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Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
The Feminist Critique: The History and Politics of Gender Equality
Have women and men achieved equality in American society or in other parts of the world? What does gender equality mean, and what are the obstacles to achieving it? Why do subjects such as abortion, rape, and even women's education remain controversial? How does gender inequality relate to race, ethnicity, and sexuality? Do feminists want women to be the same as men, or different, or both? Is feminism purely a Western cultural tradition? Have men been feminists? What is a feminist?
To help you tackle these questions and others, The Feminist Critique will explore the long history of ideas about gender and equality. Each week this small discussion class will read, dissect, compare, and critique a set of primary historical documents from around the world, moving from the 15th century to the present. Writers include Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth, John Stuart Mill, Qasim Amin, Audre Lorde, Jonah Gokova, and Gloria Anzaldúa. We will tease out changing arguments about education, the body, sexuality, violence, labor, and politics; map international influences; and work from past dilemmas to future visions.
Each week students write short (2-3 page) papers in response to the readings and raise questions for the class. We will occasionally enact historical debates in character. For the final project, students will work together in small groups and will propose contemporary documents to add to the historical canon. At the end of the course you will have the ability to analyze both past and present conflicts over gender and to propose policy agendas for the future.