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Graduate Gender Seminar

Spring, 2005
Linda Markowitz

Office Hours:   T/TH 12:30-2:30 and by appointment.
Office:  Peck Bldg.  rm. 1228
Office number:  650-2451

This class focuses on issues of gender.   We will be building on the knowledge you have already gleaned from previous classes on the topic.  Thus, rather than focus on simplistic issues of gender as a social construct or the notion of gender roles, we will be tackling the more difficult topics.  For example, we will be studying theories of gender as an organizing principle.  How does gender shape society’s institutions and cultures?  Also, we will be addressing the intersection of gender, race, class and sexuality and how this intersection affects not only theory, but social action.    Do all women have the same interests, and if not, how can they use their differences to create change?

We are living during a time in which women are told they have the same chances of success as men in everything from politics to economics.   Given the contemporary construct of gender, is “equality” truly possible?   If so, what does an equal society look like?

In order to help in our quest to understand gender more clearly, there will be a heavy reading requirement for the class. Given that the nature of the questions outlined above extend disciplines, we will be reading academics from such diverse fields as English, Psychology, Philosophy and Sociology.   I expect all students to do the reading before the class and to have some understanding of what the readings discuss.

Major Texts

Monographs (purchase at the Bookstore or On-line)
Alison Jaggar’s,  Feminist Politics and Human Nature.
bell hook’s, From Margin to Center
Kathy Ferguson’s The Feminist Case Against Bureaucracy
Maria Mies’s Capitalist Accumulation and the Division of Labor
Barbara Ehenreich and Arlie Hochshild’s Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers
Joan Williams’ Why Family Work Conflict and What to Do About It

I will hand out readings each week to compliment the texts.

Seminar Requirements

A seminar differs from traditional classes in that students are expected to help led the direction of the class.  At this level of the University, students are assumed to be interested in the material, and thus, excited to engage themselves in the material.   I expect, then, that all the students will be prepared for class each period the class meets.     Given the advanced nature of the class, I believe that students have a unique and important viewpoint to contribute to the literature and will require that students make their viewpoint known in a variety of ways:


Class Facilitator  (10%):  Each students will be expected to facilitate class discussion for at least one period.   Students will provide a one to two page outline of the readings in which the student not only highlights the major themes, but also critiques the themes.  A critiques entails answering the following questions:

A) What is the social problem the author is discussing?  (I know the authors will be discussing race, gender, class, etc – so don’t say this as the social problem.  What is the problem more specifically).
B) How does the author(s) try to explain the argument?  What understanding does the author have of the social problem?  Is agency the issue?  Structure?
C) Does the author assume the “white middle-class woman” norm?
D) What are the empirical and theoretical strengths and weaknesses? ie., what are the assumptions behind the author's propositions, does the evidence answer the question presented in the argument, is the argument logically coherent?
E) Given the author’s argument, what social policy can be created to redress problems that white women and women of color face today?

In addition, the student will be expected to answer:
    A) How do the readings relate to previous readings/discussions?
    B) How do the readings contribute to an understanding of gender?
    C) Are there other readings that complement this that you can bring to class and discuss.

Class participation (10%):  Students will be graded on how much they contribute to class discussion.  Contribution is operationalized by how well the student guides and defines the literature and NOT BY how much students talk.  Clearly, class attendance will deeply affect one’s ability to contribute to class discussion.  If students miss two classes, this grade will automatically drop 10%, three classes 15%, four classes 20%, etc.

Written Assignments

    A) Reaction Papers: (10% each) Students will write eight reaction papers during the semester that will be due the day we discuss the articles.   You are required to turn in the paper BEFORE we discuss the readings in class.  You cannot turn in a position paper on the same material in which you do your class presentation.    The papers should be 4-6 pages and WILL NOT be a summary of the work under discussion.   A summary of the readings will receive a “D” or lower on the assignment.  Rather than a summary, students are expected to understand how the readings fit into the broader discussion of gender.     Indeed, you must address all the questions above, but in essay form. 

Reading Guide


January 13th        DISCUSSION

1) Feminist Theories: Traditional, White perspectives

Alison Jaggar’s,  Feminist Politics and Human Nature.

January 20        Chapter 3 and 7
    Jan 27           Chapter 4 and 8 and Heidi Hartmann   “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism” in Lydia Sargent’s  Women and Revolution.  South End Press.  1981.  Pp 1-42.  (Handout)
Feb 3            Chapter 5 and 9
Feb     10           Chapter 6 and 10

2) Feminist Theories: Structure and Identity.

February 17        bell hooks, From Margin to Center
Feb    24        “Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.”  From Sister Outsiders: Essays and Speeches.  1984.
            The Miner’s Canary by Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres
            “Madonna: Plantation Mistress or Soul Sister” by bell hooks in Black on White edited by D. Roediger.
            “White as Property” by Cheryl Harris in Black on White edited by D.             Roediger

March 3        FILM: Black is Black Ain’t by Marlon Riggs

March10: Spring Break
3) Sameness Versus Difference: Gender/Work/Family

March 17       
            Joan William’s  Why Family Work Conflict and What to Do About It



March 24    Nancy Fraser and Linda Gordon “Dependency Demystefied” Social Politics Vol 1 (Sp 1994): 4-31.  (Handout)
        Katherine Edin, “Surviving the Welfare System” From Social Problems 38, no. 4 (November 1991).
        Article in Ms.  (Handout)
        Dorothy Roberts, “Welfare’s Ban on Poor Motherhood from Whose Welfare?  Edited by Gwendolyn Mink
        Gwendolyn Mink, “Aren’t Poor Single Mothers Women?”  From Whose Welfare? Edited by Gwendolyn Mink.
        Iris Young, “Autonomy, Welfare Reform and Meaningful Work”

5) Queer Theory/Sexuality

March 31   
    Adrienne Rich “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” from Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979-1985.  1986.
    Jonathan Katz “The Invention of Heterosexuality.”  From the Socialist Review (Handout)
    John D’ Emilio’s “Capitalism and Gay Identity.”  From Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality.  Edited by Ann Snitow, Christine Stansell and Sharon Thompson.  Monthly Review Press.  1983. (Handout)
    Audre Lorde, “Uses of Erotic: Erotic as Power” from Sister Outsider
    Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of Politics of Sexuality
    Steven Epstein, “A Queer Encounter: Sociology and the Study of Sexuality” from Queer Theory edited by Steven Seidman
    Chrys Ingraham, “The Heterosexual Imaginary: Feminist Sociology and Theories of Gender” from Queer Theory edited by Steven Seidman

8) Paid Work 

April 7        Kathy Ferguson The Feminist Case Against Bureaucracy   
            (Job segregation and job ladders)
April 14        Ehrenriech and Hochschild Global Woman: Nannies, Mades and Sex Workers

9) Gender Internationally

April 21                 Maria Mies: Capitalist Accumulation and Patriarchy

10) Third Wave Feminism

April 38        FILM: Live, Nude, Girls Unite!