Women’s Studies 001.8

Introduction to Women’s Studies

TTh, 4:15-5:30

205S Henderson Human Development South

Spring, 2005




Michael Johnson, 415 Oswald Tower

Allison Freedman    (axf234@psu.edu)

Office Hours: TTh, 12:00-1:00

Brenna Hassinger   (blh194@psu.edu)

865-1937, mpj@psu.edu, www.personal.psu.edu/mpj


Submit papers: in class or 211 Oswald Tower



 “Men are privileged relative to women. That’s not right.

I'm going to do something about it, even if it’s only in my personal life.”


That’s my favorite definition of feminism, and feminism is what women’s studies is about. Because the academic discipline of women’s studies is an outgrowth of twentieth century feminism, we’ll start this course with some stuff on feminism and the women’s movement. Then we’ll go on to spend most of the course on just a few of the ways that men are privileged relative to women. We’ll look at how and why women face more barriers to happiness and fulfillment than do men, and how we might go about helping our world to move in the direction of gender equity. 

My goal in introductory courses is to leave you with some long-term memories that will change the way you see the world around you. Of course, one person’s memorable event may be another’s “So-what?” Therefore, I try to approach each topic with a variety of potentially memorable tactics, and to construct a grading system that allows (even encourages) students to learn in their own preferred manner. This course outline will offer you much more than you need to do to get an A out of this course, and you will pick and choose as suits your interests, your schedule, and the approach to scholarly issues that works best for you. 


But, before we get into the details of the grading system that accomplishes these goals, let me give you a rough idea of the specific topics we’ll cover this semester. So much interesting material, so little time! I’ve had to be very selective. Although I may not have chosen all the topics you’d like to see addressed, and I may have chosen some you'd just as soon not deal with, I think we’ll all have a grand old time. In general, we will focus heavily on the nature of men’s and women’s (and boys’ and girls’) lives in the contemporary United States. That way, you walk out of here into the world we are studying, and the lessons learned in here are reinforced in your everyday life outside the classroom. I begin with contempt for women (misogyny) and violence against women, so that we don’t start this course with the notion that men’s “privilege” is in any sense a trivial matter. We must never forget that lurking behind the other forms of male privilege that we will study is the raw fact that, all over the world, women are bought-and-sold, beaten, raped, and murdered—because they are women.


I.     Introductions

        A. Introduction to the course structure

        B. Introduction to each other

II.    Why Feminism

A. Misogyny and violence against women

B. Women’s movements in the United States

C. Diverse incarnations of feminism

III.   Gender Socialization

A. Turning human neonates into boys and girls—and men and women

B. Turning women’s bodies into objects of lust

IV.   Gender and Work

A. Paid work

B. Unpaid work

V.    Gender and Families

VI.   Gender and Relationships

VII. Changes

A. Personal changes

B. Societal changes


Grading System


Some people like to learn by engaging in fairly intense, focused discussion of scholarly materials that everyone in the discussion has read. Others like to learn by sitting in a classroom, being presented with interesting experiences and information, and responding when they feel moved to. Still others might prefer to read on their own, either short pieces about a variety of topics, or a few book-length treatments of issues that are of particular interest to them. And some may like a mix of these approaches. So, take your pick. I am going to offer you a variety of ways you can earn points in this course, and you will need 90 points for an A, 80 points for a B, 70 points for a C, or 60 points for a D. If you were to do everything I offer you as an option, you would have more than twice as many points as you need for an A. It thus follows, as the night follows the day, that you can tailor this course to your own interests and your own most effective learning style by selecting the appropriate mix of points from the options listed below.


