Women's and Gender Studies Courses
J-Term and Spring 2013
PHED 315: Body Image
The rise of eating disorders and the seemingly relentless pursuit of thinness as an ideal for women are of vital interest today. This course places abnormal eating behaviors and attitudes towards the female body in a cultural context, drawing connections between circumstances of health, men and women’s role in society, and stereotypes of beauty. Although the primary focus of the course is on the interactive effects of culture, class, gender roles, psychology and physiology on women’s body image, these forces are spreading to less fortunate economic classes, to more ethnically diverse groups, to men and boys and to an ever-broadening age group. The myopic quest to achieve the narrow standards of acceptable beauty standards is a complex cultural phenomenon that has broad historical, medical, social, political, demographic, aesthetic, psychological and ideological roots. The imposed alliance between thinness, fitness and an increasingly narrow standard of beauty has served to create the impression that individuals that meet those “cultural ideals” are more competent, successful, self-reliant and morally virtuous than those who do not. This artificial dichotomy has served to create yet another layer of minority/ majority status in the United States. The class format will emphasize group discussions and interpersonal reflection. Outside speakers and current films will also be utilized to deepen the learner’s understanding of body image in both a personal and societal context. A partial list of topics includes: the connection between women and food, historical and cultural standards of beauty, eating disorders, nutrition, and biosocial factors effecting weight control. We will also devote one class period to preparing and consuming our own nutrient dense (and delicious!) food.Instructor: Hacker, Colleen TWRF 8:30-11:20
RELI 351: Religion and Gender in American History
This course covers the construction of gender among various American religious groups (mostly Christian). We will read two types of texts: historical books and articles about American religious groups’ construction of gender, and primary documents written by religious figures about gender and sexuality. These texts will demonstrate how scriptural, theological, and cultural sources have worked together to create religious understandings of gender and sexuality in America. For instance, Clifford Putney’s book Muscular Christianity illustrates how a “masculinity crisis” led to the creation of a robust, “manly” faith among late-nineteenth century Protestants. Julie Byrne’s book O God of Players examines the way Catholic women’s participation in basketball altered mid-twentieth century Catholicism. And R. Marie Griffith’s book God’s Daughters probes the world of conservative evangelicalism, looking at how evangelical women negotiated a religious landscape that put them in submission to their husbands.
As we read these books alongside primary historical documents, we will develop an understanding of how religious groups draw on, reinforce, and challenge cultural gender norms at different moments in American history. We will also look at the role of scripture and theology in the evolution of ideas about gender and sexuality in America.Instructor: Dowland, Seth TWRF 11:30-2:20
ARTD 490: Gender and Art
In this class we will consider how gender and sexuality affect the production and reception of art and, more broadly, visual culture as a whole. While the course is structured chronologically, it is not an art-historical survey. Instead, we will consider examples from various points in the history of international modernism, with an emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries in Europe and the U.S. Within this framework, we will ask a series of questions about representation and subjectivity: how have artists conceived of femininity and masculinity? What role have race and class played in the construction of gendered identities in art? As we investigate art and artists, we will also consider other modes of representation such as television, film, and advertising and the ways in which they construct and perpetuate ideas about gender.Instructor: Mathews, Heather MW 1:45-3:30
ENGL 190/232 Women's Literature: Women Writers and the Body Politic
"There are a hundred ways to be a good citizen, and one of them is to look, finally, at the things we don't want to see." Barbara Kingsolver
In this course we’ll read a wide range of literature written by women within the last twenty-five years. Beginning with the classic science fiction novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, we’ll use the text as a lens for exploring the body politic. While the novel takes a futuristic approach to questions about reproductive rights and freedoms for women, the questions it raises are certainly appropriate ones to consider now. From there we’ll move through Iranian and American graphic novels, contemporary memoirs, and a collection of women’s poetry on the body. Along the way, we’ll look at textual representations of how women’s bodies are politicized through religious institutions, in war, and as a result of the environment. Students will have a variety of writing projects, including an essay styled as a comic strip, a monologue (modeled after The Vagina Monologues), and lots of reading reflections. This course is only open to first year students.Instructor: Marcus, Lisa TR 9:55-11:40
ENGL 334: Special Topics in Children's Literature –- Childhood and GenderAccording to a popular nursery rhyme, shared with children more than two centuries ago and still well-known today, little boys are “made of . . . snips and snails and puppy dogs’ tails,” while little girls are “made of . . . sugar and spice and all things nice.” In the days when this rhyme was first published in print, children typically wore white regardless of sex and gender, and grew up to occupy particular roles as “little women” and “little men.” In America today, parents-to-be host “gender reveal” parties and young children are encouraged to prefer pink or blue, based on their assigned sex and gender identity.
