Course Information


GWSS 3004W * Fall 2011 * Tues/Thurs: 11:15-12:30 * Ford 110 
3 Credits 
CLE Requirement: Civic Life and Ethics 
Instructor: Dr. Sara Puotinen
Office Hours: Thurs: 12:45-2, Online Office Hours (via twitter): Wed, 12-1
Office Location: Ford 444
Email: Blog Address: 
Twitter: #femd2011) 

IMPORTANT: To be successful in this course, you will need to spend considerable time on our blog and twitter. Please contact me as soon as possible with any concerns you have about this requirement. If you are completely opposed to using blogs and/or twitter in the classroom, I encourage you to seek out another class to fulfill your writing intensive/civic life and ethics requirements. 

  • To study interdisciplinary scholarship on women and gender 
  • To focus on multicultural and cross-cultural studies both in the US and globally 
  • To develop critical, analytical and interdisciplinary problem-solving skills 
  • To enhance research skills and creative talents 
  • To develop new ideas and theories about women and gender that challenges assumptions and contribute to social change.  
  • To reflect on the value of debate for feminists' ethical and political projects 
  • To apply the concepts discussed in class to contemporary culture, and your own lives 
  • To engage in a critical exploration of several contentious issues within feminism 
  • To foster a sense of community in which we all can critically explore a wide range of perspectives in respectful and productive ways 
  • To brainstorm strategies for addressing key issues of concern for feminists 
  • To develop, defend and challenge your own personal values and beliefs on feminism 
  • To acquire important critical digital literacy skills To explore the limits/possibilities of online media for feminist principles and projects 
This course focuses on critically examining the ethical and political choices that feminists and feminist communities have made as they develop, defend and challenge each other's solutions to some central problems within contemporary feminism. The connection between ethics and civic life is central to the course in two key ways. This course requires that you critically reflect on the ethics of civic engagement (what principles are at stake in feminists' developments of their agendas), and it allows you to collectively debate the value of these ethical principles in your own thinking about how feminists should work for social justice. 

Writing is a central part of this course. Your formal writing assignment is a feminist reflection paper, with an initial draft of 3 pages due on September 22 and a final, revised version of 8 pages due on December 1. In addition to this "formal writing," you will be required to write extensively on our course blog. We will experiment with using the blog and twitter to reflect on/document the writing process and to receive feedback from each other. Emphasis will be placed on developing ways to effectively express your critical and creative engagement with course topics and other members of the class. 

Attend Class Regularly: You are allowed to have two unexcused absences during this semester. You are responsible for contacting other students to get any notes, handouts or information on assignments that you might have missed. Please do not contact me requesting missed notes or assignments. Instead, I would encourage you to exchange email addresses or phone numbers with several other students. You can also tweet questions to our class. You should also check the blog; all announcements made in class will be posted online. 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns: You are always welcome to visit me during my office hours (offline: Tues. 12:45-2 or online via twitter: Wed. 12-1). If you can't make my office hours, you can email me ( or tweet me (@gwssprof) with your questions or to set up another time. 

Be an active and respectful participant in class: Your participation is crucial to the success of the class. To that end, you are responsible for coming to class fully prepared, actively and respectfully contributing to discussions, listening attentively to others' ideas and experiences, asking questions when you don't understand the material and giving me feedback on what is working and not working in the class. You can also post questions/comments on our course blog or twitter feed. 

Hand in all assignments on time: Complete all work on time. "On time" means at the beginning of the class period on the particular due date (hard copy) and by 11 PM online on the particular due date (blog/twitter assignments). Due dates are final and non-negotiable. Exceptions will only be granted in extreme circumstances. All due dates will be posted here on the course information page. All assigned work must be completed in order to pass the class. 

Check the blog on a regular basis: We will be using our course blog a lot in this class. If possible, make sure to bookmark it on your computer. You must check it regularly to read what other students in the course have to say about the readings, topics, and feminist debates. You should also check it to read any announcements from class (like revised assignments) or to download handouts. I will also post my notes or reflections on the topic/readings. 

Don't procrastinate: At the end of every semester, I ask students to give advice to future students. One of the most popular suggestions is: don't procrastinate. The readings, papers, and blog assignments always take more time than you think so don't wait until the last minute to do them. 

As a teacher, two of my primary goals are to empower students to claim their own education and to inspire them to be curious and critically aware of their world/s. I will emphasize discussion and student participation and limit the number (and length) of my lectures. This discussion/participation-based format means that you, along with your classmates, bear a lot of responsibility for the success of the class. You must hold each other accountable for the claims that you make and the ideas you express. And you must make sure that you come to class prepared with some thoughts and questions so that we can have respectful and productive discussions about the material/topics. 

Our course blog will play a central role in our class. I will use it to post announcements, class summaries, assignments, and handouts. You will be using it to complete several of your assignments and to engage and develop connections with your class members and instructors. To help you become familiar with the blog, I will provide training sessions on how to use the blog in the Rachel Raimist Feminist Media Center (Ford 468) on the second day of class and post an online tutorial. We will also devote time to reading about/discussing the value of blogs and twitter for feminist activist projects. Throughout the semester, I will include more blog training and discussion during class time and I will be available for blog training sessions upon request. Finally, I hope to enlist some class members to serve as technology mentors to other students. If you are familiar with blogging at the U (on UThink) and are willing to help others, please let me know. 

We will also be using twitter (a class list and a hashtag). I will be using it to post announcements and hold virtual office hours. And you will be using it to post links, ask questions, connect with other students, and experiment with expressing ideas succinctly. I will provide a brief tutorial (in person and online) on how to sign up for twitter and use it for class engagement. 