Papers About Tuesday Classroom Events or Readings (3 points each)

These are short papers, graded pass/add, with the criterion for a pass being that you demonstrate an understanding of the BASIC POINTS made by the reading or classroom event. I do not want you focusing on all of the details that support the basic arguments presented in class or in a reading, but simply to show us that you understood the basic points that were made. (See the final page of this syllabus for some good advice on how to write these papers.) You do not have to agree with the basic points. On the contrary, your paper can be a reasoned attack on the main points, as long as you demonstrate that you understood them. For demonstrating your understanding you will receive three points for a pass. If you get an “add,” the grader will tell you what basic points you missed or misunderstood and you will add as needed to correct your oversight or misunderstanding. There are 41 readings in the list presented below and 14 Tuesday class sessions that you could write up. Thus, if you wrote and passed all of these papers you would have 165 points, far more than enough for an A in the course. In fact, there are enough readings for you to get an A by just writing papers on readings, foregoing the pleasures of the classroom altogether.


Thursday Discussions (4-6 points each): Tickets Required

I want these discussions to be focused, and organized around materials with which all participants are familiar. So, to get into a Thursday discussion, you will have to write a paper that will be your ticket. For example, if you want to participate in the discussion of domestic violence, you will have to do the assigned reading on the topic and write a two-page paper about it that you will turn in as your ticket when you show up for class on Thursday. Usually these “tickets” will be papers about readings, although in one case it is your paper about the film shown the previous Tuesday. In any case, they provide the common experience that will allow our discussions to be focused, thoughtful, and productive. In general, I have selected “heavier” readings for these Thursday tickets. You will find them challenging. Most of them were not written as textbook materials, but as scholarly papers targeted at a professional audience. This approach to the course is especially recommended for committed feminists and others of you for whom this is not “just another course.” In the list of classroom activities presented below, each Thursday discussion includes information about its ticket.


If you show up on Thursday, you get one point. If you participate in the discussion you get two more (that makes three in all). Since you have to write your paper to get in (two pages, pass/add as discussed above, and worth three points as are all such short papers), you could earn as many as six points for each Thursday discussion in which you participate. Since there are 14 such discussions, do them all and participate in class and you have 84 points—almost an A.


Book Reports (15 points)

Suppose there's a book that deals with feminist issues that you've been dying to read. This could be non-fiction, such as Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will or Neil Jacobson and John Gottman’s, When Men Batter Women or Susan Faludi’s Backlash or John Stoltenberg’s Refusing to Be a Man or Elvia Alvorado’s Don't be Afraid Gringo or Jennifer Baumgardner & Amy Richards’s  Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future. Or it might be fiction, such as Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby or Alice Walker’s The Color Purple or Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle or Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues or Kate Chopin’s The Awakening or Nawal El Saadawi’s Memoirs of a Woman Doctor or Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter or Li Ang’s The Butcher's Wife or Bessie Head’s A Question of Power. These books are only examples; you may read any book you wish, as long as it deals with issues relevant to a feminist analysis of the world around us. (Check all book choices with me.)  Read the book, write a 5-10 page book report thoughtfully addressing the gender issues raised by the book, and I'll grade it pass/add. For a pass, you get 15 points. So—do six books and "Voila!" you have an A. (In order to keep me from being swamped by procrastinators’ book reports at the end of the semester, you can only submit one book report each week.)


Due Dates and Format

Any paper that you use as a ticket to a Thursday discussion is due at the beginning of the Thursday class, and is turned in at the end of the class.  Any paper that is not used as a ticket is due by 12:00PM on the Friday of the week it is listed in the syllabus, and may be placed in Mike Johnson’s mailbox in 211 Oswald. You may also bring them to class. By the way, you can do the Thursday “ticket” readings as regular readings even if you do not plan to attend the Thursday discussion.


All papers must be typed. In the upper left hand corner of the first page, put your name, student ID, and the date and title of the Tuesday class or the author and title of the article or book.



If you use phrases or sentences from someone else’s paper, book, or Web site you must place them in quotes and provide me with the citation. If you draw heavily on such a source, even if you do not use exact words, you should cite it.  If anything you submit for this course turns out not to be your own work, I will take appropriate action, including subtracting points from your total and reporting the incident to Judicial Affairs.


A Few Ideas About How To Do This Course


If you want intense, focused, participatory, feminist analysis of women’s issues, consider organizing your semester around the Thursday sessions. And if you want a really full feminist experience, I’d suggest you attend the Tuesday sessions as well, assuming that in most cases you won’t need to write a paper about them and you can just kick back and relax (perhaps writing a few papers in case you miss some Thursday sessions). 


