Feminist Political Theory

This is part of our Campus Spotlight on Appalachian State University.
This is part of our special feature, Me Who? The Audibility of a Social Movement.


Course Description:

This course examines the various types of feminist political theories that inform contemporary feminist politics. We consider the following: liberal feminism, radical feminism, women of color feminisms, Marxist and socialist feminism, psychoanalytic feminism and care-based feminism, eco-feminism, existentialist, poststructuralist, and postmodern feminism, third wave and queer feminism. We will explore the similarities and differences between these feminist political theories, including their historical evolution in relation to feminist politics. Among our guiding questions will be how to understand feminisms, feminists, and their roles in political debates and policy issues today.

Course Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this course will better understand:

*the different varieties of feminist political theory

*the major works of important feminist political theorists

*the historical development of feminist political theories

*the links between feminist political theories and feminist political struggles

*the importance of interdisciplinary perspectives to feminist political theory

*the uses of theoretical frameworks in policy analysis

*the application of feminist political theories to specific case studies


There is one book for purchase for this class. Be sure to purchase the most recent edition:

Rosemarie Tong and Tina Fernandez Botts, Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction, 5th ed., (Routledge, 2017).

All other readings are posted on the ASULearn course site. Please tell me as soon as possible if you have any difficulty accessing these readings.


This class will be conducted in a seminar format. You are expected to do the assigned reading prior to the relevant class session and to come to class prepared to discuss it. Participation and attendance are important aspects of your final grade. Each of you has a perspective to contribute to our discussions. For those less comfortable jumping into a discussion, the presentation of your research paper offers another mode of class participation.

Your major written assignment in this course is a 10-15 pg. double-spaced, typed research paper applying one or more feminist political theories to a feminist political issue or struggle of your choice. The assigned readings from feminist theorists provide concepts, frameworks, and insights to frame and inform your papers. Beyond the requirements to integrate theory and practice, you can decide the specific focus of your research paper. To facilitate progress on papers, the syllabus includes sequenced research assignments — a paper proposal, a list of sources, an annotated bibliography, a draft paper (optional), and a research presentation. I will provide guidelines for each of these steps as they approach. All are intended to help you make steady progress toward a successful final paper. It is my hope that students from this class will present their papers at conferences and possibly publish them!

In addition to the research paper assignments, you will write a book review on a major work by one of the feminist theorists on the syllabus. You should choose a theorist and book that is relevant for your research paper. Book review guidelines will be provided in class.

Course Outline:

8/20 Introduction 

Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, Manifesta: young women, feminism, and the future (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2000), chapter 2, “What is Feminism?” pp. 50-86.

8/22-9/5 Liberal Feminisms

Tong and Botts, chapter 1

1) Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, selections

2) Seneca Falls, “Declaration of Sentiments” https://www.nps.gov/wori/learn/historyculture/declaration-of-sentiments.htm

Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman,” speech http://www.sojournertruth.com/p/aint-i-woman.html

Harriet Taylor Mill, “Enfranchisement of Women,” excerpt http://womhist.alexanderstreet.com/awrm/doc15.htm

John Stuart Mill, “Women’s Suffrage Amendment,” speech https://victoriancommons.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/the-only-really-important-public- service-i-performed-john-stuart-mills-womens-suffrage-amendment-20-may-1867/

3) Betty Friedan, “Our Revolution is Unique”; 1970 Farewell Speech, https://eloquentwoman.blogspot.com/2011/03/famous-speech-friday-betty-friedans.html

Jo Freeman, “The Women’s Liberation Movement: Its Origins, Structures, and Ideas,” Recent Sociology No. 4: Family, Marriage, and the Struggle of the Sexes ed. by Hans Peter Dreitzel, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1972, pp. 201-216. https://www.jofreeman.com/feminism/liberationmov.htm

Class will not meet on 8/27 due to Convocation and 8/29 due to the American Political Science Association Convention


9/10-17 Radical Feminisms 

Tong and Botts, chapter 2

Shulamith Firestone, “The Dialectic of Sex” https://www.marxists.org/subject/women/authors/firestone-shulamith/dialectic-sex.htm

Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” http://transasdocorpo.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Compulsory-heterosexuality-and-lesbian- existence-2.pdf

Mary Daly, “Outercourse: Introduction” https://feminsttheoryreadinggroup.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/outercourse-introduction-by-mary- daly/

