Office Hours: Tu 12:30-1:30
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
- Course Requirements:
- Midterm: Oct 29
Students can elect to do a group (3-4 persons) paper. In this case there will be a group evaluation. The
assignment will be based on a critical examination of a question or issue that emerges through the
readings. Alternatively, an individual student can select an issue that emerges from the readings for a
paper. A one page narrative outline should be submitted for approval. Individual papers should be limited
to 10-12 pages (12 pt., double-spaced). Group papers should be limited to 20-25 pages. Groups are
encouraged to make presentations limited to 20 minutes. Presentations are not part of the mid-term grade.
- Final: Dec. 12
The final will consist of an individual term paper (10-12 pages, 12 pt. Double-spaced). Each
student is required to submit a one page narrative outline of the paper for approval. The paper should be
analytical (not simply descriptive) and address a problem or issue that emerges in the course of the
- Course Grade: mid-term paper (50%) and final paper (50%)
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.
- Week 1-3: Second Wave Feminism: Sex Difference, Women's Oppression and Subordination
- Simone De Beauvoir "Introduction" to The Second Sex" in The Second Wave: A Reader in Feminist
Theory, Linda Nicholson (ed.), New York: Routledge, (1997): 7-11.
- Daly, Mary "Introduction: The
Metapatriarchal Journey of Exorcism and Ecstasy" to
Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, Boston: Beacon Press, (1978): 1-42.
- Rich, Adrienne "Foreword: On History, Illiteracy, Passivity, Violence and Women's
Culture" from On Lies, Secrets and Silences: Selected Prose 1966-1977, NY: W.W. Norton & Co,
- Firestone, Shulamith "The Dialectics of Sex" in Linda Nichlson (ed.): 19-26.
- Rubin, Gayle "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the Political Economy of Sex" in L.
Nicholson (ed.): 27-62.
- Eisenstein, Zillah "Developing a Theory of Capitalist Patriarchy and Socialist Feminism" in
Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, Zillah Eisenstein (ed.), 5-40.
- Hartsock, Nancy "The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically Feminist
Historical Materialism" in L. Nicholson (ed.): 216-240.
- Chodorow, Nancy "The Psychodynamics of the Family" in L. Nicholson (ed.):216-240.
- Mitchell, Juliet Women The longest Revolution: On Feminism, Literature and
Psychoanalysis, NY: Pantheon Books, 1984.
- Young, Iris "Beyond the Unhappy Marriage: A Critique of Dual Systems Theory" in
Women and Revolution: A Discussion of the Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism, Lydia
Sargent (ed.), MA: South End Press, (1981): 43-70.
- Week 4-5: Heterosexuality, Heterosexism and Lesbian Identity Politics
- Jacqueline Rose " Introduction -II" to Feminine Sexuality, by Jacques Lacan and the
École Freudienne, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1985: 27-59.
- Irigaray, Luce "This Sex Which is Not One" in L. Nicholson (ed.): 323-329.
- McKinnon, Catherine "Sexuality" in L. Nicholson (ed.): 158-180.
- Rich, Adrienne "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" Signs 5, 4 (1980):
- Koedt, Anne "Lesbianism and Feminism" in Radical Feminism, Anne Koedt, Ellen
Levine and Anita Rapone (eds.), NY: Quadrangle/New York Times Book Co., 1973. Reprint from Notes from
the Third Year, 1971.
- Frye, Marilyn " Some Reflection on Separation and Power" from The Politics of Reality:
Essays in Feminist Theory, NY: Crossing Press, (1983): 95-109. Reprint from Sinister Wisdom 6,
- Smith, Barbara and Beverly Smith "Across the Kitch Table: a Sister-to-Sister Dialogue"
in This Bridge Call My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, Cherrie Moraga and Gloria
Anzaldua (eds.), NY: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, (1981): 113-127.
- Wittig, Monique "The Straight Mind" from The Straight Mind and Other Essays,
Boston: Beacon Press, (1992): 21-32. Reprint from Feminist Issues 1, no. 1 (Summer 1980).
- Rubin, Gayle "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of Sexuality" in The lesbian
and Gay Studies Reader, Abelove et al. NY: Routledge, (1993): 3-44. Reprint from Pleasure and
Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, Carole S. Vance (ed.), Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984.
- Wittig, Montique "One is Not Born a Woman" in L. Nicholson (ed.): 265-271.
- Hollinbaugh, Amber and Cherrie Moraga "What We're Rollin' Around in Bed with:
Sexual Silences in Feminism: A Conversation to Ending Them" in The Persistent Desire: A Femme/Butch
Reader, Joan Nestle (ed.), Boston: Alyson Publications, 1992, 243-53. Reprint in Heresies
12: Sex Issue (1981).
