Feminist Thought (Revised October 13, 2011)
POLS 341/WOMS 401
Class Meetings: T/Th 1:15-2:30 p.m. JP 014
To learn to use gender and gendered experience as analytical lenses through which we view social relations, attempt to solve political dilemmas and seek social justice. In our survey, we will touch upon many approaches to gender and sexuality including: functionalism/conservatism, liberalism, Marxism, existentialism, radical feminism, post-modernism, third wave feminism and queer theory.
Some questions we will explore include: How does looking at a problem from a feminist or gender-informed point of view alter the project of “doing theory?” What is feminism? Are you a feminist? Can men be feminists? Can feminist theories be used to emancipate men? What are the natures of sex/gender and sex/gender difference? Is sex/gender socially constructed or biologically determined or both? Is biology itself a social construct? What does it mean to say that gender and sexuality exist on a continuum rather than as a dichotomy? What was the nature of sex relations in a state of nature? Is there such a thing as a “state of nature?” How have gender roles in reproduction and family affected women’s and men’s roles in the economy and politics? How have women’s and men’s roles in the family affected the conceptualization of rights, i.e., what rights are necessary and from whom/what do they afford protection? Can individual rights as construed by liberal theorists provide for women’s emancipation? Is the framework provided by human rights more helpful for attaining women’s emancipation and empowerment? How are gender identities mediated by our other class, race, or ethnically-based identities? What is intersectionality and how is it useful for building a more just world? What distinguishes First, Second and Third Wave feminism from each other? What’s different about Third Wave feminism? What would a gender just world look like?
Wikipedia Public Policy Initiative
As a class, we will be participating in the Wikipedia Public Policy Initiative. This is an exciting opportunity for us to improve upon Wikipedia entries related to feminism, feminist theory and the biographies of feminist theorists as well as inserting feminist or gendered critiques to mainstream entries. Students will choose from the following Working Groups in order to be grouped together and be sorted into working groups with others with similar interests. Together, you will research your subject(s) and theorists important to shaping it. In some cases, the working group will be developing a feminist critique of a mainstream political theory or approach to social theory.
The work will begin by reading the entries found in other encyclopedias, i.e., The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and others and then fanning out to other on-line information, journal articles and books. Our understanding of the subjects will be enhanced and complemented by the readings and discussions we have in class.
Each Working Group will produce a report critiquing the existing Wikipedia entries on your subject and theorists and suggesting improvements. The critique should not only point on the shortcomings of the entries but also enumerate their strengths, where they seem to be correct, complete, to rely on the correct sources, etc. The reports should conclude with a suggested revised version of all or parts of the entries. Suggested length: 10 pages. The Working Group need not choose all of the associated terms or theorists. They are just suggestions. We will zero in on which entries/theorists the group will work on once the groups are established and the number of group members is known.
1st, 2nd and 3rd Wave Feminism
One-three theorists who are mentioned in the entries for these whose bios are of interest to you
Feminist critique of socio-biology/Biology is Destiny
Feminist critique of EO Wilson
Feminism and Liberalism
Feminist uses of
Feminist critiques of
Catherine MacKinnon, Iris Marion Young
Feminist Critique of Marxism/Engels
Catherine MacKinnon, others
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Pat Hill Collins
Feminism and Existentialism
Simone de Beauvoir
The Second Sex
Post-Modern Feminism/French Feminism
The Body/Sexuality/Queer Theory
Third Wave Feminism
Rebecca Walker, Jennifer Baumgardner, Inga Muscio, Eve Ensler
The Vagina Monologues
The Riot Grrrls
Other Topics/Theorists of Interest to You
Daly, Mary. 1990. Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism. Boston: Beacon Press.
Kolmar, Wendy K. and Frances Barkowski. 2005. Feminist Theory: A Reader. 2nd Edition. Boston: McGrawHill.
Losco, Joseph and Leonard Williams, eds. 2003. Political Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Volume II. Machiavelli to Rawls. 2nd Edition. Los Angeles: Roxbury Publishing Company.
MacKinnon, Catherine. 1989. Toward a Feminist Theory of the State. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
MacKinnon, Catherine. 2006. Are Women Human?: And Other International Dialogues. Belknap Press.
Graded Work and
Before doing any of these click here for information on acceptable format, citation style, and research strategies.
1. Each session is focused on a set of questions. All class members should use these questions to guide their reading and come to class prepared to answer/discuss them. Your participation in class will be the basis of your participation grade.
