Spring 2003
Office Hours
(Bartlett 229)
MW 10:10-11:00 at Bartlett 65
MW: 2 - 3 pm & by appointment
Instructor: Banu Subramaniam
Fri: Discussion Section
Telephone: 577-3164
Email: banu@wost.umass.edu

Click here to jump to the Course Calendar and Class notes (available as semester progresses).

Gabriela Delgadillo
Kirsten Isgro
Michelle Paranto
Chizu Sato
Viera Wallace-Lorencova
Sections #2 (9:05) and #3 (10:10)
Sections #7 (10:10) and #9 (11:15)
Section #5 (10:10)
Sections #6 (10:10) and #10 (11:15)
Sections #1 (9:05), #4 (10:10) and #8 (11:15)

Course Description

Women's Studies is a vibrant interdisciplinary field today, spanning the humanities, social, natural and physical sciences. Scholars in women's studies have developed frameworks, theories and methods used to study and understand our natural and social worlds. Placing women's experience 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 intersections of gender and race, class, sexuality and ethnicity. The central aim is to foster critical reading and thinking about "gender" 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, and engage in national and global transformational politics.

Course Requirements

Please read the Undergraduate Rights & Responsibilities Booklet 2002-03 on issues of Academic Honesty, Grading, Attendance, Examinations, and Absences due to Religious Observance. You will find information on the University policy on Class Absence on pp. 9-10 of the pre-registration guide. We will pay strict attention to these.

Written Assignments and Exams

Final grades will be computed as follows:
Discussion group (attendance, class participation and assignments)
Mid-term exam (March 12)
Analytic Paper (4-5 pages due April 18)
Quizzes (in discussion sections)
Final Exam

Discussion Groups

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 20% of the course grade.

Academic Honesty

Our assumption is that students are generally honest. Necessary action will be taken against students who commit academic dishonesty in compliance with official guidelines. Read and familiarize yourselves with the Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities booklet.

Ground Rules

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 active participation in the course as is possible. Lectures will include time for questions as they arise, and discussion sections have been designed to continue the dialogue. 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:

Required Books
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States 1492-Present. (20th Anniversary Edition). New York. Harper
Perennial, 2001. Arlene Avakian & Alexandrina Deschamps, A Transdisciplinary Introduction to Women's Studies.
ISBN: 0-7872-9375-X. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 2002
Available at Food for Thought Book-shop, North Pleasant Street, Amherst.


Thirty years ago, there were only a few universities and colleges across the country that had women's studies departments or programs. Today the majority of institutions offer courses in women's studies. Feminist scholarship spans academic disciplines across the humanities, social sciences, physical and natural sciences. Scholars have challenged traditional paradigms and knowledge within disciplines as well as developed new interdisciplinary frameworks, methods and theories. What is the field of women's studies? Who are the scholars? What do they study? Why is it important? How have they transformed our knowledge about the natural and social worlds? What frameworks do feminist analyses bring to our discussions? This course introduces basic concepts in women's studies.


What is "Women's Studies" and who are the "women"? How is "woman" defined? Is there a "woman's" perspective? If so, how do race, class, and sexuality impact that perspective? How are women alike and how do they differ? Does the common experience of 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? What are some of the tensions today?

What ideological, political and economic forces shape the history 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 and political reasons for the internment of Japanese Americans? What histories ground the experiences of Mexican American and other Latinas?


Do the inequities that stratify society shape the construction of knowledge? Who gets to produce knowledge and what are the frameworks and concerns that shape disciplinary knowledge? Why did Women's Studies as an academic field emerge? What frameworks does Women's Studies offer? What are the intellectual frameworks, theories and methodologies that inform feminist scholarship? How has Women's Studies transformed the disciplines? Does "objective knowledge" exist? In what ways do social, economic, cultural and political forces determine knowledge?


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? What were the goals of the civil rights movement? What role did women play? What did it accomplish? Why was it seen as the "Borning Struggle"? What were the Jim Crow laws? How was the women's movement in the late 1960's and early 1970's shaped by social expectations for women? What can we learn form 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, race, class, sexuality and national lines?


How has women's work been historically traditionally defined? How is this related to societal expectations for women? How do race and class impact on definitions of women's work? Where are women in the economy? Do education, individual talents, skills and efforts determine women's placement in the work vforce? Are there still obstacles to women in the work force? How have production and the labor markets changed over time? What are the issues that emerge in our contemporary world when products are often produced "transnationally"? What can we do as consumers? What are the consequences and remedial strategies?


How is the 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 does racism 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? Who is poor? What is the connection between women and poverty? Why are single mothers usually worse off than married mothers? Who are these single mothers? What's wrong with current poverty policies and what's the unfinished agenda? What is heterosexism and how does it impact same sex families? How are definitions of family related to cultural assumptions about sexuality, race, gender, and class?

What is the societal basis of violence against women? What are some major contemporary issues in youth violence? How is gender and masculinity linked to violence? What significant changes have the women's movement made to 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?


What legal rights do women have? Do women experience equity in the legal, public, media and health care arenas? How has the state and the legal system historically treated women? When did women get the vote? What is the basis of our health care system? Who does it benefit? What are the ways in which gender, race, class, impact the quality and kind of health care received? What changes in the health care system have resulted form 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 legal? 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 and population control nationally and globally?


What is resistance? What are the ways in which resistance is 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?


Wed, January 29
Introductions, Syllabus, Course Requirements, Expectations, Guidelines, Definitions and Questions

Mon, February 3
What is Women's Studies: Why should we care?
What is Women's Studies? Who are the scholars? What do they study?

