Professor Alexandrina Deschamps

Women's Studies, 208 Bartlett, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA. 01003
Office: Bartlett 7B » Office Hours: Mo 1:30-4:00pm & By Appointment
Telephone: (413) 545-1958 » Fax: (413) 545-1500 » Email:

Womensst 187H Introduction to Women's Studies
[Orchard Hill Residents]
Fall 2003
  Tu & Th: 9:30-10:45am at Dickinson 109B  

Course Information


Placing women's experiences at the center of interpretation, this class introduces basic concepts and key areas of women's lives both historically and contemporaneously. It is an inter-disciplinary, trans-disciplinary, and cross cultural study of women's roles and relations but it is also an overview of theoretical perspectives on gender and its intersection with other social constructs of difference (race/ethnicity, class, sexuality, and age). The central aim is to foster critical reading and thinking about these inter-locking systems which have shaped and influenced the historical, cultural, social, political, and economical contexts of our lives. Specific attention will be given to women's resistance of these gendered inequalities, and the various ways they have worked to create new systems of change by engaging in national and global transformational politics.


Written Assignments and Exams

Academic Honesty

My assumption is that students are generally honest. You are responsible for knowing and following the University of Massachusetts Academic Guidelines. Please read and familiarize yourselves with the University Policy Statement on Academic Honesty, Course Requirements, Attendance, Religious Observances, and other relevant policies, in the Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities Booklet or at this website. Necessary action, in compliance with official guidelines, will be taken against students who commit academic dishonesty. Caucus with me about resources for learning needs.


[Required]: Arlene Avakian & Alexandrina Deschamps,
A Transdisciplinary Introduction to Women's Studies. ISBN: 0-7872-9375-X. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 2002.
[Highly Recommended]: Howard Zinn,
A People's History Of The United States 1492-Present. (Twentieth Anniversary Edition). New York. Harper Perennial, 2001.

Books are available at Food For Thought Bookshop, 106 North Pleasant Street, Amherst.

Topics and Questions to Be Covered for the Semester

The Social Construction of Gender, Race, Class & Sexuality, Diversity & 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 knowledge? 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? Where is the intersection of our "Different Similarities? Does the common experience of patriarchy unite us across our differences? As a concept, oppression has had a long history in feminist scholarship. What does it mean? Why is it important to think about it? What are some of the tensions today? What has changed? Will the regular methods of scholarship and science be adequate for the task of understanding the diversity between women? Will new tools of analysis be necessary ? How do we encourage women and men to relate at the points of their "different similarities" 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 are some of the contemporary fields of research of American Indian women? What is the economic foundation of slavery? What was the experience of African American women in slavery? What were the economic and political reasons for the internment of Japanese Americans? How did this affect the experiences of Asian American women?

Social & Political Movements: Abolition & Women's Rights, The Civil Rights Movement, The Second & 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 has lynching impacted and continues to impact gender and race relations? How do societal attitudes towards African American men and Caucasian 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? How do we build allies across gender lines?

Institutions that Shape Women's Lives-Work

How has women's work been historically and traditionally defined? How is this related to societal expectations for women? How do race, class, age, and disability impact definitions of women's work as well as access to wage work? Where are women in the economy today? 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? Are current economic problems de-gendering definitions of work? What are some of the consequences of this phenomenon for women, men, families, children, and our society?

Institutions that Shape Women's Lives-The Family, Gender, Violence & Recurring Issues

How is family defined? What are cross-cultural and historical differences in family forms? What are the roles of women in the family? What has been and is the role of the state in maintaining family systems? How do class and race shape family life? How do economic, political, and social pressures impact families? What roles do racism and sexism play in shaping public policy on the family? What are the strategies women of color have developed to ensure survival of their families? What is the connection between women and poverty? What is the current debate about single mothers, poverty, welfare and marriage? Who are single mothers? What's wrong with current poverty policies and what's the unfinished agenda? What is heterosexism and how does it impact on same sex families? How are definitions of family related to cultural assumptions about sexuality, race, gender and class? What is the current debate and discourse about same sex relationships, same sex families, and same sex unions?

   What is the societal basis of violence against women? What are some major contemporary issues in youth violence? How are gender and masculinity linked to violence? What significant changes have the women's movement made to change issues of gendered violence? 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? How are men engaging in the national and global resistance of violence against women and the culture of violence?

