WOST 187 - Introduction to Women's Studies
Spring 2002
MW 10:10-11:00 plus Friday discussion section

Instructor: Eileen Walsh
Office: Bartlett 229
Office Hours: Mon 1:00-2:30 & Wed 11:00-12:30 or by appointment
Phone: 545-2433
Fax: (413) 545-1500
Email: ewalsh@wost.umass.edu
(Please be sure to include "187 Student" in the subject line of emails.)

Teaching Assistants (TA's):
Gabriela Delgadillo
Stephanie Evans
Julie Gallagher
Kirsten Isgro
Chizu Sato

Their syllabi:
Syllabus for Sections 1 & 3
Syllabus for Sections 5 & 10
Syllabus for Sections 2 & 4
Syllabus For Sections 7 & 9
Syllabus for Sections 6 & 8

(Contact your TA first with issues regarding assignments or grading.) TA Phone: 577-0711


Placing women's experiences at the center of interpretation, this class introduces basic concepts and perspectives in Women's Studies. Focusing on both historical and contemporary women's issues, we will examine women's lives with a particular emphasis on the ways in which gender interacts with race, class, sexual orientation and ethnicity. The central aim is to foster critical reading and thinking about women's lives and the ways in which the interlocking systems of colonialism, racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, ageism, and heterosexism shape women's and men's lives; and how women have resisted these inequalities and worked to create new systems of change.

Required Books:

  1. Howard Zinn: A People's History Of The United States 1492-Present. (Twentieth Anniversary Edition) 1999. New York: Harper Perennial.
  2. Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives: Multicultural Perspectives. Second Edition 2001. McGraw Hill.

Books are available at Food For Thought Bookshop, North Pleasant Street, Amherst and also on reserve in the library.


Please read the Undergraduate Rights & Responsibilities Booklet 2000-2001 on issues of Academic Honesty, Grading, Attendance, Examinations, and Absences Due to Religious Observance.



Discussion sections are an integral part of this class. Attendance and participation in discussion sections are factored into the final grade. Three unexcused absences will result in your grade being marked down. Non-attendance will result in an F. Incompletes will not be given in this class unless if there are unusual circumstances.

Final grades will be computed by giving equal weight to: discussion section participation, including attendance and class participation (25%); out of class 4-6 page paper (25%); midterm exam (25%); final exam (25%) - the final will not be cumulative, but will include material from the midterm on.


Discussions sections are not optional or add-ons. They are designed to be an integral part of the course and to provide an opportunity to clarify issues in your readings, films and lectures. We expect you to have completed and thought about all of the readings for that week and to be ready to engage in meaningful dialogue. In addition to their strictly academic function, sections are also places where students may talk about the ways in which the topics we address in this course may have touched their lives. Attendance and participation in discussion groups will be 25% of the grade for this course.


My assumption is that students are generally honest. Necessary action, in compliance with official guidelines will be taken against students who commit academic dishonesty. Please read and familiarize yourselves with the University policy statement on academic honesty in the Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities booklet.


Despite the size of this class, we are concerned about the quality of your experience. To that end, we will try to foster as much of your active participation in the course as possible. Lectures will include time for questions, and discussion sections have been designed as an integral part of the course. Make use of office hours to continue class discussions, clarify confusions or to discuss any other problems you are having with the course. Because of the class size and the nature of the subject matter, it is necessary to set some ground rules:

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 the facts?
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? Does the common experience of a patriarchy unite us across our differences?
As a concept, oppression has had a long history in contemporary feminist scholarship. What does it mean? Why is it important to think about it? What are some of the tensions today?
Will the regular methods of scholarship and science be adequate for the task of understanding the diversity between women? Will new tools be necessary?
Furthermore, how do we encourage women 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 is the economic foundation of slavery? What was the experience of African American women in slavery?
What were the economic reasons for imprisoning Japanese Americans in concentration camps? 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 do societal attitudes towards African American men and white 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? How do we revitalize the energy, optimism, and power of the women's movement, and where shall we take it into the future?

Institutions that Shape Women's Lives-Work

What is the nature of women's work? How is it related to societal expectations for women? How do race and class impact on definitions of women's work? Has the work that women have traditionally done been considered work? Where are women in the economy? 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?

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

How is family defined? What are cross-cultural and historical differences in family form and the role women play in the family? What has been and is the role of the state in maintaining the family? How is "good family" defined? How is that definition related to cultural assumptions about sexuality, race, gender and class? How does racism shape family life? How do economic, political, and social pressures impact families? What role does racism and sexism play in shaping public policy on the family? What are the strategies women of color have developed to ensure that survival? Who is poor? What is the connection between women and poverty? Why do single mothers do worst? What's wrong with current poverty policies and what's the unfinished agenda? What kinds of families do lesbians and gay men have? What is heterosexism and how does it impact on homosexual families?

