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Non-fiction Readings for the Intro Course

The following discussion of non-fiction readings for an Intro to Women's 
Studies course took place on WMST-L in April/May 2010.  For more WMST-L
files available on the Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 2010 17:12:09 -0400
From: Kate Dionne <kate.dionne AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Help with text(s) for Intro WS class
I'm teaching our intro WS course this fall and need to select a text or
two.  Sorry for the long explanation below.  I'm hoping to get a few great
suggestions to help me out.

Short list so far:  I'm considering at least one text like "Listen Up!" or
the new "Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists"; I'm also considering
something like "Bitches, Bimbos, and Ballbreakers: The Guerrilla Girls'
Illustrated Guide to Female Stereotypes" and/or "Packaging Girlhood" (both
of which I used in the Pop Culture course).

I can probably only use two to three texts in the class  (as our students
have small budgets and most are not prolific readers; they can manage a
chapter or two a week).  My experience here* (especially in teaching an
advanced Women in Pop Culture course) as well as feedback on how the course
has been taught in the past leads me to the following criteria:

1) the text needs to be affordable
2) it can't assume a high level of academic background (as there are no
pre-reqs for the course and we are an open admission school) or speak in
too-academic language
3) it needs to represent a diversity of feminist perspectives including
feminist disagreement
4) it needs to offer students who are not among the highly privileged a
sense of hope
5) we have no facility to do course packets, so individual readings that are
not already freely legally available online are out

Despite all that, I do want to provide my students with a text that gives
them a rough overview of current US feminist thought, and the sense that
international feminisms exist.  If they also get a basic history of US
feminisms, that's a bonus.

Any ideas or feedback?

Kate Dionne
Central Maine Community College
Auburn, ME

*We're a small community college, with many non-traditional-aged students,
and most students working-class, many with kids, most working at paid jobs
(often more than one paid job).  We get very few non-white students, with
one exception:  we also have a significant local Somali population.
Students' comments about the previous course curriculum seem to suggest that
many of them (even during and after the course) perceive feminism as
monolithic and depressing/victim-centered.  My own undergrad experience of
my WS intro course was that it offered me some sense of hope and power, even
amidst the stress of realizing how pervasive various sorts of "-isms" were.
I'd like to offer my students that along with a solid basic grounding in the
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 2010 15:28:45 -0700
From: Debbie Martin <debralmartin AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: Help with text(s) for Intro WS class
I would suggest Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti. It is a
great book that is an easy read and modern.


When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I
would not have a single bit of talent left and I could say, "I used
everything that you gave me."

- Erma Bombeck
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 2010 06:08:57 -0400
From: Loraine Hutchins <lorainehutchins AT STARPOWER.NET>
Subject: Re: Help with text(s) for Intro WS class
I also teach Intro to Wmst at a community college level.
I've used COLONIZE THIS! successfully and prefer it because it is inclusive
of so many immigrant voices.
I also like bell hooks' "Feminism Is For Everyone," a small reader.  And her
lectures are segmented in short great bites on YouTube.
I'm using Gwyn Kirk and Margo Okazawa-Rey's "Women's Lives" this year. 
It's longer and more academic but has a lot of great readings to pick from
and is multi-cultural/strong.
Also, check out the Shirley Chisolm film, "Unbought and Unbossed," on her
1972 run for presidency.
It was made a few years ago by WGBH/P.O.V., is available for under $10 and
has great PBS-site-study guides and complements contemporary discussion of
women in politics in a powerful way.
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 2010 08:40:27 -0400
From: "Bean, Kellie" <bean AT MARSHALL.EDU>
Subject: Re: Help with text(s) for Intro WS class
I like Feminism is for Everyone and Listen Up! And I know quite a few
WS programs and courses are using my book Post-Backlash Feminism and
sending me positive feedback.
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 2010 07:49:17 -0500
From: "Kane, Kate" <kkane4 AT DEPAUL.EDU>
Subject: Re: Help with text(s) for Intro WS class
I tried Feminism is For Everyone and ended up going back to hooks'
Feminist Theory From Margin to Center.  I feel that she simplified too
much and lost some important interventions in the newer book and while
Feminist Theory is a bit more challenging I have had students complain
about it in the intro class.

I also use Listen Up and I like it, but I constantly want something
more recent.  I also find Colonize This! very effective.