2. Written homework assignment of roughly two pages about the definition(s) of feminism you like best and whether or not you consider yourself a feminist. See September 2 class session below for complete list of questions to answer.
3. Working group preliminary report and final report critiquing and suggesting revisions to Wikipedia entries; carrying out the agreed revisions.
4. Comment on other group’s report.
5. Five quizzes interspersed throughout the course.
6. Final exam.
Definition of Feminism Assignment: 10%
group preliminary report: 5%
Working group report: 20%
Comment on other group’s report: 10%
Quizzes 4 @
5% each: 20%
Final Exam: 25%
Note on Terminology:
Many words we will come across in the readings and lectures are “five-dollar words.” If it is a word that is unfamiliar to you, look it up!! I recommend first looking up the definition in an on-line dictionary, and then looking in philosophical dictionary like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Also, many words with which we are familiar will be used in a different way by a specific theorist. Please feel free to ask for discussion/clarification of any word’s meaning(s) in class.
T August 30
Introduction to the Course
Unit 1: Feminism, Feminist Methods and Epistemologies, Science, Nature and the Body
Th September 1 The “F” Word: Defining Feminism and Feminist
In-class: Sign-up for Working Groups/Theorists/Concepts of Interest
Reading: Treichler, Paula and Cheris Kramarae. "Feminism" from
The Feminist Dictionary; and Alice Walker. “Womanist” both appear in Feminist
Theory: A Reader. Wendy K. Kolmar and Frances Bartkowski, eds.
Boston: McGrawHill (henceforth K and B); Catherine A.
MacKinnon, “Consciousness Raising,” Chpt. 5 in Toward
a Feminist Theory of the State.”
Written Homework Assignment Discussion Questions (Everyone writes this one up to turn in): What is Feminism? What Definitions of Feminism most appealed to you? What is Womanism as Walker describes it? Is it different from Feminism? How/why? Does Feminism promote a specific form of justice? Describe it. Are you a Feminist? Why or why not? Can men be feminists? Why or why not? What can feminist theorizing do for women, men, gender relations, the world? Do feminists promote a particular vision of social justice? If so, what is it? What is consciousness raising, according to MacKinnon? Why is it necessary for women to have their consciousness raised? Could men benefit from consciousness raising? How would you construct a consciousness raising experience for men?
Working Groups formed, introductions, meetings with Dr B
Reading: Lexicon of the Debates: Introduction and Section on Epistemologies, in K and B, p 42 and 45-47; Harding, Sandra. “From the Woman Question in Science to the Science Question in Feminism,” Chpt. 78 in K and B; and Jaggar, Allison. “Love and Knowledge: Emotion in Feminist Epistemology” (Under Course Documents in Blackboard).
Discussion Questions: Define method and then feminist method (refer back to the definitions we talked about in the first class). Define epistemology and then feminist epistemology. Harding offers a critique of (Western?) scientific method. What according to her is problematic about its assumptions, methods, standards? Describe the feminist method she presents? How does this complement or enhance scientific method as commonly practiced? How does feminist epistemology differ from positivist or masculinist epistemologies? Does asserting there is such a thing as a feminist method or a feminist epistemology depend on functionalist or essentialist notions of sex difference?
According to Jaggar, what has been the relationship between Reason and Emotion in the Western tradition? What does she mean by Western “dualism?” How does she call Western ideas about the relationship between Reason and Emotion into question? Does she persuade you that feeling emotions is or can be part of good reasoning? Can you think of examples of how allowing emotion to affect our judgment allows us to make better, more well-reasoned decisions?
Th September 8
Meet in computer lab in Foley Library, Lower Level
Introduction to Wikipedia editing, creating accounts, familiarizing ourselves with the etiquette of Wiki editing.
T September 13
Politic: Nature, Sex and Biological Difference
Reading: Lexicon of the Debates: Introduction and Bodies, in K and B, pp. 42-45; Wilson, Edward O. "Sex." (Under Course Documents in Blackboard); Ortner, Sherry B., “Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?” Chpt. 54 in K and B; Okin, Susan Moller. Excerpt from “Women’s Place and Nature in a Functionalist World,” pp. 73-84. (Under Course Documents in Blackboard);
Discussion Questions: What is functionalism? Describe how Wilson uses a functionalist approach to explain women’s temperment/status/roles and the evolution of sex (i.e, reproduction). How would you critique his work from one or more of the feminist epistemologies we have learned in the class thus far? How does Ortner explain the fact that women are universally subordinated to men and their consistent association with nature? Describe how Aristotle thought of women (and men) and their social/political roles, as Okin describes them. Do these notions correspond to what Ortner described as the nature/culture dichotomy? According to Ortner, are women doomed to always be subordinated to men or is there a way out? If so, what is it?