In our course, we investigate how children’s and teens’ literature from the nineteenth century to present:
- reinforces or challenges polarized notions of sex and gender identities;
- constructs or destabilizes binary feminine and masculine identities;
- defines girlhood, boyhood, childhood, and family;
- represents gendered behavior patterns, whether instructing readers in norms or valuing alternatives;
- acknowledges or disavows intersectionality in representations of gender, class, race/ethnicity, and other fluid categories;
- depicts heteronormative and queer perspectives and experiences, among people of all ages; and
- identifies LGBTQ adults and relationships, as well as children who resist or refuse gender categorization.
Our texts include multimedia sources—picture books, chapter books, novels, memoirs, nonfiction, television, film/video—as well as critical resources from the disciplines of children’s literature, childhood and youth studies, women’s and gender studies, education, and the social sciences. Throughout the semester, students consider the implications and high stakes of representing gender norms and/or gender diversity among young people, historically and globally. Through individual and group research, writing, discussion, and projects, students gain awareness of how young people since the nineteenth century have been socialized through popular texts, and how childhood and adolescence are politicized around complex understandings of sex and gender. (pending WMGS committee approval)Instructor: op de Beeck, Nathalie TR 1:45-3:30
ENGL 341: Feminist Approaches to Literature
In the PLU course catalogue, English 341 is described as an “introduction to a variety of feminisms in contemporary theory as frameworks for reading feminist literature and for approaching traditional literature from feminist positions.” Moving beyond this daunting and generic catalogue language this spring, we will plunge into a set of readings that is anything but daunting and generic.
In designing this section of English 341, I’ve focused our readings around the theme of passages. For most of our history, a woman’s passage through her life was marked by her transfer from one man’s control to another’s. As a daughter, she was under her father’s authority. When she married, that authority was passed to her husband, and, should her husband die, she passed into the guardianship of some other male relative, usually a son or brother. Women were classified as unmarried daughters, wives, or widows. There were few other options . . . or at least few acceptable, socially sanctioned alternatives.
As twenty-first century readers, we will focus our attention and discussion on these traditional female roles and on women’s passages from one role to the next. We will examine what it means to be a “good” daughter in a series of texts, from a nineteenth-century novel for girls to Twilight. Then we’ll turn our attention to “good” wives—from the nineteenth-century ideal of the “angel in the house” to the more problematic example of her mirror image, the “madwoman in the attic.” And that last category, widows? Widows were always regarded as dangerous and threatening, difficult to control, but today there are other options for women. In the twenty-first century, not all women marry or want to marry or can marry. Many married women become divorced women. And some women remain utterly unclassifiable--rebels whose passages through life defy all categorization.
Together we’ll read both male-authored texts, like Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and texts by women writing back to them, like Margaret Cavendish’s The Convent of Pleasure. Born just six years after Shakespeare’s death, Cavendish imagines a world where an intelligent, articulate, unmarried woman isn’t a shrew and doesn’t need taming—or a husband.
