course title WMS 148:
Course Syllabus, Spring 2001
The College of New Rochelle, School of Arts and Sciences
Tuesdays & Thursdays: 3:25 – 4:40

DESCRIPTION: Using the perspectives of contemporary women's studies and feminist scholarship, this course will focus on the constructed nature of gender roles, the effects of these constructions on the lives of women, and the possibilities for change and individual empowerment that a critical awareness can create. 3 credits


This course will require a great deal of individual and group participation as we discover and learn to deal with various aspects of our gendered universe. Some lecture material and/or attention to the assigned readings will serve as starting points for extensive discussion, invitations to guest speakers, oral presentations, and audio-visual materials.


Upon successful completion of the course, students will demonstrate:

  1. An understanding of gender, particularly concepts of femininity, as a social, historical, and cultural construction rather than a natural, biological “given”; an appreciation of how gender interacts with other social constructions (race, ethnicity, class, etc.) and with human biology.
  2. An understanding of how definitions of femininity and familial and social roles have varied throughout history and across different cultures
  3. An ability to use the critical methodologies of women’s studies and feminist scholarship to analyze how gender constructions shape the realities of women’s lives, particularly in contemporary American society, including their own lives as women
  4. An understanding and validation of the achievements, experiences, and perspectives of women, acting both individually and in groups
  5. An understanding of the choices and alternatives open to women as they use their enhanced critical awareness to change gender constructions and to influence the direction of the future.


Required Reading on Reserve in CNR Library:

Bem, Sandra Lipsitz. (1993) The Lenses of Gender: Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. pp 1-5, pp 159 –162, pp 163 –164, pp 176 -196.

Julia, Maria. (2000) Constructing Gender: Multicultural Perspectives in Working With Women. Stamford, CT: Brooks/Cole/Wadsworth/Tomson. pp 1 –10, pp 205 - 225

Lips, Hilary M. (1991) Women, Men, and Power. Mountain View California: Mayfield Press. pp 56 - 74

Minas, Anne. (2000) Gender Basics: Feminist Perspectives on Women and Men. 2nd ed. Stamford CT: Wadsworth/Tompson. pp 1 – 8, pp 85 - 98

Rider, Elizabeth. (2000) Our Voices: Psychology of Women. Stamford, CT: Wadsworth/Tomson. pp 467 - 515

Zinn, Maxine Baca; Hondagneu-Sotello; & Messner. (2000) Gender Through the Prism of Difference. 2nd ed. Needham Heights, MA.: Allyn & Bacon. pp 87 - 105

Required “On-line” Readings:

Pick a Gender and Get Back to Us: How Cyberspace Affects Who We Are” by Gianna LaPin and Dr. Lakshmi Bharadwaj

Madison Avenue versus The Feminine Mystique: How the Advertising Industry Responded to the Onset of the Modern Women’s Movement” by Steve Craig (1997)

What Can You Learn From a Rainbow?” by Tracy L. Mack (guest editorial for Interracial Voice March-April ‘99)

The Double Task: The Struggle of Negro Women for Sex and Race Emancipation” by Elise Johnson McDougald (Survey Graphic, Harlem Number, March 1925)

Gender Differences in Communication by Dr. Beth Vanfossen

Gender Differences in Communication: An Intercultural Experience” by Becky Michele Mulvaney (Florida Atlantic University)

An Examination of Equity Issues in Early Exposure to Distance Education: The MayaQuest Potential,” by Katherine Milton

The Debate Over Feminist Theology: Which View Is Biblical?” by Ron Rhodes (Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries downloadable article)

Toward Gender Equality: The Role of Public Policy (Summary)

Exploring Utopian Models for Gender Equity,” by Sally L. Kitch


1. Class Preparation, Participation & Attendance: Completion of all assigned readings and active participation in class discussions. Because of the nature of this course, interactive participation is a significant and essential component of the class, requiring regular attendance in class and timely completion of the readings so that students are informed about the topic under consideration. Students are responsible for due dates and materials presented in class even when absent. Each absence in excess of four, whether excused or not, will result in a deduction of 3 points from the class participation potion of the student’s grade. Excessive lateness to or early departure from class (10 minutes or more) will result in a marked absence for the date and be counted accordingly in the student participation potion of the student’s grade.

2. Active Class Participation: As noted above, active participation in class is a requirement for this course. Active participation includes participation in class activities and discussion by making relevant comments reflective of readings and prior discussions, respect and support for learning efforts and opinions as well as being actively engaged in group projects.