Kate Kane
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 2010 09:11:39 -0400
From: "IVERSON, SUSAN" <siverson AT KENT.EDU>
Subject: Re: Help with text(s) for Intro WS class
in response to Kate Dionne's request: 

I really enjoy using Ehrenreich - accessible, reasonably priced
(paperback), and (i used to teach in maine) one of the chapters
focuses on housekeeping in so.maine:

Ehrenreich, B. (2001).  Nickel and Dimed: On (not) getting by in
America. Metropolitan Books.
I HIGHLY recommend "that takes ovaries". Students loved the essays and
always read from this book. And for me, who required activism, this
gave the students examples of ways to take a stand or engage in acts
of dissent.

Solomon, R. (Ed.). (2002). That takes ovaries! Bold females and their
brazen acts. NY: Three Rivers Press.

i've also used (in different years) and would recommend any of the following - 

Johnson, A. (1997). The gender knot: Unraveling our patriarchal
legacy. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. [more current
edition is available]

hooks, bell (2000). Feminism Is For Everybody. South End Press.
Baumgardner, J. & A. Richards. (2005). Grassroots: A field guide for
feminist action. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Baumgardner, J. & A. Richards. (2000). Manifesta: Young women,
feminism, and the future. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
The following is not "light" reading, but could be timely for spurring
socio-political debate:

Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette (2001). DomTstica: immigrant workers
 cleaning and caring in the shadows of affluence. Berkeley, CA:
 University of California Press.

Finally, an atlas. Colleagues would tell me an atlas should be
optional, but we used 2-3 maps every class and it gave us a clear
visual of the problem. It was an excellent jumping off point for
discussions. [note: a more current edition is now out]

Seager, J. (2003). The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World: Revised
and Updated.  New York: Penguin Books.
Dr. Susan V. Iverson
Assistant Professor
Higher Education Administration & Student Personnel
College of Education, Health, & Human Services
411C White Hall
Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242
Email: siverson  AT   kent.edu
Please consider the environment before printing this email.
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 2010 08:51:20 -0500
From: "Metzo, Christine R." <crmetzo AT STCLOUDSTATE.EDU>
Subject: Re: Help with text(s) for Intro WS class
I second Debbie Martin's suggestion of Full Frontal Feminism by
Valenti. I've used it for about 5 semesters now, and my students
really like it by and large.  I would say this, however: if you've got
a somewhat conservative population, you will find some students
struggle with the straightforwardness her language (she doesn't shy
away from cursing and very candid speech), making them quite
uncomfortable with reading the book.  I'd say 2 out of 25 a semester.
So one strategy I've used to negotiate that was provide students an
opportunity to give a meta-analysis: does the style of the book make
feminism more or less attractive to young women (16-21) and why?  And
we had that discussion in the broader context of the 2nd and 3rd wave
and "post" feminism.  I found that allowed students to express their
concerns and critiques, and then they were able to get past a
preoccupation with that and enjoy the book more in terms of what they
learned about women's lives and feminism.

Dr. Christine Metzo
Assistant Director of First Year and Transition Programs
Adjunct Instructor, Women's Studies Program
St. Cloud State University
720 4th Avenue South
St. Cloud, MN 56301
Date: Sat, 1 May 2010 10:17:31 -0700
From: Shira Tarrant <shira_tarrant AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: Help with text(s) for Intro WS class
Among many titles I've rotated on my syllabus, I've used Bitches,
Bimbos and Ballbreakers as an optional title. Students like it.

I use Colonize This! and it provides a lot of material for
discussion. I was concerned this semester that it might seem dated,
but it holds up.

Despite some mixed feelings, I assigned Valenti's Full Frontal
Feminism for the first time. I was please that the book a)reached some
students who might not have otherwise responded to the issues and
b)provided an opportunity in developing skills in educated critique.

I also used my anthology, Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex and
Power (Routledge). Male students had an opportunity for buy-in and to
see themselves as part of feminist issues. Several of my female
students said they shared the book with men in their lives
(boyfriends, fathers, brothers), and the essays provided an additional
angle on gender justice, men and violence prevention, interrelations
among sexes and genders, etc.

Shira Tarrant
Shira_Tarrant  AT   yahoo.com

Shira Tarrant, PhD 

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