As a frame for our reading of literary texts, we will engage with selections from the work of feminist foremothers, like Mary Astell, Caroline Norton, Virginia Woolf, and Simone de Beauvoir, and with readings from a few notable second-wave feminist thinkers, including Betty Friedan, Erica Jong, and Germaine Greer. We’ll wind up our examination of women’s “passages” with three provocative contemporary essays that examine women at various crucial points in their lives: Kate Bolick’s “All the Single Ladies,” Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” and Sandra Tsing Loh’s “The Bitch is Back.”
As the above description suggests, our survey will focus on English and American texts, but a brief research assignment will move us beyond these linguistic and geographic boundaries to engage with feminist approaches to literature from a global perspective. We will be reading a range of literary genres, including fiction, poetry, drama, memoir, and manifesto. In addition to the research assignment, each student will complete a critical essay and a creative project.
The goals of this course are ambitious, but the course should be an exhilarating, roller-coaster experience. To paraphrase Bette Davis’s advice to party-goers in All about Eve, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride”!Instructor: Jansen, Sharon MW 3:40-5:25
IHON 253: Gender, Sexuality and Culture
Uses multicultural, international, and feminist perspectives to examine issues such as socialization and stereotypes, relationships and sexuality, interpersonal and institutional violence, revolution and social change in the U.S. and in other selected international contexts.Instructor: Smith, Jennifer MW 1:45-3:30
PHIL 239: The Philosophy of Love and Sex
The parts of our lives involving significant love relationships and sexuality are deeply personal, and it is difficult to overstate the importance of such experiences as they relate to our identity as human beings. Yet since love and sex are so personal and yet universal, as experiences they often go unexamined by virtue of their ubiquity in our individual and cultural landscapes. Over the course of the semester we will look in depth and breadth at the nature of love and of sex, beginning with ancient philosophical/religious definitions of erotic love and attraction and ending with a discussion of the moral permissibility of pornography. In between we will investigate questions about the inherent competitiveness of erotic love, love as a gendered experience, the moral legitimacy of homosexuality and gay marriage, and whether prostitution is an expression of autonomy, to name only a few. This course is in part about the ethics of love and sex, but more fundamentally about their metaphysics: what is love? What is sex? What exists to make them what they are? To know how we should act in our love relationships, or what sorts of sexual expressions are permissible and/or appropriate, we must first understand the nature of love and of sex.Instructor: Love, Hannah MW 6:00-8:00 p.m.
RELI 368: Feminist and Womanist Theology
A study of major Christian theological themes and issues through women's perspectives on gender. Our course considers texts from 1667-2008, a long history of women engaging Christian theology and scripture in their work for social and religious liberation. This course will explore a rich diversity of women's voices across multiple races, cultures, political and class/economic perspectives. By comparing a variety of theological theories, methods and sources, we will discover how women's experiences serve as a foundation for rethinking conceptions of God, human nature, evil, and social change. We will examine both revisionist movements within Christianity and more revolutionary expressions of feminist spirituality and goddess movements. Theological readings will be enriched with films, fiction, essays, and speeches. Through our analysis of and interaction with these texts, we will engage in our own constructive process as a class, helping one another creatively and critically to gain insight into our personal belief systems.
The central question of the course is: What difference does it make to consider God and Christianity from a feminist or womanist perspective? This is broken down into small questions such as: In what ways have women been oppressed? Why Bring God into the Women’s Movement? In what ways are all women commonly oppressed and in what ways does race and class make a difference? What difference does it make in our images of God, our understanding of salvation, our relation to each other and the world and our relation to our own bodies?
