Wost 225-01 Gender, Sexuality, and Popular Culture Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12: 00-1: 15, kt 248

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WOST 225-01

Gender, Sexuality, and Popular Culture

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:00-1:15, KT 248
Professor: Sara Webb-Sunderhaus, Ph.D.

Office: LA 117

Mailbox: LA 145 (English Department office)

Phone: 481-0153

Email: webbs@ipfw.edu (the best way to reach me)

Office Hours: Wednesdays, 8:30-10:30, and by appointment

Required Materials:

  • Zeisler, Andi. Feminism and Pop Culture.

  • Milan, Courtney. The Duchess War.

  • Kluger, Steve. Almost Like Being in Love.

General Education Learning Outcomes for WOST W225

This course fulfills the following outcomes in order to be included in the General Education Curriculum for Area B6: Humanistic and Artistic Ways of Knowing.

6.1 Recognize and describe humanistic, historical, or artistic works or problems and patterns of the human experience.

6.2 Apply disciplinary methodologies, epistemologies, and traditions of the humanities and the arts, including the ability to distinguish between primary and secondary sources.

6.3 Analyze and evaluate texts, objects, events, or ideas in their cultural, intellectual or historical contexts.

6.4 Analyze the concepts and principles of various types of humanistic or artistic expression.

6.5 Create, interpret, or reinterpret artistic and/or humanistic works through performance or criticism.

6.6 Develop arguments about forms of human agency or expression grounded in rational analysis and with an understanding of and respect for spatial, temporal, and cultural contexts.

6.7 Analyze diverse narratives and evidence in order to explore the complexity of human experience across space and time.

5.4 Evaluate evidence supporting conclusions about the behavior of individuals, groups, institutions, or organizations.

5.5 Recognize the extent and impact of diversity among individuals, cultures, or societies in contemporary or historical contexts.

1.3. Read critically, summarize, apply, analyze, and synthesize information and concepts in written and visual texts as the basis for developing original ideas and claims.

WOST Program Goals
These are the goals of the IPFW Women’s Studies Program:

  • Analyze academic disciplines from a feminist and antiracist perspective.

  • Encourage original scholarship and research about women that takes into consideration gender, race, class, and sexual orientation.

  • Integrate self-exploration with academic skills.

  • Provide a non-authoritarian learning environment which values students’ ideas and encourages an open exchange of information and opinion.

  • Promote an individual and critical approach to learning.

  • Promote knowledge of the diversity of women’s experiences.

Course Description
The pleasure of consuming pop culture makes critiquing it one of the more challenging projects for feminists.” –Andi Zeisler in Feminism and Pop Culture
WOST W225 is a women’s studies course and will therefore and necessarily examine pop culture from a feminist perspective. For the purposes of this course, that means that we will look at how gender and sexuality are represented by the various media that purport to exist for entertainment. By its very nature, feminism tackles sensitive issues. We will not shy away from these in WOST W225. Some of what we read and watch will use explicit language and include graphic depictions of sexuality; you should also be prepared to write about and discuss the complexities of sexuality and gender.
Ground Rules for Discussion and Peer Review
Given the focus of this course, we will spend a great deal of time examining controversial topics. In this classroom community, we will listen and learn from each other’s thoughts, opinions, and experiences and agree that any confidences shared in WOST W225 do not leave the room. Each of us has a unique perspective and prior experience, and it is essential that we treat each other with respect. In other words, treat your classmates and your professor the way you’d like to be treated. This doesn’t mean that you will like everyone or will always agree with everyone’s opinions, but I do expect you to treat your peers and me with respect and to avoid hurling insults, making snide remarks, etc. The use of derogatory or hateful terms based on race, gender, sexual orientation, national and/or regional origin, or other categories is unacceptable in this classroom community.
All written assignments must be submitted electronically via Blackboard by noon on the due date. Please use 12 point, Times New Roman font and MLA format.
“Reading” Responses and Quizzes: 25% Discussion Leading: 10%

