Wst 3015- introduction to Women’s Studies Florida International University Dr. Dana Van Tilborg

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WST 3015- Introduction to Women’s Studies

Florida International University

Dr. Dana Van Tilborg

Fall 2005

Mondays and Wednesdays 12:30 – 1:45 p.m.


Phone: Women’s Studies 348-2408

Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.


This course is designed to introduce students to women’s studies as an interdisciplinary field of knowledge. Women Studies strives to provide equal education to both women and men by making the study of the history and culture of women, generally omitted from the traditional curriculum, the central focus of concentrated scholarship and learning. The purpose of the course is to involve students in the ongoing dialogue of women’s experiences and women’s socialization by sex, class, color, and culture. We will discuss issues such as

  • questions of identity and social construction (what do we, and others think that “women” are?)

  • socialization process

  • myths and realities of women’s lives

  • diversity of women’s life experiences (due to race, class, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, etc.)

  • connection of women studies and feminism

In women studies some of the primary questions include: Why study women (and men)? Are women subjects? Objects? Powerless? Powerful? In what ways? What relationships are there between women studies and feminism? Why are racism, heterosexism, ageism, and class exploitation women studies issues? What has been the societal status of women in relation to institutions such as the family, government, politics, business, education, the arts?

Outcomes of Course: After taking this course, you should be able to:

  • understand and identify the diversity of feminisms and feminist thought

  • identify major, contemporary feminist thinkers in the U.S.

  • identify the diversity of women’s issues nationally

  • explore and expand your writing skills with an emphasis on personal narrative, voice, and feminist critique

  • verbally articulate your opinions, critiques, and analyses

  • connect the feminist academic actions of critique and reconstruction

  • understand the connection of sexism, racism, classism, ageism, and heterosexism

  • understand the role of institutions, such as education, in reinforcing or challenging discrimination such as sexism, racism, etc.

  • move onto upper level courses in women studies

Required Texts:

  1. Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions , 2nd edition (noted as voices in syllabus)

  2. Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks, 2000 (noted as hooks in syllabus)

  3. Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation 2nd edition, Barbara Findlen, 2001, (noted as Listen Up in syllabus)

The required texts are available in the bookstore.

**Assignments are based largely on personal reflection, experience, and analysis. In order to facilitate your growth in developing these skills, the directions for assignments are open-ended and creative; the directions offer structure but not confinement. The purpose of these papers is to demonstrate the significance to you, the learner, of gaining insight and knowledge through combining emotional and analytical capabilities. Dominant Western institutions and culture have tended to stress the importance and legitimacy of rational cognition, stereotypically assigned to white males, over emotional intuition, stereotypically assigned to females. Women’s Studies stresses the importance and legitimacy of all people developing knowledge based on experience and abstraction, feeling and thinking**

1. Gender Construct Paper- Due September 12

Write a two page paper about your first memory of the realization of gender; the first time you became aware of the personal meaning of gender. Please include the situation, what you learned from the experience, how it affected you, and if you learned any gender lessons.

2. Oral History Interview- Due October 5

Interview a woman about her life. Choose a woman over 40 years of age. Specifically address how being a woman has affected her life and choices, look at gender, race, class and sexuality etc. Try to connect the issues that we have talked about in class to her life, for example, work, family, education, etc. Write a two to three page paper reviewing the highlights of her life story, what she has learned and what you have learned from this interview.

3. Feminist Film Critique- Due November 2

Review a film of your choosing that lends itself to discussion of the issues of gender and women. Give a short background and summary of the film, but concentrate mainly on critical analysis of the issues of gender, class, sexuality, and ethnicity (identity). Does the film seek to reinforce or challenge issues of identity and stereotyping? What are the implicit or explicit messages around issues of identity in this film? Give examples to back up your argument. Is the film feminist? Why or why not? Does this matter to you as a viewer? Three to four pages.

4. Feminist Biographical Presentation- Due November 14 and 16

Research a famous feminist (I will provide a list and each student will sign up for one) and make a presentation on her life and work. For the presentation, you must research her life through books and/or on the internet. Make ONE overhead on her life that should include: her picture, her date of birth, what she is known for, and if she wrote anything, did anything that students should know about. You should also present implications of what her work had on women’s lives- situate these women in a greater context. You will present this to the class on either Nov. 14 or 16. The presentation should last for 3-5 minutes. If you do not attend class on the day that your presentation is due or do not have your presentation ready, you will receive no points.

Late Assignments:

Assignments that are turned in late will lose one point per day (including weekends). Please make arrangements ahead of time if you think that there will be a problem.


Midterm and Final. Both exams will be in class. Exams will be a variety of multiple choice, fill in the blank, and short essay questions. Questions will require that you to integrate the readings, discussion, and film with your own evolving thought, opinion, and analysis. The final should be about “bringing it all together” into a document that shows me what you have learned and will take with you from class.


Gender Paper- 10 points

Oral History Interview- 10 points

Feminist Film Critique- 10 points

Feminist Biographical Presentation- 5 points

Midterm-20 points

Final- 25 points

Attendance- 10 points

Participation- 10 points
Attendance/Participation Policy:

Attendance and participation are very important components of this class. Students are expected to read assignments, and be prepared for discussion of readings on the day that the reading is listed in the syllabus. Since this class will be taught with a discussion format, it is essential that all students are in class and prepared to discuss and contribute. Attendance will be taken, and I expect students to inform me of any potential absences or if an emergency prevents them from attending. Each student may have two “free” absences and any absence thereafter will result in points off from your 10 attendance points.

