WMNS 330:  Feminist Theory

Spring 2011

Mary Suydam
Ascension 011
Office Hours: T - TH. 1-2:30; W - 1-2
PBX 5067

Course Goals

This course will have as its major objective understanding the mechanisms by which social changes occur. To answer this question we will consider a series of feminist theories or "frameworks" which suggest how gender relations have in the past been and currently are unequal and oppressive and offer suggestions on how to make them more equal. We will consider the explanatory power of various feminist theories in terms of how they account not only for oppressive social relations, but forliberatory social change as well. Class work will focus on placing each of these frameworks within their specific historical contexts.

Please bear in mind that theory is difficult. You may not understand every word you read. Please try not to become too frustrated by this. Put forth your best effort to understand these various theories in terms of where you are. I do understand that you will not necessarily master every concept in the class. I will try to evaluate your work based on the progress you make from where you start.



Karen Foss, Sonja Foss, and Cindy Giffin, eds., Readings in Feminist Rhetorical Theory (Waveland Press, 2004)

Elizabeth Hackett and Sally Haslanger, eds., Theorizing Feminisms: A Reader (Oxford University Press, 2006)

Carole McCann and Seung-kyung Kim, eds., Feminist Theory Reader (Routledge, 2010)

Jackie Leach Scully, Laurel Baldwin-Ragaven, and Petya Fitzpatrick, eds., Feminist Bioethics (Johns Hopkins Press, 2010)

Course Requirements

It is my desire that the class be student driven rather than instructor driven. We are here, finally, to answer your questions, not mine; so that you might better understand the debates in feminist theory. There is no coverage requirement in this course; there will be no tests. You will learn from me but also from each other and from rigorously engaging the material; the objective of the course is for us to construct knowledge collaboratively. Therefore, lectures by the instructor will be kept to a minimum. This means that if you have a question and you want a lecture, the responsibility is yours to ask for it. Otherwise, the class will focus on discussion of materials, small group discussions, writing and the sharing of writing, and group presentations of material.

Study Guides: The primary means by which we will construct knowledge is the study guide. We will construct one together for every class using the Moodle glossary program. Every class three people will be assigned to construct the study guide for that class (don’t worry you will each do your own separate piece). You will enter your own piece into the wiki and when complete it becomes available to every student in the class. The 3 components of the study guides are: summary of the reading, questions for discussion, key words. A schedule of assignments and instructions are forthcoming.

The components of your grade will be based upon the following:

Study Guide Summaries

Discussion Questions


Short Papers/Edited longer paper

Class participation

Course Readings and Schedule of Assignments

Week 1: Jan. 19 and 21: Intro to class -- What is theory?
Defining Theory

In class: Cheris Kramerae on gendering of language

For Friday: Theorizing Feminisms, 3-30

Feminist Rhetorical Theory: Cheris Kramerae, "Proprietors of Language", “Women as a Muted Group”, “A Visiting Scholar”, 7-33

Feminist Rhetorical Theory: bell hooks, “Feminism”, 47-56

Week 2: Jan. 26 and 28: Liberal Feminism, the first wave

For Wednesday :Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Introduction and chapters 1, 2, 4, 7 and 13
Seneca Falls Declaration
Theorizing Feminisms, 113-150

Feminist Philosophies: “Have We Got a Theory for you!”, 474-486 (E-Res)

For Friday: Emma Goldman, "Anarchism", "Woman Suffrage", "The Tragedy of Women's Emancipation", and Theorizing Feminisms, 271-77

Feminist Bioethics, Introduction and chapter 1

Week 3: Feb. 2 and 4: Liberal Feminism: the second wave

For Wednesday: Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique
Theorizing Feminisms, 244-271
The Second Wave, Wendy Williams, “The Equality Crisis”, 71-91 (E-Res)
For Friday:
Feminist Theory Reader, 29-68, 106-113

Feminist Bioethics, chapter 2
Week 4: Feb. 9 and 11: Essentialist and Cultural Feminism

Short paper on liberal feminism due Monday, Feb. 7 by 4 PM

For Wednesday: Feminist Rhetorical Theory, Starhawk, “Witchcraft as Goddess Religion”, “Truth or Dare”, 143-161

Theorizing Feminisms, 200-225

The Second Wave, Carol Gilligan, “Woman’s Place in Man’s Life Cycle”, 198-215 (E-Res)

