Gsws 0200: 1050 Sex, Race, and Popular Culture Spring 2016 Course Syllabus Tuesdays & Thursdays, 11: 00 – 12: 15pm

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GSWS 0200:1050 Sex, Race, and Popular Culture

Spring 2016 Course Syllabus

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 11:00 – 12:15pm

407 Cathedral of Learning

INSTRUCTOR: Emily Deering Crosby

E-MAIL:; allow 24 hours for response

OFFICE LOCATION: 402 CL, middle cubicle (follow mailbox signs)

OFFICE HOURS: Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:00-2:00pm and by appointment

COURSE ATTRIBUTES: Fulfills Social Science “Gen Ed” requirement

This course considers how popular culture provides us with the scripts to practice femininities, masculinities, and sexualities, and how these practices are infused with race and class. It also examines how we exchange knowledge about race and gender through popular culture. Through examples from U.S., Western, and “global” culture, we will study the tremendous influence that popular culture, in the form of music, films, television, print media, and communication technologies, has on our identities, perceptions, values, and everyday lives. We will investigate questions like: How do the culture industries reinforce racial and sexual domination? How do racially and sexually marginalized groups use popular culture to subvert existing social hierarchies? This course makes especially strong use of images, music, media clips, and websites during class discussions and as part of class assignments. To get the most out of this course, stay up-to-date on the readings and engage with your peers during class.


Online articles and scanned book chapters available on our CourseWeb site under “Readings” tab


By the end of the semester, you will be able to:

Use readings in feminist and critical race theory to systematically analyze popular culture around you.

Explain how pop-cultural practices, tastes, and expressions reproduce race, gender, sexuality, and class.

Describe how socially marginalized people use popular culture to advance consciousness and change.

Propose analytic arguments about popular culture in a way that is accessible to a diverse audience.


Thought Cards: A thought card is due in every class there is assigned reading. On a 3x5 notecard simply write:

  1. one “takeaway” or main argument from the assigned reading, or main theme that linked 2 or more readings.

  2. A new term or concept pertinent to the reading, defined in your own words

  3. A class question or comment to spur dialogue with your peers or a question for your instructor, which should not require merely a yes or no answer (20 at 5 points each=100 points)

Midterm Exam (125 points): An in-class midterm exam will be administered during class. It will cover the first half of class. This exam will likely have a multiple choice, matching, and short answer/essay section.

Final Exam (150 points): An in-class final exam will be administered during our last class. It will be cumulative. This exam will likely have a multiple choice, matching, and short answer/essay section.

Professionalism (100 points): This includes attendance, in-class participation, classroom focus, completion of work and readings on time, submission of college-level work, and use of appropriate online and in-class communication with the instructor and your peers. You are allowed two “unexcused” absences. Beyond that, your professionalism grade will reflect your absences. Two late arrivals or early departures equal one absence.

Critical Media Analysis (100 points): Each student will prepare a polished 7-8 minute presentation in which they analyze a popular cultural artifact, of their choosing, from a critical perspective. This perspective can invoke issues of class, sexuality, gender, or in any combination to formulate an intersectional analysis. We will spend class time talking about this assignment at length. Start thinking early about a TV show, toy, video game, performance, advertisement, novel, media event, film, character, etc. that you would like to explore more deeply using academic scholarship and your own critical eye to formulate an argument and defend it. This presentation will be in front of your peers and a brief question and answer period will follow the presentation. A visual aid is required.

GSWS Event (25 points): You are required to attend one event hosted or co-hosted by the GSWS Program. A list of events is available on our Coursweb site. Within one week of attending, please write a type 1-2 page response (double spaced) that offers details of the event and two specific connections to things we discussed or read about in class. This should not be a weak “book report” but a reflection on the meanings and themes of an event, read as a text.