If you prefer a sit-back-and-listen introduction to feminism and women’s studies, a combination of Tuesday classes and readings on the topics that interest you the most may be your best choice. If you write up each Tuesday class and one reading per week, you are two papers from an A.


Occasionally I get students who use the flexibility of this sort of grading system to create an independent study course for themselves. To do this, you just pick six books about women’s issues and write six book reports for your A. (This takes discipline, since there are no deadlines and if you wait too long, you could end up having to read a book and write a 5-10 page paper every week at the end of the semester.) Another independent study approach would be to pick 30 readings from the reading list on which to write papers (each would be due the Friday of the week for which it was listed).


Of course, any mixture of these tactics will also do the trick. Consider your learning style, and your interests, and make what you will of this course. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation for a disability or have questions about physical access, please let me know as soon as possible.


Reading Materials


Textbook: Laurel Richardson, Verta Taylor, and Nancy Whittier (Eds.), Feminist Frontiers (6th edition). New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004. Available at the book stores.


Electronic Reserve: A number of readings, including the first one, are available on the Web. They are indicated by (Ereserve) in the list of readings.  Go to www.angel.psu.edu, access this course, click on the “Tools” tab, click on “PSU Reserve Readings” and you should be taken straight to the readings.


Classroom Events and Readings


T 1/11       Introduction to the course

Th 1/13         Introduction to each other


T 1/18       Lecture and film on domestic violence (“To have and to hold” 1981 21m 23743-pickup)

Th 1/20         Discussion of Dworkin’s speech on her feminist agenda. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Andrea Dworkin, “Feminism: An agenda.” Pp. 133-152 in Andrea Dworkin, Letters from a War Zone: Writings 1976-1989. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1989.


              Other readings:

              Marilyn Frye, “Oppression.” Pp. 6-8 in Feminist Frontiers.


Mary Ann Tétreault, “Accountability or justice? Rape as a war crime.” Pp. 415-426 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 1/25       Lecture on women’s movements in the United States

Th 1/27         Discussion of McIntosh's classic article on privilege.  Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Peggy McIntosh, “White privilege and male privilege: A personal account of coming to see correspondences through work in women's studies.”


Other readings:

R. W. Connell, “Gender politics for men” and Michael Kimmel, “Judaism, masculinity, and feminism.” Pp. 532-539 from a previous edition of Feminist Frontiers. (Ereserve)


Ellen Neuborne, “The next feminist generation: Imagine my surprise.” Pp. 512-514 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 2/1         Guest speakers on LGBT issues

Th 2/3           Discussion of Cohen’s article on queer politics and Vaid’s thoughts on the Lesbian Rights Summit. Ticket (Feminist Frontiers): Bring your paper on Cathy J. Cohen, “Punks, bulldaggers, and welfare queens: The radical potential of queer politics?” and Urvashi Vaid, “Linking arms and movements.” Pp. 495-511 and 531.


              Other readings:

Rosalinda Mendez Gonzalez, “Distinctions in Western women’s experience: Ethnicity, class and social change.” Pp. 9-17 in Feminist Frontiers.


Amrita Basu, “Hindu women’s activism in India and the questions it raises.” Pp. 458-467 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 2/8         Lecture on gender socialization

Th 2/10         Discussion of Steinem’s article on advertising. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Gloria Steinem, “Sex, lies, and advertising.” Pp. 316-330 in Jo Freeman, Women: A Feminist Perspective. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1995.


              Other readings:

Barrie Thorne, “Girls and boys together…but mostly apart: Gender arrangements in elementary schools.” Pp. 144-153 in Feminist Frontiers.


