WOST 301: Theorizing Feminist Issues:
Gender, Race, Class and Sexuality
Lecturer: Kreimild Saunders
Tu/Th 11:15-12:30
Bartlett 212

Office Hours: Tu 12:30-1:30 or Appointment
Phone: 413-545-2433
Bartlett 381

Second Wave feminism took off in the 1970's and tended towards the creation of grand theories of patriarchal domination, women's oppression and subordination in society. Firstly, we will look at the range of perspectives, from De Beauvoir's exposition of sex difference and woman's otherness within human culture to Marxian derived materialist analyses of women's subordination, and Chodorow's object-relations theory of mothering and psychosexual development in the reproduction of patriarchy.

The next section examines feminist conceptualizations of heterosexuality entailing the subjection of female sexuality in the service of the penis/phallus. It examines how lesbians not only challenged their marginalized position within a heterosexist feminist movement, but also began to espouse an eroticized woman-identification. In this political context a lesbian sexual orthodoxy emerged that perpetrated a sexual ethics that legislated what was proper lesbian sex, disciplining women that transgressed such prescriptions. Radical lesbians in turn resisted such moralistic impositions.

The subsequent section focuses on the challenge of women of color to an enforced exclusion and silence that marginalized minorities and barred any meaningful focus on difference--class, race-ethnic, sexual and national differences. In response to this problem of representation within the feminist movement, women of color began to underscore the significance of difference and racism within the feminist movement, initiating a process of self-representation.

The course will then turns its attention to the impact of post-structuralism on questions of subjectivity and knowledge production. The turn to post-structuralism is in part an effect of the inability of grand theories on `Woman' to account for heterogeneity and difference from the implicit norm of `Woman' as white western, middle-class and heterosexual. However, post-structuralism shook pretensions to privileged, unified, essential subjects with powers to change the world. It underscored indeterminacy, contingencies, openness, and fractured and incoherent subjects. Feminists who turned to post-structuralism began to see its implications for feminist theory and practice in illuminating the limitations of grand theories and essential subjects.

Post-colonial critiques of Western feminism heavily in debt to post-structuralism and the discourse of women of color began to think the significance of Western feminism in terms of its colonizing effects on Third World women or the South. This section outlines how post-colonial feminists have represented these effects. Queer theory and practice which is also heavily in debt to post-structuralism, has emerged as a mature response of gay and lesbian sex radicals to gay sexual mainstreaming and lesbian feminist orthodoxy, challenging the putative coherence of sexual subjectivities, most specifically around gender, sexuality and desire. We will look at theoretical trends within this discourse. Lastly, we will seek to ascertain whether we have entered a post-feminist era, since some scholars see the impact of post-structuralism as effectively displacing feminism proper, ushering in a new theoretical and political era.

Course Requirements:
Course Grade:
Students can choose between a single paper 20 pages in length (100% ), two papers (10 pages each): a midterm paper (50%) and a final paper (50%) or three papers: two papers (5 pages), each representing 25% of the grade and a final paper, 10 pages in length (50%). Each student is required to make at least two comments and raise at least two questions in a written form due at the beginning of each class session. The responses will not be graded, but a failure to submit ten out of twenty-eight responses will result in a letter grade reduction.

First Paper: Feb. 26
Midterm: Tues. March 25
Final: May 13

Term papers should be 12 pt. and double-spaced, and take the Harvard reference-date form. Each student is required to submit a narrative outline of each paper for approval. The paper should be analytical (not simply descriptive) and address a problem or issue that emerges in the course of the readings.

Attendance: Students who have four or more absences will have their grades reduced by a full letter grade or more depending on the number of absences, if such absences are outside the legitimated guidelines. See Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities 2001-2002.
Participation: Students are required to attend classes regularly and discuss readings.
Academic Honesty: See Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities 2001-2002.