WOST 187
Introduction To Women's Studies
Fall 2000
Alexandrina Deschamps
Office Hours: Bartlett 7C * Wed: 11:00am-12:30pm * By appointment * Tel: (413) 545-1958

Click here and go to "Add'l Info" for Class Notes

Mon & Wed: 10:10 - 11:00am
Fri: Discussion Sections
Bartlett 65
Jan Dahms, Stephanie Evans, Tanya Kachwaha, Jeanine Marks, Lisa Dawn Thompson

WOST 187 Course Information

Course Description
Placing women's experiences at the center of interpretation, this class introduces basic concepts and perspectives in Women's Studies. Focusing on Women's history and contemporary issues for women, we will examine women's lives with a particular emphasis on the ways in which gender interacts with race, class, sexual orientation and ethnicity. The central aim is to foster critical reading and thinking about women's lives and the ways in which the interlocking systems of colonialism, racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, ageism, and heterosexism shape women's lives and how women have worked to resist these oppressions.

A note about this syllabus - read it and keep for reference during the semester

This syllabus is a guide to the course. It includes: (1) course requirements, (2) reading assignments, (3) grading formula, and (4) study questions.

Course Requirements

Written Assignments and Exams Grading
Final grades will be computed by giving equal weight to: discussion group participation including attendance and class participation (25%); out of class 3-5 page paper (25%); midterm exam (25%); final exam (25%) - the final will not be cumulative, but will include material from the midterm on.

Discussion Groups
Discussions sections are not optional or add-ons. They are designed to be an integral part of the course and to provide an opportunity to clarify issues in your readings, films and lectures. We expect you to have completed and thought about all of the readings for that week and to be ready to engage in meaningful dialogue. Attendance and participation in discussion groups will be 25% of the grade for this course.

Academic Honesty
Our assumption is that students are generally honest. Necessary action will be taken against students who commit academic dishonesty in compliance with official guidelines. Read and familiarize yourselves with the Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities booklet.

Ground Rules
Despite the size of this class, we are concerned about the quality of your experience. To that end we will try to foster as much of your active participation in the course as possible. Lectures will include time for questions, and discussion sections have been designed as an integral part of the course. Make use of office hours to continue class discussions, clarify confusions or to discuss any other problems you are having with the course. Because of the class size and the nature of the subject matter, it is necessary to set some ground rules:

Required Books
Howard Zinn:
A People's History Of The United States 1492-Present. (Revised & Updated Edition) 1995. New York. Harper Perennial.
WOST 187 Reader. 1999. ISBN: 0-390-98689-5. McGraw Hill, Inc.

(Available at Food For Thought Bookshop, North Pleasant Street, Amherst and also on reserve in the library)

The Social Construction Of Gender, Race, Class & Sexuality, Diversity and Difference

What is "Women's Studies" and who are the "women"? How is "woman" defined? Does "objective knowledge" exist? In what ways do social, cultural, political and economic forces determine the facts? Is there a "woman's perspective"? If there is, how do race, class and sexual orientation impact that perspective? How are women alike? How do women differ? Does the common experience of a patriarchy unite us across our differences? As a concept, oppression has had a long history in contemporary feminist scholarship. What does it mean? Why is it important to think about it? Will the regular methods of scholarship and science be adequate for the task of understanding the diversity between women? Will new tools be necessary? Furthermore, how do we encourage women to relate at the points of their difference to promote growth, creativity, and social change?

What is the ideological foundation of the United States? What is the importance of history? How were European American women's lives shaped by the social, legal, religious and economic forces of the time? How has our knowledge of American Indian women been limited? What is the economic foundation of slavery? What was the experience of African American women in slavery? What were the economic reasons for imprisoning Japanese Americans in concentration camps? How did this affect the experiences of Asian American women?

Social and Political Movements: Abolition And Women's Rights, The Civil Rights Movement, The Second And Third Waves Of Feminism

What is abolition? Who were the people involved in the movement? What were the roles of men and women of different races? Was gender an issue? What was the relationship between African American and European women in the abolition movement and the women's rights movement? What were the economic and political bases for lynching? How do societal attitudes towards African American men and white women contribute to the justification for lynching? What were the goals of the civil rights Movement (CRM)? What were the Jim Crow laws? What was the role of women in the CRM? What did the CRM accomplish? Why was the CRM seen as the "Borning Struggle"? How was the women's movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s shaped by social expectations for women? What can we learn from the successes and mistakes of the movement? What still needs to be done? Where shall we put our greatest efforts? What should be our priorities? How do we revitalize the energy, optimism, and power of the women's movement, and where shall we take it into the future?

