CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES IN WOMEN'S STUDIES
WOMENSST 201

Course Information

Professor Miliann Kang
Women's Studies Program, UMass Amherst
Office Location & Number Bartlett 73 (basement), 577-0710 or 545-1922 (Women's Studies Office)
Office Hours Tuesday, Thursday, 9:30-10:30 or by appointment
E-mail mkang@wost.umass.edu
Class info Fall 2003, Tuesday, Thursday, 11:15-12:30, Bartlett 212

Course Description

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. Audre Lorde, Sister, p. 36

The story is older than my body, my mother's, my grandmother's. For years we have been passing it on so that it may live, shift, and circulate. Trinh. T. Minh-ha, Woman Native Other, p. 137

This course will introduce you to the vibrant field of Women's Studies and its unique interdisciplinary perspective grounded in a commitment to individual and social transformation. Questions that we will interrogate throughout the semester include: What does it mean to be a woman? How is the category of "woman" constructed differently across social groups, cultures and historical periods? Are there common experiences and essential characteristics that define all women? How do the differences between women according to race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, and nationality complicate our commonalities? How do we integrate these cross-cutting categories in analyzing women's multiple identities and social positions? How can an understanding of women's lives empower us to act as agents of personal and social change? In exploring these questions, the course material will incorporate social science research, literature, political essays, film, poetry and art. The course has a strong comparative focus between women in the U.S. and women around the world, emphasizing transnational linkages and the processes of globalization.

READINGS

Required Texts: All books are available at Food for Thought Books, 106 East Pleasant St. 413-253-5432 in Amherst Center and are also on reserve in the library. Additional readings will be distributed.

1) An Introduction to Women's Studies: Gender in a Transnational World, by Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan, eds, McGraw-Hill, 2002. ISBN: 0-07-109380-X
2) this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation, by Gloria E. Anzaldua (Editor), Analouise Keating (Editor) Publisher: Routledge; (October 2002) ISBN: 0415936829
3) Woman on the Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy, Publisher: Ballantine Books (July 1997) ISBN: 044900094X

GOALS AND ORGANIZATION

Goals

  1. to gain an understanding of the major intellectual concepts and debates that are the foundation of a Women's Studies interdisciplinary perspective.
  2. to develop a feminist analysis that enables you to view yourself and your various social worlds (family, school, workplace, hometown, country, environment, etc.) through a critical "gender lens" that prioritizes the experiences and contributions of women in individual, group and societal processes.
  3. to master the basic tools of feminist inquiry - including the ability to identify gendered processes, to pose theoretical questions and engage with current debates, and to learn methods of research, criticism and advocacy.
  4. to engage actively with feminist concerns in the college and local community.
  5. to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and more intimate relationships with women in our own lives.
  6. to envision social institutions, policies, relations, ideologies and practices that foster respect, health, safety, equality, esteem and empowerment of all women.
  7. to develop written and verbal skills for developing ideas, exchanging ideas with others, and presenting these ideas to a broader audience
  8. to create a learning environment that instills confidence in your abilities to articulate and interpret your own experiences, and to empower you to take action as agents of personal and social change

Organization
This course aims to give you an experience of Women's Studies as an integrated intellectual perspective with numerous cross-currents and debates across interdisciplinary boundaries. Introductory courses can be both exciting and frustrating in that they cover so many topics in such a short period of time. Thus, I have designed the course to give you both breadth and depth as you venture into new intellectual terrain. The main reader for the course, An Introduction to Women's Studies: Gender in a Transnational World (referred to as Text) addresses the many broad subfields within Women's Studies. I have also assigned selections from This Bridge We Call Home (referred to as Bridge), an anthology that focuses on the intersections of gender with race and class from the perspective of women of color. We will also read a novel, Woman on the Edge of Time, which will allow you to examine feminist fiction and relate it to arguments in other readings. Rather than completing one section and moving on to another topic, we will weave and layer the many different strands of feminist thought, drawing connections and contrast between different authors and analytical approaches.

