Course Synopses

01:988:201 Feminist Practices

Feminist practices involve social change projects inside and beyond the academy. Whether within the university or in larger national and global contexts, feminist projects challenge established relations of power, envision alternative possibilities, and act strategically to change social relations. Initially designed to eliminate women’s economic, political, and social subordination, feminist practices have expanded to address injustices grounded in race, ethnicity, gender expression, heteronormativity, religion, sexuality, cissexism, environmental degradation, and geopolitical inequities. This course explores the scope of feminist transformational practices across multiple scales—intimate, communal, grassroots, national, transnational, global, and virtual---and multiple strategies.

The annual 16 Days Campaign against Violence Against Women, campus mobilizations for Trans* equity, the creation of a thrift shop in the poorest neighborhood in Hong Kong, activism against biopiracy, the rural reconstruction movement, the slow food movement, the creation of gender quotas for public office in more than 100 nations, a demand for inclusion at the World Social Forum, the prison abolition movement, Riot Grrrls, the creation of women’s police stations in Brazil, Code Pink, Women in Black, Take-Back-the-Night rallies, transnational campaigns against femicide in Central America, the global campaign for sexual democracy, Sister Namibia’s campaign against political homophobia, the three-year GEAR campaign to establish UN Women, V-Day performances of Vagina Monologues, DIY ‘zines, the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice at the International Criminal Court….all examples of recent and continuing feminist practices. What do these practices have in common? What exactly makes them “feminist?” What is their relation to Women’s and Gender Studies or to knowledge production more generally? This course is designed to explore such questions.

Feminism is a vibrant tradition that has contributed to intellectual ferment, cultural enrichment, and social transformation in all regions of the world for at least five centuries. Feminism is also a highly contested term—meaning very different things to those who caricature and repudiate it and to those who embrace the label. Some define feminism as a network of practices designed to eliminate women’s economic, political, and social subordination. But many men and women endorse those goals while rejecting the feminist label. How do women and men who identify as feminist differ from those who do not? What is at stake in claiming the feminist label?

Learning Goals

This course strives to enable students to develop their talents in oral and written communication and in critical analysis of words and the world. Toward that end, student presentations in class and written assignments are designed to achieve the following learning goals.

  • Enable students to identify, analyze, and critique social, political, and economic hierarchies grounded in race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality.
  • Encourage students to interrogate cultural stereotypes and naturalizations of socially-created differences.
  • Attune students to complexity and variety of women’s and men’s lives and livelihoods around the globe.
  • Cultivate students’ ability to analyze power dynamics from the micro-level to the macro-level.
  • Sensitize students to the politics of issue framing.
  • Foster strong written and oral communication skills.
  • Develop students’ capacities to undertake innovative research and knowledge production.
  • Empower students to devise creative strategies to promote social change.
  • Teach students to collaborate across differences with others in course work, co-curricular activities, and in life.