3. Timeliness: All assignments are due on the dates specified on the syllabus. Any exceptions require prior permission from the instructor. Late assignments will receive a reduced letter grade for each week they are late.

4. Papers: All papers are to be typed, double spaced, and must be checked for misspelling, grammar, and punctuation. Illegible or poorly written papers will be returned for resubmission. Papers must include proper citation format (APA preferred).

5. Presentations: Any student who misses a class activity or presentation in which she was assigned to take part, will receive a grade of F (0) for that presentation unless a satisfactory excuse including documentation is presented and accepted by the instructor. Active listening to class mates’ presentation will be a part of the presentation grade.

6. Course Assignments:

A. Brief Reaction Papers: Completion of numerous brief (1-3 pages) informal reaction papers—some analyses, some applications to other situations, some personal reflections. Full credit will be given for all reaction papers that are complete and on time, and students will receive extra points for high-quality papers. Deductions will be made for papers that are handed in late. Students will lose 5 points from the class participation portion of the grade for each assignment that is not submitted.

B. Attendance at three events and submission of reaction papers for each event attended: Students will be required to attend at least three campus events that are related to the topics of this course. These include the Dowell lecture, and various other events sponsored by the Women’s Studies Program; a complete list will be supplied as soon as the calendar is available. Attendance at more than three events is encouraged and extra credit will be given for reaction papers in excess of the three required. Reaction papers must be handed in within the week following the event.

C. Gender in the media: Working in teams of two, students will design and carry out a project exploring the way popular media (TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, popular adult and children’s respond to and affect gender constructions. On March 27 – April 5 each team will present the results of their investigation to the rest of the class. Further instructions will be handed out later.

D. Critical Essay: Each student will write one formal critical essay employing the methodologies and theoretical frameworks learned in class. This paper must include references and correct methods of citation and documentation. Further instructions and due dates for the various stages of this assignment will be described on a separate assignment sheet. The final paper will be due on May 5.

E. Final Project: Each student will create a scenario for the kind of changes she would like to see in the lives of American women of the twenty-first century, including a description of some of the steps that would be necessary to bring about these changes. Due May 17.


35% class participation, including reaction papers
25% gender in the popular media project
25% critical essay
15% final project


In addition to the policies regarding attendance, preparation, deadlines for work, etc. noted above, students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the principles set forth in The College of New Rochelle’s Academic Code of Conduct. Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated.

Students with documented special needs are expected to inform the instructor during the first weeks of the term of the accommodations or services needed for her successful academic participation in this course.


Dr.Nancy Gonchar
Castle 324 (extension 5406; 914-654-5406)
E-mail: or


In the following schedule of assignments, WRWC refers to the class text (Hunter College Women’s Studies Collective. Women’s Realities, Women’s Choices: An Introduction to Women’s Studies. 2nd ed ). Readings are due on the date indicated for the topic. Dr. McManus (CNR Professor Emeritus and former instructor for this course) has suggested the following internet search engine that will take you to major gateway sites that include information about many web pages relevant to our subject. She has also identified more specific sites under individual topics. Sites marked with * are required readings.

WWWomen! (a well-designed search engine)

I. Key Theoretical Concepts:

A. Introduction to the course (1/23 &1/25)

January 23: Introduction to the course

January 25: Theoretical concepts and definitions: Women’s Studies and feminism; types of power; transgendered moments

Readings: WRWC, 3-16; Class handout: Barbara McManus “Key Theoretical Concepts”; Class handout: Barbara McManus “Theories about the Construction of Gender Identity

B. Concepts of sex and gender; lenses of gender (1/30)

Readings: Sandra Lipsitz Bem, “Introduction,” The Lenses of Gender: pp. 1-5. (on reserve); Anna Minas, “Introduction”, in Gender Basics: pp. 1-9. (on reserve)


Reaction Paper (due January 30):

Describe your initial reaction to the Bem and Minas readings. Do you think Bem’s concept of “the lenses of gender” is a useful way of examining human ideas and behavior? Why or why not? Give one concrete example of the operation of what Bem calls “the androcentric lens.” What are the similarities &/or differences between Bem and Minas’ understanding of gender and feminism, and their approaches to making feminist changes in society?

II. Defining “Woman”

A. February 1: woman defined through biology

Reading: WRWC, 90-119; Sandra Bem, “The Gendered Body,” in The Lenses of Gender, pp.159-62 (on reserve); Class Handouts: Sociobiology: NY Times Magazine article “The Making of an 8-Year-Old Woman” (12/24/2000).

