Philosophical Aspects of Feminism
PHL 356
Spring 2001
 

Professor:
Office:
Office Hours:
Mailbox:
Phone:
E-mail:
Class Meetings:

Lisa Schwartzman
517 South Kedzie Hall
Tues. 1:00-3:00, Thurs. 2:00-3:00, and by appt.
503 South Kedzie Hall, Philosophy Department
353-9379
lhschwar@msu.edu
Tues. and Thurs. 3:00-4:50, C-104 Wells Hall

COURSE DESCRIPTION

In this course we will explore a variety of topics concerning feminism, the oppression of women, and the politics of gender in contemporary society. We will approach these topics from a philosophical perspective and will pay close attention to both conceptual and normative issues. We will read about and discuss issues such as the social construction of gender and of the self; the impact of race, class, and sexual orientation on women's lives; and the strategies of resistance and liberation that are available to women. We will also explore philosophical questions that arise in contemporary debates around specific feminist issues, including rape, pornography, and body image. While most of the reading for the course will consist of short articles and chapters from books, we will also read two novels and watch a couple of short films.

COURSE OBJECTIVES

REQUIRED TEXTS

Coursepack (available at Budget Printing, 974 Trowbridge, 351-5060)

Marilyn Frye, The Politics of Reality: Essays on Feminist Theory (Crossing Press, 1983)
Gerd Brantenberg, Egalia's Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes (Seal Press, 1985)
Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time (Fawcett Crest, 1976)

 COURSE REQUIREMENTS AND EVALUATION

Course requirements include two critical essays, a final exam or final paper, a weekly journal, as well as class participation, attendance, and a brief in-class presentation. There will also be several short homework assignments which will be included as part of your participation grade. In addition, if I find that students are not doing the reading, I will give "pop quizzes" on the readings. (I do not expect to have to do this, but I will if I find that it's necessary.)

If you are absent for any reason it is your responsibility to contact a classmate and find out what you have missed.

Grades will be calculated as follows:

Paper #1 (due 2/8)
Paper #2 (due 3/29)
Final Exam or Final Paper (on or due 4/30)
Journals
Attendance, Class Participation, Presentation, and Homework

25%
25%
30%
10%
10%

Papers

Papers must be turned in at the beginning of class on the day that they are due. (Please see the "late policy" below.) All papers must be typed and double-spaced. Papers #1 and #2 should be approximately 4-5 pages in length and should include only your student ID number; please do not put your names anywhere on these papers.

Final Exam or Final Paper (options) and Presentation

Each of you has the option of choosing to either take a final exam or write a final paper. I am arbitrarily calling these "option A" and "option B." Everyone also must do an in-class presentation, either on an article from the syllabus (under option A) or else on the independent topic that you have chosen for your final paper (under option B). The details of each of these options are as follows:

Option A (Final Exam)

The final exam will be an in-class, essay exam on the regularly scheduled exam day. If you choose this option, you will also be required to do a brief in-class presentation, most likely with another student. In this presentation, you will present your critical reflections, commentary, and questions about one of the articles that is already scheduled on the syllabus. This is an opportunity for you to develop questions that you think it would be interesting to discuss. The presentation should not simply summarize or recount the details of the reading (you are to assume that your classmates have already done the reading). The schedule for these presentations will be devised in the first couple weeks of class.

Option B (Final Paper)

Alternatively, you may choose to write a final paper instead of taking the final. If you choose this option, instead of doing your in-class presentation on an article from the syllabus, you will choose your own topic for presentation. (Again, you can work with a partner on the presentation, though you must write your own final paper.) Your topic for the presentation and final paper should concern some aspect of feminist philosophy that is not already extensively covered on the syllabus. In this sense, it is an "independent research" project. I do, however, expect the final paper to be a "philosophy" paper, in that it must present some sort of original argument. It should not simply be a factual report or summary of your research findings. More specific paper guidelines will be distributed in class, and I will also provide you with some tips on where to begin your research. (I will put a very extensive bibliography of feminist philosophy on reserve for you in the library.) The final paper should be approximately 7-10 pages. It is due at the date and time of the final exam, though you are welcome to turn it in earlier if you prefer. 

Journals

See handout.


Attendance/Class Participation

Because we will be discussing a number of controversial issues, and because your reactions to and questions about the readings are likely to guide our class discussions, it is absolutely essential that you attend class regularly. You should plan to attend all, or nearly all, class meetings. If you have more than three absences in the course of the semester, this portion of your grade will be lowered by .5 for each absence (the only exceptions to this policy are for "excused" absences, for which you need to provide documentation).

Class participation is also important. You are expected to bring the assigned texts to class and to come prepared to engage in discussion. Not understanding a reading is not an excuse for not participating. I welcome all questions, and you should not hesitate to speak up when you find something to be difficult or confusing.

