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PHIL 325: Feminism and Philosophy

PHIL 325: Feminism and Philosophy Fall 2013

Course Description

In this course we will explore and critically engage a number of important concepts in feminist philosophy. Specifically, we will engage feminist accounts of gender, oppression, knowledge, and personal identity, as well as how each relates to and informs the others. In doing so, you will come to better understand what feminist philosophers do, how they do it, and why. This will entail using and perfecting your ability to effectively think, listen, argue, read, and write. 

Our efforts will not be just an academic exercise in which we merely study what others have thought. Instead, you will be joining an active and ongoing effort to better understand a world shot through with gender injustice and how we should act in response to it. In other words, in this course, you are going to be doing feminist philosophy. My primary goal for our time together this semester is to help you develop and refine your critical voice. I believe that you have important things to say. I want this course to help you say them.

Required Course Materials

There are four assigned books for this course:

Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine
Feminist Theory, edited by Anne Cudd and Robin Andreasen
Epistemic Injustice, by Miranda Fricker
Aftermath, by Susan Brison

Additionally, many assigned readings as well as the syllabus will be available on the class Blackboard page, which you can access by going to blackboard.smcm.edu. All of the additional readings will be in .pdf format. 

I will send emails to the class frequently. If you prefer that I use some email address other than your St. Mary’s address, you should let me know immediately.

Course Requirements

Your grade will consist of a collection of points you can earn over the course of the semester. Although your grade is out of 100 points, there are 105 possible points you can earn (although it is extremely unlikely that anyone will earn anything close to that many).

Here is the breakdown of the assignments:

First paper 25 points
Second paper 25 points
Short papers 50 points (5 points each x 10 = 50 points)
Class Participation 5 points
105 Total Possible Points 


You must write and turn in two long papers in order to pass the class. They should be 10-12 pages in length. In writing the long papers your job will be to explain and critically engage a particular philosophical position. Your papers must be informed by both our class discussion and relevant assigned texts. That means, for instance, that if you raise an objection that we defeat in class or that an author considers (but that you ignore) you will not be given credit for that objection. Your long papers should be submitted by email.

The 10 short papers should be roughly three pages in length. Your job in each will be to critically and philosophically engage the week’s readings. The short papers are due at the beginning of class on Friday of each week. (Friday classes will largely consist of our discussion of your papers.) You should pick and choose which papers or weeks you want to take off. You may write more than 10 short papers and I will count the 10 best grades towards your final grade.

For all of your short papers, you must turn in stapled hard copies at the beginning of class on the day they are due. 
I will not accept electronic versions of your short papers except in cases of emergency. Emergencies do not include printer problems or forgetfulness.


You are not required to talk in class, but students who are active participants will receive up to 5 extra points towards their final grade. 
That does not mean that if you talk a lot you will receive any participation points. Instead, your job is to productively contribute to the class discussion, which will sometimes mean asking good questions, and other times will mean providing answers to my questions or your colleagues’ questions.

All students should be respectful of each other, of the authors, and of me at all times. Failure to do so will negatively affect your final grade.
If you choose to sleep, text, play on your laptop, or otherwise fail to engage with the class discussion, you should not expect to receive any participation points.


You are not required to come to class; I do not take attendance. However, doing so will most likely dramatically improve your chances of doing well on your papers. Since I do not take attendance you need not tell me why you have missed or will miss class (although you certainly may if you wish). 

Office Hours

I strongly encourage you to come and meet with me during my office hours or by appointment if you are having trouble with the class. I also just simply like talking about philosophy and getting to know students, so I would be glad to have you stop by even if you feel comfortable with how you are performing in the class. My office hours are TBD. My office is Margaret Brent 205.

Trigger Warning

The primary focus of this course is on gender justice in response to oppression. One of the forms that oppression takes is systematized violence. We will be reading and talking about sexual assault consistently over the course of the semester. Susan Brison’s book Aftermath explicitly details her own experience as a survivor of sexual assault and attempted murder. Many of the readings and classroom discussions will be painful. Please be respectful of each other, take care of yourselves, and consider talking with a counselor (or scheduling time to talk with me) if you’re having a hard time with this material.

Students with Disabilities

If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability and anticipate needing to make use of them, please contact me early in the semester so that we can work together to help you succeed in the course. Additionally, my office is on the second floor. If you are unable or prefer not to climb stairs, please let me know and we will arrange to meet elsewhere.

