WMST 101:  Women in the World--

Introduction to Women's Studies


Requirements | Syllabus | Links




     White Camellia by Georgia O'Keefe


Professor Moira P. Baker

406 Young Hall


831-5352 (Office) 731-4104 (Home)

Office Hours:  T,W,R:  5:00-6:15 and by appointment

To e-mail the class, click on our mailbox to right:


Radford University Women’s History Month Calendar of Events—March 2007


"Most of all, I have tried to understand the politics of they, why human beings fear and stigmatize the different while secretly dreading that they might be one of the different themselves.  Class, race, sexuality, gender--and all the categories by which we categorize and dismiss each other--need to be excavated from the inside. [...] To resist destruction, self-hatred, or life-long hopelessness, we have to throw off the conditioning of being despised, the fear of becoming the they that is talked about so dismissively, to refuse lying myths and easy moralities, to see ourselves as human, flawed, and extraordinary.  All of us--extraordinary."

from Dorothy Allison, "A Question of Class" (Skin 35-36)

Course Description, Policies and Required Texts:


What is Women's Studies?  What, for that matter, is a "woman"?  What is feminism--or should that be feminisms?  How do cultural assumptions about gender shape both female and male individuals? How do a culture's belief systems, unexamined assumptions, and social institutions justify the oppression of women? How do assumptions about race, social class, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability intersect in women's lives to render more complex the discrimination they face each day?  How might we be unconsciously complicit in institutions that benefit ourselves at the expense of other women and men?   How do global and multicultural perspectives affect our understanding of all these questions?


This course sets out, rather ambitiously, to ask these questions, recognizing that there are as many answers to them as there are feminist scholars and activists working in the field of Women's Studies. The course readings, activities, films, and discussions offer myriad perspectives on such issues as the social shaping of gender and gender identity; the construction of knowledge within academic disciplines; the body, sexuality, and sexual politics; the consequences of economic institutions on women's lives; and the impact of a globalized economy on women.  The feminist scholars and activists whom we will read may differ in their conclusions about these concerns because of their varying experiences of social class, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, or physical ability.  The conviction that unites them, however, is that all women--indeed all people--have the right to live with dignity and self-determination. The commitment they share is that academic work--the work of the classroom, and the library, and the laboratory--should make the world a more just and humane place.


I would like to invite you to join in dialogue with these scholars and activists as they both challenge and confirm some of your own beliefs.  As in all academic disciplines, the work in Women's Studies is rigorous and demanding.  You should plan to spend about six hours each week outside of class preparing your assignments for the next week and working on your major papers and projects.  I ask you to open yourselves to the ideas of others and to respect the many differences that we will find among ourselves.  In this way, we can participate in the construction of feminist knowledge aimed at understanding all women's positions in the world in the interest of justice and equality.


WMST 101, Women in the World, serves as the required foundational course for the minor in Women's Studies.  Because of its interdisciplinary nature and its concern with gender issues from multicultural and global perspectives, it is of interest to students in a variety of fields, such as nursing and allied health fields, education, sociology, psychology, criminal justice, history, English, foreign languages and literatures, media studies, visual and performing arts, political science, communication sciences and disorders, physical and health education, recreation and tourism, biology, and a number of concentrations in business.


This course fulfills the general education requirement in Area Five:  International and Multicultural Studies. 


The Minor in Women's Studies


The minor in Women's Studies offers students a range of courses forming a program with an interdisciplinary emphasis on women, the contributions they have made to society, and the effects of gender inequality.  The program provides opportunities to become acquainted with the scholarship that has developed during the last twenty-five years focusing on both the specifics of women's lives and gender as a category of analysis. For information about the minor in Women's Studies, visit Radford University's Women's Studies web site at:  http://www.radford.edu/~wstudies


The Center for Gender Studies


Located on the lower level of 704 Clement St., the Center for Gender Studies houses a library of books and tapes about gender and women's issues.  A place of active research and scholarship on gender, the Center works with the Women's Studies minor to sponsor programs on campus and to promote scholarship on women.  Each year the Center sponsors the Radford University Student Research Conference on Gender, which provides students throughout the region an opportunity to present their work. Visit the Center's web site at: http://www.radford.edu/~gstudies



Course Policies:


Lively, Respectful Dialogue


Dialogue and collaboration are the heart of a feminist pedagogy aimed at the empowerment of all students. Our work together relies upon an honest, open, and respectful dialogue so that all students feel free to express their views. Here are just a few guidelines to facilitate our conversations each week:


1)  Be willing to share your ideas and experiences with others, even though you may feel your ideas are "different."