Assignments are constructed and placed in the syllabus so that each student is able to offer their insight and findings to the entire class. On the days that assignments are due, course time is devoted to hearing each student’s comments. Students will lose two points from participation points each time they are not present on a day an assignment is due.

Disruptive Behavior:

Students who exhibit behaviors which are considered to obstruct or disrupt this class or its learning activities will be considered under the Dean of Students’ Codes of Conduct. Behaviors which are considered to be inappropriate in the classroom include but are not limited to: coming late to class, leaving early, interrupting others, reading, sleeping, behavior that is disrespectful of your fellow students or the instructor. Students who exhibit this behavior will be given a warning by the instructor and will be expected to end this behavior or face further penalties.

Cheating and Plagiarism:

As members of the academic community, students are expected to recognize and uphold standards of intellectual and academic integrity. The university assumes as a basic and minimum standard of conduct in academic matters that students be honest and that they submit for credit only the products of their own efforts. Plagiarism is presenting another person’s work as one’s own. Plagiarism includes any paraphrasing or summarizing of the works of another person without acknowledgment, including submitting of another student’s work as one’s own. Both the ideals of scholarship and the need for fairness require that all dishonest work be rejected as a basis for academic credit. Please read the university catalogue for more specific policies.

Calendar: (deviations may be necessary)

Aug 29- Introductions

Review of Syllabus and Course Requirements

What is Women’s Studies?

Aug 31- The Politics and History of Women’s Studies

History of Feminism, Waves

Film: Is Feminism Dead?
Defining Core Terms- Sex, Gender, Transgender, Feminist, Womanist, etc.

Readings: “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”; “You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train” (hand-outs); “Consciousness-Raising” (hooks); Chapter One (Voices) (pp. 1 – 57), “Bringing Feminism a la Casa” (Listen Up)

Sept. 5- Labor Day, No Class
Sept. 7- Critical Examination of Gender Roles and Restrictions

Film Clips: Femininity and Masculinity including Spongebob, etc.

Readings: Chapter Three (Voices); (pp. 113 – 152) “Your Life as a Girl” “One Bad Hair Day…” (Listen Up)

Sept. 12- Assignment Due: Gender Paper

Discussion of Assignment

Sept. 14- Socialization into Gender Roles


Gender Bias In Education

Readings: Chapter 11: “Feminist Education for Critical Consciousness” (hooks); Introduction from Schoolgirls (hand-out)
Sept. 19- Complex Domination- Sexism, Racism, Homophobia, Classism

Privilege and Discrimination

Activity: Unpack Your Knapsack

Readings: Chapter 2 (Voices) (pp. 59 – 112); “Feminist Class Struggle” (hooks); “Weaving an Identity Tapestry” Curry Johnson (Listen Up)

Sept. 21- Relationships, Marriage, Partnerships

Recent Issues in Marriage, Gay Marriage

Film: Freedom to Marry

Readings: Chapter Seven (Voices)(pp. 287 – 323); “Liberating Marriage and Partnership” (hooks); “Why You Should Give a Damn About Gay Marriage” and “Endless Love” (hand-outs)

Sept. 26- Family, Parenting

Motherhood, Mother-daughter relationships

Reading: “Feminist Parenting” (hooks); “Immaculate Conception” Richards and “What is Mine” Lennon (Listen Up)
Sept. 28- Special Film Presentation- Sisters of 77 in DM 140
Oct. 3- Work
Readings: Chapter 8 (Voices) (pp. 324- 384); “Imagine My Surprise” “Reality Check”(Listen Up); “Women at Work” (hooks)
Oct. 5- Assignment Due: Oral History

Discussion of Assignment

Oct. 10- Sexuality

Special Speaker

Film: Vagina Monologues

Readings: Chapter 4 (Voices) (pp. 153-198); “Lusting For Freedom”, “Chicks Going At It” (all in Listen Up); “Self-Reliance” “Guadalupe the Sex Goddess” (Hand-outs)

Oct. 12- Review for Midterm
Oct. 17- Midterm- In Class
Oct. 19- Body Image, Self-Image, Self-Esteem
Readings: Chapter 5 (Voices); (pp. 199 – 238) “Beauty Within and Without” (hooks); “The Body Politic” “It’s a Big Fat Revolution”, (all in Listen Up)

Oct. 24- Creativity and the Arts

Readings: Chapter 9 (Voices) (pp. 385 – 423)

Oct. 26- Religion/Spirituality

Readings: Chapter 12 (Voices) (pp. 516 – 551); “Feminist Spirituality” (hooks); Selection from “The Color Purple” (hand-out)
Oct. 31- Popular Culture
Film: Real Women Have Curves
Nov. 2- Finish Film

Popular Culture

Assignment Due: Feminist Film Critique
Nov. 7- Introduction to Feminist Theory
Readings: TBA
Nov. 9- Global Women’s Movements and Rights
Readings: TBA
Nov. 14- Feminist Biographical Presentations
Nov. 16- Feminist Biographical Presentations
Nov. 21- Violence

Speaker from FIU Victim Advocacy Center

Readings: Chapter 10 (Voices) (pp. 424- 461); “Ending Violence” and “Feminist Masculinity” (hooks); “Word Warrior” “Why I Fight Back” “Don’t Call me a

Survivor” (all in Listen Up)

Nov. 23- No Class, Thanksgiving
Nov. 28- Feminist Futures and Activism

What is Activism?

Reading: Chapter 13 (Voices) (pp. 552- 593); “On the Rag” “Taking it to the Streets” “Selling Out” (all in Listen Up)
Nov. 30- Panel of Feminist Activists
Dec. 5- Jeopardy Review for Final
Dec. 7- In Class Final
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