Institutions That Shape Women's Lives - Work

What is the nature of women's work? How is it related to societal expectations for women? How do race and class impact on definitions of women's work? Has the work that women have traditionally done been considered work? Where are women in the economy? Do education, individual talents, skills and effort determine women's placement in the work force? Are there still obstacles to women in the work force? What are the consequences and remedial strategies?

Institutions That Shape Women's Lives - The Family and Recurring Issues

How is family defined? What are cross-cultural and historical differences in family form and the role women play in the family? What has been and is the role of the state in maintaining the family? How does racism shape family life? How do economic, political, and social pressures impact families? What role does racism and sexism play in shaping public policy on the family? What are the strategies women of color have developed to ensure that survival? Who is poor? What is the connection between women and poverty? Why single mothers do worst? What's wrong with current poverty policies and what's the unfinished agenda? What kinds of families do lesbians and gay men have? What is heterosexism and how does it impact on homosexual families? How is "good family" defined? How is that definition related to cultural assumptions about sexuality, race, gender and class?

   What is the societal basis of violence against women? Why do women stay with men who hurt them? What significant changes have the women's movement made to abused girls and women? Women in this culture live with the reality of rape, what are cultural myths about rape? What is the relationship between rape and cultural definitions of aggressive sexuality for males and passivity for females? How has the activism of feminists affected treatment of rape victims by police and the judicial system?

Institutions That Shape Women's Lives - Health Care, Media, Public Policy, Legal System

What is the basis of our health care system? Who does it benefit? What are the ways in which gender, race and class impact the quality and kind of health care received? What changes in the health care system have resulted from the efforts of women activists? Why is abortion a major issue for women? Has abortion always been illegal? What are the consequences of denying women access to abortion? What do we mean by reproductive rights? What is the justification for sterilization of Puerto Rican women? What are the connections between sterilization abuse, population control and minority women?

Resistance, Alliance and Coalition Building: Platforms For Action

What is resistance? What are the ways in which resistance is impacted by gender, race, class, age and sexuality? How do we continue to work for change that can begin to reverse the dynamic of patriarchal domination by challenging and transforming the way in which we look at ourselves in relation to each other and to the world? What is consciousness raising? How do we raise awareness and understanding, our own and others, for social action and change?