Points Earned

Critical Media Analysis


Thought Cards (20 @ 5 pts)


Midterm Exam


Final Exam




1 GSWS Event Reflection





% Limits
























Below 60%


  • Whenever possible, try to begin comments with sincere affirmation of the other

(e.g., “Sam made a great point when she said . . .” “I liked how Kevin noticed that . . .”)

  • Avoid generalizations about others

  • Avoid essentializing by assuming that certain experiences are universal

  • Stay focused on academic issues, not people

  • Use “I” language

  • Support your position with class notes or course texts. You can also refute this information with course concepts. I welcome respectful disagreements and deliberation as a form of learning.

  • Write and speak thoughtfully to avoid any dismissive or misunderstood messages. If an online or classroom interaction is unpleasant, talk to your instructor after/before class. Try to resist defensiveness.

  • Maintain a climate of civility where all participants can feel comfortable expressing their views without fear of reprimand. Again, I welcome discussion, disagreements, and intellectual growth by thinking in new ways.

  • Avoid personal revelations and anecdotes unless they are relevant to course topics and you are absolutely confident that you are comfortable sharing your personal experiences in class or on-line


  • Disability Statement: If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and Disability Resources and Services, 140 William Pitt Union, 412-648-7890 or 412-383-7355 (TTY) as early as possible in the term.

  • Academic Integrity: Students in this course will be expected to comply with the University of Pittsburgh's Policy on Academic Integrity. Any student suspected of violating this obligation for any reason will be required to participate in the procedural process, initiated at the instructor level, as outlined in the University Guidelines on Academic Integrity. If you are caught cheating or plagiarizing, you will receive a zero and may be subjected to the proceedings outlined by the University of Pittsburgh academic integrity policy. To see the full list of violations:

  • Gender Inclusive Language: Language is gender-inclusive and non-sexist when we use words that affirm and respect how people describe, express, and experience their gender. Gender-inclusive/non-sexist language acknowledges people of any gender (for example, first year student versus freshman, chair versus chairman, humankind versus mankind, etc.). It also affirms non-binary gender identifications, and recognizes the difference between biological sex and gender expression. Students may share their preferred pronouns and names, and these gender identities and gender expressions should be honored. For more information, visit:

  • Recording: You are not allowed to record classroom discussions or lectures.

  • Late Assignments: All assignments must be completed to receive course credit; however, late assignments will receive points equal to a “C” or below at the instructor’s discretion. Make-up exams require a medical excuse from a physician, detailing that it was impossible for the student to be in class. If you know you will not be in class, e-mail the instructor your assignment before the start of class to ensure that the work is not counted late. This also applies to situations when adverse weather keeps the student from attending class.

  • Attendance: You are allowed 2 unexcused absences. Beyond that, you will lose 20 points/absence. Two late arrivals or early departures equal one absence. Success starts by showing up.

  • Cell Phones/Technology: Please silence or turn off your cell phones. If you are monitoring an emergency situation, please notify the instructor. Laptops are allowed in class as long as they are not a hindrance or distraction to you or your peers.

  • Computer Caution: Please allow time to get electronic assignments done and “backup your work” on a flash drive, in Pitt Box, in Dropbox, or simply email it to yourself to ensure that if your computer crashes, work will not be lost.

Note: The day readings and assignments are listed are the day they are due

All readings are available on CourseWeb

Additional/Different readings may be assigned and will be made available on CourseWeb

*The instructor reserves the right to alter and update the syllabus; updated versions will be available on CourseWeb

Week One: Introductions
Th 1/7 Course introduction; Discuss the syllabus

Activity: Seeking common ground

Week Two: What is Culture and who creates it?
T 1/12 Discuss: Defining culture; What is popular culture? How does it shape our lived reality?

Read: Storey, “What is Popular Culture?”

