WOST 201: CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES IN WOMEN'S STUDIES
Spring 2000
ARLENE VOSKI AVAKIAN
TuTh 9:30-10:45
OFFICE HOURS: TuTh 1:00-2:00 and by appointment, Bartlett 7B
email: avakian@wost.umass.edu

Who are the women in Women's Studies? How can we conceptualize the category "women" so that it is reflective of all the similarities among us as well as our very substantive differences? Can we say that all women are oppressed, when some women benefit from a system of white supremacy? Can we say that women are powerless when some women have class and race power and privilege? Can we say that women are marginalized when some women's heterosexuality is in the mainstream? If the answer to these questions is "yes," how can we justify ignoring the reality of the majority of women on this planet for whom the struggle to survive is shaped by race and class as well as gender? If the answer to these questions is a categorical "no" then what is the intellectual justification for studying women? What, then, is Women's Studies? We will address these questions this semester by focussing on women's activism.

We will be thinking about women's lives and theorizing about how to make change, but we will not be merely studying them/us from the outside. Everyone of us is part of the systems we are going to be studying, though our relationships to the power structure differs depending on the social categories we are occupy. Assumptions about women may be seriously challenged by this approach. When we focus on race, for example, our discussion will not be limited to women of color. Since the beginning of Western colonialism and the African slave trade 500 years ago, the world has been organized around a racial hierarchy and race, therefore, is a significant factor in everyone's lives. Thinking about the ways white supremacy has constructed the culture of the United States might be difficult when we are raised to believe the U.S. represents freedom and equality. We need to probe ourselves to discover blocks to our ability to hear new information. No study of any women after 1492 can be accurate without white supremacy as part of the analysis. The focus on activism will help us to work through these issues grounded in the lived experiences of women and in addressing the ongoing question of "what can we do to change the world?"

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places--and there are so many--where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
(Howard Zinn, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times. 1994. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 208)

COURSE REQUIREMENTS:

1. GROUP PROJECT
After a brainstorming session to identify issues for women on and off campus, students will work in groups to design and implement an action project to address those issues. While groups will have to meet outside of class, I will allow some class time for group meetings, and I have designated a few classes for groups to share progress, successes and stumbling blocks with each other. I will meet with each group at least once during the semester. Each group will be required to: 1. do a class presentation on their project, and 2. prepare a written description and evaluation of the project. The last few classes of the semester are set aside for group presentations. THE GRADE WILL BE GIVEN TO THE GROUP AND WILL BE 25% OF THE GRADE FOR THE COURSE.

2. ANALYTIC PAPERS
Two papers of 5 pages each will be required during the semester on topics to be announced. Papers are due on March 23 and April 27. Late papers will be graded down. The papers will not require outside research. EACH PAPER WILL BE COUNTED FOR 30% OF THE GRADE.

3. CLASS PARTICIPATION
The issues we will be discussing this semester have both academic and personal implications. In order to grapple with this material it is vital to read the assignments carefully and on time, come to class with questions, agreements, disagreements--in other words to be prepared to participate in an intellectual debate. CLASS PARTICIPATION COUNTS FOR 15% OF THE GRADE.

REQUIRED BOOKS:

  • Community Activism and Feminist Politics: Organizing Across Race, Class and Gender, Nancy Naples, ed. 1998. NY: Routledge
  • Women of Color in U.S. Society, Maxine Baca Zinn and Bonnie Thornton Dill, eds. 1994. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
    READER OF SELECTED ARTICLES

    BOOKS ARE FOR SALE AT:
    FOOD FOR THOUGHT BOOKS--E. PLEASANT STREET, AMHERST

    READER IS AVAILABLE AT:
    COLLECTIVE COPIES--S. PLEASANT STREET, AMHERST

    BOOKS AND READER ARE ON RESERVE IN LIBRARY AND IN THE
    WOMEN'S STUDIES LOUNGE -- 208 BARTLETT

    PART 1 -- DEFINITIONS
    1/27 INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE

    2/1 Video Showing: The Way Home
    READING:

    Chandra Talpade Mohanty, "Cartographies of Struggle: Third world Women and the Politics of Feminism" (Reader)

    2/3 SOCIAL POSITIONALITY--WHERE ARE WE AND WHY DOES IT MATTER--THE INTERACTIONS? READING:
    June Jordan, "Report From the Bahamas" (Reader)

    2/8 SOCIAL POSITIONALITY--RACE/WHITENESS,
    READING:
    Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege and Male Privilege . . . " (Reader)
    Grillo & Wildman, "Obscuring the Importance of Race. . ." (Reader)
    Zinn & Dill, "Difference & Domination" in Women of Color (Zinn & Dill)

    ASSIGNMENT: Write a 2-3 page paper outlining your placement on the axes of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality. This paper will NOT BE GRADED, but it is required. DUE 2/15.

    2/10 SOCIAL POSITIONALITY--CLASS
    READING:

    Dorothy Allison, "A Question of Class" (Reader)
    Amott & Matthaei, "Race, Class, Gender and Women's Works: A Conceptual Framework" (Reader)

    2/15 SOCIAL POSITIONALITY--SEXUALITY
    Joan Nestle, "Narratives of Liberation: Pluralities of Hope" & "My Years with the Lesbian Herstory Archives" (Reader)
    Arlene Stein, "Introduction" & "The Year of the Lustful Lesbian" (Reader)

    SOCIAL POSITIONALITY PAPER DUE

    2/17 WHAT IS FEMINISM--OR WHAT ARE FEMINISM[S]?
    READING:
    Sherna Berger Gluck, "Whose Feminism, Whose History?" Community Activism and Feminist Politics (Naples)
    Jagger & Rothenberg, "Theories of Women's Subordination" (Reader)
    JeeYeun Lee, "Beyond Bean Counting" (Reader)

    2/17 WHAT IS FEMINIST ACTIVISM?
    GUESTS?????
    READING:
    Nancy Naples, Women's Community Activism: Exploring the Dynamics of Politicization and Diversity" (Naples, p. 327)
    Angela Ards, "June Jordan's Acts of Faith" (Reader)

    2/22 CASE IN POINT--LOIS GIBBS
    READING:

    "What is Your Wife Trying to Do . . ." (Reader)
    BRAINSTORMING FOR ACTION PROJECTS

    2/24 FEMINISM[S] continued

    2/29 Video: Ethnic Notions
    READING:
    Leith Mullings, "Images, Ideology, & Women of Color," (Zinn & Dill)
    Carol B. Stack, "Different Voices, Different Visions . . ." (Zinn & Dill)
    BRAINSTORMING FOR ACTION PROJECTS--FINALIZE GROUPS

    3/2 CASE IN POINT--AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
    READING:

    Martha Norman"Shining in the Dark . . ."(Reader)

    3/7 GROUP MEETINGS ON PROJECTS

    PART 2 -- THE STRUGGLES
    3/9 Video: Guerrillas In Our Midst
    READING:

    The Guerrilla Girls, Cover, Table of Contents, "Introduction," and "Guerrillas in the Midst of History" (Reader)

    March 14 & 16 -- SPRING BREAK -- NO CLASS

    3/21 FEMINIST FAMILY THEORY AND RACIAL ETHNIC FAMILIES
    READING:

    Maxine Baca Zinn, "Feminist Rethinking from Racial-Ethnic Families" (Zinn & Dill)

    3/23 FAMILY SURVIVAL STRATEGIES AND RESISTANCES
    READING:

    Ruth Zambrana, "Puerto Rican Families and Social Well Being" (Zinn & Dill)
    Bonnie Thornton Dill, "Fictive Kin, Paper Sons, and Compadrazgo" (Zinn & Dill)

    PAPER #1 DUE

    3/28 ACTIVIST MOTHERS, WIVES, AND DAUGHTERS
    READING:

