WMST 353: Feminist Theories
Spring 2004
MWF 12:40-1:40
Eaton 206


Frann Michel
Eaton 204
MWF 10:20-11:20, 1:50-2:50, and by appointment


texts and links

course description




Required texts on order at WU bookstore:
Estelle Freedman, No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women
Carole McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim, eds., Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives [FTR]
Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues

No Turning Back website

Feminist Theory website

E-server feminism site

SWIRL feminist site

Feminist theory at Voice of the Shuttle

Feminist theory page at U of Iowa

Women's Studies Online Resources


In Estelle Freedman’s No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women, she defines feminism as

a belief that women and men are inherently of equal worth. Because most societies privilege men as a group, social movements are necessary to achieve equality between women and men, with the understanding that gender always intersects with other social hierarchies. (7)

Freedman is an historian, but she does address theory, contextualizing it in relation to practice, and she includes an overview of the history of liberal/socialist/radical taxonomies of feminist theory. Although the catalog description of this course suggests a taxonomic approach to the subject, we will instead focus on those intersections of gender with race, nation, class, sexuality, and other social locations. We will explore “debates within multiracial U.S. feminisms,” and will try to place “those local conversations and debates within a global perspective.” That characterization of an exploration of feminist theories is taken from the introduction to McCann and Kim’s Feminist Theory Reader. They describe feminist theory in the plural:

Feminist theories, like other political philosophies, provide intellectual tools by which historical agents can examine the injustices they confront, and can build arguments to support their particular demands for change. Feminist theorists apply their tools to building knowledge of women’s oppression and, based on that knowledge, to developing strategies for resisting subordination and improving women’s lives. (1)

They list some of the questions to which feminist theories respond:

How are women subordinated as women? How can we understand the ways in which specific events might be part of social oppression based on sex, rather than unique individual misfortunes? . . . How can women resist subordination? How should we work for changes that will improve women’s lives? In what arenas of life should we focus efforts for change? What kinds of changes are needed? How is women’s subordination as women connected to related oppression based on race ethnicity, nationality, class, and sexuality? (1-2)

In this course we will examine some of the ways feminist theories have addressed these and related questions. We will consider the assumptions involved in various perspectives, as well as their strengths, limits, and strategic usefulness. Class time will be devoted primarily to discussion of assigned readings. Students will be prepared for each day’s discussion with about a page of reading notes, and will also complete two essays. See below for more information about these requirements. Please speak with me individually if you have a disability for which I can make accommodation.




Tentative schedule of readings & meeting locations
GJLR=Goudy Jason Lee Room
UCDR1= Cat Cavern Dining Room 1
no designation=Eaton 206

M Jan 19 Introductions
W Jan 21 Freedman, No Turning Back, 1 “The Historical Case for Feminism” & 2 “Gender and Power”
F Jan 23 MLK Jr Day observed; no class meeting

M Jan 26 Freedman, 3 “Women’s Rights, Women’s Work, and Women’s Sphere” & 4 “Race and The Politics of Identity in US Feminism”
W Jan 28 Freedman, 5 “The Global Stage and the Politics of Location” & 6 “Never Done: Women’s Domestic Labor”
F Jan 30 Freedman, 7 “Industrialization, Wage Labor, and the Economic Gender Gap” & 8 “Workers and Mothers: Feminist Social Policies”

M Feb 2 Goudy Jason Lee Room Freedman, 9 “Medicine, Markets, and the Female Body” 10 “Reproduction: The Politics of Choice”
W Feb 4 Freedman, 11 “Sexualities, Identities, and Self-Determination” & 12 “Gender and Violence”
F Feb 6 GJLR Freedman, 13 “New Words and Images: Women’s Creativity as Feminist Practice” & 14 “Women and Politics”

M Feb 9 Manifesto/a due; Reading: Introduction (FTR 1-9)
W Feb 11 Definitions & Movements Introduction, and Aflatun, “We Egyptian Women” (FTR 12-31)
F Feb 13 GJLR Beauvoir, “The Second Sex”; Martinez, “La Chicana”; Kreps, “Radical Feminism I” (FTR 32-49)


M Feb 16 Rubin, "The Traffic in Women" (on reserve)
W Feb 18 hooks, “Feminism, A Movement to End Sexist Oppression” ; Delpy, “Rethinking Sex and Gender”; Basu, “Globalization of the Local” (FTR 50-77)
F Feb 20 GJLR “No More Miss America!”; Bunch, “Lesbians in Revolt”; Correa and Petchesky, “Reproductive and Sexual Rights” (FTR 80-102)

M Feb 23 Mikell, “African Feminism”; Sturgeon, “Ecofeminist Appropriations” (FTR 103-125)
W Feb 25 Corcoran-Nantes, “Female Consciousness or Feminist Consciousness”; Stetz, “Wartime Sexual Violence” (FTR 126-145)
F Feb 27 UCDR1 Theorizing Intersecting Identities Introduction; Combahee River Collective, “Statement” (FTR 148-171)

