Learning Feminism 101

Making Feminist Theories Relevant Today

What We’re Working On

Each week, we will be creating a variety of short writings, reflections, articles, and projects about the week’s readings. These assignments are designed to incorporate the readings, but also to synthesize them, critique them, analyze them, and even challenge them. See below for what we are working on each week! Also click on each tab in the menu to see the most current posts!

OVERALL ASSIGNMENT REQUIREMENTS

Blog Post and Participation

This course requires students’ activity at least 3 times a week. This serves to encourage students to participate in our class WordPress site by either adding current events, articles, thought pieces/reflections, videos (of either their selves or from online), creative pieces such as poetry or short stories (or artwork), as well as reactions and comments to other classmates’ work. While participation is only required only 3 times per week, this serves as a minimum and I encourage them to share as often as they’d like—the more sharing that occurs, the more rich our discussion and website becomes.

In addition to 3 participation posts each week, students will write a short, reflexive blog post between 400-600 words that discusses their thoughts, questions, comments, and concerns about the readings and unit materials. These posts are not used to summarize the readings, but rather to talk about them as a group in how they work together (or against one another). As such, they must incorporate at least 3 readings per unit, and citing appropriately. They may also incorporate their thoughts on the weekly assignment in their post and discuss the readings to current events.

Assignment

Each unit (week), I will assign an activity that accompanies the set of readings in the unit. This assignment will often involve online research and a small written component (250 words) such as argumentative letters, media analysis, or creative projects.

Book Review Book

Each unit has one optional book that relates to the overall theme. Students will choose one unit to complete their book review. They will read the assigned book and write a 800-1000 word critical analysis of the book describing its strengths, weaknesses, material delivery, and overall impact to the field. Each week has a different style book, including a graphic novel, memoir, academic and empirical studies, and “popular non-fiction.”

WEEK 1: HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

Assignment: Letter to the Haters

Students during the week will be reading different perspectives, issues, and opinions on issues in feminism’s history. They will also be reading current “anti-feminist” and “post-feminist” responses to current feminist activism. In this assignment, they will be writing a “letter to the haters,” or otherwise to people who disagree with feminism, and argumentatively discuss why feminism’s issues are still relevant today.

Book Review Book: Jo Reger’s Everywhere and Nowhere

Challenging the idea that feminism in the United States is dead or in decline, Everywhere and Nowhere examines the contours of contemporary feminism. Through a nuanced investigation of three feminist communities, Jo Reger shows how contemporary feminists react to the local environment currently shaping their identities, tactics, discourse, and relations with other feminist generations. By moving the analysis to the community level, Reger illustrates how feminism is simultaneously absent from the national, popular culture–“nowhere”–and diffused into the foundations of American culture–“everywhere.” Reger addresses some of the most debated topics concerning feminists in the twenty-first century. How do contemporary feminists think of the second-wave generation? Has contemporary feminism succeeded in addressing racism and classism, and created a more inclusive movement? How are contemporary feminists dealing with their legacy of gender, sex, and sexuality in a world of fluid identity and queer politics? The answers, she finds, vary by community.

Everywhere and Nowhere offers a clear, empirical analysis of the state of contemporary feminism while also revealing the fascinating and increasingly complex development of community-level feminist groups in the United States.

WEEK 2: THEORIES

Assignment: Gender Journal

During the week, students will keep a journal of their observations regarding their gender in the world. Based on these entries, they will write a reflective essay on how gender is constructed, normalized, enforced, and otherwise present in their daily lives.

Book Review Book: G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal

Marvel Comics presents the all-new Ms. Marvel, the groundbreaking heroine that has become an international sensation! Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City – until she is suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the all-new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! As Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to handle? Kamala has no idea either. But she’s comin’ for you, New York! It’s history in the making from acclaimed writer G. Willow Wilson (Air, Cairo) and beloved artist Adrian Alphona (Runaways)!

WEEK 3: BODIES

Assignment: Media Analysis or Project

This week, students will get the option to choose whether they want to complete a media analysis or a media project. Based off of the documentary Miss Representation, students who choose the media analysis will collect different types of media and analyze how gender, as well as class, sexuality, race, ability, and nationalism, are portrayed in the media. Those students who choose a media project will take a problematic piece of media and “recreate” it to correct for its gender inequalities.

Book Review Book: Eve Ensler’s The Good Body

Botox, bulimia, breast implants: Eve Ensler, author of the international sensation The Vagina Monologues, is back, this time to rock our view of what it means to have a “good body.” “In the 1950s,” Eve writes, girls were “pretty, perky. They had a blond Clairol wave in their hair. They wore girdles and waist-pinchers. . . . In recent years good girls join the army. They climb the corporate ladder. They go to the gym. . . . They wear painful pointy shoes. They don’t eat too much. They . . . don’t eat at all. They stay perfect. They stay thin. I could never be good.”