    Annelise Orleck, "If It Wasn't for You, I'd Have Shoes For My Children . . . (Reader)
    Ruby Duncan, "I Got to Dreamin'" (Reader)
    Margaret Rose, "From the Fields to the Picket Line: Huelga Women . . ." (Reader)
    Xiaolan Bao, "Chinese Mothers in New York City's New Sweatshops" (Reader)
    V. Rinaldo Seitz, "Class, Gender and Resistance in the Appalachian Coalfields" (Naples)

    3/30 FAMILY VIOLENCE ACTIVISM
    READING:

    Judith Wittner, "Reconceptualizing Agency in Domestic Violence Court" (Naples)
    Karen Kendrick, "Producing the Battered Woman" (Naples)

    4/4 CULTURE AND COMMUNITY: SURVIVAL AND RESISTANCE
    READING:
    Jennie Joe & Dorothy Lonewolf Miller, "Cultural Survival & Contemporary American Indian Women in the City" (Zinn & Dill)
    Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, "If It Wasn't for the Women . . ." (Zinn & Dill)

    4/6 CULTURE AND COMMUNITY: ACTIVISM
    READING:

    Paul & Perkinson, "Winona LaDuke" (Naples)
    Feldman, Stall, Wright, "The Community Needs to Be Built By Us" (Naples)

    4/11 CULTURE AND COMMUNITY: ACTIVISM, continued
    READING:

    Celene Krauss, "Toxic Waste Protests and the Politicization of White, Working Class Women" (Naples)
    Mary Pardo, "Mexican American Women in Eastside Los Angeles" (Naples)

    4/13 IMMIGRANT WOMEN CONDITIONS, SURVIVAL AND RESISTANCE
    READING:

    Karen Hossfeld, "Hiring Immigrant Women . . ." (Zinn & Dill)
    Denise Segura, "Inside the Work Worlds of Chicana and Mexican . . ." (Zinn & Dill)
    Nazli Kibria, "Migration and Vietnamese American Women . . ." (Zinn & Dill)

    4/18 IMMIGRANT WOMEN'S ACTIVISM
    READING:
    Sharon Bays, "Hmong Women's Activism in a Central California Town" (Naples)
    Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, "Upgrading the Occupation" (Naples)
    L. Sun-Hee Park, "The Korean Women's Hotline & the Politics of Community (Naples)

    4/20 TODAY IS A MONDAY AT UMASS--NO CLASS

    4/25 CLASS SHARING ABOUT ACTION PROJECTS

    PART 3 - WHAT'S NEXT?
    YOUNG WOMEN'S VOICES

    4/27 [RE]DEFINING THE ISSUES
    READING:

    (Note--DON'T PANIC--most of these readings are very short)
    Barbara Findlen, "Introduction" (Reader)
    Veronica Chambers, "Betrayal Feminism" (Reader)
    Sasha, "Sisterhood Would Have Been Powerful" (Reader)
    Sabrina Sandata, "Asian Fucking Stereotypes" (Reader)
    Tammy Roe Carland, "Reflections of a Stupid Slut" (Reader)
    Anastasia Higginbotham, "Chicks Goin' at it" (Reader)
    Emily Morgan, "Don't Call Me a Survivor" (Reader)
    Max Airborne, "The Fat Truth" (Reader)

    PAPER 2 DUE

    5/2 WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
    READING:
    Angela Y. Davis, "Afterword" (Reader)
    Green & Taormino, "Forward: Zinestresses of the World Unite! Notes on Girls Taking Over the World" (Reader)
    Jeannine Delombard, "Femmenism" (Reader)
    Ellen Neuborne, "Imagine My Surprise" (Reader)
    Nonny Lamm, "It's a Big Fat Revolution" (Reader)
    Avia Midons, "Ode to a Feminist" (Reader)

    5/4 WHAT IS TO BE DONE? continued
    Taormino, "Interview with Action Girls' Sara Dyer" (Reader)
    R.G., "What is Riot Grrrl?" (Reader)
    Mary, "Things I Am Going to Stop Doing With My White Privilege" (Reader)
    Melissa Silverstein, "WAC-ing Operation Rescue" (Reader)

    5/9 & 5/11 STUDENT PRESENTATIONS AND COURSE SUMMARY