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POLSC303: Feminist Politics

Unit 1: Feminism and Its Political and Cultural Discontents   In this unit, we will look at different definitions of feminism and introduce some key topics, ideas, and concerns of feminist theorists and activists.  The lectures, readings, and videos in this unit seek to define feminism as well as engage with (and contest) some of the political and cultural stereotypes and caricatures of feminism in contemporary discourse.

Unit 1 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 20.75 hours to complete.

 

☐    Subunit 1.1: 4.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2: 4.25 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.2.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.2.2: 1.25 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.2.3: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.3: 12 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.3.1: 4 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.3.2: 7 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.3.3: 1 hour

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Offer a working definition of feminism. - Articulate different attitudes about and responses to feminism. - Identify several areas in which feminist theorists seek to promote gender equity. - Evaluate progress in gender equity in the paid workforce. - Identify the percentage of women in U.S. state and federal government. - Explain the difference between sex and gender orientation. - Identify and evaluate feminine and masculine archetypes.

1.1 Definitions of Feminism   - Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sally Haslanger, Nancy Tuana, and Peg O’Connor’s “Topics in Feminism” Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sally Haslanger, Nancy Tuana, and Peg O’Connor’s “Topics in Feminism” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire entry.  This reading will introduce you to different definitions and ways of conceptualizing feminism.  Indeed, there are many approaches and definitions within feminist philosophy and practice, some overlapping and some competing with one another.  The reading also presents a number of broad theoretical concerns that motivate feminist scholars.  This reading should take you approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
 
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  • Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Elizabeth Anderson’s “Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science” Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Elizabeth Anderson’s “Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire entry.  Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that explores theories of knowledge.  When people ask questions about how we know what we know, they are engaging in epistemological questions.  As the reading indicates, there are several approaches to feminist epistemology – feminist standpoint theory, feminist postmodernism, and feminist empiricism – but all take as a core assumption that sex plays a role in the production and interpretation of theories of knowledge.  Later sections of this reading address feminist critiques of science and the argument that scientific inquiry has historically been conducted from a distinctly male perspective and informed by sometimes biased masculine values.  This reading should take you approximately 3 hours to complete.
     
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1.2 Assumptions and Attitudes about Sex, Gender Identity, Gender Orientation, and Gender Roles   1.2.1 Feminism and Identity   - Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Diana Meyers’ “Feminist Perspectives on the Self” Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Diana Meyers’ “Feminist Perspectives on the Self” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire entry.  Conceptions of the self are important to feminist philosophers.  A distinctly male notion of identity has prevailed throughout much of Western intellectual history, and the female self has been seen as “Other.”  Feminists have sought to define and situate a female self both in the context of the male identity and, in some cases, in opposition to male identity.  This reading will take you approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
 
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1.2.2 Sex and Gender Orientation   - Lecture: YouTube: UCLA: Thomas Bradbury’s “Sex and Gender Orientation” Link: YouTube: UCLA: Thomas Bradbury’s “Sex and Gender Orientation” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and view the entire lecture.  Changes in thinking and attitudes toward sexual and gender identity are important to understanding historical and contemporary feminism.  Dr. Bradbury’s lecture engages with issues of differences in definitions regarding sex and gender orientation in the context of human relationships.  Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take you approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete.
 
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1.2.3 Sex and Gender-Role Stereotypes   - Lecture: YouTube: GC Mellon Sawyer’s “Akeel Bilgrama and Uday Mehta, ‘Liberal Politics and the Moral Psychology of Identity’” Link: YouTube: GC Mellon Sawyer’s “Akeel Bilgrama and Uday Mehta, ‘Liberal Politics and the Moral Psychology of Identity’” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this lecture.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. It is attributed to GC Mellon Sawyer.

1.3 Discussions of Feminism in the Wider Culture   1.3.1 Feminism, Gender, and the Media   1.3.1.1 Feminism in the Media   - Lecture: iTunes U: Stanford University, Clayman Institute for Gender Research: “Ms. at 40 and the Future of Feminism: A Panel Discussion with Feminist Editors, Journalists, and Bloggers” Link: iTunes U: Stanford University, Clayman Institute for Gender Research: “Ms. at 40 and the Future of Feminism: A Panel Discussion with Feminist Editors, Journalists, and Bloggers” (iTunes U)
 
Instructions: Listen to the entire panel discussion in the video.  The speakers provide historical insights from several generations of feminist thinkers and journalists.  Pay special attention to how each of these influential women came to feminism, and to their shared contention that the personal is political.  The focus of the introductory remarks on the panel is the participants’ experiences as writers and editors at Ms. Magazine.  Ms., founded by Gloria Steinem in 1971, was the first major feminist magazine in the U.S.  This lecture should take you approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete.
 