For Friday : Theorizing Feminisms, 211-244

Feminist Bioethics, part II and chapter 4

Week 5: Feb. 16 and 18: Cultural and essentialist feminism and critiques

For Wednesday: Theorizing Feminisms, 298 - 324, 174-188

Feminist Theory Reader, 252-280 and 341-47

Feminist Bioethics, chapter 5

For Friday: Theorizing Feminisms, 150-174

Feminist Theory Reader, 160-169, 184-212

Feminist Bioethics, chapter 13

Week 6: Feb. 23 and 25: Radical Feminism

Second short paper due on cultural feminism due Monday, Feb. 21

For Wednesday: Theorizing Feminisms, 325-335

Feminist Rhetorical Theory, Mary Daly, 105-130

Feminist Philosophies, "Lesbian Sex" (E-Res)

For Friday: Feminist Theory Reader, 69-106

Feminist Bioethics, chapter 6

Week 7: March 2 and 4: Marx and Feminism

For Wednesday:
The Second Wave, Linda Nicholson, “Feminism and Marx”, 131-145 (E-Res)
Michelle Barratt, “Capitalism and Women’s Liberation”, 124-145 (E-Res)
The Second Wave, Heidi Hartmann, “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism”, 97-123 (E-Res)

For Friday: Theorizing Feminisms, 490-521 and 422-458

Spring Break

Week 8: March 21-23: Postmodernism

For Wednesday:
Essay on Foucault (#5 in Topic Outline)

Foucault, Incitement to Discourse (#6)

Derrida, from Of Grammatology (#7)

For Friday:
Foucault, "The Perverse Implantation" (E-Res)

Theorizing Feminisms, 340-352

Feminist Bioethics, chapter 3

Feminist Theory Reader, 384-390, 404-431

Week 9: March 30 - April 1: postmodernism, deconstruction, and colonialism

The Second Wave, Linda Alcoff, “Cultural Feminism vs. Post-Structurualism”, 330-355

Feminist Rhetorical Theory, Trinh Minh Ha, “Not You/Like You”, 213-20’ “Yellow Sprouts”, 221-224, “The Totalizing Quest of Meaning”, 225-237

Feminist Bioethics, chapter 6 (revisited)

"Foucault, Feminity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power", in Feminist Theory Reader, 404-417

Week 10: April 6-8: Post-Colonial Theory
For Wednesday:

Feminist Rhetorical Theory, Gloria Anzaldua, “Speaking in Tongues”, 77-84; “La Consciencia de la Mestiza”, 85-96; “Beyond Traditional Notions of Identity”, 100-104
Paula Gunn, “All the Good Indians”, 181-83; “Grandmother of the Sun”, 184-198

Chandra Mohanty, "Under Western Eyes", Feminist Theory Reader, 446-461

"Chicana Feminism and Postmodern Theory", Feminist Theory Reader, 463-481

For Friday:

Feminist Bioethics, chapter11

Sisterly Soliarity and "moderate" Islam", Feminist Theory Reader,503-520

Theorizing Feminisms, 470 - 490

Third Short paper due Monday, April 11

Week 11: April 13 - 15: Thinking Feminisms

For Wednesday: Class begins at 2:30

Feminist Theory Reader, "Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words", 431-446 : Becca K, Katie G, Rachel W

Feminist Rhetorical Theory, Sally Gearhart, “The Womanization of Rhetoric”, 241-7; “Notes from a Recovering Activist”, 266-70: Monica K, Rebecca C, Becca H

Feminist Bioethics, chapter 8: Charlotte W, Meghan H, Claire S

For Friday: Class begins at 2:30

Feminist Theory Reader, "The Social Organization of Masculinity",233-243: Roxanne S, Hannah K-M, Bettina H-L, Ellen B

Feminist Bioethics, chapter 9: Brittany T, Morgan P, Anna B, Emily W

Week 12: April 20 -22: Queer Theory

Theorizing Feminisms, Leslie Feinberg, "Walking our Walk" (Anna and Charlotte) , 521 - 540, Judith Butler, "Against Proper Objects" (Monica, Ellen, and Morgan) , 540-551, and Evelyn Hammonds, "Black (W)Holes and the Geoetry of Black Female Sexuality", 552-563 (Rachel and Rebecca C)

Feminist Theory Reader, 357-384, "The Heterosexual Imaginary" (Roxanne, Bettina, Claire) and Leslie Feinberg, "Transgender Liberation, 133-143 (Becca H, Emily, Hannah and Katie)

Week 13: April 27-29: Ecofeminism

Feminist Philosophies, Karen Warren, “The Power and Promise of Ecological Feminism”, 452-461 (E-Res)
Marti Kheel, “From Heroic to Holistic Ethics”, 462-472

Thurs., Dec. 4
Feminist Rhetorical Theory, Sonia Johnson, 271-304

Week 14: May 4-6

Compilation of 3 papers due Monday, May 9 by 4 PM.