REQUIREMENTS

We all have intense feelings about our gendered identities and the social practices and institutions that shape them. Thus, we must work together to create a space that honors the sensitivity and privacy of the issues we will discuss. I ask each of you to take responsibility for building a classroom environment based on mutual trust, confidentiality and a sense of community while at the same time engaging in intellectually rigorous and challenging discussions.

This course follows a seminar format, which means that it is based mostly on class discussion and interactive learning exercises rather than lectures. This requires that you come prepared to think critically, articulate ideas coherently, listen attentively and respect the diversity of experiences and perspectives of your classmates. Because active class participation is so important for the success of this class, I have designed the assignments to facilitate deeper engagement with the readings and richer discussions. The class is structured around frequent, shorter assignments which allow me to provide you with regular feedback. In other words, this is not a course that you will be able to "cram" for. In order to do well in this course, you must take time to digest and integrate the course material.

Academic Honesty
Academic dishonesty, in any form, will not be tolerated and you are responsible for educating yourself about the University's official policy on academic honesty.

If an instructor finds that a student has violated the University's Academic Honesty Policy, the instructor has the right to lower the student's grade, or even to fail the student for the course. Students have the right to appeal such a grade penalty by an instructor. The University Academic Honesty Board, which must be notified by instructors of any grade penalty, reviews all student appeals. The Board may sustain or recommend modification of the penalty given by the faculty member, or may recommend sanctions exceeding those originally given, such as suspension or expulsion from the University. The Board may also recommend sanctions for offenders who have committed multiple violations of the Academic Honesty Policy but who have not appealed the faculty members' decisions.

Summary of Assignments and Due Dates (all assignments are due at the beginning of class)

Sept. 18 - Critical Autobiography Due (10%)
Oct. 23 - Analytic Paper #1 Due (15%)
Oct. 28 - Evaluations Due (10%)
Nov. 25 - Analytic Paper #2 (15%)
Weeks 14-15 - Group Presentations (10%)
Dec. 11 - Final Research Report Due (15%)
Class Discussant and Memo (10%) Sign up for dates.
Class Participation and In-Class Assignments (15%)


Course Schedule
( I reserve the right to make changes in the schedules as I see appropriate.)

Part I - Women's Bodies in Science and Culture (Weeks 1-4)


Week One
Sept 4 - Introduction to the Course
  • What is Women's Studies? Why should I study it?
  • Overview of course content, assignments and expectations. Self-introductions.
  • Gloria Steinem, "If Men Could Menstruate." Ms Magazine, October 1978. (in-class)


Week Two
Discussants: 1)_______________________________ 2) ______________________________

Sept. 9 - Contemporary Feminist Theories

  • Introduction (Text); Preface and Forward (Bridge)
Creating a Feminist Classroom
  • #2, #9, #50 (Bridge)

Sept. 11 - Sex Differences Across Cultures

  • Part I, Sec 1: A, B, C, D, E and Sec 2: A, B, C, D, E (Text)


Week Three
Discussants: 1)_______________________________ 2) ______________________________

Sept. 16 - Making of Race, Sex and Empire

  • Part I, Sec 3: A, B, C, D, E (Text)
  • #46 (Bridge)

Sept. 18 - Population Control and Reproductive Rights

  • Part I, Sec 5: A, B, C, D, E (Text)
  • #36 (Bridge)
  • Critical Autobiography due

Week Four
Discussants: 1)_______________________________ 2) ______________________________

Sept. 23 - Medicine in a Historical Perspective: Birth and Midwifery

  • Part I, Sec 4: B, C, D, E (Text), 29 (Bridge)
  • Excerpt form Naomi Wolf's Misconceptions (handout)
  • Guest Speaker: Tisha Graham, childbirth educator and New York Friends of Midwives