Academic Dishonesty Academic integrity is essential to a positive teaching and learning environment. All students enrolled in University courses are expected to complete coursework responsibilities with fairness and honesty. Failure to do so by seeking unfair advantage over others or misrepresenting someone else's work as your own, can result in disciplinary action. The University Student Conduct Code defines scholastic dishonesty as follows: 

SCHOLASTIC DISHONESTY: submission of false records of academic achievement; cheating on assignments or examinations; plagiarizing; altering, forging, or misusing a University academic record; taking, acquiring, or using test materials without faculty permission; acting alone or in cooperation with another to falsify records or to obtain dishonestly grades, honors, awards, or professional endorsement. Within this course, a student responsible for scholastic dishonesty can be assigned a penalty up to an including an "F" or "N" for the course. If you have any questions regarding the expectations for a specific assignment or exam, ask.

University of Minnesota Disability Services Students with disabilities who require accommodations in meeting course requirements should meet with me as early as possible in the term. Class materials, including this syllabus, can be made available in alternative formats upon request. It is your responsibility to provide documentation from Disability Services to receive accommodations. Click here for more information.

Non-native English Speakers and Writers If you need some extra assistance with the reading and writing assignments, please contact me early in the term. 

U of M Harassment Policy The University of Minnesota is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, or sexual orientation. For further information, contact the University Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

Feminism Reflection Paper 100 points 
Revised Fem. Reflection Paper 200 points 
Informal Writing 150 points 
Blog Assignments 110 points 
Diablog 150 points 
Twitter 40 points 
Social Media Assessment 100 points 
Participation 150 points 
total 1000 points  

Download due dates HERE

A outstanding achievement (900-1000 points) 
B achievement significantly above necessary level (800-899 points) 
C achievement meeting the basic course requirements (700-799 points) 
D achievement worthy of credit (600-699 points) 
F performance failing to meet the basic course requirements (500-599 points) 
S equivalent to a grade of C or better 

FEMINISM REFLECTION PAPER 100 points In the preface to Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks' explains that she wrote the book in order to provide her friends and family with a brief and accessible explanation of what feminism is and why it is important. The goal of this assignment is to write a 3 page/double-spaced/11 or 12 point font paper in which you offer your own clear and compelling definition of feminism and why it is/is not important. 

REVISED FEMINISM REFLECTION PAPER 200 points In this 8 page paper, you should do a substantial revision of your first paper on feminism and whether or not it is necessary. Taking into consideration my comments on your first draft, our discussion of feminism (its histories, key issues, debates), and your informal writing assignments, this paper should reflect a more informed vision of feminism and its importance (or lack of importance). You must include your initial draft (with my comments) and print-outs of your informal writing assignments with your final draft. 

INFORMAL WRITING 150 points These informal writing assignments are designed to help you as you engage in the process of writing and revising your reflection paper on feminism: developing your definition of feminism, focusing your ideas, using examples to support your claims, and learning how to succinctly and compellingly communicate your ideas. 



Where to post

Due Date

Feminism definition


twitter and blog

oct 7

2 Reading examples

2@25 = 50 total

twitter and blog

1: oct 17 2: nov 4

Current example


twitter and blog

nov 7

Reflection on writing



oct 28

GENERAL BLOG ASSIGNMENTS 110 points You are required to be an active participant on our course blog. More details will be posted soon. 



Due Date

This is a feminist issue ENTRY


september 23

3 This is a feminist issue COMMENTS

3@10 = 30 total

1st one = sept 25

4 Open Thread COMMENTS

4@10 = 40 total

1st one = sept 16

2 Feedback COMMENTS

2@10 = 20 total

1: nov 7; 2: dec 7

DIABLOG 150 points To foster connections between our online and offline engagements, to help us to cultivate our class community, and to give you even more opportunity to shape the class, you and 7 classmates will lead us in a mini diablog about the readings. More details about this assignment and a sign-up sheet will be distributed on sept 22. The first diablog will begin on sept 29. 

Note: Dialogue + blog = diablog (noun) A collaboration involving two (or more) people who exchange ideas with others via posts and comments on their shared blog. A diablog requires a explicit commitment to engaging with blog-writing partners through reading and commenting on their posts and referring to/incorporating ideas into your posts. 

 40 points You are required to actively participate on twitter. More details on this assignment will be posted soon. 



Due Date

Tweet about "this is a fem. issue"


sept 23

3 Tweets about feminist resources

3@5 = 15 total

1-2: nov 7 3: dec 7

4 Tweets of your choice

4@5 = 20 total

dec 7

Feminist Social Media Example 50 points You and 3-4 other students will critically assess one form of feminist social media and present this assessment to the class (in-class and on the blog). You will do research online in order to find a suitable example of feminist social media. Then collectively assess your example for its value as a feminist education resource. Finally, you will give a brief (about 15 minutes) presentation in class on either nov 17 or nov 29. A sign-up sheet and more details about this assignment will be distributed in a few weeks.  

Assessment of class use of Social Media 50 points In early december (by dec 7), you are required to post a blog entry in which you reflect on the value and effectiveness of social media in our feminist class. More information about this assignment will be distributed after Thanksgiving.

PARTICIPATION 150 points You are required to attend class regularly and contribute to class discussions. More than two unexcused absences will lower your class participation grade. For each class, you must be prepared, with fully read text in hand. Included in this grade are any in-class assignments (such as free-writing assignments, small group work, film worksheets).

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