Course Meeting Times

Lecture/Discussion: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Description

This course offers an introduction to Women's and Gender Studies, an interdisciplinary academic field that explores critical questions about the meaning of gender in society. The primary goal of this course is to familiarize students with key issues, questions and debates in Women's and Gender Studies scholarship, both historical and contemporary. Gender scholarship critically analyzes themes of gendered performance and power in a range of social spheres, such as law, culture, education, work, medicine, social policy and the family.

Throughout the semester, we will "question gender" in multiple ways:

  • Why has gender been a primary organizing principle of society?
  • How do "gendered scripts" for dress, appearance and behavior emerge among different social groups and in different societies and historical periods?
  • How do we explain the sexual division of labor and the unequal status of women and girls and those activities and roles deemed "feminine" in society?
  • How does gender intersect with race and ethnicity?
  • How do gendered structures of power and authority operate?
  • What factors contribute to the formation and success of movements for and against gender equality and fluidity?
  • Can we imagine a future in which we largely ignore gender or envision gender in more expansive or egalitarian ways?

This term you will become acquainted with many of the critical questions and concepts feminist scholars have developed as tools for thinking about gendered experience. In addition, we will explore the complex ways in which gender intersects with class, race, ethnicity, sexuality and age within various spheres and institutions of society. Required readings include classic and contemporary Women's and Gender Studies texts, representing scholarship from a variety of disciplines, as well as political documents and personal narratives of gendered lives. Course topics include: the first and second waves of American women's/gender rights activism, and gender issues in relation to the law, socialization, education, work, health and reproduction, sexuality, families, and globalization. Through successfully completing this course, students will be better prepared to participate in and contribute effectively to the larger public conversation about the role of gender in society, to apply the critical tools of women's and gender studies in their academic, family and occupational lives, and to take more advanced classes in this field.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Understand and engage with central debates in the field of Women's and Gender Studies;
  • Define and utilize basic terms and concepts central to this field;
  • Apply a variety of methods of analyzing gender in society, drawing upon both primary and secondary sources;
  • Apply concepts and theories of Women's and Gender Studies to life experiences and historical events and processes;
  • Communicate effectively about gender issues in both writing and speech, drawing upon Women's and Gender Studies scholarship and addressing a public audience.

Writing Objectives

Throughout the semester, I will encourage student writers to:

  • Address an intelligent, public audience in a graceful style, providing key information necessary to understand an argument;
  • Develop ideas in an interesting, original and coherent manner;
  • Support arguments with appropriate evidence and use sources thoughtfully and correctly;
  • Employ clear, concise language that uses the conventions of English grammar, punctuation, word usage and source citation;
  • Structure arguments carefully with clear introductions, transitions, middles and conclusions;
  • Title assignments in a thoughtful and engaging fashion.

Attendance/Participation/Homework Assignments/Classroom Community

To foster a sense of intellectual community, this course is structured in a format that blends lecture and discussion. It is crucial that students come to class on time, with required texts, well prepared to offer thoughtful responses to the assigned readings. To be effective as class participants, students need to complete reading and writing tasks by the assigned dates.

A vital, ongoing intellectual conversation — which actively questions the meaning of gender in society — is at the heart of the course. Many issues that we address in the course are controversial and students may have or voice very different viewpoints and perspectives. It is critical that we acknowledge and respect one another's experiences and perspectives so that our classroom is a safe and supportive space to converse productively across our differences.

Since our class functions as an intellectual community, it is essential that students attend class faithfully. More than two absences may affect the final grade; a student cannot pass the course with over five absences. Three latenesses count as an absence. If a student must be absent from class or cannot submit an assignment on time because of a personal, family or medical emergency, he or she should email or phone me (or have a dean contact me) as soon as possible. In the case of absence, it is the student's responsibility to contact a classmate about class material and obtain any handouts or assignments that were distributed. Major assignments and many handouts will be posted on the Web site by the day after the class in which they were distributed.

Active participation in large and small group discussion is necessary to receive full credit for the attendance and participation component of your grade (15%). Homework assignments and in-class writing exercises also count for part of this grade.

Three Major Essay Assignments

Each student will be responsible for three major essay assignments over the course of the semester. Each essay should demonstrate understanding of key concepts in the course by framing a clear argument in response to the essay question and supporting that argument with specific examples and quotations from relevant course readings. The first essay should be 5-7 pages (typed, double-spaced) in length; the next two essays will be 7-8 pages each.

Current Event Analysis: Oral Presentation

Each student will do one oral presentation, an analysis of a current event relating to class readings and lectures/discussions. Students will work in pairs to research and present an interpretation of a current event news article of their choice pertaining to the week's topic. Your task is to make connections between concepts presented in an assigned reading(s) and lectures and a contemporary example in the news. This assignment requires close reading of the news item you choose, presenting your analysis in a coherent way to the class, along with several follow-up discussion questions. Oral presentations should be about 15 minutes. A typed presentation plan or outline is due to the instructor a week before the presentation. A short write-up of the presentation (and joint evaluation) will be due a week after the presentation; each student pair will also receive a joint letter-grade and evaluation of their oral presentation.

Reflection Assignment: Women's and Gender Studies Event

Students are asked to attend one Women's and Gender Studies (WGS)-related event (lecture, film, reading) during the semester and write a short piece (1-2 pg.) reflecting on this event and its relationship to course content. (WGS-related events will be announced in class and posted on the Web site.) This exercise will be due one week after the WGS event.


Attendance, participation, short homework, and in-class writing exercises 15%
Current event analysis oral presentation and write-up (2-3 pages) 10%
Short write-up on Women's & Gender Studies event/program 5%
Three major essays (5-7 pages, with a minimum of 18 pages) 70%

Citing Sources Properly; Avoiding Plagiarism

As members of this class and the larger scholarly community, you are expected to abide by the norms of academic honesty. While a good deal of collaboration is encouraged in and out of class, failing to acknowledge sources or willfully misrepresenting the work of others as your own will not be tolerated. Everything you submit must be your own work, written specifically for this class. Using someone else's language and/or ideas without proper attribution is academically dishonest. Plagiarism can result in withdrawal from the course with a grade of F, suspension or expulsion from the Institute.