Th September 15
Science and the Body/Sexuality
Reading: Essentialism/Social Construction/Difference, pp. 47-49 in K and B; York, Frank. “Gender Differences are Real,” and Fausto-Sterling, Anne. “The Five Sexes.” 1993. Sciences, Vol. 33, Issue 2 (Mar/Apr): 20-26 (Find article using Foley Library Academic Search Complete).
Discussion Questions: According to each author, is sex difference a biological fact? How many sexes are there? Why is it important to each author to argue that there x number of sexes or that sex differences are natural or not? How does each use science to support his/her arguments? What are the social/economic/political implications of their assertions? Does studying biology necessarily lead to essentialism?
UNIT 2: Liberalism, Feminist Critiques of Liberalism, and 20th Century Democratic Theory
T September 20
to Liberal Political Theory: Hobbes, Locke and Natural Rights,
the State of Nature, the Social Contract and the Leviathan
Reading: “Enter Modernity,” pp. 9-12 in Losco and Williams; “Thomas Hobbes,” in Losco and Williams, pp. 48-49; Hobbes, Excerpts from The Leviathan, pp. 53-58 in Losco and Williams (stop at end of Chpt. 14); Okin, “John Stuart Mill, Liberal Feminist,” pages on Hobbes only, 197-199 (in Course Documents). “John Locke,” pp. 86-88, in Losco and Williams; Locke, “Excerpts from The Second Treatise on Government,” pp. 90-97 (stop at Chapter VII); Okin, “John Stuart Mill, Liberal Feminist,” pages on Hobbes and Locke only, pp. 197-201 (in Course Documents in Blackboard); and Mary B. Walsh, “Locke and Feminism on Private and Public Realms of Activities,” in Losco and Williams 126-136.
Discussion Questions: What years do historians define as “the modern era?” According to Losco and Williams in “Enter Modernity,” what social, theological, scientific, cultural, economic and political changes ushered in and/or came to define the modern era? Who was Hobbes, what years was he alive and what social and political conditions in England that shaped his writing?
What are natural rights? What is the state of nature? Describe its characteristics, Hobbes’ assumptions about it. What is the relationship between men, between men and women in the state of nature? What is the social contract? Who are the parties to it? Why do people agree to the social contract? What rights do men give up/retain as a result of the social contract? Do women give up/retain the same rights? Are men living in an absolute monarchy more or less free than they are in a state of nature? Are women living in an absolute monarchy more or less free than they are in a state of nature?
How is the marriage contract between husbands and wives in modern England like or not like the social contract for men, for women? Is a married woman’s relationship with her husband analogous to that between a male subject and the ruler of the Commonwealth? How so? How not?
Discussion Questions on Locke: Describe Locke’s state of nature. How does it differ from the state of nature assumed by Hobbes? What rights does man have as a result of “natural law”? Do you think that Locke thought women possessed these rights as well?
What is the right to property as Locke describes it? What are the origins of this right? What is civil society? What is its basis?
How did Locke describe marriage? What are its purposes? What rights/duties did it include? Are men and women equal partners in marriage, according to Locke? Why or why not? Do they share the right to common property accumulated in the marriage? (see Walsh, 127) What, according to Walsh, is the relationship between private property and “patriarchal marriage,” i.e., what does one have to do with the other? Does this relationship seem logical/necessary to you? According to Locke, would people have the right to terminate their marriages?
Would abortion be legal in a Lockean world? Why or why not? As the logical extensions of what rights? For Locke, is the realm of marriage/family organized according to the same structures and principles as political society? Why or why not?
Is Lockean liberalism a sufficient philosophical basis to obtain freedom for most people? For men? For women? See especially Walsh, 129, on what she describes as the liberating potential in Locke. Do you agree that the Locke’s ideas can be used to emancipate women? Give an example. How would Locke explain the inequalities that exist in society today?
to Walsh, what are the main criticisms communitarian
feminists level at Locke? Radical feminists? Overall,
do you think Locke is more helpful or harmful for creating a gender just
Th September 22
Liberal arguments for women’s equality in the First Wave
Reading: John Stuart Mill, pp. 401-404, in Losco and Williams; Okin, “John Stuart Mill, Liberal Feminist,” pp. 202-end; Mill, "On the Subjection of Women," pp. 417-32 in L and W; and Harriet Taylor, “The Enfranchisement of Women,” Chpt. 12 in K and B.
Discussion Questions: According to Okin, in addition to Liberalism, what other schools of thought influence Mill? How are these evident in his argument in “On the Subjection of Women”?
What is Mill’s aspiration for the relation between the sexes, as articulated in “The Subjection of Women?” What, according to Mill, is the role of feeling in defending one’s argument (417)? Does this seem an odd notion? Why? Why do you think Mill includes this appeal to feeling in his argument?
Why, according to Mill, can we not assume that men’s subordination of women is the best social practice, despite the fact that most would argue “it’s always been this way” so it must serve some purpose? What, according to Mill, are the origins of women’s subordination to men? What, in other words, was a “state of nature” like for women? How does Mill call into question the notion that being a wife and mother is “natural” to women? How does women’s position as wife differ from that of a slave, according to Mill? On what grounds does Mill argue in favor of admitting women to professions and political office and to extending to them the franchise?
What is the role of competition in Mill’s social, political and economic worlds? Have his predictions about competition between women and men proven true in contemporary society? Why or why not?
What occasion prompted Taylor’s writing? How does she argue in favor of women’s rights? How does she answer those who question the propriety of women participating in politics?
Liberal Feminism in the First and Second Waves and a Radical Feminist Critique of Liberalism
Reading: Wollstonecraft, Mary, Chpt. 9 in K and B; and Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, “Declaration of Sentiments,” Chpt. 11 in K and B; NOW. "Statement of Purpose,” Chpt. 44 in K and B.
Discussion Questions on Liberal Feminism in the First Wave: Give examples of how Wollstonecraft is a Liberal political theorist, i.e., list/describe the Liberal concepts, ideas, assumptions she makes. To what does she assign blame for women’s “folly”? What kind of an argument is that? Is the Declaration of Sentiments a Liberal document? Give examples of ideas that are clearly Liberal in their intent. Are there ideas in the Declaration that go beyond Liberalism? How? Why? Do the American legal, political, economic and social systems of today approximate these ideals today? Where does it meet them? Where does it fall short?
Discussion Questions on Liberal Feminism in the Second Wave: Is the NOW Statement of Purpose a liberal document? How/why? Give some examples that support your answer. Do the rights that NOW asserts coincide with or derive from the natural rights espoused by liberal thinkers such as Hobbes or Locke? If not, what is different about them and can they still be called rights? Has progress been made toward guaranteeing these rights?
Th September 29
Equity Feminism and the New Conservative Feminism
Reading: Stacey, Judith. 1983. “The New Conservative Feminism.” Feminist Studies 9 (3): 559-583. (Found through JSTOR in Foley Indexes and Databases); and Feldman, Linda. 2010. “Sarah Palin – Feminist First, Tea Partyer Second.” Christian Science Monitor, May 14.
Discussion Questions: How do equity feminists understand the situation of women today? What strategies, tools or approaches do they use to improve women’s lives? What is the essence of the new conservative feminism, according to Stacey? Does Sarah Palin fit this description? What is feminist about conservative feminism? What is conservative about it?
T October 4
Working session with Adrian and Zoe in the Foley Teaching Lab (Lower Level of Foley Library).
Progress reports due next Tuesday.
Th October 6
reports due next class.
Feminist Critiques of Liberalism: The Limits of Liberalism
Reading: MacKinnon, Catherine A., Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, Chapter 8 “The Liberal State."
MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, Chapter 12 "Sex Equality: On Difference and Dominance,” and Women in Wal-Mart Case denied class status by US Supreme Court
Discussion Questions on Radical Feminist Critiques of Liberalism: What is the “liberal state,” according to MacKinnon? Can the liberal state/liberalism achieve gender equity or the just treatment of women, according to MacKinnon? Why or why not? What theory of the state does MacKinnon suggest feminists adopt?
Discussion Questions on Sex Equality: What two standards for sex equality are found in American jurisprudence? Has either of these been used to improve women’s status in the US? Give examples. What is MacKinnon’s feminist critique of these two standards? What would be a more just approach to attaining sex equality?
