WOST 201: CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES IN WOMEN'S STUDIES
Fall 2001
Arlene Voski Avakian

TuTh 11:15-12:30
Office Hours: Tuesday 1:00-2:30
email: avakian@wost.umass.edu

Who are the women in Women's Studies? How can we conceptualize the category "women" so that it is reflective of all the similarities among us as well as our very substantive differences? Can we say that all women are oppressed, when some women benefit from a system of white supremacy? Can we say that women are powerless when some women have class and race power and privilege? Can we say that women are marginalized when some women are in the dominant group by virtue of their heterosexuality? If the answer to these questions is "yes," how can we justify ignoring the reality of the majority of women on this planet for whom the struggle to survive is shaped by race and class as well as gender? If the answer to these questions is a categorical "no" then what is the intellectual justification for studying women? What, then, is Women's Studies? We will address these questions this semester by focussing on groups of women who have come together (sometimes with men) to make changes in their lives. Exploring women's activism can inform our feminism by identifying issues that are salient for different groups of women.

We will be thinking about women's lives and theorizing about how to make change, but we will not be merely studying them/us from the outside. Everyone of us is part of the systems we are going to be studying, though our relationships to the power structure differs depending on the social categories we are occupy. Assumptions about women may be seriously challenged by this approach. When we focus on race, for example, our discussion will not be limited to women of color. Since the beginning of Western colonialism and the African slave trade 500 years ago, the world has been organized around a racial hierarchy and race, therefore, is a significant factor in everyone's lives. Thinking about the ways white supremacy has constructed the culture of the United States might be difficult when we are raised to believe the U.S. represents freedom and equality. We need to probe ourselves to discover blocks to our ability to hear new information. No study of any women after 1492 can be accurate without white supremacy as part of the analysis.

The focus on activism will help us to work through these issues by grounding us in the lived experiences of women and by addressing the ongoing question of "what can we do to change the world to improve women's lives?" Studying women's lives is vitally important, but it is only one part of what needs to be done. We must think about how we can make change, particularly in these times when so many of the gains of past struggles are being eroded. We can act, and we can make a difference.

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places--and there are so many--where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory. (Howard Zinn, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times. 1994. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 208)

COURSE REQUIREMENTS:

  1. SOCIAL POSITIONALITY PAPER
    This 2-3 page paper will not be graded, but IS required. Despite the lack of a grade, I consider this assignment to be vitally important and expect you to give it your very serious attention. You will be graded down if you do not complete this assignment. Due

  2. ONE DESCRIPTIVE PAPER
    One paper summarizing your understanding of one of the theoretical articles we will read. THIS PAPER WILL COUNT FOR 10% OF THE GRADE. Due 10/18.
  3. TWO ANALYTIC PAPERS
    Two papers of 5 pages each will be required during the semester on topics to be announced. These papers will require you to do an analysis of an aspect of the material for this course, rather than doing library research on topic not addressed in class. EACH PAPER WILL BE COUNT FOR 30% OF THE GRADE. Due on 11/16 & 12/13.
    LATE PAPERS WILL BE GRADED DOWN.
  4. GROUP ACTION PROJECT
    After a brainstorming session to identify issues for women on and off campus, students will work in groups to design and implement an action project to address those issues. While groups will have to meet outside of class, I will allow some class time for group meetings and for students to share their progress with and get feedback from each other. Each group will be required to: 1. do a class presentation on their project, and 2. prepare a written description and evaluation of the project. The last two classes of the semester are set aside for group presentations. If projects are done earlier than the end of the semester, we will make time for presentations if the groups decides they do not want to wait until the end of the semester. THE GRADE WILL BE GIVEN TO THE GROUP AND WILL BE 20% OF THE GRADE FOR THE COURSE.
    Written part of the assignment is due on 12/13-last day of class. I will hand out guidelines for the evaluations later in the semester.

  5. CLASS PARTICIPATION
    The issues we will be discussing this semester have both academic and personal implications. In order to grapple with this material it is vital to read the assignments carefully and on time, come to class with questions, agreements, disagreements--in other words to be prepared to participate in an intellectual debate. CLASS PARTICIPATION COUNTS FOR 10% OF THE GRADE.

  6. OCCASIONAL IN-CLASS WRITING
    This writing is to help you think about the topics and will not be collected, nor will it impinge on your grade.

NOTE: Some of the reading for this course is theoretical and might be difficult for students who have not encountered theory in their previous course work or personal reading. If you are having trouble with and article be sure to read SLOWLY, LOOK UP WORDS YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND, AND WRITE DOWN QUESTIONS YOU HAVE AND BRING THEM TO CLASS. I am also available in office hours or by appointment for students who need more help. Please bring up what you do not understand in class because I can assure you that other students have similar questions, but are reluctant to bring up what they do not understand in class. This class is about LEARNING not about hiding what you do not know.

