INTRODUCTION TO WOMEN'S STUDIES
Professor Lisa D. Robinson
Mon. & Wed. 10:10-11:00
Class Location: Bartlett Auditorium-University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Office Hours: TBA
Teaching Assistants: Brenda Bethman, Jan Dahms, Shu-Chen Huang, Tanya Kachwaha,
Placing women's experiences at the center of interpretation, this class introduces basic concepts and
perspectives in Women's Studies. Focusing on women's history and contemporary issues for women, we will
examine women's lives with a particular emphasis on the ways in which gender interacts with race, class,
and sexual orientation. The central aim is to foster critical reading and thinking about women's lives
and how the interlocking systems of colonialism, racism, sexism, and heterosexism shape women's lives as
well as the ways women have worked to resist these oppression.
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present. 1999. NY: Harper Perennial
Course Reader: Reading Women's Lives
Both Books Are for Sale at Food for Thought Books - 106 North Pleasant Street -Amherst, MA
THIS SYLLABUS IS DESIGNED AS A STUDY AID--KEEP IT AS A REFERENCE DURING THE SEMESTER. READING
ASSIGNMENTS, MIDTERM EXAM DATE AND PAPER DUE DATE, AND OTHER VITAL INFORMATION IS LISTED AS WELL AS
STUDY QUESTIONS FOR EACH TOPIC. USE THESE QUESTIONS TO PREPARE FOR DISCUSSION GROUPS AND EXAMS.
· You must be registered for BOTH the lecture and a discussion group.
· Attendance at the lecture and participation in the discussion group is required.
· Reading assignments should be completed by the class period for which they were assigned.
· You are responsible for knowing when assignments are due and handing them in on time.
· Dates of major writing assignments are noted in this syllabus, but other assignments may be made in
your discussion section.
· Absence from sections on the day the assignment was made does not constitute an excuse for not handing
in the assignment on time.
· Students are responsible for finding out about assignments they may have missed from their Teaching
Assistant or from someone in their group.
· Aside from the assignments in this syllabus, discussion sections may not have the same assignments.
· Videos are part of the class material and students are responsible for knowing the information they
WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS AND EXAMS:
· One out of class 3-5 page essay. Papers must be typewritten and double-spaced. Handwritten papers
will not be accepted. Papers must be handed in on due dates. Late papers will be graded down. The
paper is due on Friday April 7, 2000 in discussion sections.
· An in-class MIDTERM EXAM --scheduled during discussion sections on Friday March 24, 2000 in
sections. Do not make plans to leave town on this date. Plane tickets will not constitute a valid
excuse. Make-up exams will only be given to students who are ill or have an emergency. Ignorance of
this rule is not a valid excuse.
· A Final Exam scheduled during finals week. BE SURE TO CHECK THE DATE OF THIS FINAL EXAM BEFORE YOU
MAKE PLANS TO LEAVE THE AREA. WE WILL NOT ALLOW STUDENTS TO TAKE THE EXAM EARLY. MAKE UP EXAMS WILL
ONLY BE GIVEN TO STUDENTS WHO HAVE AN EXAM CONFLICT OR OTHER UNAVOIDABLE EXCUSE. Ignorance of this rule
is not a valid excuse.
· Discussion groups are an integral part of this class. Attendance and participation in discussion
will be factored into the grade.
Final grades will be computed by giving equal weight to: discussion group participation, including
attendance and class participation (25%); out of class 3-5 page essay (25%); midterm exam
and final exam (25%). Note: the final exam will not be cumulative, but will include material from
the midterm on.
Since we are aware that large lecture courses are not the optimum way for most people to learn, we have
been very careful to design the discussion sections to be integrated into the course rather than optional
add ons. Discussion sections provide an opportunity to clarify the issues under discussion for that
week. If you are confused by the lecture, film, or reading, bring your questions to the discussion
group. In addition to their strictly academic function, the discussion groups are also places where
students may talk about the ways in which the topics we address in this course may have touched their
lives. We expect you to have completed and thought about all of the reading for the week and come to
discussion ready to engage in dialogue. Attendance and participation in discussion group is (25%) of the
grade for this course.