Discussion questions on Wal-Mart case: How does the Supreme Court’s decision reflect liberal thinking, assumptions? Do women suffer discrimination as individuals or as a group?
T October 11
Progress reports from Working Groups due. In your reports:
Comment on the Technical Aspects of Completing the Project. How did your October 4th working session in the lab go? Are you getting comfortable in the Wikipedia world? What do you still need to practice/learn in order to complete the project?
Comment on the Substantive Aspects of your Project. You should have read the Wiki and other encyclopedia entries for your subjects by now and fanned out to other sources. What gaps or inconsistencies have you uncovered? What, if any, are the commonalities among all three encyclopedia sources? Where are looking beyond the encyclopedias for information on your subject?
In class: The Limits of Liberalism (Cont’d): Rape, Coercion and Consent
about Sexual Violence/Violence Against Women
Reading: MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State Chapter 9 "Rape: On Coercion and Consent." MacKinnon, Are Women Human?, Chapter 23, "Defining Rape Internationally."
Discussion Questions on Chapter 9: How, according to MacKinnon, do laws on rape institutionalize the male point of view on sexual intercourse? What are the origins of rape laws? Why is MacKinnon critical of the trend to characterize rape as a violent crime rather than as both violent and sexual? Can men be raped according to MacKinnon’s logic? If so, what conditions would have to be present? What is the role of consent in “proving” a rape has occurred? According to MacKinnon, how does the necessity of having to prove “non-consent” function to legitimize rape? Why does the absence of force not the same thing as consent? What according to MacKinnon should be the standard for determining whether a rape has occurred? What would she say about the possibility of false accusations?
Discussion Questions on Defining Rape Internationally: How has rape been defined “internationally” or at least in cases of genocide? How has the legal construction of rape in these setting different from how it is construed in American courts? Pornography in the US has been construed as speech or “artistic expression” and is therefore seen as protected under the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. How does MacKinnon shift the understanding of pornography from being protected speech to being trafficking? Do you think such shifts in the legal construction of rape and pornography could take place in American law? Why or why not? How did the changes in international law surrounding genocide, rape and trafficking come about?
Th October 13
UNIT 3: Marxism, Marxist Feminism, and Feminist Critiques of Marxism
Reading: Karl Marx, pp. 340-343, in Losco and Williams; Feminist Frameworks, pp. 119-120; Excerpts from Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, pp. 343-347, and Excerpts from The German Ideology, pp. 348-354 in Losco and Williams.
Discussion Questions on Marxism: What does Marx say about writing about a “state of nature” as many liberal theorists do? What economic, social and political changes are shaping the world in which Marx is writing? How do these conditions dictate his choice of subjects? What are the most fundamental facts about labor and the life of laborers in the world in industrial society? How is a laborer like/not like an animal? Does Marx’s critique apply equally well to the condition of female workers as to male workers?
In The German Ideology, what is a “materialist” interpretation of history and what other approaches to history are there? What are the primary stages of history that Marx identifies in The German Ideology? Does Marx write about the roles/status of women in German society in the various stages of history? What would a feminist critique of historical materialism entail? Is there room for Marxist feminism or for feminists to consciously employ historical or dialectical materialism as a mode of an analysis?
T October 18
Engels: A Marxist Attempt to explain the Gendered Division of Labor
Reading: Engels, Friedrich, Excerpt From “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,” in K and B Chpt. 20 and MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, "A Feminist Critique of Marx and Engels."
Discussion Questions: What, according to Engels, determines family structure? Describe the marriage/family systems Engles describes. How/why did they develop these forms? What is the gender division of labor? Is this natural? What determines it? What kind of family structure, laws and state structures grow out of the industrialized capitalism of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries? What kind of family structures/gender roles/gender division of labor predominate in today’s post-industrial capitalism (i.e. service-based economy)? Is the shift to post-industrialism creating a more gender equal world? Why or why not?
Why, according to MacKinnon, is Engels characterization of the history of family and economy incomplete? What does she argue is obstructing Engels’s view? How does a feminist like MacKinnon characterize the evolution of family roles/structures, the economy/private property, the state?
Th October 20
Reading: Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, From “Women and Economics: A Study of the Economic Relation between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Evolution,” Chpt. 23 in K and B; and Firestone, Shulamith, From “The Dialectic of Sex,” Chpt. 49 in K and B.