B. February 6: the “beauty myth” and body image

Readings: Jane Sprague Zones, “Beauty Myths and Realities and Their Impact on Women’s Health” & Nomy Lamm, “It’s a Big Fat Revolution” both in Gender Through the Prism of Difference, pp 87-108 (on reserve); Naomi Wolf, “Hunger” & Dull & West, “Accounting for Cosmetic Surgery: The Accomplishment of Gender” both in Gender Basics, pp 85-98 (on reserve)


C. February 8: ideas about woman’s “nature”

Reading: WRWC, 56-85

D. February 13-15: imagery and symbolism:

Reading: WRWC, 24-50


Reaction Paper (due February 15):

From a popular magazine or newspaper, find an advertisement whose imagery reinforces traditional gender constructions. Xerox the ad (or cut it out if the magazine is your own) and explain how you would change the imagery of the ad to undermine these gender constructions.

E. February 20: psychology, socialization, and “femininity”

Readings: WRWC, 123-155; Theories about the Construction of Gender Identity

F. February 22- 27: commonality and differences among women: race, class, age, etc.

Readings: WRWC, 166-196; Maria Julia, “Ethnicity and Gender: Introduction of Concepts and Theoretical Framework” in “Constructing Gender” pp 1-10. (on reserve)


Reaction Paper (due February 27):

Take the perspective of a racial or ethnic group to which you do not belong; briefly describe the imaginative personality you have adopted and write a response to the readings for this unit from within this personality. Looking through the eyes of this other person, describe what you see as the most difficult obstacles for feminism caused by differences among women and suggest some ways of overcoming these obstacles.

III. Interpersonal Behavior and Relationships: Gender and Power

A. March 1: gendered modes of communication

Readings: Hilary M. Lips, “Interpersonal Influence: Resources, Tactics, and Gender Politics,” Women, Men, and Power (Mayfield Press, 1991) 56-74; Class handout: Barbara McManus, Gender and Modes of Communication


B. March 5: the construction of sexuality; marriage

Readings: Sandra Bem, Lenses of Gender, “Androcentric Heterosexuality,” 163-64; WRWC, “Wives,” 228-256; The Construction of Androcentric Heterosexuality ; Class handout: Barbara McManus, The Construction of Androcentric Heterosexuality


The Marriage Toolbox

C. March 9: relationship violence

Reading: Elizabeth Rider, “Violence in Women’s Lives” in Our Voices: Psychology of Women, pp 466-515


March 12 – 16 SPRING RECESS!!

D. March 20: parenting;

topic statement for critical paper due March 20

Reading: WRWC, “Motherhood,” 260-292


E. March 22: alternative relationship styles

Reading: WRWC, “Choosing Alternatives,” 296-320

March 27 – April 5 : team presentations of Gender in the Media projects; working bibliography for critical paper due April 5

IV. Gender-Defining Institutions

A. April 10 - 12: education;

article summary and plan for critical paper due April 12

Reading: WRWC, “Women and Education,” 366-399


B. April 17-19: religion

Readings: WRWC, “Women and Religion,” 330-361; Sharon Ratliff, “Conclusion: The Systematic Interface of Religion and Gender” in Constructing Gender, pp 205-225 (on reserve); Class handout: Carol Christ’s article “Why Women Need the Goddess.”


C. April 24-26: employment

Readings: WRWC, “Women and Work,” 457-492; Class handout: Barbara McManus, supplementary notes on women and paid employment


D. May 1-3: law and politics

Final version of critical paper due May 3

Readings: WRWC, “Women and Political Power,” 499-532; Class handout: Barbara McManus supplementary notes on women, law, and politics


The “Reasonable Woman” Standard and Unwelcome Behavior” ( from Brevard Community College, includes a self-quiz)

V. Envisioning And Creating Strategies For The Future

May 8-10

Reading: Sandra Bem, Lenses of Gender, “Transforming the Debate on Sexual Equality,” pp 176-96 (on reserve); WRWC, “Changing the Present: A Look to the Future,” 538-558; Class handout: Barbara McManus, notes on envisioning and creating the future.


*“Exploring Utopian Models for Gender Equity,” by Sally L. Kitch

May 17 (Thursday) by 5:00 p.m.: final project due

Dr. Nancy Gonchar ( or
February 2001