WOST 187 Course Calendar
Wed September 06
Introductions and Definitions: Social Construction of Gender
Syllabus, Course Requirements and Expectations
Definitions and Questions
Mon September 11
Women's Studies: Implications for Women and Men
Ng. Vivian: What is Women's Studies? Reader pp. 3-7.
Frye, Marilyn: The Problem That Has No Name. Reader pp. 8-15.
Wed September 13
Different Similarities: Culture, Identity, Difference
Castaneda, Donna: Gender Issues Among Latinas. Reader pp. 93-104.
Chan, Connie S: Asian American Women and Adolescent Girls. Reader pp. 106-115.
Gillem, Angela: Beyond Double Jeopardy. Reader pp. 129-136.
Mon September 18
Intersections: Age, Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality, Disability
Garnets, Linda: Life as a Lesbian. What Does Gender Have to do with it? Reader pp. 116-126.
Lorde, Audre: Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference. Reader pp. 139-146.
Ostenson, Ruth S: Who's In and Who's Out: The Results of Oppression. Reader pp. 147-154.
Wed September 20
The Politics of Patriarchy
Video Screening: The Burning Times
Phillips, Jan: The Craft of the Wise: Who Salem's Witches Really Were. Reader pp. 421-424.
Frye, Marilyn: Oppression. Reader pp. 425-434.
Mon September 25
Early American Women's History: Pre-Contact and Foundations of US Society
Zinn, Howard: A People's History of the U.S. (Text) Chapters 1 & 2.
Wed September 27
European American Women - Colonial and Republican Motherhood - Class, Gender, Race
Zinn, Howard: A People's History of the U.S. (Text) Chapter 3 & 6.
Mon October 02
Movements and Ideologies in the 19th Century: Abolition and the First Wave of the Women's Movement
Zinn, Howard: A People's History of the U.S. (Text) Chapter 9, pp. 167-186.
1838:Grimke, Sarah: Legal Disabilities of Women. Reader pp. 81-82.
1848: The Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions. Reader pp. 83-85.
Truth, Sojourner: Book of Life. Reader pp. 87-89.
Wed October 04
Industrialization and Immigrant Women's Work - 1890-1924
Zinn, Howard: A People's History of the U.S. (Text) Chapter 11.
Mon October 09
Holiday - Columbus Day
Wed October 11
World War II: Women, Work and Patriotism
Video Screening: Rosie The Riveter
Zinn, Howard: A People's History of the U.S. (Text) Chapter 15.
Mon October 16
World War II - Internment of Japanese Americans
Zinn, Howard: A People's History of the U.S. (Text) Chapter 16.
Wed October 18
Women in The Civil Rights Movement and the Second Wave of the Women's Movement
Civil Rights Act of 1964: Congressional Debate. Reader pp. 19-23.
Zinn, Howard: A People's History of the U.S. (Text) Chapter 17.
Mon October 23
Coalitions, Collective Actions, Alliances, Resistance
Combahee River Collective: A Black Feminist Statement. Reader pp. 24-31.
Hall, Nora: African-American Women Leaders and Politics of Alliance. Reader pp. 33-50.
Wed October 25
Women and Work: Occupational Segregation and Gendered Organizations
Acker, Joan: Hierarchies, Jobs, Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizations. Reader pp. 365-377.
Fri October 27
Mid-Term Examinations in Discussion Sections
Mon October 30
Women, Income and the Feminization of Poverty
Guest Lecture
Lott, Bernice: Global Connections: The Significance of Women's Poverty. Reader pp. 169-175.
Pierce, Diana: The Feminization of Poverty: Update. Reader pp. 391-397.
Wed November 01
Women and Work: Global Connections
Video Screening: The Global Assembly Line
Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Annette Fuentes: Life on the Global Assembly Line. Reader pp.381-390.
Bunch, Charlotte: Women's Rights as Human Rights. Reader pp. 157-167.
Mon November 06
Socio-Cultural Concepts of the Family - Public Policy, Motherhood, Mothering and Families
Gittins, Diana: What is the Family? Is it Universal? Reader pp. 333-343.
Mainardi, Patricia: The Politics of Housework. Reader pp. 344-347.
Wed November 08
Gender, Violence and Masculinity
Video Screening: Tough Guise
Kimmel, Michael: Clarence, William, Iron Mike, Tailhook, Senator Packwood, Spur Posse, Magic and Us. (Handout).
Allen, Robert, & Kivel, Paul: Men Changing Men. (Handout).
Mon November 13
Violence Against Women: Culture, Society & Femicide - Family Violence
Video Screening: Defending Our Lives
Gelles, Richard: Family Violence. Reader pp. 435-450.
Paludi, Michelle: Sexual Harassment in College and University Settings. Reader pp. 351-361.
Wed November 15
Violence Against Women: The Recurring Issues
Guest Speakers from Local Agencies
Unger & Crawford: Sexuality and Violence. Reader pp. 300-324.
Fri November 17
Written Paper Due in Discussion Sections
Mon November 20
Sexuality as Site of Difference
Penelope, Julia: The Lesbian Perspective. Reader pp. 263-275.
Unger & Crawford: Sexuality in a Social Context. Reader pp. 276-296.
Wed November 22
Thanksgiving Recess
Mon November 27
Health Care: Women's Physical and Mental Health - Delivery and Access
Riessman, Catherine Kohler: Women and Medicalization: A New Perspective. Reader pp. 201-226.
Wed November 29
Women's Bodies: Reproductive and Abortion Rights
Guest Lecture
Davis, Angela: Racism, Birth Control, and Reproductive Rights. Reader pp. 233-245.
Roe vs. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 1973. Reader pp. 248-254.
Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 462 U.S. 416, 1983. Reader pp. 255-260.
Mon December 04
Women's Bodies: Images, Media, Pop Culture
Video Screening: Slim Hopes
Chernik, Abra Fortune: The Body Politic. Reader pp. 179-185.
Smith, Christine: Women, Weight, and Body Image. Reader pp. 186-195.
Wed December 06
Women's Bodies: Media Icons, Representations and the Cult of True Womanhood
Video Screening: Dream Worlds II
Lurie, Allison: Sex and Fashion. Reader pp. 401-418.
Mon December 11
A Platform for Action: Resources for Advocacy
Taylor, Vera: The Future of Feminism: A Social Movement Analysis. Reader pp. 53-74.
Wed December 13
Redefining Feminism, Redefining the Issue