Alex Deschamps

Women's Studies, 208 Bartlett, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA. 01003
Office: Bartlett 7B » Office Hours: Mo 1:00-4:00pm & By Appointment
Telephone: (413) 545-1958 » Fax: (413) 545-1500 » Email:

Womensst 187H Introduction to Women's Studies
[Orchard Hill Residents]
Spring 2003
  Tu & Th: 9:30-10:45am at Field 104  

Course Information


Placing women's experiences at the center of interpretation, this class introduces basic concepts and perspectives in Women's Studies. Focusing on historical 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, sexual orientation, ethnicity and other socio-cultural factors. 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 and heterosexism shape women's and men's lives; and how women have resisted these inequalities, worked to create new systems of change and engage in national and global practical transformational politics.


Written Assignments and Exams

Academic Honesty

My assumption is that students are generally honest. You are responsible for knowing and following the University of Massachusetts Academic Guidelines. Please read and familiarize yourselves with the University Policy Statement on Academic Honesty, Course Requirements, Attendance, Religious Observances, and other relevant policies, in the Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities Booklet or at website Necessary action, in compliance with official guidelines, will be taken against students who commit academic dishonesty. Caucus with me about resources for learning needs.

Required Books

Howard Zinn:
A People's History Of The United States 1492-Present. (Twentieth 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.

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

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 knowledge? 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 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 has lynching impacted and continues to impact gender and race relations? How do societal attitudes towards African American men and caucasian 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? 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?

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, Gender, Violence & Recurring Issues

How is 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? 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 on 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? 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, disability 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?

Course Calendar

Tue January 28

Women's Studies: Implications for Women & Men

Introductions, Syllabus, Course Requirements, Expectations, Guidelines

Definitions and Questions

Thu January 30

Theories, Theorizing, and Ways of Knowing


[Handout]-Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey, pp. 7-14 & 16-19.

Tue February 04

Social Identities and Social Locations: Micro, Macro Levels


[Handout]-Gwyn Kirk & Margo Okazawa-Rey, pp. 49-58.

Thu February 06

Social Construction of Gender: Issues of Equality and Equity


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, 3-14 & 25-41.

Tue February 11

Women's Lives: Indigenous People and Foundations of U.S. Society


[Text]-Howard Zinn, Chapter 1.

[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 17-20 & 45-51.

Thu February 13

Women's Lives: Consequences of Slavery


[Text]-Howard Zinn, Chapters 2 & 3.

Tue February 18

No Class-Monday's Schedule

Thu February 20

European American Women: Colonial and Early National Periods, Republican Motherhood


[Text]-Howard Zinn, Chapter 6.

[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 59-68.

Tue February 25

Movements and Ideologies in The 19th Century: Abolition and the First Wave of the Women's Movement


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 73-90.

Thu February 27

In-Class Examination

Tue March 04

Gender, Class, Race. Sexuality and Industrialization

Video Screening: Ida B. Wells. A Passion for Justice


[Text]-Howard Zinn, Chapter 9.

Thu March 06

Industrialization and Immigrant Women's Work: 1890-1924


[Text]-Howard Zinn, Chapter 11, pp. 253-278.

Tue March 11

World War II: Women, Work, and Patriarchy


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 93-108.

***Take Home Examination Due***

Thu March 13

Women in the Civil Rights Movement and the Second Wave of the Women's Movement


[Text]-Howard Zinn, Chapter 17.

[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 113-133.

March 15-23

Spring Break Recess

Tue March 25

Women and Work: Feminization of Poverty, Occupational Segregation: Recurring and Contemporary Issues


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 137-170.

Thu March 27

Women and Work: Solutions and Actions - Redefining the Issues


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 175-186.

Tue April 01

Women, Work, & Realities of the Global Economy

Video Screening: The Global Assembly Line


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 219-241.

Thu April 03

Socio-Cultural Concepts of the Family 1: Public Policy and Motherhood


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp.245-256 & 271-285.

Tue April 08

Socio-Cultural Concepts of the Family 2: Lesbian and Gay Families


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 259-267.

***Written Assignment Due***

Thu April 10

Gender, Violence, and Masculinity

Video Screening: Tough Guise


[Text]-Avakian and Deschamps, pp. 291-317.

Tue April 15

Gender and Violence: Culture, Femicide, Family


[Text]-Avakian and Deschamps, pp. 321-335.

Thu April 17

Gender and Violence: Myths and Realities of Domestic Violence

Video Screening: Defending Our Lives


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. pp. 341-347 & 351-358.

Tue April 22

Women and Medicalization: Delivery and Access


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

***Last Date to Submit Out of Class Event Paper***

Thu April 24

Women Bodies: Reproductive Health, Reproductive Freedom


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 403-421.

[Handout]-Roe vs Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 1973.

Tue April 29

Women's Bodies: Representations, and the Cult of True Womanhood

Video Screening: Killing Us Softly 3


[Text]-Avakian & Deschamps, pp. 377-399.

Thu May 01

A Platform for Action - Student Projects

Dialogues and Discussions

Tue May 06

A Platform for Action - Student Projects

Dialogues and Discussions

Thu May 08

A Platform for Action - Student Projects

Dialogues and Discussions

Tue May 13

Summaries, Visions, Closing Exercises, Resources for Advocacy

***Project Summaries Due***