Introduction to Women's Studies: WMST 200

Summer 1999, 11:45 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.


Professor Karin Westman
74 George Street, #101
Office: 953-5658; Office Hours: T,R, 1:45-2:30 p.m. & by app't

Required Texts:
Sapiro, Women in American Society: An Introduction to Women's Studies (1999)
Schneir, Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings (1992, 1994)
Schneir, Feminism in Our Time: The Essential Writings, World War II to the Present (1994)
Douglas, Where the Girls Are (1994)
Naylor, Mama Day (1988)
Class Pack (available at SAS-E Ink, 79 Wentworth Street)
Xeroxes (distributed in class)

Course Description and Objectives:
Three main ideas motivate this course. First, Women's Studies does more than study women: "Women's Studies courses serve both female and male students by enabling them to become more aware of gender roles and relations, women's cultural contributions, the social, political, and economic status of women, the intersection of race, class and gender issues, and theoretical concerns about the relation of gender to knowledge" (Statement of Purpose, College of Charleston's Women's Studies Program). If we study women's roles in our society, we must necessarily study men's roles.

Second, this course asks that we bring a healthy degree of skepticism to our work, re-examining what we had thought to be true. The French semiotician Roland Barthes once described ideology as opinion or belief naturalized as truth: if one grows up thinking that a social convention is a natural fact, one may assume that the structures of society are inevitable, immutable, and therefore impervious to challenge. For example, in the nineteenth century, the medical establishment thought that higher education was injurious to women's health; successful scientists such as Marie Curie, of course, proved them wrong.

Third, an interdisciplinary approach--that is, a method not confined by the traditional boundaries of the disciplines--better enables us to examine and interpret significant values, events, ideas, and cultural phenomena that have shaped our understanding of women and men. By bridging traditional categories of knowing we can more thoroughly explore the objects of our study.

A brief sketch of the class plan reflects this philosophy: We will first discuss how education, advertising, the media, and science shape our beliefs and values about sex, gender, and sexuality. Next, we will travel through a history of women in America, focusing on religion, politics, law, and work. We will then explore the evolution of feminist theories through what have come to be known as the First Wave, Second Wave, and Third Wave of feminism. Finally, we will reflect on Women's Studies as a discipline.

Requirements and General Expectations:
Readings: You are expected to complete each reading assignment before coming to class and to think carefully about what you read, making notes in your book prior to each class meeting. Bring the appropriate book or xeroxes to class each day and mark passages that we discuss; this process will help you understand, remember, and review.

Class Participation and Attendance: You will be asked to participate regularly in class discussions and in collaborative learning groups. Your attendance is therefore important. You will not be penalized for your first two absences; thereafter, your class participation grade will drop one grade increment (i.e., B+ to B) for each day missed. Excessive unexcused absences (five or more) will adversely affect your final course grade and will lead to your failure in the course. While I appreciate your offering explanations for absences, the only way to excuse an absence is to provide me with an official letter from your dean or an official notice of illness from the Health Center.

Quizzes: You will have about 10 quizzes over the course of the class; a quiz will have five questions, and each question will be worth one point. Your grade for the reading quizzes will be averaged at the end of the course according to the following scale: 5 = A, 4=B, etc. (I will drop the lowest quiz grade before calculating the average.) Should you be absent on the day of a quiz, you will receive a zero, unless the absence is excused. I will offer some extra credit options.

Papers: You will write two short papers. The papers are due at the time the class meets. Late papers will be penalized one full grade (i.e., B to C) for each day late. More information about these two papers follows the syllabus.

Daedalus Sessions in ECTR110: Our class is a pilot course for the use of the Daedalus Integrated Writing Environment software in Women's Studies at the College of Charleston. As noted on the syllabus, some of our classes will meet in the computer lab classroom, Education Center 110. Go directly to ECTR 110 on those class days. Your preparation for and participation in these class sessions should follow the guidelines noted above for "Reading" and "Class Participation and Attendance."

Women's Studies Listserv: Beginning the second day of class, we start using our listserv; directions for using the listserv were handed out in class. You should post at least two comments a week in response to the materials we're studying in class; that said, I also encourage you to post responses whenever you have something to contribute. I will monitor these discussions and assess a grade based on the thoughtfulness of your comments, their ability to foster discussion among your classmates, and their responsiveness both to our readings and to your classmates' comments in class and on the listserv. Your postings do not need to be long; however, they need to be substantive: they must be long enough to convey clearly the problem you are taking up and your point of view, connecting your comment to others' comments, as appropriate. I will offer models of helpful postings early in the class. Postings to the listserv will count towards your class participation grade.

Examinations: You will have a midterm and a final exam for the course.

Night Screenings of Movies: I will schedule screenings of the two films we will discuss. You are required to see the films before our discussion. If you cannot attend the scheduled screenings, please notify me; you must then arrange to see the films on your own by the time we discuss them in class.

Conferences and Email: There are no mandatory conferences for this course. I encourage you, however, to stop by during office hours, particularly before an assignment is due. Please see me to make an appointment if my office hours are not convenient for you. I am always available over email, too; I check my email at least once during the day and once again around 10 p.m., barring technical difficulties.