Barbara Risman, “Ideology, experience, identity: The complex worlds of children in fair families.” Pp. 169-180 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 2/15       Film on images of women’s sexuality in MTV (“ Dreamworlds 2" 1995 56m 62022-pickup) WARNING: GRAPHIC GANG RAPE SCENE

Th 2/17         Discussion of Cowan’s article on pornography.  Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Gloria Cowan, “Pornography: Conflict among feminists.” Pp. 347-364 in Jo Freeman, Women: A Feminist Perspective (5th ed.). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1995.  


                     Other readings:

bell hooks, “Selling hot pussy: Representations of Black female sexuality in the cultural marketplace.” Pp. 119-127 in Feminist Frontiers.


Debra L. Gimlin, “Cosmetic surgery: Paying ofr your beauty.” Pp. 94-108 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 2/22       Film on pornography (“Not a love story” 1981 70m 80055-pickup) WARNING: OFFENSIVE SEXUAL AND VIOLENT CONTENT

Th 2/24         Discussion of the Tuesday film. Ticket (Film): Bring your paper on “Not a love story.”


  Other readings:

Gloria Steinem, “Erotica vs. pornography.” Pp. 247-60 in Gloria Steinem, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. New York: Holt, 1983. (Ereserve)


Susan Bordo, “In hiding and on display.” Pp. 306-312 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 3/1         Lecture on gender and paid work

Th 3/3           Discussion of Hertz’s paper on work and family. Ticket (Feminist Frontiers): Bring your paper on Rosanna Hertz, “Working to place family at the center of life: Dual-earner and single-parent strategies.” Pp. 250-259.


              Other readings:

                     Barbara Reskin and Irene Padavic, “Moving up and taking charge.” Pp. 209-227 (including the Boxed Inserts) in Feminist Frontiers.


Christine E. Bose and Rachel Bridges Whaley, “Sex segregation in the U.S. labor force.” Pp. 200-209 in Feminist Frontiers.


(Spring Break)


T 3/15       Lecture on gender and unpaid work

Th 3/17         Discussion of Collins’s classic paper on Black motherhood. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Patricia Hill Collins, “Black women and motherhood.” Pp. 115-137 in Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. London: Harper Collins, 1990.


                     Other readings:

Denise A. Segura, “Working at motherhood: Chicana and Mexican immigrant mothers and employment.” Pp. 261-275 in Feminist Frontiers.


Kathryn Edin, “Surviving the welfare system: How AFDC recipients make ends meet in Chicago.” Pp. 434-444 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 3/22       Lecture on gender and families

Th 3/24         Discussion of Schwartz’s article on egalitarian relationships. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Pepper Schwartz, “Eliminating the provider role.” Pp. 111-145 (edited to shorten) in Pepper Schwartz, Peer Marriage. New York: The Free Press, 1994.


              Other readings:

Suzanna Danuta Walters, “Wedding bells and baby carriages: Heterosexuals imagine gay families, gay families imagine themselves.” Pp. 286-296 in Feminist Frontiers.


Hung Cam Thai, “For better or worse: Gender allures in the Vietnamese global marriage market.” Pp. 275-286 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 3/29       Guest speaker on domestic violence

Th 3/31         Discussion of Johnson’s paper on domestic violence. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Michael P. Johnson, “Conflict and control: Symmetry and asymmetry in domestic violence.” Pp. 95-104 in Alan Booth, Ann C. Crouter and Mari Clements (Eds.), Couples in Conflict. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2001.


         Other readings:

Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the margins: Intersectionlaity, identity politics, and violence against women of color.” Pp. 405-414 in Feminist Frontiers.


Robert L. Allen and Paul Kivel, “Men changing men,” and Gloria Steinem, “Supremacy crimes” and Claudia Brenner. “A letter from Claudia Brenner.” Pp. 398-404 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 4/5         Lecture on gender and relationships

Th 4/7           Discussion of Rich’s classic article on compulsory heterosexuality. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence.”  Pp. 23-68 in Adrienne Rich, Blood, Bread, and Poetry. New York: W. W. Norton, 1986.


              Other readings:

Michael A. Messner, “Becoming 100% straight.” Pp. 327-331 in Feminist Frontiers.


