PHI/WSP 297 Philosophy of Feminism Fall 2004


Mondays/ Wednesdays 3:00 - 4:20
Professor Linda Martín Alcoff
Office: 523 Hall of Languages
Mailbox: 541 Hall of Languages
Phone: 443-2519
Office Hours: Mondays 4:30-6:00 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 focus on 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, why it exists, how it gets perpetuated, and possible solutions. We will also cover the relationship of the oppression of women to racism, to heterosexism, to imperialism, and to class societies. We will look at 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.

Course Requirements:

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 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.

There will be short, in class quizzes on the reading assignment each Wednesday. The first Wednesday quiz will be on Sept. 8. The average of your quiz grades will make up 40% of your final grade. There will also be a take home midterm and a take home final. For the mid-term and final, 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 quiz grades: 40%; mid-term grade: 30%; final grade: 30%.

Required books
: The following books are available at the Orange Bookstore. There is also a Course Reader at the Campus Copy Center in Marshall Square Mall that you are required to purchase.

1. Marilyn Frye The Politics of Reality
2. Simone De Beauvoir The Second Sex
3. Maria Lugones Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes
4. Angela Davis The Angela Davis Reader

Schedule of Readings:

Aug. 30, Sept. 1, 8:
An overview on sexism
The Politics of Reality pp. 1-83
“On Psychological Oppression” (Course Reader)
Also in the Course Reader are a series of short essays by leading theorists about various topics on women’s oppression: read at least six of these, whichever you are interested in:
“The Wage Gap: Myths and Facts”; “Aborting Choice”; “The Political Nature of ‘Human Nature’” by Ruth Hubbard; “Men in Struggle” by bell hooks; “Hunger” by Naomi Wolf; “The Case of Asian American Women” by Deborah Woo; “The Myth of the Latin Woman” by Judith Ortiz ; “Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing” by Jane Caputi; “The Fairy Tales” by Andrea Dworkin; “Why Young Women are More Conservative” by Gloria Steinem; “The Politics of Housework,” by Pat Mainardi; “Being a Boy,” by Julius Lester; “Black Feminism in Everyday Life” by Siobhan Brooks; and “Its not an Oxymoron: The Search for an Arab Feminism” by Susan Muaddi Darraj. .

Sept. 13, 15 : Femininity as socially constructed
The Second Sex "Introduction," Chapters 9, 11

Sept. 20, 22: Female stages of life
The Second Sex Chapters 13, 14, 16

Sept. 27, 29: Independent and dependent women
The Second Sex Chapters 21, 22, 23, 25, "Conclusion"
optional: Lorraine Hansberry “Simone de Beauvoir and the Second Sex” (CR)

Take-Home Mid-term Exam handed out Oct. 4, Due Oct. 11

Oct. 4: Feminism as Cultural Revolution
Shulamith Firestone selections from The Dialectic of Sex (CR)

Oct. 11, 13, 18: Feminism and Socialism
Juliet Mitchell selections from Woman’s Estate (CR)

Oct. 20, 25, 27: Feminism and lesbianism
“The Woman Identified Woman” by Radicalesbians (CR)
“One is Not Born a Woman” by Monique Wittig (CR)
“Lesbianism and Feminism” by Anne Koedt (CR)
“Feminism and Gay Men” by Martin Duberman (CR)
“The Failure to Transform” by Cheryl Clark (CR)
Frye 95-109

Nov. 1, 3: the oppression of African American women
The Angela Davis Reader Chapters 1, Appendix, 7, 8, 9

Nov. 8, 10: capitalism, sexism, and racism
The Angela Davis Reader Chapters 11, 12, 13

Nov. 15, 17: forms of resistance
The Angela Davis Reader Chapters 16, 18, 20, 21, 22

Nov. 22: feminist anti-colonialism
Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes Chapters 1, 3, 4


Nov. 29, Dec. 1: difficult relations among women
Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes Chapters 5, 7

Dec. 6, 8:
Politics of Reality pp. 84-94
“Coalition Politics” Bernice Johnson Reagon (CR)

Final Take-Home Exam: Due Wednesday December 10