Watch: Miss Representation (film) for the remainder of class

Th 1/14 *Thought card #1 due

Watch: Finish the film

Discuss: Foundations of respectful cultural critique and academic inquiry

Read: Alcoff, “The Problem with Speaking for Others”

Brainstorm examples of when we speak for others

Week Three: Intersectionality and how to recognize Cultural Appropriation
T 1/19 *Thought card #2 due
Read: Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color” (this article is long and from the Stanford Law Review)

Exercise: How to recognize intersections of identity; “Asking the other question”

Th 1/21 *Thought card #3 due
Discuss: Cultural Appropriation, Cultural Assimilation, Cultural Exchange

Read: Brown & Kopano, Soul Thieves: Appropriation and Misrepresentation of African American Popular Culture, “Preface” and “Introduction”

Watch: Thicke, “Blurred Lines,” Cyrus, “We Can’t Stop,” Perry, “This is How We Do”

Watch: Amandla Stenberg, “What if America loved black people as much as they loved black culture?”

Aaliyah Jihad, TED Talk “Why Your Pocahontas Costume Isn’t Okay” (minute 6:39)
Week Four: Gender, Whiteness, and the Sexualized Body
T 1/26 *Thought card #4 due
Discuss: White beauty ideals and female objectification

Doll culture #WheresRey

Read: Rogers, Barbie Culture, “Plastic Bodies”

Exercise: In pairs, conduct an “oral history interview” of your first memories of dolls/action figures

Watch: Doll Experiment
Th 1/28 *Thought card #5 due
Discuss: Queer potential and the body

Read: Hutton, “God and the ‘Gaze’: A Visual Reading of Lady Gaga”

Watch: Ingrid Michaelson, “Girls Chase Boys”

Shania Twain, “Man, I feel like a Woman”

Robert Palmer, “Simply Irresistible”
Exercise: in groups, analyze lyrics for discussion

Week Five: Consumerism, Motherhood, and Compulsory Heterosexuality
T 2/2 *Thought card #6 due
Discuss: Compulsory Heterosexuality; “Mrs. Degree;” Wedding Consumerism

Read: Ingraham, White Weddings: Romancing Heterosexuality in Popular Culture, “McBride to McDreamy: Television Weddings”

Th 2/4 *Thought card #7 due
Discuss: Ageist Double Binds, Double Standards, Intensive Mothering, and Postfeminism

Read: Thomas, “Punishing Unfaithful Wives and Working Mothers: Messages of Postfeminism in Contemporary Film”

Listen/Analyze in groups:

“Going to the Chapel” – the Dixie Cups

“Mother Knows Best” – Tangled

“Mama’s Song” – Carrie Underwood

“Fancy” – Reba McEntire

  • Watch part of the Super Bowl (and its ads), if you can, for a class discussion on Tuesday

Week Six: Race, Homophobia, and Hypermasculinity
T 2/9 *Thought card #8 due
Discuss: Homophobia as hatred of the feminine

Jaden Smith’s Louis Vuitton Ad Campaign as “emasculating”

Odell Beckham Jr. and the limits of black masculinity

Read: Clarke, “The Failure to Transform: Homophobia in the Black Community”

Th 2/11 *Thought card #9 due
Discuss: Negotiating the “Angry Black Man” Stereotype

President Obama’s “Gun Control Tears”

Read: Bailey, “Isaiah Washington and the Grey’s Anatomy Scandal”
Midterm Study Guide available on Courseweb

Week Seven: Guns, Aggrieved Entitlement, and Mental Health Stigma
T 2/16 *Thought card #10 due
Discuss: #YallQaeda and white masculinity

White mass shooters as “lone wolves”

Hard Bodies

Read: Kimmel, Angry White Men, “Angry White Boys”

Th 2/18 In-Class MIDTERM EXAM
Week Eight: Humor and Subversion
T 2/23 *Thought card #11 due
Discuss: hooks, “Black Confrontational Gaze” and resistance rhetoric

Read: Mizejewski, Pretty/Funny: “White People are Looking at You!” Wanda Sykes

Watch: Stand up Comedy clips; Richard Pryor
Th 2/25 *Thought card #12 due
Discuss: Neil Patrick Harris and Ellen DeGeneres as Palatable Gay Icons

Will & Grace, Modern Family and the role of class and whiteness

Read: “Pretty Funny Butch as Girl Next Door” Ellen DeGeneres
Watch: Amy Schumer, “Don’t Rape”

Excerpt: “Do I sound gay?”