Paper #1 10%
Paper #2 15%
Quizzes 15%
Class Participation 20%
Midterm Exam 20%
Final Exam 20%

 A few notes on the web

version of this syllabus . . .

  •  Web Resources listed below are recommended but not required.
  •  Note: you have to register to access the New York Times' website, but use of the site is free.


Unless otherwise indicated by (X) for xerox, readings are found in the required books or
the Class Pack (CP). Readings from the two Schneir books are indicated by (MS1) or (MS2).


June T 8 Introduction: Devor, "Gender Role Behaviors and Attitudes" (X); Stoltenberg, "How Men Have (a) Sex" (X); Martin, "The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance..." (X)

W 9 Sapiro, from Chapter 4 "Commonality and Difference Among Women" (114-115, 122-141); McIntosh, "White Privilege and Male Privilege" (CP)
Recommended: Sapiro, from Chapter 3 "Individual-Level Approaches to Understanding Women's Lives" (biology: 48-56, 86-88) and from Chapter 10 "Gender, Communication, and Self-Expression" (gender: 323-336)

R 10 Sapiro, Chapter 5 "Education: Learning to Be Male and Female" and from Chapter 3 "Individual-Level Approaches to Understanding Women's Lives" (94-104); Sadker and Sadker, "Higher Education"(CP); "Gender Bias in the SAT Math Exam" and "Race, Ethnicity, and Self-Confidence" (CP)
Note: Meet in Education Center 110

Media: Desiring Bodies and Ideal Selves

F 11 Discussion of Children's Literature and Disney [No assigned reading.] Recommended: Douglas, from Chapter 1 "Fractured Fairy Tales" (27-32)
Paper #1 Due

M 14 Advertising in Women's and Men's Magazines: Douglas, "Introduction" (3-20) and from Chapter 1 (21-27); Berger, from Ways of Seeing (CP); Higginbotham, "Teen Magazines..." (CP); Katz, "Advertising and the Construction of White Masculinity" (CP); Dobosz, "Thicker Thighs by Thanksgiving" (CP)
Web Resources: Alternative Magazines
Recommended: Sapiro, Chapter 8 "Gender and the Institutional Media of Communication" and Douglas, Chapter 11 "Narcissim as Liberation" (245-68)

T 15 Sapiro, from Chapter 6 "Normal Gender: Health, Fitness, and Beauty" (194-202); Wolf, "The Beauty Myth" and "Hunger" (CP); Quindlen, "Barbie at 45" (X); Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (CP)

W 16 Brumberg, "Sanitizing Puberty" and "The Disappearance of Virginity" from The Body Project (CP); Douglas, Chapter 3 "Sex and the Single Teenager" (61-81); Boston Women's Health Collective, "Our Bodies, Ourselves" (MS2); Sapiro, from Chapter 3 "Individual-Level..." (theoretical approaches/Freud: 88-100)
Web Resources: Health Links
Recommended: Sapiro, from Chapter 6 (176-187, 202-213)

R 17 Discussion of Women in Music and Television: Choose one of the following chapters from Douglas to read for class: Chapter 4 "Why the Shirelles Mattered" (83-98), Chapter 5 "She's Got the Devil in Her Heart" (99-121), Chapter 6 "Genies and Witches" (123-138) or Chapter 9 "The Rise of the Bionic Bimbo" (193-219)
Web Resources: Popular Culture and the Arts
Note: Meet in Education Center 110
Paper #2 Due

F 18 Midterm Exam

You've Come a Long Way...Maybe: How Did We Get Where We Are Today?

M 21 Sapiro, Chapter 7 "Women and Religion"; from the Bible: Genesis 1:1 to 3:24; Genesis 39:1-23; Leviticus 12:1-8 and 15:19-30; Ruth 1:1 to 4:22; I Corinthians 11:1-16 [You may use any translation, but bring the translation to class]; Virginia Woolf, Abigail Adams, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Lucretia Mott (MS1)
Web Resources: History Links

T 22 Sapiro, from Chapter 2 "Societal-Level Approaches..." (global perspective: 56-59), from Chapter 9 "Law and Policy..." (281-286), from Chapter 11 "Consenting Adults..." (390-400), and from Chapter 14 "Feminism and the Future" (491-507); "Married Women's Property Act of 1848," Lucy Stone, Stanton's "Address...1860", "Married Women's Property Act of 1860," and Stanton's "Solitude of Self" (MS1), Truth's "Ain't I a Woman"; Anthony (MS1); "Declaration of Sentiments" (MS1) and "Declaration of Independence" (X)

W 23 Sapiro, from Chapter 2 "Societal-Level Approaches..." (theoretical approaches: 60-74) and from Chapter 13 "Work, Employment, and the Economics of Gender" (440-456, 466-467; 474-485); Douglas, Chapter 2 "Mama Said" (43-60); "Report of the President's Commission on the Status of Women" and Friedan (MS2)
Web Resources: Workplace Links
Note: Meet in Education Center 110

