WOST 301
Kreimild Saunders
Tu/Th 11:15-12:30
Bartlett 212

Office Hours: Tu 12:30-1:30
Phone: 413-545-2433
Bartlett 381

Theorizing Feminist Issues: Gender, Race, Class and Sexuality

Second Wave feminism took off in the 1970's and tended towards the creation of grand theories of patriarchal domination, women's oppression and subordination in society. Firstly, we will look at the range of perspectives, from De Beauvoir's exposition of sex difference and woman's otherness within human culture to Marxian derived materialist analyses of women's subordination and Chodorow's object-relations theory of mothering and psychosexual development in the reproduction of patriarchy.

The next section examines feminist conceptualizations of heterosexuality entailing the subjection of female sexuality in the service of the penis/phallus. It examines how lesbians not only challenged their marginalized position within a heterosexist feminist movement, but also began to espouse an eroticized woman-identification. In this political context a lesbian sexual orthodoxy emerged that perpetrated a sexual ethics that legislated what was proper lesbian sex, disciplining women that transgressed such prescriptions. Radical lesbians in turn resisted such ethical impositions.

The subsequent section focuses on the challenge of women of color to an enforced exclusion and silence that marginalized minorities and barred any meaningful focus on difference--class, race-ethnic, sexual and national differences. In response to this problem of representation within the feminist movement, women of color began to underscore the significance of difference and racism within the feminist movement, initiating a process of self-representation.

The course will then turns its attention to the impact of post-structuralism on questions of subjectivity and knowledge production. The turn to post-structuralism is in part an effect of the inability of grand theories on `Woman' to account for heterogeneity and difference from the implicit norm of `Woman' as white western, middle-class and heterosexual. However, post-structuralism shook pretensions to privileged, unified, essential subjects with powers to change the world. It underscored indeterminacy, contingencies, openness, and fractured and incoherent subjects. Feminists who turned to post-structuralism began to see its implications for feminist theory and practice in illuminating the limitations of grand theories and essential subjects.

Post-colonial critiques of Western feminism heavily in debt to post-structuralism and the discourse of women of color, began to think the significance of Western feminism in terms of its colonizing effects on Third World women or the South. This section outlines how post-colonial feminists have represented these effects. Queer theory and practice which is heavily in debt to post-structuralism, has emerged as a mature response of gay and lesbian sex radicals to gay sexual mainstreaming and lesbian feminist orthodoxy, challenging the putative coherence of sexual subjectivities, most specifically around gender, sexuality and desire. We will look at theoretical trends within this discourse. Lastly, we will seek to ascertain whether we have entered a post-feminist era, since some scholars see the impact of post-structuralism as effectively displacing feminism proper, ushering in a new theoretical and political era.

Attendance: no penalty for non-attendance.
Participation: Students are expected to attend classes regularly and discuss readings.
Academic Honesty: See Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities 2001-2002.

Readings: