Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Spring 2014 Courses


WOMENSST 187 – Gender, Sexuality and Culture
Lecture – Monday, Wednesday 12:20-1:10 p.m.
Friday discussions at 9:05, 10:10 and 11:15
Millian Kang

Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies (WGSS) is a vibrant and interdisciplinary field, spanning the humanities, social, natural and physical sciences. Scholars in the field have developed frameworks, theories and methods to study and understand ourselves and our natural and social worlds. WGSS challenges a number of traditional academic and cultural understandings of many issues.  In this course, we will look at how knowledge, history, policy and norms are produced, shaped, mediated and governed. What impact has this had on understandings of gender, sexuality, and cultural norms? Placing gender and sexuality at the center of analysis, in this class we will address some of the basic concepts and theoretical perspectives in WGSS. Furthermore, we will engage critically with a set of thematic areas that have an enduring, albeit changing, place within the field as a whole and which are also key sites of regulation and transgression of gender, sexuality and intersecting axes of difference. In what ways are gender and sexuality tied up with and inseparable from other forms of identification, such as race, disability, age, ethnicity, citizenship and class? How do intersecting systems of oppression, such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and ageism shape experience? How do they also shape the ways in which people resist inequality and lobby for change? The course will offer a forum in which to critically explore past, present and potential future of understandings about gender and sexuality, paying close attention to political, cultural, and economic contexts.

WOMENSST 201 – Gender and Difference:  Critical Analyses
Section 1– Tuesday, Thursday  9:30-10:45 – Tanisha Ford
Section 1 – Tuesday, Thursday 1:00-2:15– Dawn Lovegrove

Introduction to fundamental questions and concepts of feminist thought and to the basic intellectual tools of analysis integrating economic and cultural imperialism, gender, class, race, and sexual orientation.  Also addresses the multifaceted dimensions of women’s lived experiences within a global context.

WOMENSST 285 – Biology of Difference
Tuesday, Thursday  9:30-10:45 a.m.
Laura Briggs

The course centrally examines our understanding of the “body”. While humans have many similarities and differences, we are organized around certain axes of “difference” that have profound consequences – sex, gender, race, class, sexuality, religion, nationality etc.  These differences can shape not only group affiliation and identity, but also claims about intellectual and behavioral capacities. This course will explore popular claims, critiques and understandings of “difference” as well as academic research, its claims, debates and critiques. This is an interdisciplinary course that will draw from the biological and social sciences and the humanities. We will explore principles of human biology – anatomy, physiology, sex/gender/sexuality, reproductive biology, genetics, as well as the scientific method(s) and experimental designs. The course will give students the tools to analyze scientific studies, to understand the relationship of nature and culture, science and society, biology and politics.  Gen Ed U, SI

WOMENSST 291E – Feminist Health Politics
Tuesday, Thursday  9:30-10:45 a.m.
Jacquelyne Luce

Health is about bodies, selves and politics. In this course we will explore a series of health topics from feminist perspectives. In what ways do axes of difference such as gender, sexuality, class, disability, and age influence the ways in which one perceives and experiences health and the access one has to health information and health care? What is meant by the phrases “social determinants of health” or “racial disparities in health”? Are homophopia or transphobia, or one’s place of living, related to one’s health status or one’s health risk? By paying close attention to the relationships between community-based narratives, activities of informal health networks and formal organizations and theory, we will develop a solid understanding of the historical, political and cultural specificities of health issues, practices, services and movements.  In addition to our discussions of the course readings and films, we will be looking closely at health issues around us – What’s in the news? What issues don’t get coverage? Which organizations might we turn to? What might some of the barriers to access be? You will have the opportunity to experiment with the analysis of various forms of health literature and communication – e.g. policy papers, news articles, blogs, self-help books and information brochures, as well as to create your own contributions, employing multiple methodologies to situate a particular health issue in its historical and contemporary context.