Remix Assignment: 30% Research Project: 35%

“Reading” Responses/Quizzes: You will write a one-two page response (250-500 words) to the “readings” (both print and visual texts) for each class. There are numerous purposes for this writing: it assists in generating issues for discussion, and it gives you a low-stakes way to develop your ideas, hone your writing skills, and process the texts you’ll read before coming to class. I may also give reading quizzes from time to time to make sure you’re keeping up with the assignments.
Remix Assignment: In this assignment, you will analyze a print ad’s treatment of gender and sexuality and then “remix” the ad by re-creating it from a feminist perspective. You will receive a more detailed assignment sheet in the near future; this description is only a preview.
Research Project: You will write a formal research project (6-8 pages) that considers an issue related to the construction of gender and sexuality in popular culture. The project will require you to conduct your own research (primary and secondary) and describe, analyze, and theorize the issue and pop culture texts (including film or television) you’ve selected to work on. You will also give a short presentation about your project. You will receive a more detailed assignment sheet in the near future; this description is only a preview.
Leading of Discussion: During one class this semester, you and a partner will be required to lead the discussion of the reading. This requires more than simply doing the assigned reading for that day; you will need to decide which issues from the reading are important for the class to consider and to design an activity that will help us address these points in the discussion you lead (you MUST have an activity aside from large group discussion). I strongly encourage you to integrate technology into your activities. You and your partner must take an equally active role during class (in other words, one person can’t do the preparation while the other does the in-class work—you must be equally involved in the speaking component). You should let me know by next week which day you’d like to lead discussion; any day for which reading is required is open.
Participation: The nature of this course is very different from that of a large, lecture-based course. This is a small class that will heavily rely on small and large group discussion to facilitate learning. Your active participation is crucial for both your individual success in the course as well as the success of the course as a whole. Simply showing up for class isn’t participating.

IPFW’s academic regulations state, “Academic honesty is expected of all students. You are responsible for knowing how to maintain academic honesty and for abstaining from cheating, the appearance of cheating, and permitting or assisting in another’s cheating.”

Plagiarism is a violation of academic honesty and goes against the rules of this university and my own personal ethics. To put it bluntly, DON’T DO IT! Plagiarism is the representation of another’s words or ideas as one’s own; it includes the unacknowledged word for word use and/or paraphrasing of another person’s work, and/or the unacknowledged use of another person’s ideas. If I learn you have plagiarized, you will be punished with sanctions up to and including failure of the course; multiple students have already failed my courses due to plagiarism. The offense will also be reported to the Director of Women’s Studies, the chair of your department, the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the Dean of your school or program, and the Dean of Students.

Support Services for Students:
Services for Students with Disabilities
If you have a disability and need assistance, arrangements can be made to accommodate most needs. Contact the Director of Services for Students with Disabilities (Walb Union, Room 113, telephone number 481-6658) as soon as possible to work out the details.  The SSD office will provide you with a Disability Accommodation Verification Card attesting to your needs for modification that you will need to bring to me. For more information, please visit the web site for Services for Students with Disabilities.
Personal Counseling
College can be a stressful, alienating experience, especially in these challenging economic times, and it can be helpful to talk to a professional who is trained to listen. The IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program (SAP) provides free, confidential, personal counseling for students enrolled at IPFW; group and couples counseling is also available. For more information about the SAP, please call 266-8060 or stop by Walb 113.
The Writing Center
The IPFW Writing Center, located in The Learning Commons (on the second floor of Helmke) offers all writers free one-on-one or small group consultations in writing papers for any class. Students may come at any stage of the writing process. The Writing Center also offers online consulting, free handouts, and workshops on a variety of topics. To sign up for a consultation, please visit http://www.ipfw.edu/casa/writing/.
You are required to conference with me during the first week of class in order to help us get to know each other a bit better. I encourage you to conference with me throughout the semester, however, and to come to me with concerns about assignments, as well as more general concerns about the course. I will be more than happy to brainstorm, review drafts with you, and to offer response and suggestions.
General Course Policies:

  1. As a rule, I do not accept late work. Blackboard will tag any work that is submitted late.

  2. Please turn off cell phones upon entering class, and use laptops for class purposes only. Texting, Facebooking, etc. during class is disruptive to not only your education, but also that of your peers. Please don’t do it.