Our assumption is that students are generally honest, but we will take necessary action against students
who commit any infraction of University guidelines on academic honesty. Familiarize yourself with the
section on academic honesty in the Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities handbook. Pay particular
attention to the section on plagiarism. Ignorance of these guidelines will not constitute a valid excuse
Despite the size of this class, we are concerned about the quality of your experience. We will try to
foster as much of your active participation as possible. Lectures will include time for questions and
discussion sections have been designed to be an integral part of the course. All of us are available to
meet with students individually during our office hours or by appointment. Make use of office hours to
continue class discussion, clarify confusions or to discuss any other problems you may be having with the
course. Because of the size of this class and the nature of the subject matter, it is necessary to have
the following ground rules:
· 300 people in one room is a difficult situation on many levels. One of the most mundane, but very
important problems is NOISE. Talking, even whispering, when there are so many people in the room is very
disruptive to both the lecturer and other students. When you lean over to talk to your friend,
remember how many of you are present in the room.
· This class is 50 minutes and we expect you to remain for the entire period. Do not begin to
your things 5 minutes before the period is over. The noise of your rustling, combined with the rustling
of even a few of your classmates can be very disturbing to everyone else. We cover a tremendous amount
of material in this class and we need every minute.
· DO NOT MAKE PLANE RESERVATIONS BEFORE YOU CHECK THE FINAL EXAM SCHEDULE. Make up exams will be
only to students who have an exam conflict, or a medical or other unavoidable excuse. Ignorance of
this rule will not constitute a valid excuse.
Wed. 1/26--INTRODUCTION AND DEFINITIONS--WHAT IS WOMEN'S STUDIES & WHO ARE THE WOMEN?
How is woman defined? Does "objective knowledge" exist? In what ways do social, cultural, political and
economic forces determine the "facts?" Is there a "woman's perspective?" How do race, class, and
sexuality change that perspective?
Friday January 28--Discussion SECTIONS WILL MEET this Friday!!!
Mon. 1/31--- DEFINITIONS AND OVERVIEW (Continued)
How do groups of women differ from each other? What are the commonalties among women? Are we united by
the experience of living in patriarchal cultures? How can we forge movements for social change across
our similarities and differences?
Reading: Rebecca Walker -- The Third Wave
Wed. 2/2--THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF GENDER: RACE, ETHNICITY, CLASS, SEXUALITY, AND GENDER
Reading: Audre Lorde, "Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference"
Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege and Male Privilege"
Laura Wernick, "Jewish & White: Issues of Passing"
Deborah Woo, "The Gap Between Striving and Achieving.."
Mon. 2/7--Imperialism & Democracy: Indigenous People & The Foundations of US Society
What are the ideological foundations of the United States? Do freedom and equal opportunity really exist
or does oppression limit individual achievement? What is the importance of history? What is the
relationship between our history and the issues we face in the contemporary world? What are our national
priorities and how have they been shaped by our history? What is the importance of women's history? How
has our knowledge of Indigenous women been shaped and distorted by race and gender assumptions?
Reading: Howard Zinn, People's History of the US, Chapters 1 & 2 (Zinn)
Rayna Green "The Pocahontas Perplex"
Paula Gunn Allen, "Who is Your Mother?"
Wed. 2/9--EUROPEAN AMERICAN WOMEN--COLONIAL & EARLY NATIONAL PERIODS
How were European American women's lives shaped by the political, legal, religious and economic forces of
their times? How did the revolutionary idea of freedom effect the experience of European American
women? What were the ways the European American resisted their oppression? How did they benefit from
being European American?
Reading: Zinn, Chapters 3 & 6
Mon. 2/14--AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN UNDER SLAVERY: WORK & FAMILY
What was the economic foundation of slavery? What were some of the changes in the slave system over its
400 year history in the US? How would a thorough integration of slavery into US history effect our ideas
about freedom and liberty? What was the experience of African American women in slavery? What
particular family and community forms did African Americans create under slavery? What were the ways
that they resisted their oppression?
Reading: Zinn, Chapter 9, pp. 167-179
Deborah Grey White, "The Nature of Slavery"
Wed. 2/16--Women in 19th Century Political Movements: Abolition and Women's Rights
What is abolition? Who were the people who were involved in the movement? What were the differences in
philosophy and strategy between Black and white abolitionists? Was gender an issue? What was the
relationship between the Abolition movement and the Women's Rights movement? What were the differences
in philosophy and strategy between African American and European American women in the movement for
women's rights? What is suffrage and did women's gaining it change their lives?
Reading: Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, Seneca Falls 1848
Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, "Address to the First National Conference...
Ellen Dubois, "The First Women's Rights Movement"
Karen Sacks, "The Class Roots of Feminism"
Wed. 2/23-- Reconstruction, Lynching, and Resistance
Video: IDA B. WELLS
What were the economic and political bases for lynching? What were the consequences of lynching for
African American people and how did they resist? What consequences are there today for the feminist
Anti-Rape and anti sexual harassment movements?
Mon. 2/28---INDUSTRIALIZATION & IMMIGRANT WOMEN'S WORK 1890-1924
How did industrial development change the class structure in the US? How did it change the ideology of
"true womanhood"? Who were the majority of the immigrants between 1880-1920? What were the ways in
which immigrant women and children participated in the family's survival? What problems did they face?
How did women respond to their exploitation and marginalization?Who were some of the later the immigrants
who came to the US? Why did they come? What did they find when they came here? What problems did they
encounter in their workplaces and how did they respond to their exploitation?
Reading: Zinn, Chapter 11, pp. 247-276 and Chapter 12
Jane H. Lii, "Week in Sweatshops Reveals Grim Conspiracy of the Poor"
Mon. 3/6--WORLD WAR II & WOMEN'S EXPERIENCE
VIDEO : ROSIE THE RIVETER
What was the role of propaganda in defining "women's place" during the war? Did new images really
challenge prevailing gender roles? Why did women work? What were the conditions under which women
worked during the war? What services were available for their children? How did the conditions of women
workers change after the war? What can we learn about the role of media in our lives from this history?
Reading: Zinn, Chapter 15
Wed. 3/8--WORLD WAR II AND WOMEN'S EXPERIENCE II: CONCENTRATION CAMPS FOR JAPANESE AMERICANS
GUEST LECTURE: SHU-CHEN HUANG
Who were the people who were forced into concentration camps? How many were US citizens? What were the
economic bases for the imprisonment? What was the "threat" from Japanese Americans? How did the camp
experience impact subsequent generations of Japanese Americans? Why do we need to know their history in
a Women's Studies class?
Reading: Zinn, Chapter 16
Mon. 3/20--WOMEN IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
What were the goals of the Civil Rights Movement (CRM)? How did the goals and tactics of the CRM
threaten the system of racial segregation (Jim Crow) in the South? In the North? What was the role of
women in the CRM? What did the CRM accomplish? Why has the 60's been portrayed as if the CRM did not
exist? What can we learn about the struggle against racism from the CRM? How did the CRM effect the
development of the women's movement?
Reading: Zinn, Chapter 17
Wed. 3/22 VIDEO: AIN'T SCARED OF YOUR JAILS
FRIDAY MARCH 23--MIDTERMS WILL BE GIVEN IN SECTIONS THIS FRIDAY****
Mon. 3/27--SIXTIES UPRISINGS AND THE SECOND WAVE OF FEMINISM
GUEST SPEAKER: BRENDA BETHMAN
How was the women's movement of the late 1960's and early 1970's shaped by the social expectations for
women at the time? What were some of the strategies women used to resist the limitations of these
norms? What were the goals of the various branches of the movement? What changes have resulted from the
women's movement? What can we learn from the successes and failures of the movement? What
accomplishments have been overturned since the 80's? What still needs to be done?
