Philosophy of Feminism Syllabus, Fall 2010
Philosophy of Feminism
Mondays/Wednesdays 5:35 – 6:50
Professor Linda Martín Alcoff
Office: 1419 Hunter West
Office Hours: Mondays 3:00-5:00 and by appointment
This course will explore the development of feminist thought from the publication of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex to the present. We will consider feminist attempts to reveal, unravel, and remedy the conceptual, psychological, and economic dimensions of the oppression of women. Readings will explore the major feminist positions on the nature and scope of women's oppression, how it gets perpetuated, and possible solutions. We will also cover the relationship of sexism to racism, to heterosexism, to imperialism, and to class exploitation, and we will look at debates among feminists on pornography, cultural traditions, and abortion. We will also discuss the feminist arguments about how femininity, as it is currently practiced and understood, is a psychological form of sexist social conditioning. The focus of the course will be on the variety of possible positions and debates within feminism.
Attendance and participation in discussion is required. It is very important for students to come to class having done the assigned readings in order to understand the lectures and make our discussions fruitful. Students who miss no more than 2 classes during the semester for whatever reason will receive a third higher letter grade at the end of the course, for example, going from a B- to a B or a B+ to an A-. This will not include the first week of class. (The reasons for absences have no effect on this bonus).
Each week a 1-2 page essay must be written that covers that week's required reading assignment, summarizing some of the major theoretical arguments or views expressed in the readings and reacting to them by giving an assessment and/or raising your questions about them. These essays must be handed in every Wednesday (except when noted otherwise in the schedule below) and are required to pass the course. Late papers will receive a lower grade. This assignment is designed to give you a chance to absorb and retain the material covered in the readings, and thus cannot be based on class lectures or discussion. They must be typed. There are 11 essays due over the course of the semester; however, you may drop one essay of your choice, so that the total you must hand in over the semester is 10. N.B.: These essays constitute 65% of your course grade!
There will also be a take home final, in which students will be given a list of questions to answer in essay form. The questions will be based on the reading assignments. Students will have one week to complete the assignment. Plagiarizing from any information on the web or from anywhere else will result in an automatic F for the semester.
Final grades will be tabulated as follows: average of your weekly essays: 65%; final take-home exam: 25%; class participation: 10%.
Classroom decorum: Arrive on time. Do not go in and out during class time. Turn off all electronic devices, including cell phones, Ipods, and lap-tops. If you must eat or drink, do so quietly.
Required books: The books listed below are available at Shakespeare and Co. Besides the books listed below, there will also be a few required readings available in Course Reader also at Shakespeare and Co. These readings are listed below as (CR) for Course Reader.
1. Marilyn Frye The Politics of Reality
2. Simone De Beauvoir The Second Sex
3. Suzanne Pharr, Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism
4. Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives 2nd ed., edited by Carole McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim
5. Abortion under attack: Women on the challenges facing choice Edited by Krista Jacob
Schedule of Readings:
Aug. 30, Sept. 1: An overview on sexism
The Politics of Reality pp. 1-40
"On Psychological Oppression" (handout)
McCann and Kim. Pp. 51-57, 232-243
Optional: “Biology and Gender” (CR)
No class Sept. 6 or 8
Sept. 13, 15: Femininity as socially constructed
The Second Sex "Introduction," Chapters 9, 11
Sept. 20, 22: Female stages of life
The Second Sex Read any 2 of the following: Chapters 13, 14, 16
Sept. 27, 29: Independent and dependent women
The Second Sex Chapters 21, 23, 25, "Conclusion"
Lorraine Hansberry “Simone de Beauvoir and the Second Sex” (CR)
Oct. 4, 6: Racism, Sexism and Intersectionality
McCann and Kim, 43-45, 80-88, 106-112, 254-275
Politics of Reality pp. 110-127
Kimberle Crenshaw “The Intersection of Race and Gender” (CR)
No class Oct. 11
Oct. 13, 18, 20: Class Exploitation and Gender
Dorothy Allison “A Question of Class” http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/skinall.html
Ann Ferguson “On Conceiving Motherhood and Sexuality: A Feminist-Materialist Approach” (CR)
Chandra Talpade Mohanty, “Women Workers and Capitalist Scripts” (CR)
Nancy Maclean. “The Hidden History of Affirmative Action” (CR)
Optional: McCann and Kim, pp. 169-202
ESSAY DUE Oct. 20
Oct. 25, 27, Nov. 1: Feminism and Cultural Traditions
Nussbaum, “Religion and Women’s Human Rights” (CR)
Uma Narayan, “Cross-Cultural Connections, Border-Crossings, and ‘Death by Culture’” (CR)
Marnia Lazreg “Why Women Should Not Wear the Veil” (CR)
McCann and Kim, 203-211
ESSAY DUE Nov. 1
No class Nov. 3
Nov. 8, 10, 15: Heterosexism, Homophobia, and Lesbian Feminism
“Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism" by Suzanne Pharr
McCann and Kim, pp. 133-143, 276-280.
Politics of Reality pp. 128-174.
ESSAY DUE Nov. 15
Nov. 17, 22, 24: Sexual Violence, Pornography, and the Sex Debates
"Pornography, Oppression and Freedom: A Closer Look," by Helen Longino; "What We're Rollin Around in Bed With" Hollibaugh and Moraga"; "Femicide" Jane Caputi; "Pornography and Violence" Diana E.H. Russell; “Culture, Gender, and Violence” James Gilligan; “The Bargain Basement in the Marketplace of Ideas” Evelina Giobbe (CR)
"Men Against Pornography" flyer (handout)
ESSAY DUE Nov. 24
Nov. 29, Dec. 1, 6: Abortion and Reproductive Justice
Abortion Under Attack pp. 11-42, 53-160, 189-206
Susan Bordo, "Are Mothers Persons" (CR)
McCann and Kim pp, 119-132
ESSAY DUE Dec. 6
Dec. 8, 13: Feminist Solidarity
Frye, pp. 84-109
McCann and Kim pp. 160-168, 446-522
Final Take-Home Exam: Due Date TBA