WMST 101:  Requirements


Ø      Dialogue Journal (25% of Final Grade)

Ø      Oral History Project (25%)

Ø       Group Project on International Women's Issue (25%)

Ø      Final Reflection Essay (25%)




Oriental poppies by Georgia O'Keefe                                          

                                                            Description | Syllabus |Links  


Dialogue Journal


Each week when there is not another major assignment due, you will write a 1-2 page typed response in which you will grapple with the issues raised by the readings.  Consult syllabus for due dates and specific readings.  At the beginning of each class, you will exchange journals so that you can share your reactions with another member of the class and then get some written responses from him or her.  The dialogue journal affords you the opportunity to explore in greater depth your own questions and convictions about the readings and to share your thinking with each other and with me in greater detail than is possible during class discussion.  To examine sample students' dialogue journals, click on the following link:  SAMPLE STUDENT DIALOGUE JOURNALS.


Each week, focus your journal on the central issue that is the "theme" for that week.  In exploring that theme in your reflection, bring in as many of the readings as you can.  You may focus primarily on the ones that had the most impact for you--either because you agreed or disagreed with them--but you should also demonstrate that you can integrate the other readings into your thinking even if you only mention them by way of example.  I would like you to try to deal explicitly with at least 60 % of the assigned readings if you wish to receive the assessment of "excellent."  When we read several titles for one week, try to discuss that percentage of them if you wish to achieve an "excellent."  When we read just one or two texts, be sure that you demonstrate you have read the whole text--beginning, middle, and end; discuss the whole text, not just the beginning.  Shoot for the maximum of two pages of reflection if you wish to receive the highest assessment level.  The journal is your opportunity to create your own comprehensive understanding of the issue addressed each week in view of the assigned readings.


In writing your journal response, you should do the following (not necessarily in any particular order):


Ø      Reflect briefly on the central issue or issues for that week.

Ø      Bring into your reflection several of the readings.  When you look at each reading, state what you think the main point of the reading is.  Indicate any assumptions the writer makes about the issue for that week, about women's roles, or about what it means to be a woman.

Ø      Explain how each reading confirms or contradicts some of the other readings.  What does it add to the conversation that the other readings might overlook?  How does it support or challenge other pieces we've read, our class discussions over the semester, or thinking you've developed from other sources including your own experiences?

Ø      Explain your own view.  How has this reading AND the whole set taken together affected your understanding of the issues they raise?  How have they challenged, confirmed, extended, or qualified your own prior knowledge?


Each dialogue journal should be 1-2 typed pages.  Do a spelling and grammar check before submitting your work.   Write clearly and coherently so that your journal partner and I can read your thinking with ease. 


If you want to know how much time to spend on the journals, think in terms of about three or four hours to complete the reading and about two hours of thinking, writing, proof-reading, and final editing each week.  You should plan to devote about six hours each week outside of class to your work for this course.


Assessment Criteria


Ø      I will not put letter grades on your weekly dialogue journal reflections, but I will read and respond to them, using assessment measures of Excellent, Very Good, Good, or Okay.  I will use the following assessment system when responding to each journal:


Ø      Excellent means that the journal demonstrates outstanding engagement with all the readings.  The entry is exceptionally thoughtful and comprehensive in bringing in many of the readings and the student's own reflections and experiences.  When more than one essay is assigned, the analysis includes explicit reference to at least 60% of the assigned titles. When only one text is assigned, the journal deals with the entire assigned text, beginning, middle and end.  The writing is clear, coherent, and technically correct.


Ø      Very Good means that the journal demonstrates strong engagement with most of the readings.  The entry is careful in its thought and attempts to bring most of the readings as well as the student's own reflections and experiences.  The analysis includes explicit reference to at least 50% of the assigned titles.  When only one text is assigned, the journal deals with the entire text.  The writing is usually clear, coherent, and technically correct.


Ø      Good means that the journal demonstrates average or competent engagement with a few of the readings, though not enough to show a comprehensive grasp of the materials.  The thinking needs fuller development, and the student needs to offer more of his or her own reflections and experiences. The analysis includes explicit reference to at least 40% of the assigned titles.   When only one text is assigned, the journal deals with the most of the text, although not as comprehensively as could be.  The writing may impede a reader's comprehension at times.


Ø      Okay means that the journal is too short to develop ideas, strays from the point, or does not adequately demonstrate that the student has read all the readings.  The analysis includes explicit reference to less than 40% of the assigned titles. When only one text is assigned, the journal does not adequately deal with the whole text, beginning, middle, and end.  The writing presents so many technical or grammatical problems that it is difficult to grasp the point.


Oral History Project:  Interview with an Older Woman and Formal Essay


The purpose of this project is to afford you the opportunity to tap into the vast treasure trove of experiences, knowledge, and wisdom available to you from an older woman in your family, extended family or community.  Choose a subject whose oral history serves as an inheritance for you and others--someone whose history should be preserved for future generations. Your interviewing will culminate in a 5-page typed essay.  The essay will be due on roughly the fifth or sixth week of the semester.  No other writing will be due that week.   In the coming weeks, I will distribute some guidelines for successful interviewing and for writing a paper based on interviews.  CLICK HERE to see examples of students' oral history essays.