  3. More than two absences may result in your grade being lowered a full letter each time you miss class. Repeated tardiness may also result in a grade penalty.

  4. Treat your peers and professor the way you would like to be treated. We’ll do the same in return.


***Assignments and due dates are subject to change***

January 12 Introductions; review syllabus; in-class viewing of Miss Representation.
January 14 Class canceled.
January 19 Finish viewing of Miss Representation.
January 21 Continue introductions. Zeisler, Prologue, Chapters 1-2; Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Study of women in film: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/9/geena-davis-study-press-release and the Bechdel test: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/01/07/the_bechdel_test_needs_an_update_we_ve_set_the_bar_for_female_representation.html

January 26 In-class viewing of Killing Us Softly 4 and select commercials; “Advertising, Gender, and Sex” (BB); Zimmerman, “Sexual Objectification” (BB); article on gender and marketing to children: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/08/26/gender_labeled_toys_and_kids_what_science_tells_us.html; The Society Pages’ blog series on sexual objectification: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/07/02/sexual-objectification-part-1-what-is-it/; http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/07/06/sexual-objectification-part-2-the-harm/.

January 28 In-class viewing of Mad Men; Agiree, “Post-Feminist Sensibility in Mad Men” (BB); Coontz, “Why Mad Men is TV’s Most Feminist Show”: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/08/AR2010100802662.html


February 2 In-class viewing of Bewitched: “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble”; Pondering Postfeminism blog post: https://postfeminist.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/super-women-and-the-changing-face-of-feminism/; The AV Club post: http://www.avclub.com/article/ibewitchedi-tweaked-60s-gender-roles-and-became-on-85280.

February 4 Gough-Yates, “Angels in Chains” (BB); in-class viewing of Charlie’s Angels: “Lady Killer.”


February 9 “MTV, Sexual Politics, and Dreamworlds” (BB); excerpt from Gender Politics and MTV (BB); in-class viewing of Dreamworlds 3.

February 11 Zeisler, Chapter 3; Dow, “Prime-Time Divorce”; in-class viewing of One Day at a Time: “All the Way.” Peer review of remix assignment.


February 16 Bailey, “The Other Huxtable Effect”: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/television/2014/09/clair_huxtable_feminist_hero_the_cosby_show_wife_revisited_on_30th_anniversary.html; Goode, “Clair Huxtable, Antiheroine”: https://www.brightideasmag.com/ideas/clair-huxtable-antiheroine/; in-class viewing of The Cosby Show: “Cliff in Love.”

February 18 Ross, “30 Years Later, The Golden Girls Is Still the Most Progressive Show on Television”: https://medium.com/@traceylross/30-years-later-the-golden-girls-is-still-the-most-progressive-show-on-television-b63aadd2edec#.bc3ac1mca; in-class viewing of The Golden Girls: “Adult Education.” Remix assignment due.


February 23 Milan, The Duchess War; Jennifer Crusie’s “Romancing Reality”, found here: http://www.jennycrusie.com/for-writers/essays/romancing-reality-the-power-of-romance-fiction-to-reinforce-and-re-vision-the-real/; Crusie’s “Defeating the Critics,” found here: http://www.jennycrusie.com/for-writers/essays/defeating-the-critics-what-we-can-do-about-the-anti-romance-bias/; this interview with Eloisa James: http://www.vulture.com/2014/05/romance-novelist-eloisa-james-interview.html?mid=fb-share-vulture; and Maya Rodale’s “What We Talk about When We Talk about Fabio”: https://medium.com/@mayarodale/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-fabio-109e16322ada

February 25 Zeisler, Chapter 4; Fetters, “Carrie Bradshaw: Feminist, Chauvinist, and …Indian Captive in Paris?”: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/01/carrie-bradshaw-feminist-chauvinist-and-indian-captive-in-paris/267152/; Nussbaum, “Difficult Women”: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/07/29/difficult-women; in-class viewing of Sex and the City: “Are We Sluts?”.


