WOST 301: Theorizing Feminist Issues:
Gender, Race, Class and Sexuality
Lecturer: Kreimild Saunders
Office Hours: Tu 12:30-1:30 or Appointment
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
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.
Week 1-3: Second Wave Feminism: Sex Difference, Women's Oppression and
- Simone De Beauvoir "Introduction" to The Second Sex" in The Second Wave: A Reader in Feminist Theory,
Linda Nicholson (ed.), New York: Routledge, (1997): 7-11.
Daly, Mary "Introduction: The Metapatriarchal Journey of Exorcism and Ecstasy" to Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, Boston: Beacon Press, (1978): 1-42.
- Rich, Adrienne "Foreword: On History, Illiteracy, Passivity, Violence and Women's
Culture" from On Lies, Secrets and Silences: Selected Prose 1966-1977, NY: W.W. Norton & Co,
- Firestone, Shulamith "The Dialectics of Sex" in Linda Nicholson (ed.): 19-26.
Rubin, Gayle "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the Political Economy of Sex" in L.
Nicholson (ed.): 27-62.
- Eisenstein, Zillah "Developing a Theory of Capitalist Patriarchy and Socialist Feminism"
in Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, Zillah Eisenstein (ed.), 5-40.
- Hartsock, Nancy "The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically
Feminist Historical Materialism" in L. Nicholson (ed.): 216-240.
Chodorow, Nancy "The Psychodynamics of the Family" in L. Nicholson (ed.): 216-240.
- Mitchell, Juliet Women The longest Revolution: On Feminism, Literature and
Psychoanalysis, NY: Pantheon Books, 1984.
- Young, Iris "Beyond the Unhappy Marriage: A Critique of Dual Systems Theory" in
Women and Revolution: A Discussion of the Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism, Lydia
Sargent (ed.), MA: South End Press, (1981): 43-70.
Week 4-5: Heterosexuality, Heterosexism and Lesbian Identity Politics
- Jacqueline Rose " Introduction -II" to Feminine Sexuality, by Jacques Lacan and the École
Freudienne, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1985: 27-59.
- Irigaray, Luce "This Sex Which is Not One" in L. Nicholson (ed.): 323-329.
- McKinnon, Catherine "Sexuality" in L. Nicholson (ed.): 158-180.
Rich, Adrienne "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" Signs 5, 4 (1980): 631-60.
Reprint in Powers of Desire, Ann Snitow et al. (eds.), NY: Monthly Review Press, 1983: 177-205.
- Koedt, Anne "Lesbianism and Feminism" in Radical Feminism, Anne Koedt, Ellen Levine and Anita
Rapone (eds.), NY: Quadrangle/New York Times Book Co., 1973. Reprint from Notes from the Third Year,
- Frye, Marilyn " Some Reflection on Separation and Power" from The Politics of Reality: Essays in
Feminist Theory, NY: Crossing Press, (1983): 95-109. Reprint from Sinister Wisdom 6, Summer 1978.
- Smith, Barbara and Beverly Smith "Across the Kitch Table: a Sister-to-Sister Dialogue"
in This Bridge Call My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, Cherrie Moraga and Gloria
Anzaldua (eds.), NY: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, (1981): 113-127.
- Wittig, Monique "The Straight Mind" from The Straight Mind and Other Essays, Boston: Beacon
Press, (1992): 21-32. Reprint from Feminist Issues 1, no. 1 (Summer 1980).
- Rubin, Gayle "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of Sexuality" in The Lesbian and Gay
Studies Reader, Abelove et al. NY: Routledge, (1993): 3-44. Reprint from Pleasure and Danger:
Exploring Female Sexuality, Carole S. Vance (ed.), Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984.
- Wittig, Montique "One is Not Born a Woman" in L. Nicholson (ed.): 265-271.
- Hollinbaugh, Amber and Cherrie Moraga "What We're Rollin' Around in Bed with:
Sexual Silences in Feminism: A Conversation to Ending Them" in The Persistent Desire: A Femme/Butch
Reader, Joan Nestle (ed.), Boston: Alyson Publications, 1992, 243-53. Reprint in Heresies
12: Sex Issue (1981).