 Other Important Information

Late Policy: All written assignments must be turned in on the day that they are due. For any work that is turned in late, your grade will be reduced by .5 for each 24-hour period that it is late (this period begins at the start of class on the day that the assignment is due). The only exceptions to this are in the case of unusual circumstances, which must be documented, and where the student makes arrangements with me in advance, whenever possible.

Academic Honesty/Plagiarism: Do not plagiarize. Plagiarism will earn you a failing grade in this course. The following are some general examples of plagiarism:

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Students with disabilities should contact the Resource Center for People with Disabilities [353-9642 or 355-1293(TTY)] at the beginning of the semester to develop reasonable accommodations. Please notify me if you have any special requirements or needs of which I should be aware.

 

COURSE SCHEDULE

As the semester progresses, I may make some minor changes in this schedule (these will be announced in class). All readings other than those by Frye, Brantenberg, and Piercy are in the Coursepack. You should have all readings done before class begins on the day for which the readings are scheduled, and you should always bring the readings to class with you.

Introduction: Oppression, Sexism, and Sexual Identity

Tu
Th
Tu


Th
Tu

1/9
1/11
1/16


1/18
1/23

Introduction to course
Frye xi-16 "Introduction" and "Oppression"
Frye, "Sexism," 17-40
Gould, "X, A Fabulous Child's Story"
Frye, "A Note On Anger," 84-94
Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence"
Frye, "Some Reflections on Separatism and Power," 95-108
Crenshaw, "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex"

Feminist Consciousness and Theories of Liberation

Th

Tu

1/25

1/30

Jaggar, "Political Philosophies of Women's Liberation"
Bartky, "Toward a Phenomenology of Feminist Consciousness"
Bartky, "On Psychological Oppression"

 

Racism and Feminism

Th



Tu

2/1



2/6

hooks, "Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory"
Collins, "Mammies, Matriarchs, and Other Controlling Images"
Frye, "On Being White: Toward a Feminist Understanding of Race And Race Supremacy," 110-27.
Lugones and Spelman, "Have We Got a Theory for You! Feminist Theory, Cultural Imperialism, and the Demand for 'The Woman's Voice'"

Work, Class, and Family

Th

Tu

Th

2/8

2/13

2/15

Paper #1 Due
T.B.D.
Albelda and Tilly, "Women, Income, and Poverty: There's a Family Connection"
Allison, "A Question of Class"
Okin, "Vulnerability by Marriage"
Horn, "Beating Back the Revolution: Domestic Violence's Economic Toll on Women"

Egalia's Daughters

Reading this "satire of the sexes" should give you a chance to apply some of the concepts and ideas that we've discussed to a society that, at least on the surface, appears to be very different from our own.

Tu
Th

2/20
2/22

Brantenberg, Egalia's Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes
Brantenberg (cont'd)
Lloyd, "Pre-Theoretical Assumptions in Evolutionary Explanations of Female Sexuality"

Ethics and Care in Relationships

Tu

2/27

Gilligan, "Woman's Place in Man's Life Cycle"
Bartky, "Feeding Egos and Tending Wounds: Deference and Disaffection in Women's Emotional Labor"

Equality and Difference

Th



Tu
Th

3/1



3/6
3/8

MacKinnon, "Legal Perspectives on Sexual Difference"



SPRING BREAK
SPRING BREAK

Multiculturalism and Feminism

Tu

Th

3/13

3/15

Okin, "Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?"
Honig, "My Culture Made Me Do It"
Narayan, "Cross-Cultural Connections, Border-Crossings, and 'Death by Culture': Thinking About Dowry-Murders in India and Domestic- Violence Murders in the United States"

Body Image and the Media

Tu

Th

3/20

3/22

Bartky, "Skin Deep: Femininity as a Disciplinary Regime"
FILM, Still Killing Us Softly
Lemoncheck, "What's Wrong with Being a Sex Object"

Rape

Tu

Th

3/27

3/29

Griffin, "Rape: The All-American Crime"
MacKinnon, "Sex and Violence: A Perspective"
Paper #2 Due
Martin and Hummer, "Fraternities and Rape on Campus"
Pineau, "Date Rape: A Feminist Analysis"

 

Pornography, "Sex Work," and Sexuality

Tu

Th
Tu

4/3

4/5
4/10

Sundahl, "Stripper"
Lederer, "Then and Now: An Interview with a Former Pornography Model"
Longino, "Pornography, Oppression, and Freedom: A Closer Look"
Willis, "Feminism, Moralism, and Pornography"
Duggan, Hunter, and Vance, "False Promises: Feminist Anti-Pornography Legislation"
Lorde, "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power"

Women and "Madness" in Sexist Society

Th

4/12

FILM, Dialogues With Madwomen

Envisioning the Future: A Look at Feminist Utopia and Dystopia

Tu
Th
Tu
Th

4/17
4/19
4/24
4/26

Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time
Piercy, (cont'd)
T.B.D
Wrap-Up

 

FINAL EXAM (or Final Paper Due by 3:00) -- Monday, 4/30 3:00-5:00 p.m.