Reading: William Chafem "The Revival of Feminism"
Baca Zinn & Dill, "Theorizing Difference from Multiracial Feminism"
Elizabeth Martinez, "In Pursuit of Latina Liberation"
Wed. 3/29--WOMEN AND WORK I : OCCUPATIONAL SEGREGATION & SEXUAL HARASSMENT
What is the nature of women's work? How is it related to societal expectations for women? How do race
and class impact on the definitions of women's work? Has the work that women have traditionally done
been considered real work? What are the consequences of those definition for women and children? Where
are women in the economy? Do education, individual talents, skills and effort alone determine women's
placement in the workforce? How has women's entry into the workforce effected the division of labor at
home? What are some of the particular needs that working women have and what particular difficulties do
they face on the job?
Reading: Facts on Women Workers, U.S. Department of Labor
Alice Kessler Harris, "The Meaning of Work in Women's Lives"
Rene Redwood, "Are Women Really Moving Up?"
Yla Eason, "When the Boss Wants Sex"
Mon. 4/3 Women and Work II: Poverty, Welfare & Comparable Worth & Unions
GUEST LECTURE: TANYA KACHWAHA AND JEANNINE MARKS
Why are so many women and children poor? What is the relationship between conventional assumptions about
women and the value of women's work? How do public officials view poor people? What public policies
could help women to adequately support themselves and their children? What are some of the ways that
women have organized for change around these issues?
Reading: IWPR, "Few Welfare Moms Fit the Stereotype"
Rosemary Bray, "So How Did I Get Here
Doreen Carvajal, "For Immigrant Maids, No a Job But Servitude"
Wed. 4/5--AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
What are the origins of affirmative action? How is affirmative action related to qualifications of
candidates? What impact has the issue of affirmative action had on this campus and on campuses
nationally? How have affirmative action programs in education and employment affected white women? Women
of Color? Men of Color? What is the effect of the elimination of affirmative action programs?
Reading: American Psychological Association, "Affirmative Action: Who Benefits?"
Ethan Bronner, "Study Strongly Supports Affirmative Action in Admissions to Elite
Martha West, "History Lessons"
FRIDAY April 7th--3-5 PAGE ESSAY PAPERS DUE IN DISCUSSION SECTIONS THIS WEEK***
Mon. 4/10--WOMEN AND WORK III: INTERNATIONAL CONNECTIONS
VIDEO: GLOBAL ASSEMBLY LINE
What changes in technology have allowed multinational corporations to move parts of their operations to
Third World Countries? How does the presence of factories in "free trade zones" affect conditions for
workers? How are women used by these corporations? Why do corporations often prefer to hire women? How
have women resisted the terrible conditions of work? What impact does the ability to take parts of the
production process out of the country have on workers in the U.S.?
Readings: Cynthia Enloe, "The Globetrotting Sneaker"
David Moberg, "Bringing Down Niketown"
Wed. 4/12--THE FAMILY: MYTH, DREAM OR NIGHTMARE?
How is family defined? Are forms of family organization based on nature? Is the family life most people
in the US experience consistent with the image of family projected by the media and public officials?
What are the consequences if it is not? What are the cross cultural and historical differences in family
form and the role women play in the family? What are the implications of those differences? What has
been and is the role of the state in maintaining families? What role should it have and why? Why have
feminists been critical of the family?
Reading: Maxine Baca Zinn, "Family, Feminism, and Race in America"
Judith Stacey, "The Making and Unmaking of Modern Families"
Franks Browning, "Why Marry?"
Monday April 17th is a Holiday (Patriot's Day)***
Wed. 4/ 19--LESBIAN AND GAY FAMILIES
VIDEO: WE ARE FAMILY
What constitutes a family? Are lesbian or gay male couple who live together a family? Should same sex
partners be treated like married couples entitled to all the benefits off married couples? How can the
state justify taking children away from their mothers or fathers solely because of their sexual
Readings: Ellen Lewin, Natural Achievements: Lesbian Mothers in American Culture"
Nan Hunter, "Sexual Dissent and the Family: The Sharon Kowalski Case"
Thursday 4/20--(Monday Class Schedule)VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: I
Violence against women occurs in the family and outside of the family. What are the societal bases of
violence against women? Why is the fear of rape so common among women? What are the cultural myths
about rape? What is the prevalence of date rape? Rape on campus? What is the relationship between
rape and cultural definitions of aggressive sexuality for males and passivity for females? What ways
have women resisted rape? How has the activism of feminists effected the treatment of women who have
been victims of violence?
