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Introduction to Women’s Studies:
Women, Culture, Power
- Transnational Approach – backwards and outward; historically (diachronically) and
- Exploration of society’s operation in order to facilitate change.
- Feminism: stereotypically connected to “women’s rights, equality, environment,
negative stereotypes of un-femininity, misogynistic, radical, extremists”
o Feminisms: a particular position or stance, (first wave = early 20th century,
suffragettes, fighting for the right to vote, second wave = more organized,
o Multiple global origins: African feminism predates Western feminism,
points of criticisms and differences in feminists, and speaks to the fact
that feminism means different things to each person. Plural, changing
and dynamic as opposed to static, singular and unchanging.
- “The Sacred Hoop” – looking at the concept of feminism through a cultural lens.
Three areas of interrogation:
- Power (history of power relation and structure, how gender and sex can shape our
- Identity & Experience (the range of experience, the importance of a variety of
women being able to speak of these experiences themselves: Audre Lorne)
- Difference (How do we tend to the differences and make connection across the
scope of relations at the same time?)
Sex and Gender:
- Sex: the biological characteristics attributed to male or female identifiers.
- Gender: the assignment of masculine or feminine bodies in a social and cultural
o Causal relationship draw between the two; the idea that the two necessarily
- Passive vs. active: associated with the binary;
o emotional vs. rational; magic vs. science; nature vs. culture, body vs. mind.
[colonialisation – civilised vs. uncivilized] <- the organization of the world,
describing characteristics as definitively male or female,
- Certain cultural, historical and social events are made to appear normal, natural and
inevitable; children’s toys, division of household labours, etc..
- Sex and gender systems change over time; different sex and gender systems have
existed over time.
o “the one sex model” = women and men at one time were considered to be
the same sex, the women’s sexual organs were considered to be the males
organs inside out.
- “ gender as a performance”
o societal expectations, social norms, through shame, intolerance of ambiguity,
systems of power are built into the concepts of sex and gender perpetuating
systems of hierarchy.
- science: always biased?