Sept. 25 - Strategizing Health Education

  • Part I, Sec 6: A, B, C, D, E (Text)
  • #68 (Bridge)


    Part II - Gendered Identities: Individuals, Communities, Nations (Weeks 5-8)
    Week Five
    Discussants: 1)_______________________________ 2) ______________________________

    Sept. 30 - Gendering the Nation-State

    • Part II, Sec 1: A, C, D, Sec 2: A, B, C, D (Text)

    Oct. 2 - New Social Movements and Identity Politics

    • Part II, Sec 3: A, B, C, D, Sec 4: A, B, C, D (Text)


    Week Six
    Discussants: 1)_______________________________ 2) ______________________________

    Oct. 7 - Feminist Organizing Across Borders

    • Part II, Sec 5: A, B, C, D, F
    • #42, 71 (Bridge)

    Oct. 9 - Feminist Utopias: Envisioning Alternative Futures

    • Woman on the Edge of Time, pp 3-134


    Week Seven
    Discussants: 1)_______________________________ 2) ______________________________

    Oct. 14 - Labeling Women Insane

    • Woman on the Edge of Time, pp 135-262

    Oct. 16 - Resisting Oppression

    • Woman on the Edge of Time, pp 263-369


    Week Eight
    Discussants: 1)_______________________________ 2) ______________________________

    Oct. 21 - Forging New Identities, Resisting Labels

    • #13, 16, 28, 68, 69 (Bridge)

    Oct. 23 - Transgressive Sexual Identities

    • 19, 20, 31, 32, 65, 75 (Bridge)
    • Film: Female Misbehavior
    • First Analytic Paper Due


    Part III - Representations, Culture, Media and Markets (Weeks 9-10)


    Week Nine
    Discussants: 1)_______________________________ 2) ______________________________

    Oct. 28 - Representational Practices and Artistic Production

    • Part III: Sec 1, A, B, C, Sec 2, A, B, C, D
    • Evaluation of First Analytic Paper Due
    Oct. 30 - Gender, Literacy and Colonial Contexts
    • Part III: Sec 3, A, B, C, D, E, Sec 4, A, B, C, D


    Week Ten
    Discussants: 1)_______________________________ 2) ______________________________

    Nov. 4 - Consumer Culture, Advertising and Cyberculture

    • Part III: Sec 5, A, B, C, D, Sec 7, A, B, C
    • 7 (Bridge)

    Nov. 6 - Beauty Culture: Commodifying the Body

    • Part III, Sec 6, A, B, C, D, E, F, G


    Part IV - Gendering Globalization and Displacement (Weeks 11-13)
    Week Eleven
    Discussants: 1)_______________________________ 2) ______________________________

    Nov. 11 - Veteran's Day - Holiday

    • No class
    Nov. 13 - Travel and Tourism, Relocation and Removal, Diasporas
    • Part IV, Sec 1, A, B, D, Sec 2, A, C, D, E, Sec 3, A, B, C, D
    • #43 (Bridge)


    Week Twelve
    Discussants: 1)_______________________________ 2) ______________________________

    Nov. 18 - Women, Work and Immigration

    • Part IV, Sec 4, A, B, C, D,

    Nov. 20 - Economic Globalization, Production and Consumption

    • Part IV, Sec 5, A, B, C, D, Sec 6, A, B, C


    Week Thirteen
    Discussants: 1)_______________________________ 2) ______________________________

    Nov. 25- Finding Common Ground and Enacting New Vision

    • #56, 73, 74, 78, 79 (Bridge)
    Nov. 27 - Thanksgiving (no class)

    Part V - Student Group Presentations (Weeks 14-15)

    Week Fourteen

    Dec. 2 Group Presentations

    Dec. 4 Group Presentations


    Week Fifteen

    Dec. 9 Group Presentations

    Dec. 11 Course Summary and Evaluation

    Conclusion: AB (Text)
    77, 80 (Bridge)

    [Final Paper Due]