Discussion Questions: Which Marxist methods and categories do Gilman and Firestone use to explain women’s relation to men? What, according to Gilman, is the nature of the problem? What aspects of Marxism analysis do socialist feminists borrow? What do they add to Marxist analysis? What, therefore, is the essence of the socialist-feminist approach?
Discussion Questions: What is the relationship between sex/gender and class? Do these social categories over-lap each other, intersect, according to MacKinnon? Does one take precedence over the other? Do men and women experience these categories in the same way? Does Marxist analysis contribute to an understanding of sex inequality or confuse or inhibit it, according to MacKinnon? Do you think one can be both a Marxist and a feminist? Does MacKinnon think so?
T October 25
Global Socialist Feminism
Reading: Ehrenreich and , Excerpt from Global Woman in Course Documents
UNIT 4: Existentialism, Post-Structuralism, Sexuality
Th October 27
Existentialism: Simone de Beauvoir
Reading: Simone de Beauvoir bio, pp. 515-517 in Losco and Williams, and Excerpts from The Second Sex, pp. 518-537; and Simons, The Second Sex: From Marxism to Radical Feminism, pp. 555-566.
Discussion Questions on de Beauvoir: What is existentialism? What kind of questions does an existentialist philosopher ask about sex/gender? Women/men? What questions does de Beauvoir ask? What are her answers? What is woman? What is femininity?
What does “Other” mean as used by Beauvoir? How are women Other? Compared to what Self? Can women (men) transcend womanhood (manhood)? How? Did de Beauvoir transcend womanhood in her life? How so? How not?
What is Post-Structuralism?
Reading: Scott, Joan A., “Deconstructing Equality-versus-Difference: or, The Uses of Post-Structuralist Theory for Feminism
Discussion Questions: What is post-structuralism? What are the elements of the post-structuralist approach that Scott lists? Why are these particular strategies helpful to the feminist cause?
Th November 3
Special Guest Lecture by Professor Eloise Buker, one of the founding mothers of WGST at GU
Queer Theory/Gender Trouble
Readings: Queer Theory, Judith Butler, excerpt from Gender Trouble, Chapter 89 in K and B;
Discussion Questions: What does it mean for gender to be “performative” in Butler’s theory? How, according to Butler, can we create “gender trouble”? Can you give some examples of people in the public eye who cause gender trouble? What does it mean to be “queer” according to queer theorists? What is the difference between identifying as queer and identifying as gay or lesbian? What does it mean to offer a queer analysis of a text?
T November 8
The Lady Gaga Phenomenon and Toward a Woman-Centered Sexuality
Viewing: Lady Gaga, “You and I”
Reading: Wittig, Monique. "The Straight Mind,” Chpt. 70 in K and B.
Discussion Questions on Lady Gaga: Is Lady Gaga “performing” gender? What kind(s)? How, where? Give examples. Should Lady Gaga be considered a queer artist or a feminist artist or both? Why?
Discussion Questions: Can Wittig’s approach be characterized as post-structuralist? How/why? What post-structuralist conventions does she use? What other kind of feminist theories/methods are evident in her writings? What is semiology/semiotics? What is the difference between language/words and signs? How can women be signs? What is the “Structural Unconscious?” What is discourse as she uses the word? What does she mean by discourses of heterosexualty? What do these discourses do? How is a discourse different from an ideology? How is pornography a discourse? What does it do as such? What is the straight mind? How is the straight mind produced? She asserts that “it has been accepted in recent years that there is no such thing as nature, that everything is culture” (345). What theorists we’ve read would disagree with this? Do you agree that there is no such thing as nature? What does it mean, “when thought by the straight mind, homosexuality is nothing but heterosexuality?” (345) What other theorist we’ve read talked about difference and dominance? Are they making the same point?
UNIT 5: Radical Feminism
Th November 10 Radical Feminism
Reading: Daly, Mary. "The Metapatriarchal Journey of Exorcism and Ecstasy;” "Prelude to the First Passage"; and "Dismemberment by Christian and Post-Christian Myth,” (stop at p.89); Sado-Ritual, pp. 109-112; Suttee, Witch Hunt, FGM, Gynecology (5 pages from each section)
Discussion Questions: Describe Daly’s writing style? Why does she employ this style? What is your reaction to it? What makes her a radical feminist (hint: see Lecture Note link on Radical Feminism)? Give some examples of radical feminist ideas from her work. How have women been dismembered by Christianity? What myths and stories from Christianity have disempowered women or usurped women’s power? Can Christianity be reformulated in a feminist way? Is it possible to take the patriarchy out of Christianity? What is Sado-Ritual as Daly describes it? Trace the elements of sado-ritual through the suttee, witch hunts, FGM and gynecology. How can gynecology and women’s health be reformulated by feminists? How have gynecology/women’s health been reformulated by feminists?