WOMENSST 293F – Radical or Respectable:  Black Women in Popular Culture
Tuesday, Thursday  11:15-12:30 p.m.
Tanisha Ford

The American public is fascinated with black women’s sexuality, their performance of gender (non) normativity, and their perceived criminality. The language of “radical” and “respectable” is often used to describe black women both in popular culture and in scholarship. These terms are employed to denigrate and/or celebrate black women, their bodies, and their political and cultural contributions. But, is there a clear line between radical and respectable behavior? Have constructions of radical and respectable changed over time? Are these terms even relevant in the twenty-first century? These three questions will guide our discussions and debates on representations of black women in  contemporary popular culture and digital media. We will use feminist theory to explore  the various cultural constructions and problematic controlling images of black  womanhood. Our in-class debates and activities will focus on real and fictional women  such as Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Alike (Pariah), and Olivia Pope (“Scandal”) as well socially constructed images such as the jezebel, the sapphire, and the black lady. During  our class meetings, we will view and analyze a wide range of primary sources—including fashion magazines, films, novels, music videos, and album cover art. We will  also read classic black feminist texts as well as some cutting-edge scholarship on body politics and queer theory. Students will be expected to write two short essays and design  a creative portfolio of original and reproduced material.

WOMENSST 295C – Career and Life Choices
Wednesday  2:30-4:00
Karen Lederer
WGSS majors or seniors only

Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies teaches critical thinking skills.  How can students use these skills to make informed career choices?  How is it possible to engage in planning one’s career while conscious of the realities of race, gender, sexuality, and class in today’s economy?  What are career options for students whose values include working for a better society?  Is it possible to put together a balanced life and pay the bills besides?  How can pressured college seniors, particularly activists, get all the career tasks they need to do done (resume writing, budgeting, researching career opportunities, networking, informational interviews) while finishing out their college degree?  Students will formulate their own career questions and choices.  The first part of the semester is self awareness, articulating interests, skills and values.  The 2nd part of the semester focuses on workforce information, practical job search skills, and research on a possible field.  Assignments include: self awareness exercises, informational interviews, budget, resume, cover letter, career research and more.

WOMENSST 297AA – Healthy Guys or Healthy Guise:  Men, Masculinity and Health
Wednesday  4:40-7:10 p.m.
Tom Schiff

Utilizing a feminist critique of masculinity, this course will explore how constructions and performances of masculinity impact individual and collective health outcomes, with a particular focus on intersections of masculinity with race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, and culture. Our examination will include dialogue, experiential exercises, and media analysis. We will view and analyze numerous films, film clips, and other media imagery as part of our in class work. In addition to interrogating the intersection of masculinity, identity, and health, we also will explore strategies for individual, institutional, and cultural change.

WOMENSST 297S – Girls in System: Gender and Juvenile Justice
Monday, Wednesday, Friday  11:15-12:05 p.m.
Adina Giannelli

This interdisciplinary seminar will consider the role of gender in the juvenile justice system, in the United States and transnationally. Drawing on sociological literature, social critiques, policy papers, case law, documentary film, personal narratives, and even fiction, we will learn about and reflect upon the issues experienced by girls in the system. Final assignment will be student-driven, in consultation with instructor.   In the context of this course, we will critically examine the history of girls in the juvenile justice system; what it means to be in “the system”; the role of “justice” in the juvenile system; and the relationship between gender and justice. We will review some of the major issues faced by the girls who are subject to this system. Finally, we will explore the following questions: What are the goals of the juvenile justice system, and whose interests does it serve? Who is tracked into the system, and why? What is the relationship between race, gender, sexuality, culture and tracking, diversion, alternatives, and outcomes for girls in the juvenile justice system? How does the system address--or fail to address--issues of education, health, wellness, and community? And how do those who are subject to this system contest its confines, demonstrating voice, vision, and agency?

