FEMINIST THEORY

Women’s Studies 401:  Autumn 2004
M 4:10-6:40 pm          22 Ross

Instructor:

Professor Nikki Bado-Fralick        Office:  423 Catt Hall.

nikkibf@iastate.edu                 Phone:  294-0054

                 

Office Hours:     M 2-4,  W 11-12pm and by appointment

 

Texts

IT    Donovan, Josephine.  Feminist Theory:  The Intellectual Traditions

FT    Kolmar, Wendy and Frances Bartkowski.  Feminist Theory, A Reader

FTB   Price, Janet and Margrit Shildrick.  Feminist Theory and the Body

 

Course Objectives

This course explores feminist theories, beginning with historical contexts and moving into contemporary applications in both academic and personal spheres.  I use the plural theories because there is a wide variety of feminist theories, some of which compete with and even contest one another.  Our goal is to tread through competing theories, read them critically, and make informed judgments on their soundness and applicability. 

 

Good theories raise good questions. For example:  Why does feminist theory matter?  How does feminist theory change the nature of research in the Academy as a whole?  How does feminist theory influence the lives of everyday people? Feminist theory developed largely in the West.  How must it change when looking at the world from a more global perspective?  These are all good questions for us to think with, mull over, and use to gain additional insights into the nature of human experiences.

     

Course Requirements

This course will be conducted as a seminar with an emphasis on student participation through class discussions and commentaries on the readings, and with a minimal amount of lecture.  Attendance is required, and students are expected to have completed the required readings prior to class in order to participate in discussion. As a 400-level seminar, you must have some background in Women’s Studies or permission before taking this class. Students with disabilities should request that Disability Resources staff send a SAAR form verifying your disability and specifying any accommodations that you will need.

 

Grading Scale

                  100-94            A           76-74       C

                  93-90       A-          73-70       C-

                  89-87       B+          69-67       D+

                  86-84       B           66-64       D

                  83-80       B-          63-60       D-

                  79-77       C+          59-0        F

 


Grades will be distributed as follows:

 

Reading Commentaries    (8)         25%

Take-home Exams   (2)         30%

Research Paper                      25%

Abstract and Bibliography           5%

Class Participation                 10%

Presentation of Research            5%

Reading Commentaries

These are weekly reflections on readings that are due in class, starting with Week 4.  Comments must be typed, double-spaced, 2-3 pages long, and engage the readings in a way that demonstrates that you have read, understood, and thought coherently about them. You are required to bring two copies of your comments to class each week:  one to hand in and one to share in class during discussion. Comment papers will not be returned to you.  Eight weekly comment papers (out of a possible 11) are required. While this gives you some latitude on which commentaries you turn in, they are due in class on the day of the assigned readings.  No late comments will be accepted without written medical excuse or prior approval. Keep a copy of all of your work—either on disk or in paper form. 

 

As scholars we need to become fluent in the language of theory and to be able to write and talk about complex concepts in both specialized and ordinary language. The readings and the commentaries are an important part of this learning process.  Read the materials carefully and critically. Give yourself plenty of time.  Reread. Think about what the author writes and what the implications are for the author’s ideas.  What is the author’s point?  Do you see any problems? Do the author’s ideas apply to all women or just some women?  Are they connected to a particular cultural or historical framework?  Does the material generalize or essentialize the subject in some way?  How can this be avoided? Does this material apply in any way to the lived experiences of women?  To yourself?  How does this material illuminate (or obscure) the experiences of women?

 

Do NOT give me a simple summary of the reading; it will be returned to you with zero points earned.

 

Exams

The exams require critical reading and analysis of assigned materials and refer to information presented in lectures and discussions.  Each exam is about 4-5 pages in length and must be typed double-spaced, using normal margins and a 12 point font. Exams are graded for both content and clarity of argument.  In other words, you are graded on how accurately and completely you answer the question as well as on how you present your answer.  Points are deducted for poor organization, lack of coherent argument, and poor grammar and punctuation.  Proofread and spell check.  Late essays will be penalized one point per business day, unless you have a written medical excuse or documented family emergency.

 

Research Paper

The research paper should critique or explore some aspect of feminist theory. It will be graded on both content and clarity: the quality and organization of materials gathered, including the statement of your problem and thesis; on the consistency of your argument and your use of materials to document your statements; on the clarity of your presentation, and on your general level of effort.  It must be 10-12 pages (undergraduates) or 15-20 pages (graduates) long, typed double-spaced, spell checked, and proofed for grammar and punctuation. You may footnote using the University of Chicago stylebook, the MLA Handbook, or the social science method.  The paper must include a bibliography of all sources consulted, including websites (whether or not you have quoted directly from these sources). Plagiarism and cheating will be penalized according to the full extent of University policy. Any student who is suspected of academic misconduct will be referred to the Dean of Students in Judicial Affairs.

 

You will turn in a written proposal or abstract by the 9th week and an annotated bibliography by the 11th week of class. These are worth 5% of your grade.  The abstract should be a concise summary of your research plans, clearly identifying the problem you will be investigating long before the paper is due at the end of the semester.  The abstract must be 1-2 pages in length, double-spaced, spell checked, and proofed for grammar and punctuation. You must include books and journal articles in your bibliography.  I will not accept a paper based exclusively on websites.  Go to the library.  Early.

