Unit 4: Unraveling the Gender Knot: Acquiring Gender Literacy to Promote Equity

Though America was founded as a democracy, for two-thirds of its existence, the voices of women have been silenced. Thus, our next unit will be a study of America through the acquisition of gender literacy, highlighting the problematic effects of patriarchy on all genders. We will begin with a look at the constrictive ideologies of what it is to be a “man” or “woman” and how limiting gender roles affect the dynamics of relationships. Excerpts from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior, and Sandra Cisneros’ Woman Hollering Creek, will give voice to the “intimately oppressed” within the traditional model of gender relations. We will also explore homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism as expressions of fear and ignorance that affect social encounters and prohibit the full expression of identity. Looking carefully at these troubling dynamics can help us meet the challenge to create a truly democratic society, one of equality and equity.

Literature Workshop

When studying a sociological construct such as gender, it is crucial to see how literature has shaped the identity of women over time. This workshop highlights positive portrayals of women, particularly women of color, who experience the intersectionality of race and gender, and deal with a system of oppression that results in multiple forms of discrimination. In each text, we will analyze the protagonist’s transformation from a place of control to one of empowerment, ultimately giving a voice to those who have historically been silenced.

Sociology Workshop

In this workshop, we seek to explore the complexities of gender role socialization. We will study the theoretical debate of “nature vs. nurture,” and discuss how much of our understanding of gender is a result of biological predisposition and/or socialization.

History Workshop

In this workshop we will explore the “hidden” history of women in the United States. We begin with the colonial period and the origins of the women’s rights movement. Next, we will examine the Seneca Falls Convention and trace the key events of the woman’s suffrage movement, culminating in the 19th Amendment. Then, we will view different perspectives of the women’s rights movement through the words of Betty Friedan and Phyllis Schlafly. We will conclude this workshop with a study of the continuing struggles for equality and women’s rights in the present day.

Visual Arts Workshop

This workshop focuses on the art of narrative photography, based on the work of Judy Olausen and Cindy Sherman, as a means of highlighting the impact of gender roles on male and female experiences.