Catherine MacKinnon, “Feminism, Marxism, Method and the State: Toward Feminist Jurisprudence” https://www.feministes-radicales.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Catharine-MacKinnon-Feminism- Marxism-Method-and-the-State-toward-feminist-jurisprudence-Copie.pdf


9/19-26 Marxist and Socialist Feminisms

Tong and Botts, chapter 3

Friedrich Engels, “The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State”

Heidi Hartmann, “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union”

Juliette Mitchell, “Looking Back at Women’s Estate” https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/1836-juliet-mitchell-looking-back-at-woman-s-estate


Paper Proposals are Due in Class on 9/26 10/1-10/10 Women of Color Feminisms

Tong and Botts, chapters 4-5

Combahee River Collective http://circuitous.org/scraps/combahee.html

Audre Lorde, “The Masters Tools Will Never Dismantle the Masters House” http://s18.middlebury.edu/AMST0325A/Lorde_The_Masters_Tools.pdf

Paula Gunn-Allen, “Who Is Your Mother? The Red Roots of White Feminism” https://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/allenredrootsofwhitefeminism.html

Maria Lugones, “Playfulness, ‘World-Travelling,’ and Loving Perception” http://www.iheal.univ-paris3.fr/sites/www.iheal.univ-paris3.fr/files/playfulness.pdf

Chandra Mohanty, “Under Western Eyes Revisited: Feminist Solidarity Through Anticapitalist Struggles”


Fall Break is 10/14-10/15


10/17-10/22 Psychological and Care-Focused Feminisms

Tong and Botts, chapters 6-7

Sigmund Freud, “On Femininity”

Carol Gilligan, In A Different Voice https://harvardpress.typepad.com/hup_publicity/2012/03/revisiting-carol-gilligan-in-a-different- voice.html

Nancy Chodorow, “Gender Personality and the Sexual Sociology of Adult Life”

Sara Ruddick, “Maternal Thinking” https://sararuddick.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/maternal-thinking-chapter.pdf


Source Lists Are Due In Class on 10/17


10/24-10/31 Ecofeminism

Tong and Botts, chapter 8

Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat (Continuum, 2000), introduction https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~cavitch/pdf-library/Adams_Sexual.pdf

Rosemary Radford Ruether, “Ecofeminism: The Challenge to Theology” https://www.unive.it/media/allegato/dep/n20-2012/Ricerche/Riflessione/4_Ruether_Ecofeminism.pdf

Vandana Shiva, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Forest” https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/what-would-nature-do/vandana-shiva-seed-saving-forest- biodiversity-20190503

Starhawk, “Social Permaculture.” https://kindredmedia.org/2011/12/social-permaculture-by-starhawk/


Annotated Bibliographies are Due in Class on 11/5 11/5-11/12 Existentialist, Poststructural and Postmodern Feminisms

Simone de Beauvoir, “The Second Sex 25 Years Later: Interview” https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/de-beauvoir/1976/interview.htm

Julia Kristeva, “Desire in Language” https://circleuncoiled.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/julia-kristeva-desire-in-language/

Judith Butler, Gender and Performativity https://www.aibr.org/antropologia/04v03/criticos/040301b.pdfhttps://www.versobooks.com/blogs/2009-judith-butler-on-gender-and-the-trans-experience-one- should-be-free-to-determine-the-course-of-one-s-gendered-life


Book Reviews are Due in Class on 11/14


11/14-11/26 Third Wave and Queer Feminisms

Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto” http://people.oregonstate.edu/~vanlondp/wgss320/articles/haraway-cyborg-manifesto.pdf

Halberstam, Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal, excerpts http://jmporquer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Halberstam_Gaga-feminism.pdf

Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner, “Sex in Public” http://sites.middlebury.edu/sexandsociety/files/2015/01/Berlant-and-Warner-Sex-in-Public.pdf

bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, excerpts https://excoradfeminisms.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/bell_hooks-feminism_is_for_everybody.pdf


11/27-11/31 is Thanksgiving Break

Research Paper Rough Drafts Are Due In Class on 12/3 (Optional) 12/3 and Final Exam Period: Research Paper Presentations

Research Papers are Due at the Scheduled Final Exam for this Course

Please Note: This syllabus is subject to change as needed, but only with sufficient notice.




Print Friendly, PDF & Email