March 1 Myers, “Will and Grace: The TV Series that Changed America”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jack-myers/will-grace-the-tv-series-that-changed-america_b_5543315.html; Entertainment Weekly article: http://www.ew.com/article/2013/10/20/queer-eye-10-years-later-the-fab-fives-make-better-legacy; in-class viewing of Will and Grace and clips from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

March 3 1997 Time interview with Ellen DeGeneres: http://time.com/3484943/he-called-me-ellen-degenerate/; NPR article: http://www.npr.org/2013/03/25/175265720/how-ellen-degeneres-helped-change-the-conversation-about-gays; in-class viewing of Ellen: “The Puppy Episode.”
**********NO CLASSES MARCH 7-13—SPRING BREAK**********
March 15 Kluger, Almost Like Being in Love.
March 17 Lane, “Black Women Queering the Mic”; in-class viewing of Queens of Hip Hop


March 22 Levande, “Women, Pop Music, and Pornography”; Railton and Waston, “Naughty Girls and Red Blooded Women”; White, “Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Eliott and Nicki Minaj”; in-class viewing of music videos.

March 24 Zeisler, Chapter 5; Fabello, “I Just Finished Rewatching Degrassi…”: http://www.ravishly.com/2015/10/05/i-just-finished-rewatching-degrassi-%E2%80%93-3-reasons-why-it-made-my-feminist-heart-burst; begin viewing of Degrassi: “Accidents Will Happen.”


March 29 Conclude Degrassi viewing. Please watch Beyond the Lights (film) before our next class.

March 31 Beauchemin, “Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, and the Gendering of Martyrdom”: http://pitchfork.com/thepitch/808-amy-winehouse-kurt-cobain-and-the-gendering-of-martyrdom/; Brooks, “I’m a Free Bitch, Baby” (BB); in-class viewing of videos.


April 5 Research day

April 7 Research day

April 12 Bell, “Obvie, We’re the Ladies!”; Daalman, “I’m Busy Trying to Become Who I Am”; in-class viewing of Girls.

April 14 In-class viewing of What a Girl Wants and in-class writing. Please watch Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL (films) over the weekend.


April 19 Even though you should have watched Magic Mike XXL by now, read Roxanne Gay’s recap (trust me, you will not regret it): http://the-toast.net/2015/07/01/magic-mike-xxl-recap/; The Stranger post: http://www.thestranger.com/film/feature/2015/07/01/22482124/magic-mike-xxl-is-the-feminist-male-stripper-movie-youve-been-waiting-for; Bitch Media post: https://bitchmedia.org/post/in-magic-mike-xxl-the-star-of-the-show-is-womens-pleasure.

April 21 In-class viewing of Orange is the New Black; “White Chick Behind Bars”: http://inthesetimes.com/article/15311/white_chick_behind_bars; Ms. Magazine blog post: http://msmagazine.com/blog/2013/07/17/orange-is-the-new-black-taking-privilege-to-task/; Bitch Media post: https://bitchmedia.org/post/new-netflix-show-orange-is-the-new-black-is-a-complex-look-at-sex-gender-and-prison; interview with Laverne Cox: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/11643952/Laverne-Cox-on-growing-up-trans-Orange-is-the-New-Black-and-Caitlyn-Jenner.html; and The Late Late Show interview with Laverne Cox http://mic.com/articles/122621/watch-laverne-cox-talk-about-caitlyn-jenner-s-public-transition-on-the-late-late-show
April 26 Laverne Cox’s Tumblr post: http://lavernecox.tumblr.com/post/120503412651/on-may-29-2014-the-issue-of-timemagazine; Bitch Media review of I Am Cait: https://bitchmedia.org/post/with-her-own-reality-show-caitlyn-jenner-aims-to-make-the-lives-of-all-trans-people-better; Elinor Burkett’s New York Times editorial: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/opinion/sunday/what-makes-a-woman.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=1; in-class viewing of I Am Cait.

April 28 Peer review of research project; evaluations.

FINAL EXAM TUESDAY, MAY 3, 1:00-3:00 (screening of This Film Is Not Yet Rated)


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