Class Schedule (Modified as Needed)

Week 1 

8/23  Welcome, Introductions 

Syllabus, requirements, expectations

 

Week 2

8/30  Overview:  What is feminist theory?  Keywords, concepts, categories

      Readings:  FT, pp. 2-51

      FTB, 1.1, Schiebinger, Londa.  “Theories of Gender and Race,” pp. 21-31.

 

Week 3

9/6   Holiday, No Classes

 

Week 4

9/13  The Cult of True Womanhood and the Enlightenment Challenge

      Readings:  IT, Ch. 1, “Enlightenment Liberal Feminism,” pp. 17-45

      FT, pp. 56-75, Sections 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

      Wollstonecraft, Grimke, Stanton, Truth, Mill & Taylor

 

      Comment Paper 1, Week 4

 

Week 5

9/20  Cultural Feminism:  Woman as the Essence of Nature/Nurture

      Readings:  IT, Ch. 2, “19th Century Cultural Feminism,” pp. 47-78

      FT, Sections 17, 46, 74, 76

      Stanton, Ortner, Alcoff, Fuss

 

      Comment Paper 2, Week 5

 

Week 6

9/27  Woman as Body

            Readings:  FTB, Sections. 1.2-1.5, pp. 32-75.

      Spelman, Elizabeth. “Woman as Body:  Ancient and Contemporary Views.”

      Birke, Lynda.  “Bodies and Biology.”

      Simmonds, Felly Nkweto.  “My Body, Myself:  How Does a Black Woman Do Sociology?”      Marshall, Helen.  “Our Bodies, Ourselves:  Why we Should Add Old Fashioned Empirical

      Phenomenology to the New Theories of the Body.”

 

      Comment Paper 3, Week 6

 

Week 7

10/4  Woman as Laborer

      Readings:  IT, Ch. 3, “Feminism and Marxism,” pp. 79-104

      FT, Sections 15, 18, 63

      Engels, Gilman, Hartmann

 

      Comment Paper 4, Week 7

 

•Take-home Exam, due in class 10/4

Week 8

10/11 Challenging Binary Oppositions

      Readings: IT, Ch. 5, “Feminism and Existentialism,” pp. 131-54

      FT, Sections 31, 40, 41

      Beauvoir, Firestone, Murray

 

      Comment Paper 5, Week 8

 

Week 9

10/18 Riding the Second Wave and Beyond

      Readings: IT, Ch. 6, “Radical Feminism,” pp. 155-182

      FT, Sections 33, 34, 36, 56, 57

      Friedan, NOW, Millett, Frye, Lorde

 

      Comment Paper 6, Week 9

 

•Abstract due, 10/18

 

Week 10 

10/25 Woman as Sexual Objects/Subjects

      Readings: IT, Ch. 4, “Feminism and Freud,” pp. 105-30

      FT, Sections 55, 59, 60, 78, 81

      Irigaray, Wittig, Rich, Mackinnon, Butler

 

      Comment Paper 7, Week 10

 

Week 11

11/1  Woman as Sexed Body(ies)

      Readings:  FTB, Sections 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 7.6

      Hammonds, Evelynn.  “Toward a Genealogy of Black

Female Sexuality:  The Problematic of Silence.”

     

Segal, Lynne.  “Body Matters:  Cultural Inscriptions.”

Creed, Barbara.  “Lesbian Bodies:  Tribades, Tomboys, and Tarts”

Hallberstam, Judith.  “F2M:  The Making of Female Masculinity.”

Findlay, Heather.  “‘Freud’s Fetishism’ and the Lesbian Dildo Debates.”

     

      Comment Paper 8, Week 11

 

•Annotated Bibliography due 11/1

 

Week 12

11/8  Women and Science

      Readings:  FTB, Sections 3.3, 3.4, 3.5

Jordanova, Ludmilla. “Natural Facts: A Historical Perspective on Science and Sexuality.”

Fausto-Sterling, Anne.  “Menopause:  The Storm before the Calm.”

Martin, Emily.  “The Egg and the Sperm:  How Science has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles.”

           

      Comment Paper 9, Week 12

•Take-home Exam due in class, 11/8

 

Week 13

11/15 Women, Violence, and Religion

Readings: Handouts

Hawley, John Stratton, ed.  1994.  “Introduction,” in Fundamentalism and Gender, pp. 3-46. 

            Oxford University Press.

Balmer, Randall.  1994.  “American Fundamentalism:  The Ideal of Femininity, in Fundamentalism

            and Gender, pp. 47-62.  Oxford.

 

      Comment Paper 10, Week 13

 

Week 14

11/27 Break Week.  No Classes.

 

Week 15

11/29 Fundamentalism  and the Control of Women

      Readings:  FT, Section 48, Mernissi

      FTB, Section 5.3, Parmar and Walker

      Handouts:

McCarthy Brown, Karen.  1994.  “Fundamentalism and the Control of Women,” in Fundamentalism and Gender, pp. 175-202.  Oxford.

Malti-Douglas, Fedwa.  1995.  “Faces of Sin:  Corporal Geographies in Contemporary Islamist

Discourse, in Religious Reflections on the Human Body, ed. by Jane Marie Law, pp. 67-75. Indiana University Press.

 

      Comment Paper 11, Week 15

 

Week 16

12/6  Presentations

     

12/13 I will be in my office from 11-12 for discussion or for you to pick up any essays, exams, or other assignments that you may not have already retrieved.