T November 15
Radical Feminism: Toward a Woman Identified Life and Sexuality
Reading: Rich, Adrienne. “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Experience,” Chpt.71 in K and B and Luce Irigaray, “This Sex Which is Not One,” Chpt. 65 in K and B.
Discussion Questions: What are the 8 phenomena that Rich says reveal and perpetuate male power over women? What is lesbian existence? Why does Rich reject the term gay? Who were the Beguines? What other examples of woman-identified women does she give? What is the double life? What is the lesbian continuum? Does she think we should abandon all heterosexual relationships?
Discussion Questions: What is the essence of Irigaray’s critique of gender in “This Sex Which Is Not One?” What does she suggest as the starting point for an authentic understanding or experience of women’s bodies, sexuality, e.g., what is auto-eroticism, homo-sexuality for her? Should we consider Irigaray a radical feminist? Why or why not? What other kind of feminist theories/methods are evident in her writings?
Th November 17
Global Radical (and Liberal?) Feminism
Reading: MacKinnon, Chapter 1, "On Torture," Chapter 22, "Genocide's Sexuality,” and “Women’s September 11th,” Chpt. 25, in Are Women Human?
Discussion Questions on Chpt. 22: What is “torture on the basis of sex” as MacKinnon defines it? Why according to MacKinnon is the sexual violence that women experience not recognized as torture? How does the fact that most victims of sexual violence, prostitution and pornography are women make it not fall under the rubric of “sex equality” kinds of protections?
Questions on Chpt. 25: What is “women’s September 11th?” Do you see a parallel between 9/11 and the conditions that MacKinnon is describing for women? What are the similarities? What are the differences? How do consciousness-raising, organized feminism, MacKinnon’s work, international law, and globalization affect this epidemic? What will it take for this epidemic to end?
Taken together, how can MacKinnon’s work in international women’s rights/gender justice be construed as a radical feminist approach? Are there also aspects of her work that are liberal in nature? Describe them.
Wiki-Working Group Reports Due!! Post to CLASS WIDE Discussion Board in Blackboard
Over Thanksgiving Holiday: Read and comment on one other group’s report. What does their report contribute to your understanding of feminist theory? Do you think the revisions they suggest improves upon the existing Wiki entries? How/why? Which would you accept or reject? Draw upon things you learned in the course in answering these questions.
Th November 24 Thanksgiving Holiday!!
UNIT 6: The Third Wave and Global Feminism
T November 29
Third Wave Feminism
Reading: Brunell, Laura. 2008. “Feminism Re-Imagined: The Third Wave.” Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. (In Course Documents in Blackboard); Baumgardner, Jennifer and Amy Richards, “Third Wave Manifesta,” Chpt. 100 in K and B.
Discussion Questions: According to Brunell, what distinguishes the Third Wave from other waves of feminism? Describe Baumgardner and Richards’ Third Wave Manifesta? Do you identify as a Third Wave feminist? Why or why not? What does the Third Wave have in common with the first two waves of organized feminism? What is different about it, in your opinion? Is post-structuralism part of Third Wave feminism? Why or why not?
Th December 1
The Vagina Monologues
Reading: visit www.vday.org; read About V-Day, Mission, Why V-Day Started, Who, What, How & Why, Eve Ensler and Opposition on College Campuses; if you haven’t seen the play performed, view some of the monologues on You Tube.
Discussion questions: What is the play about? What is the mission of the V-Day organization? How is the play produced? Why has it been so controversial at Catholic colleges/GU?
T December 6
Meet in lab in Foley. Wrap up on Wiki Reports. Papers returned. Final feedback/discussion of revisions. Make revisions in Wikipedia.
Th December 8
Course Wrap-Up and Review for Final
Report back on what’s happened to your revisions. Have you received feedback, pushback, comments?
On-line through Blackboard
Friday, December 9, 8:00 a.m. – Thursday, December 15, 10:00 a.m.