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

What is the basis of our health care system? Who are the main beneficiaries? 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? What are the major contemporary issues with our Health Care system? How is youth and gender tied into patriarchy, the media, and profit? What are the links between media representation and health issues? Why does abortion continue to be 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 health and reproductive rights? Is sterilization justified? What are the connections between sterilization abuse and population control nationally and globally?

Resistance, Alliance and Coalition Building: Platforms for Action

What is resistance and how has this been impacted by gender, race, class, age, disability, and sexuality? How do we continue to work for social change that can begin to reverse the inequities and inconsistencies in this age of "Globalization" 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? How can alliances be built across our differences? How can men organize around these issues?

Course Calendar

Thu September 04

Introduction to Course: mplications for Women & Men

Syllabus, Requirements, Expectations, Guidelines, Introductory Questions

Tue September 09

The Focus of Women's Studies, Key Concepts, Theories, Theorizing, and Ways of Knowing


[Handout]-Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey, pp. 7-19.

Thu September 11

Social Identities and Social Locations: Micro, Macro Levels


[Handout]-Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey, pp. 49-58.

Tue September 16

Social Construction of Gender: Issues of Equality and Equity


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, 3-14 & 25-41.

Thu September 18

Women's Lives: Indigenous People and Foundations of U.S. Society


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 17-20 & 45-51.

[Recommended]-Howard Zinn, Chapter 1.

Tue September 23

European American Women: Colonial and Early National Periods, Republican Motherhood


[Text]-Howard Zinn, Chapter 6.

[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 59-68.

Thu Sebtember 25

Black Women's Lives: Legacies and Consequences of Slavery


[Handout]-Angela Davis, pp. 3-29.

Tue September 30

Movements and Ideologies in The 19th Century: Abolition and the First Wave of the Women's Movement


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 73-90.

[Web Resource]-Not For Ourselves Alone.

Thu October 02

***In-Class Examination***

Tue October 07

Gender, Class, Race, Sexuality and Industrialization

Video Screening: Ida B. Wells. A Passion for Justice


[Website assignment and study questions will be given].

Thu October 09

Industrialization and Immigrant Women's Work: 1890-1924


[Handout]-From A Century of Women, pp. 7-39.

[Recommended]-Howard Zinn, Chapter 11, pp. 253-278.

Tue October 14

World War II: Women, Work, and Patriarchy


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 93-108.

Thu October 16

Women in the Civil Rights Movement and the Second Wave of the Women's Movement: Alliances, Coalitions and Conflicts

Film Clips from A Century of Women


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 113-133.

[Recommended]-Howard Zinn, Chapter 17.

Tue October 21 25

Women and Work: Feminization of Poverty, Occupational Segregation


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 137-170.

***Take Home Examination Due***

Thu October 23

Women and Work: Solutions and Actions - Redefining the Issues


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 175-186.

Tue October 28

Women, Work, & Realities of the Global Economy

Video Screening: Made in Thailand or the City (La Ciudad)


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 219-241.

Thu October 30

Socio-Cultural Concepts of the Family 1: Public Policy and Motherhood


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp.245-256 & 271-285.

[Web Resource]

[Web Resource]

Tue November 04

Socio-Cultural Concepts of the Family 2: Lesbian and Gay Families


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 259-267.

***Written Assignment Due***

Thu November 06

Gender, Violence, and Masculinity

Video Screening: Tough Guise


[Text]-Avakian and Deschamps, pp. 291-317.

Tue November 11

Holiday - Veterans Day

Thu November 13

Gender and Violence: Culture, Femicide, Family


[Text]-Avakian and Deschamps, pp. 321-335, 341-347 & 351-358.

[Web Resource]-No Safe Place.

Tue November 18

Gender, Violence, Sports, Sexuality

Documentary: It Takes a Team - Making Sports Safe for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Athletes and Coaches


[Web Resource]-The Women's Sports Foundation.

Thu November 20

Women and Medicalization: Delivery and Access


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 361-374.

***Last Date to Submit Out of Class Event Paper***

Tue November 25

Women Bodies: Reproductive Health, Reproductive Freedom


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 403-421.

[Handout]-Roe vs Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 1973.

November 26-30

Thanksgiving Recess

Tue December 02

Women's Bodies: Representations, and the Cult of True Womanhood

Video Screening: Various Media Clips


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 377-399.

Thu December 04

A Platform for Action - Student Community Activities

Dialogues and Discussions

Tue December 09

A Platform for Action - Student Community Activities

Dialogues and Discussions

Thu December 11

Summaries, Visions, Closing Exercises, Resources for Advocacy

***Project Summaries Due***