WGS.301J | Fall 2014 | Undergraduate, Graduate

Feminist Thought


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Description

This course will provide a survey of several feminist frameworks for thinking about sex, gender, and oppression. We will begin by considering whether there is a tenable distinction between sex and gender, what it means to say that a category is socially constructed, and how social constructions can be oppressive. We will then take up representative samples of three feminist theoretical approaches (the Humanist approach, the Gynocentric approach, and the Dominance approach), together with sample political applications of them.


Hackett, Elizabeth, and Sally Haslanger. Theorizing Feminisms: A Reader. Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780195150094.

All readings not in the text can be found in the table of the Readings section.

Undergraduate Requirements

Note that this is an undergraduate [CI-M](http://web.mit.edu/commreq/depts ci-m.html) subject for philosophy and women’s studies. A CI-M course must:

  • require at least 5000 words of writing including one mandatory revision, an equivalent amount of oral presentations, or an equivalent combination of the two
  • include substantial instruction and feedback on student work
  • integrate writing and speaking assignments that relate to the professional discourse in the major field
  • count communication-intensive activities as a substantial portion of the final grade (> 25%).

All students will be responsible for each week’s reading and will write 10 weekly response papers of approximately 400–600 words. Response papers may focus on study questions provided in the text, on questions raised in class, in the media, or in personal reflection on the assigned reading. Further guidance will be provided in class. We will also experiment with the forms in which we write. Students may write their response papers on the class blog, in the form of letters to the editor, and / or op-ed pieces.

Students will each co-lead one class, providing questions for discussion on that day.

A longer research paper (min. 2500 words) will be due during the last class. A 300 word project proposal must be submitted by Session 14 and draft must be submitted by Session 22. An important theme of the course will be that there are different perspectives from which one can view a single phenomenon. Because of this, class attendance and class participation are especially important components of the course. Students are expected to attend all or nearly all classes, and to come to class having completed the assigned readings indicated for that day.

For most class meetings, the entire class will read and discuss the same material. However, in several meetings you will be given a choice of readings. For those class meetings, you will be asked to report, either in writing or orally, what was in the reading you chose and what you thought of it. In evaluating your work over the course of the semester, you will be expected to have a basic grasp of the readings others present, and others will be expected to have a basic grasp of what you present; so be ready to ask and to field questions.

In keeping with the CI-M status of the course, approximately 20% of the grade on each assignment will be based on an evaluation of the style and effectiveness of the communication. Please keep a copy of all work you turn in. Late work will be accepted only under exceptional circumstances, and will be penalized unless an extension is granted in advance. Failure to perform in any of the grading areas listed below will result in a failure of the course.

Graduate Requirements

Graduate students enrolled in the course will be expected to read both the required readings listed and also additional recommended readings. Depending on the number of graduate students in the class, a separate discussion session may be required in lieu of response papers. A single 20–25 page research paper is due at the end of the term. A paper proposal should be submitted during Session 14.

Evaluation for Undergraduates

Class participation and leading discussion 20%
Ten response papers 40%
Research paper and presentation 40%

Evaluation for Graduate Students

Final paper 80%
Class participation and leading discussion 20%

Note: Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated in this course. It is also illegal. Plagiarism occurs when you take someone else’s words and present them as your own; but even borrowing someone else’s ideas can count as plagiarism if you don’t cite the source. If in doubt, provide a citation. If you have questions, speak to your instructor. Penalties for proven plagiarism can range from failing the course to expulsion. Please be aware that plagiarism of any kind will be severely punished, up to and including not only flunking the paper, but also having a letter placed in your file at the Institute.

Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments