Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Feminist Critiques in BioMedicine

Women’s Studies 100: Feminist Critiques in Biomedicine undergraduate course

Women’s Studies, Spring 2008


                      Instructor Moya Z. Bailey

Class meets: 11:30am - 12:45pm TTh Woodruff Library 774

Office Hours: T 10:00am - 11:15am Jazzman’s Café or by appointment

Email: mzbaile@emory.edu (Use this address only; do not use learnlink address, all email will be read between 9-5 on weekdays)



Course Description

This course will ask students to question what they “know” about science and the scientific process. We will problematize “scientific objectivity” and probe foundational scientific ideas about race, sex, and gender while simultaneously examining what these basic tenets have meant for marginalized groups in society, particularly when seeking medical care. Students will engage feminist science theories that range from explorations of the linguistic metaphors of the immune system, the medicalization of race, to critiques of the sexual binary. We will use contemporary as well as historical moments to investigate the evolution of “scientific truth” and its impact on the U.S. cultural landscape. Using the unique lens of feminist theory, students will revisit their disciplinary training as a site for critical analysis.

Goals and Objectives

Students will

  • determine the validity of scientific claims based on evidence, not opinion
  • recognize societal and cultural influence on “biological” behavior
  • grasp basic women’s studies concepts such as intersectionality and standpoint theory
  • explore race, class, and gender’s impact on medicine

Required Texts

All text can be ordered online, or are available through the course blackboard site.

        Fadiman, Anne The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 0-374-52564-1


  1. Weekly class blog entry (20%)
  2. Active participation in class discussions (10%) (preparation, reading books/articles, attendance, etc.)
  3. Activist practicum (15%)
  4. Class assignments (10%)
  5. Final paper/Project (25%)
  6. Assigned discussion leadership (15%)
  7. Sustainable classroom efforts (5%)

Class Blog

All students will post ten weekly blog entries that reflect their reaction to the required reading material. Blogs should also show a connection to larger issues happening in the world. You will be graded on the evolution of your responses over the course of the class as well as your ability to draw parallels between class material and local/global events. Each entry should be at least two paragraphs. Students must also comment on another classmate’s post once a week. By the end of the semester students must have 10 posts and 10 responses. Students are expected to read each others responses. Students who go beyond this minimum may receive extra credit. FYI- Blogs are a public forum so other people from around the world can drop in our class conversations and will. Be prepared for this. http://feministscience.blogspot.com/

Class Participation

Students must participate in classroom discussions. To do so students must be present. Students can miss two classes without penalty. Any absence beyond these two will result in a percentage decrease from your class participation grade. Students must submit in writing their reason for being absent before it occurs and are still responsible for any assignments missed. Tardiness is unacceptable. Excessive tardiness will result in a percentage decrease from your class participation grade.

Activist Practicum

Students must participate in and/or observe an activist oriented group or organization through out the semester dealing with issues of race, sex, and/or medicine. This could include volunteering at the Feminist Women’s Health Center or participating in their programming, attending a SisterLove healthy love party, working for AID Atlanta etc. Early in the semester students will submit a proposal on their possible practicum action and at the end of the semester a presentation on the experience. Students should spend at least 5 hours participating over the course of the semester. You will be graded on your ability to connect the class material to the experience in your presentation.

Class Assignments

All assignments are detailed on the syllabus or in Blackboard. Late work will receive a letter grade deduction for each day it is late. It is your responsibility to alert me in writing (an e-mail) when you will miss class and how you intend to make up the lost time.

Final Paper/Project

The final paper or project can be one of three topics.

  1. Apply the concepts and themes discussed in this course to your proposed area of medicine and/or research. As most of you plan to become doctors or biomedical researchers, what kinds of questions are already being asked in your future field? What might a feminist scientist bring to the discussion?
  2. Students may analyze two contemporary news articles that relate to medicine, gender, and/or race. Students will use the concepts explored in class to examine the themes of the articles. What might a feminist scientist say about the claims being made in the articles?
  3. Rewrite a chapter of a biology textbook that includes a feminist analysis of the material. Be sure to engage all relevant facets of intersectionality including race, sex, gender, sexuality, disability, etc.

The papers should be 10 or more pages in length, excluding bibliographic references. Students may opt to present the paper in a format other than a paper presentation such as a documentary video, power point etc. upon conference with the professor. Alternative projects must maintain the same level of scholarly rigor of the academic paper and students opting for this option will help the professor in the development of grading rubric for their project.

Assigned Discussion Reading

During the semester student pairs will be assigned one day to facilitate a class discussion. You are responsible for guiding the class through the assigned reading for that day as well as fostering discussion. You should also integrate blog comments and/or related information from the media. Students may sign up on the class calendar in Blackboard. Do not pick a day where we are watching a movie in class. You may use handouts, powerpoint, or a medium of your choice to engage the class.

Sustainable Classroom Efforts

As you will come to see in this course, medicine and health involves more than the body. The outer environment plays an essential role in how healthy we are and as you will see can disproportionately impact marginalized groups. We will attempt to tread a little lighter on the planet, at least in the context of this classroom. Papers, assignments, and grades will be submitted electronically and you are encourages to use both sides of the page if you prefer for print assignments and handouts. Recycling backs of paper is encouraged, as well as students’ suggestions of other sustainable practices that can be employed in the class.

Extra Credit

Students may attend events detailed on the Blackboard Calendar for this class and write a two page reflection on the event that connects to class concepts. Other extra credit opportunities will be announced on Blackboard.


A 100 – 94

A- 93 – 90

B+ 89 – 87

B 86 – 84

B- 83 – 80

C+ 79 – 76

C 75 – 73

C- 72 – 70

D 69 – 64

F 64 – Below

Any students who feel they may need academic adjustments and/or accommodations should speak with me during the first two weeks of class. All discussions will remain confidential. Students with disabilities should also contact the Office of Disability Services in the Administration Building.

Academic Honesty and Classroom integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with the Academic Honesty policy of the University. If you have any questions, be sure to come see me during office hours or send me an email. You are also expected to be respectful of your classmates. Many of the issues discussed are highly contested and your opinions will often differ so it is important that everyone is courteous with their contention.

Reading and Discussion Schedule

1. Introduction (1/17)

  1. Hey! How are you? Who are you? Why are you here?
  2. Syllabus
  3. Reader Glossary

2. Sex, Gender, and Science (1/22-1/31)

(1/22) A. “Body Matters: Cultural Inscriptions.” by Lynne Segal

B. “The Importance of Feminist Critique for Contemporary Cell Biology.” by THE BIOLOGY AND GENDER STUDY GROUP http://zygote.swarthmore.edu/fert11a1.html

(1/24) A. Total Patient Care: The Child with an Intersex Condition Video (in class)

B. “Rethinking Genitals and Gender.” by Suzzane J. Kessler

C. “’Cultural Practice’ or ‘Reconstrucive Surgery’: U.S. Genital Cutting and the Intersex Movement, and Medical Double Standards.” By Cherly Chase

(1/29) A. Chapter 1 “Dueling Dualisms” in Sexing the Body by Anne Fausto Sterling

B. “Lesbian Bodies: Tribades, Tomboys, and Tarts” by Barbara Creed

(1/31) A. Ma Vie En Rose (watch before class)

B. “Not Just Passing.” by Leslie Fineberg

    3. Sex, Race, and Science (2/5-2/21)

(2/5) A. “Towards a Genology of Black Female Sexuality: The problematic of Silence.” By Evelyn Hammonds

B. "Sexuality and Gender in Certain Native American Tribes: The Case of Cross-Gender Females." by Evelyn Blackwood

(2/7) A.“White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” by Peggy McIntosh

B. “I Can Fix It! V.1 Racism.” By Damali Ayo

(2/12) A. “Theories of Gender and Race.” By Londa Schiebinger

B. “Women as Victims of Medical Experimentation.” by Diana E. Axelsen

C. Garcia, Ana Maria. La operacion. Produced and directed by Ana Maria Garcia. 40 min. New York: Cinema Guild, 1982. Videocassette. (Watch in Class)

(2/14) A. Listen to Remembering Tuskegee. Also read the CDC Timeline at the bottom page

B. “Natural Laboratories: Medical Experimentation in Native Communities.” By Andrea Smith

(2/19) A. Chapter 2 Killing the Black Body by Dorothy Roberts

B. Population Control pamphlet

C. Activist Practicum Proposal Due

(2/21) A. Library Visit

4. Disability, Science, and Medicine (2/26-3/6)

(2/26) A. “The Social Construction of Disability.” by Susan Wendall

B. “Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the body.” By Lennard Davis

(2/28) A. “Power vs. Prosthesis.” and “A Burst of Light: Living with Cancer.” by Audrey Lorde

B. Guest Mia Mingus

(3/4) A. “Disability Rights and Selective Abortion.” By Marsha Saxon

B. “Managing Women’s Minds.” by Elaine Showalter

C. Grey’s Anatomy Clip (Watch in Class)

(3/6) A. “Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression Editor’s Introduction” by Jana Evans Braziel and Kathleen LeBesco


5. Culture, Science, and Medicine (3/18-4/10)

(3/18) A. 1-6 of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

B. Final Project Proposal Due

(3/20) A. 7-12 of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

(3/25) A. 13-19 of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

(3/27) A. “Poverty fuels medical crisis: Access to care is difficult for rural, urban residents.” by Laura Ungar

B. Watch: http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/08/30/1354251 Minorities and Environmental Racism and read “Dismantling Toxic Racism.” by Robert D. Bullard

(4/1) “Toxic Bodies? ACT UP's Disruption of the Heteronormative Landscape of the Nation.” by Beth Berila.

(4/3) No Class

(4/8) “No Remedy for the Inuit: Accountability for Environmental Harms under U.S. and International Law.” by Anne E. Lucas

Story of Stuff

(4/10) A. Clips Assignment

B. Final Project Outline

6. Activist Practicum and Research Presentations (11/26-12/10)

(4/15) presentations 1-5

(4/17) presentations 6-10

(4/22) presentations 11-15

(4/23) Special Visit with Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter

(4/24) presentations 16-18 & Wrap up

(4/29) All extra credit due and Final Papers due

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