You will interview your subject to learn more about her life, her insights about being a woman, and the times through which she lived.  You will interview her to find out how she believes her life was shaped because she is a woman; how it was affected by the social, economic, and political conditions that touched other women of her generation; how her experiences as a woman changed over time; and how her experiences might reflect those of other women of her social class, region, age, race, ethnicity, physical ability, or national origin.  Keep the focus of your questions on her reflections about her experiences as a girl and later as a woman.  Try to learn from her about her attitudes toward gender and her experiences as a woman.


As you ask your subject questions about the various stages of her life, it might be helpful to encourage her to remember specific experiences that offer good examples of what it was like to be a woman at different points of her life:  from childhood, through education, through living a single life and sharing friendships, through family life or other forms of intimate partnerships, and into later years of life.  Also be sure to ask your subject to reflect upon how her own experiences may have been shared by other women of her own background, culture, class, ethnicity, or race.


You should ask her about her childhood and the roles or expectations placed upon her as a girl child by her family and community.  What were her experiences at school and in her community as she grew up female?  You might ask her if one experience stands out with particular clarity when she thinks about what it meant to be a girl in the times when she was growing up.


What kind of paid or unpaid work did she do after her schooling?  You might ask her if one experience stands out with particular clarity when she thinks about what it was like to be a woman in the workforce and if she thinks there are any differences for women in the workforce today. 


Has she chosen to spend parts of her life single, married, in same-sex relationships or partnerships?  Did she have children?  If so, how did she wish to raise her children in terms of gender expectations and the kind of male or female she wished her children to be?  If she had girl children, did she raise them differently than she had been raised?  You might ask her if she remembers one experience that captures what it was like to be a woman living in her generation and sharing her life with friends, lovers, spouses, and family.


What major historical events or movements in American social and political life had an impact on your subject’s life especially as a woman?  Think about events like the Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the McCarthy Era and the 1950s, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, the sexual revolution of the 60s, the Viet Nam War, etc.


What does she think about the lives of younger women today?  In what ways does she think they are similar to, or different from, her own when she was younger?  What were her hopes and dreams as a younger woman?  How were they fulfilled or changed over time?  What does she think about the hopes and dreams of younger women today?


What does she think about growing old in our society?  How does aging have an impact on her life especially because she is a woman?  Ask her if one experience stands out in her mind when she thinks about what it means to be growing older.

What is it about her life that gives her the greatest peace or satisfaction?  What would be the one most important insight or piece of advice she might give to younger people, particularly from her experiences as a woman?


Format for your Paper


Ø      You should introduce the person whose oral history you are recording and explain your relationship to her.

Ø       Provide a full account of your interview, using direct quotations from your subject and descriptions of her, her surroundings, and your interactions.  If you are doing phone or mail interviews, you will not be able to describe the interview, but you can provide descriptions of this person as you know her.

Ø      Analyze the interview material you have gathered in terms of what it suggests about women's lives; how they are affected by gender expectations, class, race, sexual orientation, region, ethnicity, physical ability or any other factors.  You should analyze how your subject's perceptions of her expected roles may have changed over time.  Analyze how women's roles and the gender expectations placed upon them have or have not changed over the course of your subject's lifetime.

Ø      Reflect on how you understand your subject's life.  What gender patterns or other social conditions do you think her life reflects?  What does her life tell us about other women's lives in general or about women who share her background, culture, class, ethnicity, or race.


It is essential that you analyze your interview material not simply report it.  Your analysis should focus on gender considerations and your subject's life.  You should also reflect on your interview and offer your own reactions to your subject's life, her experiences and her thinking.  ANALYSIS AND REFLECTION are crucial to this assignment. Your essay should not be merely a factual report of what your subject said; it should be a thoughtful analysis of her thinking and reflection upon it.


Assessment Criteria


 I will assess these papers according to the following criteria:


Ø      how thoughtfully you analyzed the gender issues that your subject’s experiences and her ideas about them raised;

Ø      how specifically you explained her experiences and her own ideas about them;

Ø      how specifically you used her own words to illustrate your ideas;

Ø      how fully you explored her thinking about gender and her own experiences as a woman;

Ø      how successfully you made your subject come to life; how specifically you described her appearances and narrated your interactions with her; how fully you captured her "essence" as you see it;

Ø      how clear, coherent, and correct your writing is.



Web-Based Group Project on International Women's Activism to Promote Change


Using the Worldwide Web to connect you with international scholars and activist working to end the oppression of women, you will research one issue of concern to women in a particular region of the world.  The objective of the project is to inform the class about a particular social, political, economic, or cultural issue that adversely affects the lives of women AND the kinds of actions that women are taking to address the issue and promote positive change.  We want to develop an understanding of how women are engaging in powerful actions to make the world a more just and humane place. 