WOMENSST 297T – Morals & Medicine:  Television, Doctors and Ethical Questions
Monday  2:30-5:00 p.m.
Banu Subramaniam, Karen Lederer

This course examines the field of medical ethics using the popular genre television shows set in hospitals. The course examines these shows to explore the constructions of doctors and medicine as well as ethical guidelines in the practice of medicine. Using the tools of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, the course investigates the real life practices of doctors and the U.S. health care system. What ethical and professional guidelines do, don't or should doctors follow? For example, the outrageous practices of Dr. Gregory House in the popular show House M. D. show the strengths and limitations of strict bureaucratic guidelines that can sometimes get in the way of diagnosis and treatment. Using television’s doctors this course debates some of the key issues in medical ethics to explore the need for sound ethical principles in the practice of medicine as well as contemporary debates in the field.  Some of the issues explored include:  the politics of health care including the affordable care act, medicalization of childbirth, doctor/patient confidentiality, racial categories in medicine, the binary sex/gender system, disability, genetic testing (of embryos and adults), abortion, organ transplant, vaccination and more.

WOMENSST 392K – Borders and Bodies:  Racialization and Migration
in the U.S. and Europe
Jacquelyne Luce
Tuesday, Thursday  11:15-12:30 p.m.

In this course, we will take a close look at the ways in which notions of sexuality, citizenship and belonging are being reconfigured in nationalist and postnationalist discourses in the US and Europe. The course will begin with an introduction to comparative studies in processes of identification and racialization, paying close attention to the various ways in which feminist theory has informed engagements with the politics of race in the US and Europe. For example: How have histories of racial hygiene, ethnic wars and ethnic cleansing, colonialism, displacement and immigration shaped how we understand, talk and write about race and ethnicity in local contexts?  How have feminist engagements with migration, border-crossing and citizenship contributed to our understandings of the construction of nationhood and nation-states? Then, drawing on texts, films  and policy statements, we  will look  at key examples  of gendered, sexualized and racialized ‘othering’ through discourses of the US nation, an integrated Europe, human values, and common goals. Throughout the course, we will seek to gain a broader understanding of the role that state policies, media representations and individual and collective actions play in shaping experiences of belonging, exclusion and resistance.

WOMENSST 494TI – Unthinking the Transnational
Tuesday, Thursday  1:00-2:15 p.m.
TBA

This course is about the framework of transnational women’s and gendered activisms and scholarship.  We will survey the field of transnational feminist research and praxis, locating structures of power, practices of resistance, and the geographies of development at work in a range of theories and social movements. The course will not only examine the implementation of feminist politics and projects that have sought to ensure some measurable social, cultural, and economic changes, but also explore the ways conceptions of the ‘global’ and ‘transnational have informed these efforts.  We will focus not only on the agency of individuals, but also on the impact on people’s lives and their communities as they adopt strategies to improve material, social, cultural, and political conditions of their lives.  This class fulfills the Integrative Experience requirements for WGSS majors.  If you are NOT taking it for the IE requirement, it can fulfill a distribution requirement, Transnational Feminisms, for the major or minor.  See an advisor for details.

WOMENSST 691B – Issues in Feminist Research
Wednesday  4:00-6:30
Jacquelyne Luce

This seminar will include readings on general questions of feminist methodology and ethics of research.  Open to graduate Certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies students only.  Contact Linda Hillenbrand (lindah@wost.umass.edu) to enroll. 

WOMENSST 692C – Issues in Feminist Theory
Monday 2:30-5:00 with optional film showing, Monday at 5:00
Ann Ferguson

This seminar is designed for graduate students who want to improve their background in feminist theory as it has developed in the 20th and 21st century United States. It can be used to meet the requirement of a seminar dealing with an integrative approach to gender in humanities or social sciences for the Graduate Certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies.  Some background in social theory is presupposed.  Although the course will be organized topically there will be some attention to historical writings of feminist theory. The theories of race, gender, sexuality and social domination of Marx, Freud and Foucault will be considered through those feminist theorists who have appropriated aspects of their theories and methods. Texts for the course will include an anthology of readings by Nicholson The Second Wave: A Reader in Feminist Theory, Eisenstein Feminism Seduced, and Alsop et al Theorizing Gender.  There will also be a number of online readings.  There will be a short paper due the middle of the semester and a final term paper. Class participation will include a short class report, and some homework questions on the readings. An optional session will meet often on Mondays starting at 5 pm to screen short relevant films, which in turn may be used as material for class reports or the short paper.