What is the societal basis of violence against women? Why do women stay with men who hurt them? What significant changes have the women's movement made to abused girls and women? 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?

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

What is the basis of our health care system? Who does it benefit? 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? 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? What are the ways in which resistance is impacted by gender, race, class, age and sexuality? How do we continue to work for change that can begin to reverse the dynamic of patriarchal domination 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?


Wed - January 30

Women's Studies: Implications for Women & Men
Introductions, Syllabus, Course Requirements, Expectations, Guidelines
Definitions and Questions

Mon - February 4

Frameworks and Paradigms
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 1-6.

Wed - February 6

Theories, Theorizing, and Ways of Knowing
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 7-14 and 16-19.

Mon - February 11

Integrative Frameworks for Understanding
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 20-48.
Wed - February 13
Identities and Social Locations: Micro-Macro Levels
Intersections: Age, Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality, Disability
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 50-58 & 69-99.

Mon - February 18 HOLIDAY
Monday classes will be held on Tuesday, February 19. Tues - February 19

Indigenous People and the Foundations of US Society
Readings: Howard Zinn: A People's History of the U.S., Chapters 1 & 2.
Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 60-67.
Wed - February 20
European American Women: Colonial and Republican Motherhood - Issues of Class, Gender, and Race
Readings: Howard Zinn: A People's History of the U.S., Chapters 3 & 6.

Mon - February 25

Movements and Ideologies in the 19th Century: Abolition and the First Wave of the Women's Movement
Howard Zinn: A People's History of the U.S., Chapter 9.
1838. Grimke, Sarah: Legal Disabilities of Women, (Handout).
1848: The Seneca Fall Declaration, (Handout).
Sojourner Truth: Book of Life, (Handout).
Wed - February 27
Gender, Class, Race, Sexuality and Industrialization: 1890-1920
Video Screening: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
Readings: Howard Zinn: A People's History of the U.S., Chapter 9.

Mon - March 4

Industrialization and Immigrant Women's Work: 1890 - 1924
Readings: Howard Zinn: A People's History of the U.S., Chapter 11, pp. 262-271, and Chapter 13 pp. 321-350.
Wed - March 6
World War II: Women, Work, Patriarchy, and Patriotism
Video Screening: Rosie the Riveter
Readings: Howard Zinn: A People's History of the U.S., Chapter 15.

Friday, March 8 MIDTERM Examinations in Discussion Sections

Mon - March 11

Women in the Civil Rights Movement and the Second Wave of the Women's Movement
Readings: Howard Zinn: A People's History of the U.S., Chapter 17.
Wed - March 13
Feminization of Poverty: Occupational Segregation, Gendered Organizations
Guest Lecture
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 314-328 and 331-343.

Mon - March 25

Women and Work: Recurring and Contemporary Issues
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 345-358.
Wed - March 27
Women and Work: Global Connections
Video Screening: The Global Assembly Line or Made in Thailand
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 264-278.

Mon - April 1

Women, Work, & Realities of the Global Economy
Guest Lecture
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 279-313.
Wed - April 3
Women and the Environment
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 492-497, 500-517, and 524-532.

Mon - April 8

Socio-Cultural Concepts of the Family - Public Policy and Motherhood
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 160-174.
Wed - April 10
Family: Gender, Class, Race, Sexuality - In Their Own Words
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 175-216.

Mon - April 15 HOLIDAY Monday classes will be moved to Wednesday.

Wed - April 17

Violence Against Women: Culture, Society, Femicide, Family Violence
Video Screening: Defending Our Lives
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 217-231 and 232-244.

Mon - April 22

Gender, Violence and Masculinity
Video Screening: Tough Guise
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 245-263.
Wed - April 24
Women's Bodies: Representations and The Cult of True Womanhood
Video Clip: Killing Us Softly
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 100-131.

Friday - April 26 - PAPERS DUE at the beginning of Discussion Sections.

Mon - April 29

Sexualities: Contradictions and Double Standards
Guest Lecture
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 132-156.
Wed - May 1
Women and Medicalization: Delivery and Access
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, (Health and Aging) pp. 367 -373 and 374-417.

Mon - May 6

Women's Bodies: Reproductive Health, Reproductive Freedom
Guest Lecture
Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 360-367.
Angela Davis: Racism, Birth Control, and Reproductive Rights, (Handout).
Roe vs. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 1973, (Handout).

Wed - May 8

Creating Change: Theory, Vision, and Action
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 534-545.

Mon - May 13

A Platform for Action: Resources for Advocacy
Dialogues and Panel Discussions
Readings: Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey: Women's Lives, pp. 546-569.
Wed - May 15