You will work with a group of other students (3-4 depending upon course enrollment) to collect information, decide upon presentation formats, and present your findings to the rest of the class.  In the coming weeks, I will provide a web page of links to research sites on the Worldwide Web.  These will provide a starting point for your research on each of the following topics.  The due dates for each of the following suggested project topics will vary so that we can coordinate the projects with the readings and issues we will be examining.


As the course progresses, we will work on strategies for assessing Web sources, discerning their biases, and determining their scholarly rigor.


Your presentation may use a number of formats:  web-based or PowerPoint presentations, lecture/discussion, panel discussion, poster presentations, video clips, audio tapes, round table discussions, interactive activities to get the whole group involved, etc.  Every presentation MUST include a Works Cited document or page on which you list all the sources you used for information AND for ALL VISUAL IMAGES or OTHER MEDIA used in your presentation.  PowerPoint presentations will include a works cited page as your final slide.  In addition, each slide in a PowerPoint presentation should list the source of the information or images contained in that slide at the bottom of the slide.  Web-based presentations must also include a final works cited page.


The purpose of this activity is to afford you the opportunity to make connections between the issues we are reading about in class and the real-life situations of women around the world.  The projects are intended to broaden our global perspective for the course.  As such, they are essential to the work we do together.  Your contributions are invaluable to us as we begin to examine the lives of women globally.


Some possible subjects include (but are not limited to): 


The historical role of women in the Civil Rights Movement in the U. S.


The demonstrations by Nigerian women to demand jobs for their families in their oil-rich but poverty stricken region of Nigeria.


Human rights violations in Guatemala and the resistance of indigenous peoples—like Rigoberta Menchu--against the government.


Human rights violations in Argentina, the use of “disappearance,” torture and rape during the "Dirty War" of the government upon its own people; the resistance/activism of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo to demand the return of their children alive or at least the truth about where their bodies were dumped.


Human rights violations in Chile under the Pinochet regime; U. S. CIA support of the Pinochet coup and dictatorship; the resistance of Chilean women to the dictatorship through their political tapestries (arpilleras), their work in soup kitchens, and their demand for the return of their children whom the dictatorship kidnapped, tortured, and “disappeared.”


Female genital mutilation and international activism by women of various cultures to end the practice.


Surgical intervention to alter the genitalia of intersexed individuals and the activism of intersexuals to promote informed consent before any such radical sexual surgery.


Ethnic cleansing, the use of rape as a systematic part of war in Bosnia or Yugoslavia or Rwanda (or elsewhere) and the work of women activists to help women survive rape and/or to bring war criminals to international tribunals of justice.


The work of international women activists to secure the passage of the international charter, calling for the end of all forms of discrimination and violence against women worldwide.


The maquiladora (sweatshop) industry in Central and Latin America, sweatshops in the Pacific-Asian Rim or other parts of the world (including the U.S.); the effects of a globalized economy upon women and children; and the activism of women labor organizers in the maquiladora sector or other sweatshops to end the exploitation of labor.


Sex tourism, the sexual exploitation of women and children in various places in the world; the trafficking in women for sexual uses in various places (e.g. mail-order brides for Western men, or personal “escorts” for Western men on sex tours, the impact of  prostitution promoted by U. S. military bases in the Philippines, Okinawa or other countries ).  Be sure to focus also on the activism of women to end the exploitation of the international sex trade.


Global hunger or lack of health care as feminist and human rights issues; the work of women to combat world hunger and disease.


Reproductive rights as a global human rights issue; access to sex education, family planning, contraception, and protection from sexually transmitted diseases; women’s historical struggle since the early twentieth century to achieve reproductive rights, contraception, safe and legal abortions.


The Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States—the historical struggle of women to achieve the vote.


Domestic abuse in the U.S.; the battered women’s movement and activism to empower women and to change laws (the Defense of Women Act and the Supreme Court decision to limit its effectiveness)


Women in the U. S. labor movement and their historical role in the struggle for workers’ rights


The role of women in the Pittston Strike in West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.  The Daughters of Mother Jones and their active non-violent resistance in the strike. 


The work of Code Pink, a U. S. women’s peace activist group, that is resisting the present U. S. policy of waging “pre-emptive” wars of choice rather than wars of necessity because of an immediate military threat to U. S. security.


Final Reflection Essay:  What is Women's Studies?  What is Feminism? What Difference Does it Make?


This final assignment affords you the opportunity to reflect on how the feminist knowledge you have acquired this semester has shaped your thinking about gender and about women's lives across a range of cultures and throughout the world.  The essay will constitute a synthesis of your reflections on the readings and group presentations, the issues they raise, and your own experiences as a woman or man in society and as a student of women's studies.  CLICK HERE to read the assignment.  The essay will be 5 typed pages.   The essay will be due on the last night of class.

Description | Syllabus |Links