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1.3.1.2 Gender and Politics in the Media   - Web Media: Top Documentary Films: Media Education Foundation, Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising’s Images of Women” Link: Top Documentary Films: Media Education Foundation, Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising’s Images of Women (Flash)
 
Instructions: Cultural and political stereotypes of women are a product of many institutions, including religion and family.  The media is another important source for how people perceive women in American society.  This video focuses on a particular type of media: advertising.  Watch the documentary video, “Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising’s Images of Women.”  Viewing this video and pausing to take notes should take you approximately 45 minutes to complete.
 
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  • Reading: Portraying Politics: A Toolkit on Gender and Television: “Research” Link: Portraying Politics: A Toolkit on Gender and Television: “Research” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Decades of research have shown that the public has different stereotypes of and expectations for women who run for political office than for men who run for political office.  The sections in this report examine these different stereotypes and expectations and how the media facilitates gender biases in coverage of political campaigns.  This reading should take you approximately 2 hours to complete.
     
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1.3.2 Feminism’s Uneven Successes   1.3.2.1 Gender Equity in the Economic Sphere   - Reading: New York Times: Nancy Folbre’s “Feminism’s Uneven Success” Link: New York Times: Nancy Folbre’s “Feminism’s Uneven Success” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this blog entry, which provides data on gender equity in education, wages, and labor over time.  The author suggests that the feminist movement has come a long way, but there is still a need for greater wage equity among working men and women.  This reading should take you approximately 20 minutes to complete.
 
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  • Reading: The Atlantic: Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” Link: The Atlantic: Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire article.  Make sure to click on the “Next” link at the end of the article to read all 6 pages.  In the summer of 2012, an article in The Atlantic about the ongoing difficulty women face in balancing careers and family received a great deal of media attention.  Some complained that the author focused only on women with advanced degrees in professional positions.  Others praised the article for asking why men do not seem to struggle as much with balancing career and family.  Whether you agree with the author or not, the key questions she raises have informed feminist discussions about work, family, and class for over a century.  This reading should take you approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
     
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1.3.2.2 Gender Equity in Political Representation   - Reading: Rutgers University, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Center for American Women and Politics: Susan J. Carroll, Debra L. Dodson, and Ruth B. Mandel’s “The Impact of Women in Political Office: An Overview” Link: Rutgers University, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Center for American Women and Politics: Susan J. Carroll, Debra L. Dodson, and Ruth B. Mandel’s “The Impact of Women in Political Office: An Overview” (PDF)
 
Instructions: On the webpage linked above, find and open the PDF of this report.  Read the entire report.  Think about which political, cultural, and economic factors explain why fewer than 20 percent of members of Congress are women, even though women today are more likely to vote than men.  This reading should take you approximately 2 hours to complete.
 
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  • Reading: Rutgers University, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Center for American Women and Politics: Kathy A. Stanwick and Katherine E. Kleeman’s “Women Make a Difference” Link: Rutgers University, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Center for American Women and Politics: Kathy A. Stanwick and Katherine E. Kleeman’s “Women Make a Difference” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: On the webpage linked above, find and open the PDF of this report.  Read the entire report.  Some critics of feminism argue that, in a democracy, men can represent women’s interests as well as women can, if they are elected to do so.  This report addresses the question of how men and women approach policy differently once they are in office.  This reading should take you approximately 3 hours to complete.
     
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1.3.3 Does Feminism Equal War of the Sexes?   - Reading: The Atlantic: Christina Hoff Sommers’ “The War against Boys” and Educational Leadership, Vol. 56 (April 1999): David Sadker’s “Gender Equity: Still Knocking at the Classroom Door” Link: The Atlantic: Christina Hoff Sommers’“The War against Boys” (HTML) and Educational Leadership, Vol. 56 (April 1999): David Sadker’s “Gender Equity: Still Knocking at the Classroom Door” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the links above, and read these articles in their entirety.  Sometimes in political and cultural discussions of feminism, calls for gender equality in education and the workforce are presented as supporting a privileged or superior position for women and girls.  Thus, there is often a backlash in defense of male equality, suggesting that female progress comes at the expense of fairness for men.  The first article represents this perspective.  The second counters the notion that feminism represents reverse sexism.  These readings should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
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