The Good Body
starts with Eve’s tortured relationship with her own “post-forties” stomach and her skirmishes with everything from Ab Rollers to fad diets and fascistic trainers in an attempt get the “flabby badness” out. As Eve hungrily seeks self-acceptance, she is joined by the voices of women from L.A. to Kabul, whose obsessions are also laid bare: A young Latina candidly critiques her humiliating “spread,” a stubborn layer of fat that she calls “a second pair of thighs.” The wife of a plastic surgeon recounts being systematically reconstructed–inch by inch–by her “perfectionist” husband. An aging magazine executive, still haunted by her mother’s long-ago criticism, describes her desperate pursuit of youth as she relentlessly does sit-ups.

Along the way, Eve also introduces us to women who have found a hard-won peace with their bodies: an African mother who celebrates each individual body as signs of nature’s diversity; an Indian woman who transcends “treadmill mania” and delights in her plump cheeks and curves; and a veiled Afghani woman who is willing to risk imprisonment for a taste of ice cream. These are just a few of the inspiring stories woven through Eve’s global journey from obsession to enlightenment. Ultimately, these monologues become a personal wake-up call from Eve to love the “good bodies” we inhabit.

WEEK 4: SEXUALITY

Assignment: Courtship norms

When most people talk about sexuality, they often think about one of two things (which are often, also related): sex and/or LGBQ identities and issues. Yet, as we come to understand this week, sexuality is much more complex and is intricately intertwined with other issues of gender, sex (both biological and physical), emotions, race, nationality, and even age and ability. In this assignment, students will interview two people in their lives that differ on some point of axis: age, gender, sexual identity, etc., and try to reveal different courtship norms in different social contexts. What is socially acceptable? Unacceptable? What happens if someone transgresses these norms?

Book Review Book: Emily Lindin’s UnSlut

When Emily Lindin was eleven years old, she was branded a “slut” by the rest of her classmates. For the next few years of her life, she was bullied incessantly at school, after school, and online. At the time, Emily didn’t feel comfortable confiding in her parents or in the other adults her my life. But she did keep a diary. Slut/UnSlut is adapted from Emily’s much-acclaimed blog “The UnSlut Project” presenting unaltered excerpts from that diary alongside split-page commentary to provide context and perspective.

WEEK 5: FAMILY, WORK, AND EDUCATION

Assignment: Job Search Ads

In this assignment, students will be examining gender biases in job advertisements and images. Using google images, job ads, and other search tools, students will show how the workplace is biased.

Book Review Book: A.K. Summer’s Pregnant Butch

First pregnancy can be a fraught, uncomfortable experience for any woman, but for resolutely butch lesbian Teek Thomasson, it is exceptionally challenging: Teek identifies as a masculine woman in a world bent on associating pregnancy with a cult of uber-femininity. Teek wonders, “Can butches even get pregnant?”

Of course, as she and her pragmatic femme girlfriend Vee discover, they can. But what happens when they do? Written and illustrated by A.K. Summers, and based on her own pregnancy, Pregnant Butch strives to depict this increasingly common, but still underrepresented experience of queer pregnancy with humor and complexity—from the question of whether suspenders count as legitimate maternity wear to the strains created by different views of pregnancy within a couple and finally to a culturally critical and compassionate interrogation of gender in pregnancy.

Offering smart, ambitious art, this graphic memoir is a must-read for would-be pregnant butches and anyone interested in the intersection of birth and gender, as well as a perfect queer baby shower gift and conversation starter for those who always assumed they “got” being pregnant.

WEEK 6: LOCAL, TRANSNATIONAL, GLOBAL

Assignment: Trace-that-item or bride websites

In the final weekly assignment, students will have another “choose your own adventure.” Option one, trace-that-item, requires students to pick an item that they enjoy on a daily basis, like a Nike tennis shoe, and to trace the item to see where and how each component is made. This includes the labor regulations and conditions of the workers that make the item. This option will allow students to understand the ethics behind fair-trade policies. The second option requires students to do some online-ethnographic research on mail-order-bride websites. Students will be examining the ways in which non-western women are “packaged” and sold to the West, with a special emphasis on “orientalization” and race.

Book Review Book: Meeta Jha’s Global Beauty Industry 

The Global Beauty Industry is an interdisciplinary text that uses beauty to explore topics of gender, race, class, colorism, nation, bodies, multiculturalism, transnationalism, and intersectionality. Integrating materials from a wide range of cultural and geo-political contexts, it coalesces with initiatives to produce more internationally relevant curricula in fields such as sociology, as well as cultural, women’s/gender, media, and globalization studies.

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