Women’s Studies 101

Introduction to Women’s Studies

Women’s Studies began in the 1970s as an academic field committed to uncovering the realities of women’s lives, understanding the nature of women’s oppression, and charting paths to significant social change. Over the course of several decades of interdisciplinary women’s studies scholarship, the scope of the field has both shifted and expanded considerably. Women’s studies scholars working in and across the humanities, the social sciences, and the sciences have traced myriad lines of inquiry from those first questions about women to investigations into the very nature of gender identity; its intersection with other axes of difference such as class, race, and sexuality; and its intimate connection with what at first seemed to be unrelated forms of power, knowledge, and practice. This course introduces the dynamic and still changing field of women’s studies scholarship.

We will consider the value of gender as an analytic category for understanding women’s lives and the worlds they inhabit. But we will also consider the limitations and dangers of an exclusive focus on gender. The intersections among gender, race, class, and sexuality in various contexts, past and present, will be central to our inquiry.. How feminist theory has developed, and how it is practiced in various local and international contexts, are also on our agenda for the semester.


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