GWSS 1002 * Spring 2011 * M/W 10:10-11 * Anderson 310

Dr. Sara Puotinen
Ford 444
Office Hrs: Wed 12-1 (in person), Mon 2-3 (via twitter)

Teaching Assistants
Brittany Lewis
Elakshi Kumar

Twitter: @gwssprof
Course Blog:

Course Description:

The course examines how sex, gender, and sexuality are understood historically and theoretically through the study of social discourses and everyday practices. The primary purpose of this class is to study different constructions of sex, gender, and sexuality with an emphasis on: 1. making visible the ways in which these constructions intersect, connect and exist beside each other in our everyday practices and 2. challenging how and why certain constructions are normalized and others marked as deviant or unnatural. We will question at length what gender and sexuality are and how they are related to other categories such as sex, race, and nation from a variety of feminist and queer perspectives.

After beginning with some reflections on the meaning of "politics" and "sex," we will explore feminist and queer analyses of the politics of sex through a critical examination of:


  • Matrix of sex/gender/desire
  • Heteronormativity
  • Power/Privilege/Policing


  • Sex
  • Sexuality
  • Gender


  • Caster Semenya
  • The Medicalization of Desire
  • Purity, Innocence and Protection

CLE Distribution Requirements
GWSS 1002 is certified as satisfying the Social Science (SocS) core and Diversity and Social Justice in the US (DSJ) theme CLE requirements. GWSS 1002, like other Social Science core classes, focuses on understanding human practices within society through qualitative and quantitative studies of politics, culture, economics, and history. Politics of Sex examines how gender, sex, and sexuality shape and structure our experiences as humans in the modern world. We use a variety of analytical approaches to examine the interrelationships among individuals, institutions, structures, and ideas in regard to these and other social differences (such as race, nation, and class).

This course also satisfies the Diversity and Social Justice in the US theme. The course demonstrates to students how sex, gender, and sexuality are frequently critical to production, maintenance, and reproduction of inequalities, power, and privilege. The course explores a variety of perspectives to show how our practices of and ideas about sex, gender, and sexuality have lead to social and economic hierarchies with material and cultural consequences. GWSS 1002 explores how social differences operate within normative and non-normative ways.

Course Objectives:

  1. to understand better histories and theories of sexuality by interrogating social constructions of "normal" and "deviant" from diverse points of racial, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender writing and analysis.
  2. to question the relationships between sex, gender and sexuality through looking at individual identity, behavior, and experience within the context of a society.
  3. to question and understand our own locations in these social formations.
  4. to develop effective critical thinking and engaging skills offline and online (via our course blog and twitter feed)

Course Expectations

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. Or, you could become facebook friends (or set up a facebook group for students-only in the class?). You can also tweet questions to our class.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns: You are always welcome to visit me during my office hours (offline: Wed, 12-1 or online via twitter: Mon, 2-3). 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. Due dates are final and non-negotiable. Exceptions will only be granted in extreme circumstances. All due dates will be posted on our course blog on the assignments page. All assigned work must be completed in order to pass the class.

Check the blog several times a week: We will be using our course blog a lot in this class. If possible, make sure to bookmark it on your computer. You should check it regularly to read what other students in the course have to say about the readings, topics, and the politics of sex. You should also check it to read any announcements from class (like revised assignments) or to download handouts. I will also occasionally 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. Even though this is a large class, 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 can provide training sessions on how to use the blog in the Rachel Raimist Feminist Media Center (Ford 468) and post an online tutorial. We will also devote the second week to discussing the blog and twitter. 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 (@gwssprof). Although I am not requiring twitter this semester (having used it extensively last semester in two of my classes), I will be using it to post announcements and hold virtual office hours. 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.

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, call the University Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, 418 Morrill Hall, 624-9547.

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