Week Nine: Minority Representation and Questions of Authenticity
T 3/1 *Thought card #13 due
Discuss: Queer Representation, Disney Villains and Glee

Trans* Representation, Transparent

Jane the Virgin and Latin@ authenticity

Read: Marwich et al. “Dolphins are Just Gay Sharks”: Glee and Transmedia

Th 3/3 *Thought card #14 due

Discuss: The overlooked American race? (South) Asian American media representation

Read: Thakore, “South Asians on TV”

Ono & Pham, Asian Americans and the Media chapter
Select presentation date and go over details “Critical Media Analysis” Presentation

Week Ten: Spring Break NO CLASSES

Week Eleven: Bodies, Class, and Performance

T 3/15 *Thought card #15 due

Read: Bordo, Unbearable Weight, “Reading the Slender Body”

Discuss: Historical beauty trends, the body as locus of control

Th 3/17 *Thought card #16 due

Discuss: “Unruly Women,” Class, and Respectability Politics

Read: Brown, “Class and Feminine Excess: The Strange Case of Anna Nicole Smith”

Watch: The Supremes; Tina Turner

Roseanne; The Cosby Show

Week Twelve: Intersectionality and Sports Media
T 3/22 *Thought card #17 due
Discuss: Sports Media as Attack Rhetoric? Defending (White) Male Domains

Read: Bagley, “Performing Social Class: The Case of Rutgers Basketball versus Don Imus”

Crosby, “Chased by the Double Bind: Intersectionality and the Disciplining of Lolo Jones”

Choose groups and one of the controversies for next class; research the topic via popular press and any possible scholarly contributions

Th 3/25 Group Work: Discussions with group for first 15 minutes

    • Jeremy Lin “Linsanity” (note Christianity’s coveted/reviled role in sports)

    • Rhonda Rousey vs. Floyd Mayweather and (in)appropriate violence

    • Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman as subversive “thugs”

    • Serena Williams as pornified body

    • NFL Cheerleaders as underpaid objects

    • US Women’s World Cup TV coverage and wage disparity

    • Jason Collins’s coming out

Remainder of class: Group presentation of controversies: everyone contributes (speaks) and you facilitate discussion with the class in 8-11 minute presentations

Week Thirteen: Witches, Gender, and Leadership

T 3/29 *Thought card #18 due
Discuss: Witches, Queen Bees, and Fear of Powerful Women

Kate Bornstein (who will speak Saturday at 5:30pm here at Pitt!)

Read: Godwin, “Media, Witches, and Normative Gender Roles”; Bornstein reading (Courseweb)
Watch: Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Ursula clips

Th 3/31 *Thought card #20 due

Discuss: Pop Culture’s androcentric workplaces, tokenism, and enlightened sexism

Read: Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In, “Introduction” and “Chapter 1”

bell hooks, “Beyond Lean In

Watch: Clips from Working Girl, Devil Wears Prada, Ghost, 30 Rock

  • Conference on the Body held here at Pitt, hosted by the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program

  • Schedule posted on Courseweb

Week Fourteen
T 4/5 Group A Critical Media Analyses

Group E Peer Evaluations

Th 4/7 Group B Presentations

Group A Peer Evaluations

Week Fifteen
T 4/12 Group C Presentations

Group B Peer Evaluations

Th 4/14 Group D Presentations

Group C Presentations

*Final Exam Study Guide available on Courseweb
Week Sixteen
T 4/19 Group E Presentations

Group D Presentations

Th 4/21 In-Class FINAL EXAM

Have a wonderful summer break!

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