The Writing Center

"The Writing Center, located in the Library Annex, offers free consultations for student writers at all levels and in all disciplines. No matter what you're writing and no matter where you are in the writing process (generating ideas, drafting, revising or proofreading), the peer tutors in the Writing Center can assist you. These tutors are friendly students and also excellent writers with special training as writing consultants. They would not grade or correct your papers; instead, they'd coach you and help you become a better writer. I encourage you to use the Writing Center as much as possible. You can make a one-time or weekly appointment with the Center by visiting their website, www.smcm.edu/writingcenter and clicking 'Schedule an Appointment.' At the same website, you can find helpful resources on many writing-related topics.”

What Does a Philosopher Look Like?

Like many disciplines in the academy, philosophy has historically been dominated by white men. Stereotype threat is a psychological phenomenon that causes people to underperform in a discipline in the face of a stereotype that says that “people like them” aren’t good at that discipline. As a result, the stereotype becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Luckily, it is also the case that telling students that there are no actual differences in performance in a class can defuse the anxiety that the stereotype creates and subsequently undermines those tendencies to underperform. (For evidence of both, see Stereotype Threat and Women’s Math Performance” by Spencer, Steele, and Quinn, available on Blackboard.) The stereotype that says that only white men can be good philosophers is false. For more on this, visit:


On Seeming Smart

Related to that point, regardless of whether you’ve studied philosophy prior to this course, you might often find yourself feeling intimidated by the way philosophers write or talk. This might be because philosophy, like all disciplines, employs its own jargon and concepts that you either might not have encountered before, or that you might have seen used differently. Jargon can be useful, but it can also be used to exclude people and make them feel like they don’t have a place in the conversation. Don’t feel that way and don’t be intimidated! If you don’t know what a term means, ask for a definition (or look it up). If you don’t know how a concept is being used, ask for clarification. For a very helpful essay that speaks to this (among other important things) see “On Being Good at Seeming Smart” on Blackboard or visit: 


Topic and Assignment Schedule
(Readings marked with an [e] are available on Blackboard.) 

Week 1 – (9/2-9/6) Introduction
“Men Explain Things to Me: Facts Didn’t Get in Their Way” – Solnit [e]
Introduction from “The Second Sex” – de Beauvoir
Delusions of Gender – Introduction - Fine

Week 2 – (9/9-9/13) Gender
Delusions of Gender – Part 1 - Fine
Ontology and Social Construction – Haslanger [e] 

Week 3 (9/16-9/20) - Gender
Delusions of Gender – Part 2 - Fine
“Sex Inequality and Bias” – Jaggar [e]

Week 4 (9/23-9/27) - Oppression
Delusions of Gender – Part 3 - Fine
“Sexism” – Cudd and Jones
“Oppression” - Frye

Week 5 (9/30-10/4) - Oppression
“Five Faces of Oppression” - Young
“On Psychological Oppression” - Bartky

Week 6 (10/7-10/11) - Intersectionality and The Problem of Speaking for Others
Reading Days – no class Monday, 10/14
“Anti-Essentialism and Intersectionality” – Grillo [e]
“The Problem of Speaking for Others” – Alcoff [e]

Week 7 (10/14-10/18) – Knowledge
Epistemic Injustice – Chapters 1-2 - Fricker
“Values and Objectivity “– Longino [e]
CSWIP – No Class Friday, 10/25

Week 8 (10/21-10/25) - Knowledge
Epistemic Injustice – Chapters 3-4 - Fricker
“Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology” - Harding

Week 9 (10/28-11/1) - Knowledge
Epistemic Injustice – Chapter 7 - Fricker
“Love and Knowledge” – Jaggar [e]

Week 10 (11/4-11/8) – Personal Identity
Aftermath – Preface and Chapters 1-3 - Brison
“Autonomy, Social Disruption, and Women” – Friedman

Week 11 (11/11-11/15) – Personal Identity
11/5 – Aftermath – Chapters 4-6 – Brison
“The Epistemological Significance of Psychic Trauma” – Freedman [e]

Week 12 (11/18-11/22) - Gendered Violence
“Toward a Phenomenology of Feminist Consciousness” – Bartky [e]
“Rape as a Weapon of War” – Card [e]
“Men in Groups: Collective Responsibility for Rape” – May and Strikwerda [e]

Week 13 (11/25-11/29) – Thanksgiving
No class!

Week 14 (12/02-12/06) – Pornography
“Confronting Pornography: Some Conceptual Basics” - Whisnant
“Pornographic Subordination: How Pornography Silences Women” – Tirrell
“Pornography: An Uncivil Liberty?” - Carse

Week 15 (12/9-12/13) – Gender, revisited
“Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?” – Haslanger
Introduction from “The Second Sex” – de Beauvoir