R 24 Sapiro, from Chapter 2 "Societal-Level Approaches..." (global perspective: 40-47), from Chapter 11 "Consenting Adults?: Personal and Sexual Relationships" (378-390), from Chapter 13 "Work,..." (employment discrimination: 471-474) and from Chapter 9 "Law, Policy, Government, and the State" (Tailhook: 288-294); Kimmel, "Clarence, William, Iron Mike, Tailhook, Senator Packwood, Spur Posse, Magic,...and Us" (CP); Brumberg, from "The Disappearance..." (CP); Susan Brownmiller, Anita Hill (MS2)

F 25 Sapiro, from Chapter 9 "Law, Policy..." (296-306); Goldman's "Traffic in Women" (MS1); Ginsburg (MS2); Discussion of Thelma and Louise and Boys on the Side

M 28 Sapiro, from Chapter 2 (global perspective: 34-40) and from Chapter 12 "Reproduction, Parenthood, and Childcare" (402-421); Sanger (MS1); Ellen Willis, "Abortion: Whose Right to Life is It Anyway?" (CP)

T 29 Sapiro, from Chapter 13 "Consenting Adults?..." (356, 360-1, 371-377); Millett, from Sexual Politics (to p.237 in MS2); Dworkin, Greer, Koedt (MS2); Palac, "How Dirty Pictures Changed My Life" (CP)

W 30 Sapiro, from Chapter 14 "Feminism and the Future" (507-514) and from Chapter 9 "Law..." (286-287); Douglas, Chapter 7 "Throwing Out Our Bras" (139-161) and Chapter 8 "I am Woman, Hear Me Roar" (164-191); Hayden and King, "NOW Statement of Purpose," Steinem, "An SDS Statement on the Liberation of Women," Beverly Jones, Redstockings Manifesto (MS2)
Web Resources: Politics and On-line Documents from the late 1960s to the early 1970s
R 1 Sapiro, from Chapter 14 "Feminism...." (514-525); Douglas, Chapter 10 "The ERA as Catfight" (221-244); Fauldi (MS2)
Note: Meet in Education Center 110

F 2 Sapiro, from Chapter 11 "Consenting..." (361-371); Vasquez, "Appearances" (CP); Rich (MS2); Forman, "Stoplight Politics" (X); Collins, "Black Women and Motherhood" (CP)

M 5 No Class -- Independence Day Holiday

T 6 Naylor, Mama Day

W 7 Sapiro, Chapter 1 "Women's Studies"; Douglas, Chapter 12 "I'm Not a Feminist, But..." (269-94), Epilogue (295-316) and Appendix (309-316); Review for Exam #2
Web Resources: Politics

R 8 Final Exam

Guidelines for Papers

General Instructions
Papers should follow the general rules of composition and be typed or word-processed with standard double-spacing, 1-inch margins, and either 10- or 12-point typeface. Title pages and covers are unnecessary. Pages should be numbered, stapled together, and spell-checked. Because this is not an English class, errors in grammar and punctuation will be marked but will not be factors in the grading of the paper unless the mistakes are so numerous or egregious as to distract from the argument. Papers are due at the time the class meets; late papers will be penalized one grade (i.e., B to C) for each day late.

Paper #1
Your first paper is a personal essay (3-5 pp.) in which you reflect upon what it means to you to be female or male, or feminine or masculine, in the culture in which you live. The purpose of this assignment is to encourage you to think analytically about how sex and gender make differences in the ways we relate to school, work, goals, family, friendships, intimate relationships, and/or life choices.

One approach to this assignment is to think about the first time you realized that sex or gender was, in some way, significant. How did this realization occur? What was your reaction? How has this realization affected your thinking? Another approach is to consider how your life decisions so far have been related to social constructions of sex or gender. Whatever approach you choose, be creative, but be honest. While this essay may be informal and anecdotal, it must be grounded in specific details--do not offer vague generalizations. Wherever possible, analyze why you have reacted and felt the way you have about sex and gender, and how your attitudes have been informed by the culture in which you live--by media, family, friends, teachers, ethnicity, nationality, religion, race, socio-economic class, for example.

Paper #2
Your second paper (4-5 pp.) is an analysis of an advertisement. The purpose of this assignment is to encourage you to think critically about the constructions and assumptions of sex and gender that inform advertisements. Pay attention to visual images and text, if your ad includes both, and focus on analyzing these elements and their (intended) effect on a viewer. Your analysis should engage the techniques that we use in class. Your analysis should be specific, and your ideas should be carefully supported by evidence from the ad. Some points to consider as you choose your ad:

-- What is implied by the ad--that is, in addition to what is shown?

-- How intertexual is the ad? For example, does it make reference to other ads, to art, to history, to popular culture?

-- Who is the intended audience of this ad?

-- What effect does the ad have on you? Do you think this is its intended effect? How does the ad produce this effect? Do you have any desire to work against the ad's effect--to resist its implications? Why or why not?

Note: Be sure to staple your ad to your paper, and to note on the ad or in your paper the title and date of the magazine in which the ad appears.

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Last updated 25 June 1999