Course objectives include recognizing the following: the long history of the women’s (feminist, womanist) movement; the importance of God-language and theological models in preventing or inspiring social change; the importance of relationships, particularly female friendship, in work for women’s equality; the vast implications of a relational world-view; the importance of the body within feminist theology. We will familiarize ourselves with the variety of feminist and womanist theologies, sharpen written and oral communication abilities considering the tradition of powerful rhetoric in feminist theology and work to foster appreciation for belief systems that challenge or differ from our own.Instructor: Trelstad, Marit
SOCI 440: Gender and Sexuality
This course analyzes sexuality and gender from individual and cultural perspectives. Focal topics include: gender stereotypes and socialization; transsexuality and cross-gender systems; communication and relationships; sexual attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyles; work and family issues; violence; and gender stratification and feminism.Instructor: Gregson, Joanna MW 3:40pm-5:25
WMGS 201: Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies
This course is designed as an interdisciplinary introduction to the themes, issues, and methodological approaches that are central to the study of women, feminism, gender construction, and sexuality. We will examine the major themes, concepts and methods used in the social and cultural study of gender in the U.S. and other nations. The course explores the richness and diversity of women's and men's lives and experiences from multicultural and interdisciplinary perspectives with a particular focus on the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and class.Instructor: Marcus, Lisa MW 1:45-3:30
WMGS 499: Senior Capstone
Students will apply ideas and methods of Women's and Gender Studies to an internship with an organization whose work has an important bearing on issues of gender and/or sexuality, as well as participate in a weekly seminar to explore the linkages between the internship experience and feminist theory, epistemology, and methodology. This course is designed to be the culminating experience in the Women's and Gender Studies major.Instructor: Kraig, Beth MW 1:45-3:30
WRIT 101 (10 & 14): Barbies, Bratz, and Bella: The Construction of American Girlhood in the Twenty-First Century
This seminar explores the contradictions and confusions of today’s girl world. Together we will undertake a critical and rigorous examination of the way contemporary American girlhood is constructed, commodified, and exploited—that is, at the ways advertisers, television programmers, toy companies, filmmakers, and clothing manufacuturers, to name only a very few, are selling us contradictory ideas about what it means to be a girl. Pretty princesses in pink? Slutty Bratz in hooker boots? We will explore the effects of this kind of representation on us, first as girls and then as women. We will also move beyound this narrowly focused theme to see the ways it connects to larger social, political, and economic issues women face today in the global community.
Enrollment limited to first-year students.Instructor: Jansen, Sharon TR 1:45-3:30 & TR 3:40-5:25
WRIT 101 (13): Girls Gone Wild: Women, Nature, and Social Justice
In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman where she called for the reformation of female education: "It is time to effect a revolution in female manners--time to restore [women] their lost dignity--and make them, as a part of the human species, labour by reforming themselves to reform the world." For most young women in college today, Wollstonecraft's text might seem a relic from a bygone era--American women can take for granted their right to an education. But hers is also a call to humanize women: before gaining access to education, women had to be granted the status of human beings. Indeed, one of her primary goals was to challenge the deeply held belief that, if left to their own devices, women might "go wild." Two hundred years later, the eighteenth-century association of women with animals still holds valence. Lingerie catalogues, scenes from "Girls Gone Wild," and political discourse that flaunts "binders full of women" suggest that Wollstonecraft's revolution must continue. This course is an invitation to reconsider the relationship between women and non-human animals. We will examine how women have been associated with animals in popular culture and how primatologist Jane Goodall revolutionized science by celebrating the unique bond that women can form with non-humans. As importantly, we will revive Wollstonecraft's call for women to "[reform] themselves to reform the world" and investigate how our daily practices can make this earth a better place for women, men, and non-human animals.
Enrollment limited to first-year students. (pending WMGS committee approval)Instructor: Ramos, Adela MW 3:40-5:25
WRIT 101 (8): Heroines and Villainesses
This FYEP writing course considers the figure of the transgressive woman in Western cultural representation. We will explore a series of these representations, beginning with Delilah in the Old Testament and her reinterpretation in painting. Do such figures change over the course of history? In what ways do they remain the same? We like to think that we (as postmodern individuals) have moved beyond dualistic and mythical ideas of womankind, but these archetypes have shaped our culture and our minds: they communicate their message to us with ease. Encountering analyzing, and critiquing these persistent figures is essential to developing ethical philosophies and practices. Thus, we will talk and write about these heroines and villainesses in order to hone our academic skills.
Enrollment limited to first-year students. (pending WMGS committee approval)Instructor: Gunn, Olivia TR 1:45-3:30