2)  Don't EVER think that what you have to say is stupid, dumb, silly, or, well, whatever ...

3)  If you are a reserved person who finds conversing in a group difficult, force yourself to join the dialogue.

4)  Be respectful of the ideas and experiences of others, even though you feel they are "different" from your own.

5)  Listen respectfully, not interrupting, and reserving judgment until you have attempted to hear what another has to say.

6)  If you are an outgoing person, who finds conversing in a group relatively easy, hold back a little and give others a chance to speak

7)  If you find yourself dominating the conversation, speaking repeatedly to "win your point" while most of the others in the class remain silent, remember that our purpose is not to "win" debates but to openly air differing ideas and to learn from each other.

8)  Don't assume that because people are quiet they have nothing to say and that you have to "fill the gap" by speaking.  The best way to fill an uncomfortable gap is to ask others what they think.

9)  Don't assume that silences are unproductive.  Give people time to think.  If you're uncomfortable with silences, remember that others need more time to formulate their ideas--or to dare to speak up.


The main watchwords to guide our dialogue are:  respect for the ideas of others and regard for their feelings.  It is possible to be honest with others without doing violence to their feelings.  There will be many times when we disagree with each other in this course.  That's an essential part of the learning process.  But let us resolve to both agree and disagree with each other respectfully, with a deep concern for the thoughts, feelings, and dignity of others.




Regular attendance and thoughtful participation in class discussion are essential not only to your individual performance, but also to the success of this course.  Collaboration in every phase of the course is essential if we are to form an intellectual community whose insights and power surpass those of any one of us working on our own.  We are all subjects who share the responsibilities of teaching and learning in this class.  Each of us has a responsibility to the group and to the learning that goes on in class.


Therefore, more than 1 absence will affect the final grade adversely.  More than three absences will result in automatic failure of the course. 


Late Work and Requests for Extensions


I do not accept late Dialogue Logs; however, if you miss a class, I will accept your dialogue log for that class at our next class meeting but no later


Late submission of the Oral History or Final Reflection essay will result in a lowering of the letter grade by .5 for every day beyond the due date.


Failure to participate in the Group Project for which you volunteer will result in a failure on that assignment.

In the event of extreme circumstances, such as sickness, family tragedy, or an emergency, I can be reasonable about deadlines and the possibility of extensions.  But you must request an extension on your work prior to the due date. I may grant an extension provided you have a legitimate reason.  You can contact me via e-mail or phone.  I will not grant any extensions of deadlines if you do not request one prior to the due date.



The University Affairs Council has asked all faculty members to include the following statement in our course policies:


"By accepting admission to Radford University, each student makes a commitment to understand, support, and abide by the University Honor Code without compromise or exception.  Violations of academic integrity will not be tolerated.  This class will be conducted in strict observance of the Honor Code.  Please refer to your Student Handbook for details."


Plagiarism--including the use of work submitted to another course without the consent of both instructors, the use of work by another person, or the use of someone else's words, ideas, or arrangement of ideas without giving proper reference to the author--is a serious violation of the Honor Code.  This applies to all electronic web sites found on the Worldwide Web or on amy on-line databases such as those available through McConnell Library (InfoTrac, JStor, Project Muse).  Please see the section on plagiarism in your Student Handbook.  Do not use Cliffs Notes or Spark Notes for any of the texts assigned for class.  Your dialogue logs should reflect your own ideas in your own words.  The same is true of your Oral History Essay and your Final Reflection essay.


Required Texts:


Allison, Dorothy.  Bastard Out of Carolina.  New York:  Plume, 1993. 


Menchu, Rigoberta.  I, Rigoberta Menchu.  New York:  Verso, 1984


Kesselman, Amy, Lily McNair and Nancy Schniedewind.  Women:  Images and Realities.  4th Edition.  Mountainview, CA: 


Mayfield, 2007.




Requirements | Syllabus | Links