M Mar 1 GJLR Rushin, “The Bridge Poem”; Yamada, “Invisibility is an Unnatural Disaster”; Anzaldua, “La Conscienza de la Mestiza”; Helie-Lucas, “The Preferential Symbol for Islamic Identity” (FTR 172-196)
W Mar 3 Dutt, “Some Reflections on US Women of Color” ; Hartmann, “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism” (FTR 197-221)
F Mar 5 GJLR Lim, “Capitalism, Imperialism, and Patriarchy”; Molyneux, “Mobilization Without Emancipation?” (FTR 222-239)

M Mar 8 Koedt, “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm”; Wittig, “One is Not Born a Woman”; Lorde, “I am Your Sister” (FTR 242-259)
W Mar 10 no class meeting
F Mar 12 no class meeting


M Mar 15 Gopinath, “Funny Boys and Girls”; Aguilar-San Juan, “Going Home” (FTR 260-276)
W Mar 17 Theorizing Feminist Agency and Politics Introduction; Hartsock,”The Feminist Standpoint” (FTR 278-307)
F Mar 19 Narayan, “The Project of Feminist Epistemology”; Hill Collins, “The Politics of Black Feminist Thought” (FTR 308-333)

M Mar 22 -F Mar 26 spring break

M Mar 29 Calhoun, “Separating Lesbian Theory from Feminist Theory” (FTR 334-352)
W Mar 31 Baca Zinn and Thornton Dill, “Theorizing Difference from Multiracial Feminism” ; Mani, “Multiple Mediations” (FTR 353-377)
F Apr 2 GJLR Scott, “Deconstructing Equality-Versus-Difference”; Haraway, “Situated Knowledges” (FTR 378-403)

M Apr 5 GJLR Alarcon, “The Theoretical Subject(s) of This Bridge”; Butler, “Performative Acts” (FTR 404-427)
W Apr 7 Sorisio, “A Tale of Two Feminisms”; Jordan, “Report from the Bahamas” (FTR 428-446)
F Apr 9 Rich, “Notes Toward a Politics of Location” (FTR 446-459)

M Apr 12 proposal for final essay due; discussion of proposals
W Apr 14 SSRD
F Apr 16 Mohanty, “Feminist Encounters”; Lee, “Beyond Bean Counting” (FTR 460-476)

M Apr 19 Rereading: Helie-Lucas, “The Preferential Symbol for Islamic Identity” (FTR ); Aguilar-San Juan, “Going Home” (FTR)
W Apr 21 Rereading: Haraway, “Situated Knowledges” (FTR)
F Apr 23 no class meeting

M Apr 26 GJLR editing of drafts
W Apr 28 Rereading & discussion Butler, “Performative Acts” (FTR); Freedman, 13 “New Words and Images: Women’s Creativity as Feminist Practice”; Guerilla Girls website: http://www.guerrillagirls.com/
F Apr 30 GJLR Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues


M May 3 Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues

Sat May 8, 12 noon, final essay due in my box, Eaton 107


Participation in discussion
We are a small group, so it’s especially important that everyone come to every class on time, fully prepared, and that everyone participate actively in discussion. Basic rules of courtesy apply: listen to each other, don’t interrupt, don’t hog the floor (don’t tempt others to interrupt), don’t carry on side conversations or other distracting activities (please turn off cellphones), don’t attack anyone personally. Do challenge each others’ ideas, ask questions, share your reactions, stay on topic.

Reading notes
As you read, note the main points of the text, the most controversial aspects, the most surprising or puzzling aspects of the text. Formulate your own questions for discussion. Consider how the text addresses the questions McCann and Kim note that feminist theory addresses. Note passages you’d like to discuss (and their page numbers). Your notes may not cover all of these possibilities each day, but for every class you should have about a page of the most important or interesting of your notes on that day’s reading. These will form the basis of our discussions. I may occasionally collect these notes, so they should always be easily legible.

Write a manifesto/a about some problem/situation that concerns gender (women, men, transgender, or intersex people) from a feminist perspective (one attentive to the well-being of women; see Freedman’s definition, above). The paper should be about 5 pages long (1250 words) and should include four sections: description of the problem; analysis (why does the problem exist? What are the origins of the problem? How is it perpetuated?); vision (what should exist?); and strategy (how can we change the situation?). These will be due in class Monday February 9, and you will present your manifesto/a orally to the class.

Final essay
This will be about 8-10 pages long on a clearly-focused topic of your choice to emerge out of our readings and discussions. A one-page proposal will be due Monday April 12. Two copies of a draft will be due on Friday April 23. The completed paper will be due on the last day of class, Monday May 3.