Reading: Michael Kimmel, "Clarence, William, Iron Mike, Tailhook... and Us"
Robin Warshaw, "the Reality of Acquaintance Rape"
Violence Against Women Act
Bonnie Pfister, "Swept Awake! Negotiation Passion on Campus"
Mon. 4/24--VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN II: BATTERING
VIDEO: DEFENDING OUR LIVES
What is the percentage of women who are battered in their intimate relationships? How has the legal
system hindered women from obtaining help? How have traditional definitions of family contributed to the
difficulties women face in getting help? Many women do leave abusive relationships, but for those who
stay, what might be some of their reasons for staying?
Reading: Albert Roberts, "Introduction: Myths and realities Regarding Battered Women"
Ginny NiCarthy, "Addictive Love and Abuse"
Margaret Anderson, "Recovery from Violence"
"Anishanabe Values/Social Law Regarding Wife Battering"
Wed. 4/26--REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
GUEST LECTURE: MARLENE FRIED, Director, Civil Liberties & Public Policy Program & Professor of
Philosophy, Hampshire College
Why is abortion a major issue for women? Has abortion always been illegal? How has access to abortion
and birth control been limited? What are the consequences of denying women access to abortion? Will
making abortions illegal stop women from having them? What do we mean by reproductive rights and how
does race and class effect the way women might define those rights?
Reading: Our Bodies/Ourselves, "Sterilization"
Faye Ginsberg, "From the Physician's Campaign to Roe vs. Wade"
Mon. 5/1--HEALTH CARE--Delivery and Access
What is the basis of the health care system in the US? How does it rank with the systems of other
industrialized countries? Who does it benefit? What are the ways in which gender, race and class impact
the quality and kind of health care received? Why have feminist activist focused on health care? What
changes in the health care system have resulted from the efforts of women activists?
Reading: Kriefer & Fee, "Man-Made medicine and Women's Health..."
Ellen Goudsmit, "All in her Mind..."
Wed. 5/3--WOMEN'S BODIES--REPRESENTATIONS AND CONSEQUENCE
VIDEO: SLIM HOPES
How does the media represent women's bodies? How has that representation changed over time and how do
these images of women affect women's self-concept? What is the relationship between the current
obsession with thin woman and the dramatic rise in anorexia and bulimia? Why are girls in the fourth
grade now on diets?
Reading: Abra Fortune Chernik, "The Body Politic"
Linda Delgado, "Arroz con Pollo vs. Slim Fast"
Becky Thompson, "A way outa no way: Eating Problems Among African American, Latina, &
Mon. 5/8--SEXUALITY AS A SITE OF DIFFERENCE:
Guest Speaker: Jan Dahms--SEX TRAFFICKING
What is sexuality? How is it related to culture? nature? How do gender norms determine the nature of
sexuality? What doses freedom in sexuality mean? Why is it hard to talk about sex? Is there a sexual
double standard? What is homophobia? Heterosexism? How are attitudes towards lesbians and gay men
impacted by social definitions of "real" men and women? How does Sex Trafficking play into this dynamic?
Reading: Rebecca Chalker, "Updating the Model of Female Sexuality"
Suzanne Pharr, "Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism"
Danahy Sharonrose, "Myths/Realities of Bisexuality"
WED. 5/10--FORMS OF RESISTANCE
Last Week of School ***
What is resistance? What are the ways in which we practice it in our lives? How can we expand the range
or our resistance? How can we forge collective struggles? Where do we go from here?
Reading: Audre Lorde, "Transformation of Silence into Action"
Kivel & Allen, "Men Changing Men"
Dorothy Allison, "Two or Three Things I Know for Sure"
*****REFER TO THE OFFICIAL FINAL EXAMINATION SCHEDULE TO SEE WHEN THE EXAM WILL BE HELD.****