Deborah L. Tolman, “Doing desire: Adolescent girls’ struggles for/with sexuality.” Pp. 312-326 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 4/12       Lecture and film on rape: “Someone you know” (34806) 1986 30m

Th 4/14         Discussion of Weinberg and Birnbaum’s article on date rape. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Joseph Weinberg and Michael Birnbaum. “Conversations of consent: Sexual intimacy without sexual assault.” Pp. 87-100 in Emilie Buchwald, Pamela Fletcher, and Martha Roth (eds.), Transforming a Rape Culture. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1993.


                     Other readings:

                     Patricia Yancey Martin and Robert A. Hummer, “Fraternities and rape on campus.” Pp. 389-398 in Feminist Frontiers.


                     Dianne F. Herman, “The rape culture.” Pp. 41-63 in Jo Freeman (Ed.), Women: A Feminist Perspective. (2nd ed.) Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield. (Ereserve)


T 4/19       Lecture on the effects of women’s movements

Th 4/21         Discussion of Baumgardner & Richards’ chapter on Third Wave activism. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Jennifer Baumgardner & Amy Richards, “What is activism?” Pp. 267-314 in Baumgardner & Richards,  Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future.  New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000.


              Other readings:

Jennifer Hargreaves, “The Muslim female heroic: Shorts or veils?” Pp. 372-386 in Feminist Frontiers.


Stephen P. Schacht, Teaching about being an oppressor: Some personal and political considerations.” Pp. 24-29 in Feminist Frontiers.


T 4/26       MANDATORY ATTENDANCE!  Course evaluation and discussion of everyday feminism. (Three points for attendance.)

Th 4/28         Discussion of Lorde’s classic essay on difference. Ticket (Ereserve): Bring your paper on Audre Lorde, “Age, race, class, and sex: Women redefining difference.” Pp. 114-123 in Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1984.


              Other readings:

Steinem, “Outrageous acts and everyday rebellions.” Pp. 58-61 in Anne Minas (ed.), Gender Basics: Feminist Perspectives on Women and Men. Belmont: CA, 1993. (Ereserve)


Harriett Woods, “The truth about women and power.” Pp. 444-451 in Feminist Frontiers.



Here’s a Little Advice on Writing an Article Summary

Minimum Time, Maximum Benefit


The ideas presented here are adapted from a reading course taught to Harvard graduate students to help them maximize the efficiency of their reading. The course was designed by cognitive psychologists who felt that American schools teach us to read in the least efficient possible manner. The ideas are simple and you will be surprised at the tremendous difference they can make in your ability to use reading time to your own benefit.


The basic principles underlying this reading plan are simple.

·Get an overview of the structure of the reading before beginning to read.

·Focus on essential pieces of the author’s argument.

·Read with purpose. Be an active reader; make decisions about which parts are worth reading closely; ask questions while you read—for example, why am I reading this? What do I want to get out of it?

·Make what you read your own. Internalize what you read by writing summary paragraphs.


I.      Reading

A.      Study the title—think about why the author chose it.

B.       Look through the reading and get an idea of its different sections. Outline the sections for handy reference when you read.

C.      Go through the reading looking only at the topic sentences of each paragraph. Focus on getting an idea of the theme of the reading. Do an outline if you have not already done one, and identify the theme. The outline and theme need not be long. For example, write in the book itself or use a notecard and keep the notecard for a bookmark while reading.

D.      Now read the reading, looking closely at how the theme is developed. Pay less attention to the author’s asides and minor points, which should be easily identified since you know the theme and structure of the reading. Don’t worry about reading every word.

E.       When finished, review your outline of the reading, meditate briefly on how the theme was developed, and perhaps flip through the reading one more time for review. Then close your book.

F.       Write a short summary of the reading’s contents from memory. Use complete sentences but don’t worry about the elegance of your prose.


II.     Writing the Summary

A.      Your summary is almost written by now. Review your outline and brief summary, comparing them quickly with the reading and adding anything you have left out.

B.       Do the draft copy of the report by simply elaborating on the brief summary, fixing up the prose, and adding your own reactions and evaluations.