Monday, May 09, 2005


I'm Probably Insane, But...

I'm thinking of working up a course in feminist theory. (Julia here, by the way--you didn't think Winston would be thinking such a thing, did you?) I know I'm probably opening myself up for a great deal of grief and irritation, but I think it's important for students to realize what is actually useful and insightful in feminism, and how to sort the wheat from the chaff. I keep getting cranky with my young feminist students, generally a thoughtful and intelligent bunch overall, who tend to spout a bunch of women's studies truisms without examining the assumptions that underlie them. However, I can't be too cranky if there's nothing out there providing other views, so now I feel obliged to fill the gap. If I don't do it, sure as hell no one else will.

I'm still trying to articulate exactly what such a course would look like and what its objectives would be, as well as what texts I'd use. Thoughts?

That's a great idea. Today's "X Studies" (X = {women's, black, hispanic, asian-american,...}) seem to be little more than "the Other guys have oppressed us, let's see how rotten they really are".

One thing you might focus on is women who have really achieved (like f'r'instance, Condi Rice), women in the sciences like Vera Rubin (astronomy), things like that.

You might even have a unit on how men and women really are different, and what that brings to a family. (Pretty far oiut, but still...)
How about Who Stole Feminism? (by Christina Hoff Summers, I think?) An interesting look at Gender vs. Equity feminism.
Yeah, I really like Sommer's book, though I don't agree with her on absolutely everything. However, I'm pretty much approaching this as a course in feminist literary theory primarily, since my field is literature; given that one of my main arguments against women/gender studies programs is that they generally are dilletante-ish, I feel I should stick to the field I specialize in. What I would like to do is provide an overview of feminist theory generally so as to establish both the diversity of views and the fundamental assumptions and ideologies that underlie them, then move into feminist literary theory as such.
I'm completely out of my league in this sort of conversation and thus unfit to make suggestions, but I will say that as someone who has very little interest in feminist theory, I have always been curious about the pre-20th century history of feminism: Mary Wollstoncraft, John Milton's pamphlets on women and divorce, that sort of thing. If you do offer such a course, your students will definitely benefit from readings that show them that theories about women and society have a long history and did not spring full-grown from the forehead of the 1960s.
Marilyn French's The Women's Room.

Or Sheila Ballantyne's Norma Jean the Termite Queen.

They're fictional stories, and kind of dated, but I'd definitely use one or both of them to talk about the birth of the modern feminist movement.
The Independent Women's Forum web site this month addresses exactly this issue:

good luck!
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