- Week 6-9: Women of Color: Silence, Exclusion, Otherness and the Challenge of Representation
- Lorde, Audre "Age, Race, Class and Sex" in Sister Outsider, CA: The Crossing Press,
- Combahee River Collective "The black feminist statement" in Zillah Eisenstein (ed.):
- Walker, Alice "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens" from In Search of Our Mother's
Gardens: Womanist Prose, Harcourt Brace, Jovanovich, (1983): 231-242.
- hooks, bell "Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory" and "Sisterhood: Political
Solidarity Between Women" in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, Boston: South End Press,
(1984): 1-15, 43-65, 165,167.
- Collins, Patricia-Hill "Defining Black Feminist Thought" from Black Feminist Thought:
Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment, Boston: Unwin Hyman, (1990): 19-40.
- Anzaldua, Gloria "Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to 3rd World Women Writers" in This
Bridge Called My Back, Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua (eds.), Kitchen Table: Women of Color
Press, (1983): 165-173.
- Romany, Celina "Ain't I a Feminist" in Latina Issues: Fragments of Historia (Ella)
Herstory, Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (ed.), NY: Garland Publishing, 1995:389-399.
- Garcia, Alma "The Development of Chicana Feminist Discourse 1970-1980" in
Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (ed.): 359-239. Reprinted from Gender and Society, vol. 3, no.2 (June
- Anzaldua, Gloria "La conciencia de la mestiza: towards a New Consciousness" in from
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, San Franciso: Spinster/Aunt Lute Book Co., 1987.
Reprinted in Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras, G. Anzaldua (ed.), San Francisco: Aunt
Lute Foundation Book, 1990: 377-389.
- Moraga, Cherrie "Out of our Revolutionary Minds: Towards A Pedagogy of Revolt"
from Loving in the War Years, Boston: South End Press, 2000: 170-190, 221-224.
- Ngan-Ling Chow, Esther "The Feminist Movement: Where Are All the Asian Women"
in Making Waves, Asian Women United of California (eds.), Boston: Beacon Press, 1989: 362-377,
- Ngan-Ling Chow, Esther "The Development of Feminist Consciousness Among Asian
American Women" in Asian American Women and Gender, Franklin Lg (ed.), NY: Garland Publishing,
1998: 2-18. Reprint from Gender and Society vol 1, no.3 (Sept. 1987): 284-299.
- Lowe, Lisa "Work, Immigration, Gender: Asian `American' Women" in Making More
Waves, Elaine Kim, Lilia Villanueva and Asian Women United of California (eds.), Boston: Beacon
Press, 1997: 269-277.
- Castillo, Anna "A Countryless Woman: The Early Feminista" in Massacre of the
Dreamers: An Essay on Xicanisma, New Mexico: New Mexico Press, 1994.
Moraga, Cherrie "A Long Line of Vendidas" from Loving in the War Years, 82-86, 214-
- Alarcon, Norma "Traddutora, Traditora: A Paradigmatic Figure of Chicana Feminism" in
Dangerous Liaisons, Anne McClintock, Aamir Mufti and Ella Shohat (eds.), Minneapolis: University
of Minnesota Press, 1997: 278-297.
- Week 10-12: Post-Structuralism: Subjectivity and Knowledge
- Kristeva, Julia "Woman Can Never be defined" in New French Feminisms, Elaine Marks
and Isabelle de Courtivron (eds.), NY: Schocken, 1981.
- Spivak, Gayatri with Ellen Rooney "In a Word": Interview" in L. Nicholson (ed.): 356-
- Haraway, Donna "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the
Privilege of a partial Perspective" Feminist Studies 14, no.3 (fall 1988): 575-599.
- Butler, Judith "Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the Question of Postmodernism"
from Feminist Theorize the Political, Judith Butler and Joan Scott (eds.), London: Routledge,
- Sawicki, Jana "Foucault and Feminism: A Critical Reappraisal" from Discipling
Foucault: Feminism, Power and the Body, NY: Routledge, 1991: 95-109.
- Spivak, Gayatri "Feminism and Deconstruction, Again" from Outside in the Teaching
Machine, NY: Routledge, 1993, 121-140.
- Week 13: Post-Colonial Critiques of Western Feminism
- Spivak, Gayatri "Can the Subaltern Speak?" in Marxism and the Interpretation of
Culture, C. Nelson and L. Grossberg (eds.), Urbana: U. of Illinois Press, 1988: 271-313. Reprint in
Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader, Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman
(eds.), NY: Columbia University Press, 1994: 66-111.
- Mohanty, Chandra "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses"
in McClintock et al. (eds.), 255-277. Reprint from Feminist Review, 30, Autumn 1988: 65-88.
- Lazreg, Marnia "Feminism and Difference: The Perils of Writing as a Woman on Women
in Algeria" Feminist Issues 14, no. 1 (spring): 81-107.
- Ong Ahiwa "Colonialism and modernity: feminist re-presentations of women in non-
Western society", Inscriptions 3, no. 4 (1988): 79-93.