Readings: {Handout] - Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey, pp 7-14; 16-19

Wed, February 5
Nature/Culture: Terms of the Debate
What is Sex/Gender/Race/Ethnicity/Class/Sexuality?

Readings: [Handout] - Anne Fausto Sterling, 1987. "Society Writes Biology/Biology Constructs Gender." Daedalus. Fall (116) 61-76.

Mon, February 10
Social Identities and Locations: Micro, Meso, Macro Levels

Readings: [Handout] -Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey, pp. 49-56.

Wed, February 12
Analyzing Popular Culture
Video: Merchants of Cool

Readings: [Text] - Avakian & Deschamps, pp 3-14

Mon, February 17 - Presidents' Day - Holiday (Monday class on Tuesday)

Tues, February 18
Imperialism and Democracy
Guest Lecture: Alice Nash, History, UMass

Readings: [Text] - Zinn, Chapter 1; Avakian and Deschamps, 17-20 and 45-51

Wed, February 19
Intersectionality: Integrative Frameworks for Analysis

Readings: [Text] - Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 25-41

Mon, February 24
Women's Lives: Consequences of Slavery
Guest Lecture: Manisha Sinha, Afro-American Studies, UMass

Readings: [Text] - Zinn Chapters 2, 3, 6

Wed, February 26
Movements and Ideologies of the 19th Century: Abolition and the First Wave of the Women's Movement

Readings: [Text] - Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 59-68 and 73-90

Mon, March 3
Gender, Race, Class, Sexuality and Industrialization
Video: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice

Readings: [Text] - Zinn, Chapter 9

Wed, March 5
Industrialization and Immigrant Women's Work: 1890-1924
Guest Lecture: Arlene Avakian, Women's Studies, UMass

Readings: [Text] - Zinn, Chapter 11, 253-278

Mon, March 10
World War II: Women Work, and Patriarchy

Readings: [Text] - Avakian and Deschamps, pp. 93-108

Wed, March 12
*****MID TERM EXAM*****

There will be no discussion sections on Friday, March 14

March 17 - March 21 SPRING BREAK

Mon, March 24
Civil Rights Movement/Second Wave Women's Movement
Panel Discussion with:
Alex Deschamps, Women's Studies, UMass
Lee Edwards, Dean, College of Humanities and Fine Arts, UMass
Sue Thrasher, Five College Inc.
Readings: [Text] - Zinn, Chapter 17; Avakian and Deschamps, pp. 113-133

Wed, March 26
Women and Work: Wages, Pay Equity and Occupational Segregation
Guest Lecture: Dale Melcher, Labor Studies, UMass

Readings: [Text] - Avakian & Deschamps, pp 137-170

Mon, March 31
Women, Work, and the Realities of the Global Economy
Video: The Global Assembly Line

Readings: [Text] - Avakian & Deschamps, 175-186, 197-212

Wed, April 2
Women, Work and Globalization
Guest Lecture: Gabriela Delgadillo & Chizu Sato

Readings: {Text] - Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 219-241

Mon, April 7
Gender and Violence
Panel Discussion with:
Nicole Manganelli (Educator/Advocate Program, Everywoman's Center, UMass)
Ben Ostiguy, Men's Resource Center
La Wanza Lett-Brewington, Director, Community Education
Detective Lisa Kidwell, UMass Police Department

Readings: [Text] - Avakian & Deschamps, pp 321-341

Wed, April 9
Gender, Violence and Masculinity
Video Screening: Tough Guise

Readings: [Text]- Avakian & Deschamps, pp 291-317

Mon, April 14
Gender and Violence: Myths and Realities of Domestic Violence
Video: Defending Our Lives
for more information see:
Readings: [Text] - Avakian and Deschamps, pp 341-347 and 351-358

Wed, April 16
Socio-Cultural Concepts of the Family

Readings: [Text] - Avakian & Deschamps 245-256, 259-267, 271-285

Fri, April 18 - Writing Assignment Due - Click here for assignment

Mon, April 21
Patriots' Day - Holiday

Wed, April 23
Sexuality as Site of Differences: Contradictions and Double Standards
Guest Lecture: Kirsten Isgro & Viera Wallace Lorencova

Readings: [Text] - Avakian & Deschamps, pp 425-432

Mon, April 28
Women's Bodies: Reproductive Health, Reproductive Freedom
Guest Lecture: Marlene Gerber Fried, Civil Liberties & Public Policy Program, Hampshire College

Readings: [Text] - Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 403-421
[Handout] - Roe vs Wade, 410 U. S. 113, 1973

Wed, April 30
Women and Medicalization: Delivery and Access

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

Mon, May 5
Women's Bodies: Representations, and the Cult of True Womanhood
Video Screening: Killing Us Softly

Readings: [Text] - Avakian & Deschamps, pp 377-399

Wed, May 7
Women's Activism in the U. S: Action & Resistance
Panel Discussion with:
Sonny Suchdev, ALANA Affairs
Winnie Chen, VOX

Readings: [Text] - Avakian & Deschamps, pp 435-442

Mon, May 12
"Beyond Victims and Guardian Angels: Third World Women, Gender and Economic Development."
Guest Lecture: Kiran Asher, Clark University

Readings: Selected Handouts

Wed, May 14
Where do we go from here? Conclusion and Wrap-Up

Wednesday, May 21
10:30 a.m. in Totman Gym

Banu Subramaniam, 2003