Week 6-9: Women of Color: Silence, Exclusion, Otherness and the Challenge of Representation
- Lorde, Audre "Age, Race, Class and Sex" in Sister Outsider, CA: The Crossing Press,
- Combahee River Collective "The black feminist statement" in Zillah Eisenstein (ed.):
- Walker, Alice "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens" from In Search of Our Mother's Gardens: Womanist
Prose, Harcourt Brace, Jovanovich, (1983): 231-242.
- hooks, bell "Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory" and "Sisterhood: Political
Solidarity Between Women" in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, Boston: South End Press,
(1984): 1-15, 43-65, 165,167. Reprint of "Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Between women" in Words of
Fire, Beverly Guy-Sheftall (ed.), NY: The New Press, 1995:270-282.
- Collins, Patricia-Hill "Defining Black Feminist Thought" from Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge,
Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment, Boston: Unwin Hyman, (1990): 19-40. Reprint in L.
Nicholson (ed.): 241-260.
- Anzaldua, Gloria "Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to 3rd World Women Writers" in This Bridge Called
My Back, Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua (eds.),
- Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press,
- Romany, Celina "Ain't I a Feminist" in Latina Issues: Fragments of Historia (Ella) Herstory,
Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (ed.), NY: Garland Publishing, 1995:389-399. Reprint from Yale Journal of Law
and Feminism, 1991, vol.4, no. 23:23-33.
- Garcia, Alma "The Development of Chicana Feminist Discourse 1970-1980" in
Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (ed.): 359-239. Reprinted from Gender and Society, vol. 3, no.2 (June
- Anzaldua, Gloria "La conciencia de la mestiza: towards a New Consciousness" in from
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, San Franciso: Spinster/Aunt Lute Book Co., 1987.
Reprinted in Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras, G. Anzaldua (ed.), San Francisco: Aunt
Lute Foundation Book, 1990: 377-389.
- Moraga, Cherrie "Out of our Revolutionary Minds: Towards A Pedagogy of Revolt"
from Loving in the War Years, Boston: South End Press, 2000: 170-190, 221-224.
- Ngan-Ling Chow, Esther "The Feminist Movement: Where Are All the Asian Women" in Making Waves,
Asian Women United of California (eds.), Boston: Beacon Press, 1989: 362-377, 474-477.
- Ngan-Ling Chow, Esther "The Development of Feminist Consciousness Among Asian American Women" in
Asian American Women and Gender, Franklin Lg (ed.), NY: Garland Publishing, 1998: 2-18. Reprint
from Gender and Society vol 1, no.3 (Sept. 1987): 284-299.
- Lowe, Lisa "Work, Immigration, Gender: Asian `American' Women" in Making More Waves, Elaine
Kim, Lilia Villanueva and Asian Women United of California (eds.), Boston: Beacon Press, 1997: 269-277.
- Castillo, Anna "A Countryless Woman: The Early Feminista" in Massacre of the
Dreamers: An Essay on Xicanisma, New Mexico: New Mexico Press, 1994.
- Moraga, Cherrie "A Long Line of Vendidas" from Loving in the War Years, 82-86, 214-216.
- Alarcon, Norma "Traddutora, Traditora: A Paradigmatic Figure of Chicana Feminism" in Dangerous
Liaisons, Anne McClintock, Aamir Mufti and Ella Shohat (eds.), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 1997: 278-297.
Week 10-12: Post-Structuralism: Subjectivity and Knowledge
- Spivak, Gayatri with Ellen Rooney "In a Word": Interview" in L. Nicholson (ed.): 356-378.
- Sawicki, Jana "Foucault and Feminism: A Critical Reappraisal" from Disciplining
Foucault: Feminism, Power and the Body, NY: Routledge, 1991: 95-109.
- Butler, Judith "Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the Question of Postmodernism" from Feminist
Theorize the Political, Judith Butler and Joan Scott (eds.), London: Routledge, 1992: 3-21.
- Kristeva, Julia "Woman Can Never be defined" in New French Feminisms, Elaine Marks and
Isabelle de Courtivron (eds.), NY: Schocken, 1981.
- Haraway, Donna "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the
Privilege of a partial Perspective" Feminist Studies 14, no.3 (fall 1988): 575-599.
- Spivak, Gayatri "Feminism and Deconstruction, Again" from Outside in the Teaching Machine,
NY: Routledge, 1993, 121-140.