POSC 354 - Feminist Political Theory

Winter 2001

Prof. Barbara Allen (ballen@carleton.edu)

Tu Th 12:30-2:15

Willis 408, ext. 4084

SAYL 253

Office Hours

The Course

Feminist political theory concerns not only our understanding of gender relationships, but also the prescriptions for change that engaged feminist theorist/activists recommend for these relationships. Analyses of the construction of gender and its political meaning is intimately tied to our understanding of the meaning of other characteristics of people, such as race and social class, and our analysis of how authority relationships work generally (i.e. politics). In this course we will look at several feminist theories and their antecedents. Rather than trying to find the one True Feminism, we will consider what is offered by the various approaches taken by feminist political philosophers.

Feminism is not simply concerned with the construction of theories. Praxis in terms of a revolutionary consciousness and revolution-making structural changes in the political system are also at the core of feminism as a political theory. Any examination of ideas relating the status of women and the intersection of gender, race, class, and ethnicity to the mechanisms of social, economic, and political processes must, therefore, be evaluated in terms of its logical prescriptions for action, in addition to evaluating its theoretical logic. These theories may also be considered or evaluated in application to one's own situation. How much analytical leverage do you gain in understanding your own life by understanding a particular feminist perspective? One way that we will approach this latter topic is through an analysis of the content of media representations of gender, sex, and sexuality, as an example of using feminist theory to critique a particular aspect of popular culture and its role in our lives.

Requirements and Grading

In addition to appearing in class prepared to discuss the day's readings, you will use one of our author's theoretical frameworks to analyze representations of gender, sex, and sexuality in the mass media. In addition to presenting your research in written form, you will also present your work orally to the class. You will also be asked to lead our class discussion for one session, and, on that day, to write a three page analytical paper discussing our readings. [For me, an analytical paper consists of a thesis, explication of thesis (with evidence and illustrations from the text to back up your claims) and conclusion drawn from this discussion of your thesis. You may discuss all of the readings from the day on which you led discussion, one point in the readings, one reading, whatever you choose. Just state a thesis, lay it out and analyze it, providing evidence, and draw a conclusion.] Your discussion papers will be due in the class meeting following your presentation. Along with the reading assignments listed on this syllabus, you will find various dates on which you will turn in portions of your research project. Please meet these deadlines. Late papers, including drafts of the research project, will receive a grade reduction.

Grades will be computed as follows:

Discussion paper


Written version of media critique


Oral presentation of media critique




Reading Assignments:

Thurs Jan 4 Pre-liberal Political Theory and Women

Arlene Saxonhouse, Women in the History of Political Thought, Ch 1,2,8

Tues Jan 9 Liberalism, Individualism, and Women

Kate Millett, Sexual Politics, Ch 1,2

*********** Media and Sexual Politics Discussion and Assignment **************

Thurs Jan 11 Liberalism, Sexual Politics and Race

Bell Hooks, Ain't I a Woman? Ch 1,4

Tues Jan 16 Existentialism, the Individual and Women's Situation (s)

Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex Intro, Ch 2,9; Hooks Ch 5

*********** Media Critique Proposal Due **********************************

Thurs Jan 18 Views of the Individual and Liberation:

Identity Politics 1

Beauvoir, Ch 25, conclusion

Hooks Ch 5

Phelan Ch 1, 2, Interlude 1

*********** Data Collection for Media Critique ******************************

Tues Jan 23 Individual Liberation and Relationships of Care

Carol Gilligan In a Different Voice Ch 1,5,6

___. Mapping the Moral Domain Ch 1

Thurs Jan 25 Socialist-Feminism, Dialectical Critique of

Women's Estate -- social class

From Karen Hansen and Ilene Philips eds.

Women, Class, and the Feminist Imagination

Zillah Eisenstein, "Constructing a Theory of Capitalist Patriarchy"

Barbara Ehrenreich, "Life Without Father: Reconsidering Socialist Feminist Theory"

*********** Synopsis of Media Data Due in Class ****************************

Tues Jan 30 Neo-Marxian, Neo-Freudian Critique

(Please note these readings deal with Freud who discusses the "incest taboo" as metaphor and fact in culture)

In Hansen & Philips, Juliet Mitchell "Women: The Longest Revolution"

Juliet Mitchell, Psychoanalysis and Feminism Pt 1, Sec 1

Recommended Herbert "Marcuse, Marxism and Feminism"

If you've never read Freud, try Civilization and its Discontents and "The psychology of Women," in New Introductory Lectures

Thurs Feb 1 Psychos and Feminism 2

Mitchell Pt 1 sec 2 Ch 2,5,6,10,11

Tues Feb 6 Psychoanalysis, Structuralism and Feminism

Mitchell Pt 2 sec 2 Ch 1,6, conclusion

If you've never read any structural anthropology try Claude Levi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology pp. 1-62

*********** Draft of Theoretical Framework Due in Class ***********************

Thurs Feb 8 Psychoanalytic Critique of Mitchell

Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering Ch 2, 6 7-10, 12

Tues Feb 13 Psychoanalysis, Post-structuralism and gals

Luce Irigaray The Speculum of the Other Woman

Science's Unknown, The Little Girl

Penis-envy, An impractical sexual relationship

Any theory, Life in Philo, Divine Knowledge,

An unarticulated . . . split between, Return

to Father, Woman's Jouissance

If you're excited by the post structuralists try Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Pt 2 Ch 1,2; Pt 5

Thurs Feb 15 Feminist Ethics 1

Mary Daly Gyn/ecology Ch 1,2

Adrienne Rich Of Woman Born, 1-4, 10

*********** Draft of Media Critiques Due in Class **************************

*********** One Copy to Me; One Copy for Your Group *********************

Tues Feb 20 Feminist Ethics 2

Sarah Hoagland Lesbian Ethics 1-3

Thurs Feb 22 Feminist Ethics 3

Sarah Hoagland Lesbian Ethics 4-6

Tues Feb 27 Identity Politics and the Plural Self: Multiculturalism?

Phelan (specific) 3, 4

Thurs Mar 1 Beyond Identity Politics

Phalen (specific) 7, 8, interlude II

Young 1-3

Tues Mar 6 Identity and Policy

Phalen (fire) 1, 3, 7; Young 5 - 7

Tues June 3 Media Critique Presentations

********** Final Version of Media Critique Due in Class ****************