REQUIRED BOOKS:
Community Activism and Feminist Politics: Organizing Across Race, Class and Gender, Nancy Naples, ed. 1998. NY: Routledge
Women of Color in U.S. Society, Maxine Baca Zinn and Bonnie Thornton Dill, eds. 1994. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

READER OF SELECTED ARTICLES BOOKS ARE FOR SALE AT:
FOOD FOR THOUGHT BOOKS--E. PLEASANT STREET, AMHERST
READER IS AVAILABLE AT:
COLLECTIVE COPIES--S. PLEASANT STREET, AMHERST
BOOKS AND READER ARE ON RESERVE IN LIBRARY

PART 1 - DEFINITIONS

9/6- INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE
Video Showing: The Way Home

9/11 Continued showing of video
READING:
Aidoo, Acosta-Belen, Basu, Conde, Painer, El Saadawi, "Counterpoints" (reader)
Chandra Talpade Mohanty, "Under Western Eyes . . ." (Reader)

9/13 INTERSECTIONS OF RACE, GENDER, CLASS AND SEXUALITY-AN ANALYSIS
READING:
Lynn Weber, "Laying the Foundation" & "A Historical Time Line of Indicators of Oppression" (Reader)

9/18 SOCIAL POSITIONALITY--WHERE ARE WE AND WHY DOES IT MATTER READING: June Jordan, "Report From the Bahamas" (Reader)

9/20 SOCIAL POSITIONALITY--RACE/WHITENESS,
READING:
Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege and Male Privilege . . . " (Reader)
Grillo & Wildman, "Obscuring the Importance of Race. . ." (Reader)
Zinn & Dill, "Difference & Domination" in Women of Color (Zinn & Dill)

ASSIGNMENT: Write a 2-3 page paper outlining your placement on the axes of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality. This paper will NOT BE GRADED, BUT IT IS REQUIRED--DUE 9/27.

9/25 SOCIAL POSITIONALITY--CLASS
READING:
Dorothy Allison, "A Question of Class" (Reader)
Amott & Matthaei, "Race, Class, Gender and Women's Works . . ." (Reader)

9/27 SOCIAL POSITIONALITY--LESBIANISM AND TRANSGENDER ISSUES
READING:
Arlene Stein, "Introduction" & "The Year of the Lustful Lesbian" (Reader)
Leslie Feinberg, "We Are All Works in Progress" (Reader)

SOCIAL POSITIONALITY PAPER DUE

10/2 WHAT IS FEMINISM--OR WHAT ARE FEMINISMS?
READING: Sherna Berger Gluck, "Whose Feminism, Whose History?" Community Activism and Feminist Politics (Naples)
Jagger & Rothenberg, "Theories of Women's Subordination" (Reader)
JeeYeun Lee, "Beyond Bean Counting" (Reader)

10/4 CASE IN POINT--LOIS GIBBS
READING:
"What is Your Wife Trying to Do . . ." (Reader)
Celene Krauss, "Toxic Waste Protests and the Politicization of White, Working Class Women" (Naples)

BRAINSTORMING FOR ACTION PROJECTS

10/9 WOMEN ACTIVISTS OR FEMINIST ACTIVISM?
READING:
Nancy Naples, Women's Community Activism: Exploring the Dynamics of Politicization and Diversity" (Naples, p. 327)
Carolyn Woodward, "The Growth of the Modern Women's Movement" (Reader)
Angela Ards, "June Jordan's Acts of Faith" (Reader)

PAPER ASSIGNMENT--DESCRIPTIVE PAPER:
Write a 3-4 page paper SUMMARIZING YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF ONE OF THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES:
Chandra Talpade Mohanty, "Under Western Eyes . . . " (Reader)
Nancy Naples, Women's Community Activism: Exploring the Dynamics of Politicization and Diversity" (Naples, p. 327)
Sherna Berger Gluck, "Whose Feminism, Whose History?" Community Activism and Feminist Politics (Naples)
Leith Mullings, "Images, Ideology, & Women of Color," (Zinn & Dill)

I WANT YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE IDEAS IN THIS ARTICLE NOT YOUR OPINION ABOUT THEM FOR THIS PAPER. YOU WILL HAVE OTHER OPPORTUNITIES TO EXPRESS YOUR OPINIONS. PAPER DUE IN CLASS -- 10/18

10/11- FEMINISMS continued
10/16 Video: Ethnic Notions
READING:
(should be completed by 10/16)
Leith Mullings, "Images, Ideology, & Women of Color," (Zinn & Dill)
Carol B. Stack, "Different Voices, Different Visions . . ." (Zinn & Dill)

BRAINSTORMING FOR ACTION PROJECTS--FINALIZE GROUPS

10/18 CASE IN POINT--AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS AND UNION MOVEMENTS
Video: Ina Mae Best
READING:
Martha Norman"Shining in the Dark . . ."(Reader)

DESCRIPTIVE PAPER DUE

PART 2 -- THE STRUGGLES

10/23 Video: Guerrillas In Our Midst
READING:
The Guerrilla Girls, Cover, Table of Contents, "Introduction," and "Guerrillas in the Midst of History" (Reader)

