Module Outline (updated 08.05.18)

NB.: Please note that this module will require a high level of commitment from the students enrolled. This will include keeping up with the pace of weekly readings, as assessed by an in-class test.

Feminism is a body of theory and practice aimed at illuminating and overcoming the oppression of women. This definition raises a number of complex questions, and the goal of this module is to equip students with conceptual and textual tools to approach those questions in a critical way. First, what is a woman? The thorny distinction between the biological category of sex and the social category of gender precludes an easy answer, as does the plurality of sexual identities. Second, what forms of oppression are at issue? We will talk about classic political issues including the fight for the right to vote and equal rights; but we will also explore the many areas, beyond the straightforwardly political sphere, where gendered oppression continues to manifest itself. This will lead us to consider, among other topics, the politics of family and domestic work, objectification, sex work, pornography, silencing and epistemic injustice. We will ask why women are oppressed, and what steps might be possible (and legitimate) to end that oppression. We will also look at the complex interactions between gender-based discrimination and other forms of discrimination, in particular those based on race and class.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able in their essay and exam work to:

1. summarise in their own words and critically assess the principal theories and philosophical perspectives examined in this course;
2. compare and evaluate conflicting accounts of the task and nature of feminism, and of specific issues such as the nature of womanhood, the relationship between sex and gender, and the ways in which feminism might relate to other theoretical and practical contributions to struggles against oppression (such as anti-capitalist and critical race theory);
3. offer detailed philosophical analysis and critique of journal articles published in the field;
4. demonstrate an understanding of the relation between feminist theory and practice by relating, for example, particular theories to current cultural and political developments.

Format of teaching events


The two-hour weekly lectures will often be interactive: you are expected to have read the key text(s) for each week in advance, and to be active during class. Please also bring with you a copy of the required weekly reading(s).


In addition, there will be a one-hour seminar session each week, which will include group discussions of the week’s topic and readings. You will be expected to come prepared for discussion of the key readings.