christine E. Bose and Rachel Bridges Whaley, “Sex segregation in the U.S. labor force.” Pp. 200-209 in Feminist Frontiers.


(Spring Break)


T 3/15          Lecture on gender and unpaid work

Th 3/17         Discussion of Collins’s classic paper on Black motherhood. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Patricia Hill Collins, “Black women and motherhood.” Pp. 115-137 in Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. London : Harper Collins, 1990.


                     Other readings:

Denise A. Segura, “Working at motherhood: Chicana and Mexican immigrant mothers and employment.” Pp. 261-275 in Feminist Frontiers.


Kathryn Edin, “Surviving the welfare system: How AFDC recipients make ends meet in Chicago .” Pp. 434-444 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 3/22          Lecture on gender and families

Th 3/24         Discussion of Schwartz’s article on egalitarian relationships. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Pepper Schwartz, “Eliminating the provider role.” Pp. 111-145 (edited to shorten) in Pepper Schwartz, Peer Marriage. New York : The Free Press, 1994.


              Other readings:

Suzanna Danuta Walters, “Wedding bells and baby carriages: Heterosexuals imagine gay families, gay families imagine themselves.” Pp. 286-296 in Feminist Frontiers.


Hung Cam Thai, “For better or worse: Gender allures in the Vietnamese global marriage market.” Pp. 275-286 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 3/29          Guest speaker on domestic violence

Th 3/31         Discussion of Johnson’s paper on domestic violence. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Michael P. Johnson, “Conflict and control: Symmetry and asymmetry in domestic violence.” Pp. 95-104 in Alan Booth, Ann C. Crouter and Mari Clements (Eds.), Couples in Conflict. Mahwah , NJ : Lawrence Erlbaum, 2001.


         Other readings:

Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the margins: Intersectionlaity, identity politics, and violence against women of color.” Pp. 405-414 in Feminist Frontiers.


Robert L. Allen and Paul Kivel, “Men changing men,” and Gloria Steinem, “Supremacy crimes” and Claudia Brenner. “A letter from Claudia Brenner.” Pp. 398-404 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 4/5            Lecture on gender and relationships

Th 4/7           Discussion of Rich’s classic article on compulsory heterosexuality. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence.”  Pp. 23-68 in Adrienne Rich, Blood, Bread, and Poetry. New York : W. W. Norton, 1986.


              Other readings:

Michael A. Messner, “Becoming 100% straight.” Pp. 327-331 in Feminist Frontiers.


Deborah L. Tolman, “Doing desire: Adolescent girls’ struggles for/with sexuality.” Pp. 312-326 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 4/12          Lecture and film on rape: “Someone you know” (34806) 1986 30m

Th 4/14         Discussion of Weinberg and Birnbaum’s article on date rape. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Joseph Weinberg and Michael Birnbaum. “Conversations of consent: Sexual intimacy without sexual assault.” Pp. 87-100 in Emilie Buchwald, Pamela Fletcher, and Martha Roth (eds.), Transforming a Rape Culture. Minneapolis : Milkweed Editions, 1993.


                     Other readings:

                     Patricia Yancey Martin and Robert A. Hummer, “Fraternities and rape on campus.” Pp. 389-398 in Feminist Frontiers.


                     Dianne F. Herman, “The rape culture.” Pp. 41-63 in Jo Freeman (Ed.), Women: A Feminist Perspective. (2nd ed.) Palo Alto , CA : Mayfield. (Ereserve)


T 4/19          Lecture on the effects of women’s movements

Th 4/21         Discussion of Baumgardner & Richards’ chapter on Third Wave activism. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Jennifer Baumgardner & Amy Richards, “What is activism?” Pp. 267-314 in Baumgardner & Richards,  Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future.  New York : Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000.


              Other readings:

Jennifer Hargreaves, “The Muslim female heroic: Shorts or veils?” Pp. 372-386 in Feminist Frontiers.


Stephen P. Schacht, Teaching about being an oppressor: Some personal and political considerations.” Pp. 24-29 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 4/26          MANDATORY ATTENDANCE!  Course evaluation and discussion of everyday feminism. (Three points for attendance.)

Th 4/28         Discussion of Lorde’s classic essay on difference. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Audre Lorde, “Age, race, class, and sex: Women redefining difference.” Pp. 114-123 in Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1984.


              Other readings:

Steinem, “Outrageous acts and everyday rebellions.” Pp. 58-61 in Anne Minas (ed.), Gender Basics: Feminist Perspectives on Women and Men. Belmont : CA, 1993. (Ereserve)



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