10/25 FEMINIST FAMILY THEORY AND RACIAL ETHNIC FAMILIES
READING:
Maxine Baca Zinn, "Feminist Rethinking from Racial-Ethnic Families" (Zinn & Dill)

10/30 FAMILY SURVIVAL STRATEGIES AND RESISTANCES
READING:
Ruth Zambrana, "Puerto Rican Families and Social Well Being" (Zinn & Dill)
Bonnie Thornton Dill, "Fictive Kin, Paper Sons, and Compadrazgo" (Zinn & Dill)

11/1 ACTIVIST MOTHERS, WIVES, AND DAUGHTERS READING:
Annelise Orleck, "If It Wasn't for You, I'd Have Shoes For My Children . . . (Reader)
Ruby Duncan, "I Got to Dreamin'" (Reader)
Margaret Rose, "From the Fields to the Picket Line: Huelga Women . . ." (Reader)
Xiaolan Bao, "Chinese Mothers in New York City's New Sweatshops" (Reader)
V. Rinaldo Seitz, "Class, Gender and Resistance in the Appalachian Coalfields" (Naples)

11/6 FAMILY VIOLENCE ACTIVISM
READING:

Judith Wittner, "Reconceptualizing Agency in Domestic Violence Court" (Naples)
Karen Kendrick, "Producing the Battered Woman" (Naples)

ANALYTIC PAPER #1 DUE

11/8 CULTURE AND COMMUNITY: SURVIVAL AND RESISTANCE
Video: From the Bottom Up
READING:
Jennie Joe & Dorothy Lonewolf Miller, "Cultural Survival & Contemporary American Indian Women in the City" (Zinn & Dill)
Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, "If It Wasn't for the Women . . ." (Zinn & Dill)

11/13 CULTURE AND COMMUNITY ACTIVISM
Video: To Protect Mother Earth II: Broken Treaty
READING:
Interview with Winona LaDuke, Reclaiming Culture & the Land" (Reader)
Feldman, Stall, Wright, "The Community Needs to Be Built By Us" (Naples)
Mary Pardo, "Mexican American Women in Eastside Los Angeles" (Naples)

11/15 GRASSROOTS ACTIVISM IN THE THIRD WORLD
GUEST LECTURE: Professor Alexandrina Deschamps
READING:
Reddock, "Women's Organizations and Movements in the Commonwealth Caribbean" (Reader)
Johnnetta Cole, "Gender, Culture and Caribbean Development" (Reader)
Sonia Harris, "An Income Generating Project for Women in Rural Jamaica" (Reader)

11/20 IMMIGRANT WOMEN: CONDITIONS, SURVIVAL, AND RESISTANCE
READING:
Karen Hossfeld, "Hiring Immigrant Women . . ." (Zinn & Dill) Segura, "Inside the Work Worlds of Chicana & Mexican . . ." (Zinn & Dill)
Nazli Kibria, "Migration and Vietnamese American Women . . ." (Zinn & Dill)

11/22-11/26 -- THANKSGIVING RECESS
THANKSGIVING IS A NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE YOU CAN JOIN THEIR COMMEMORATION OF THIS DAY AT PLYMOUTH, MA

11/27 IMMIGRANT WOMEN'S ACTIVISM
READING:
Sharon Bays, "Hmong Women's Activism in a Central California Town" (Naples)
Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, "Upgrading the Occupation" (Naples)
L. Sun-Hee Park, "The Korean Women's Hotline & the Politics of Community (Naples)

PART 3 - WHAT'S NEXT?
YOUNG WOMEN'S VOICES

11/29 [RE]DEFINING THE ISSUES
READING:
(NOTE--DON'T PANIC--MOST OF THESE READINGS ARE VERY SHORT)
Barbara Findlen, "Introduction" (Reader)
Veronica Chambers, "Betrayal Feminism" (Reader)
Sabrina Sandata, "Asian Fucking Stereotypes" (Reader)
Tammy Roe Carland, "Reflections of a Stupid Slut" (Reader)
Anastasia Higginbotham, "Chicks Goin' at it" (Reader)
Emily Morgan, "Don't Call Me a Survivor" (Reader)
Max Airborne, "The Fat Truth" (Reader)

12/4 WHAT IS TO BE DONE? VOICES FROM THE FIELD
READING:
Angela Y. Davis, "Afterword" (Reader)
Green & Taormino, "Forward: Zinestresses of the World Unite! (Reader)
Jeannine Delombard, "Femmenism" (Reader)
Ellen Neuborne, "Imagine My Surprise" (Reader)
Nonny Lamm, "It's a Big Fat Revolution" (Reader)
Avia Midons, "Ode on a Feminist" (Reader)

12/6 WHAT IS TO BE DONE? continued
READING:
Taormino, "Interview with Action Girls' Sara Dyer" (Reader)
R.G., "What is Riot Grrrl?" (Reader)
Mary, "Things I Am Going to Stop Doing With My White Privilege" (Reader)

12/11 & 12/13 STUDENT PRESENTATIONS AND COURSE SUMMARY
ANALYTIC PAPER #2 DUE 12/13