online syllabus:

electronic reserves:

 (password 202)

class handouts:

groups / exam1 / essay / exam2

~ schedule ~

Women’s and Gender Studies 202:

Introduction to Gender and Sexuality

Fall 2011

Dr. Abby Coykendall

abbcoy at

Office: 603J Pray Harrold
Office Phone: 734-487-0954
Office Hours: M 4:45-5:15;

W 4:45-6:45; F 11-12:45

~ or  email for an appointment ~

Section #15405

Monday & Wednesday 11:00-12:15 Pm

John W. Porter 300BC


WGST 202: Introduction to Gender and Sexuality

In this course, we will investigate the ways in which societies construct gender, sexuality, and sexual identity, together with the very experience and counters of the sexed body, as well as the ways in which those social constructions shape our understanding of the world and of ourselves in turn.  We will examine the manifold influences upon and the diverse manifestations of gender expression and sexual activity: from masculine/feminine clothing to sexual practices and cultures. Of foremost interest will be the heterocentrism and heterogendering of the cultural imaginary taken as a whole, from the high-school prom date or romance flick to the institution of marriage.  In addition, we will examine the normalization and naturalization of oppositional sexes, genders, and sexualities (male/female, masculine/feminine, butch/femme, hetero/homosexual); the pathologization of “abnormal” or “aberrant” genders and affective/erotic orientations; the transgression and/or performance of sex/gender roles; cross-cultural or subcultural evocations of gender, sexuality, and sexed embodiment; and finally, the lives, experiences, and history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people (LGBTQ). 

Course Objectives: By the end of the course, you will be better able to

1)  Understand ways that gender and sexuality are both culturally constructed and institutionally sanctioned;

2)  Observe the intersectional aspects of gender with age, class, race, and sexuality;

3)  Critically evaluate representations of femininity, masculinity, misogyny, heterosexism, homophobia, and transphobia in both popular media and cultural discourses;

4)  Articulate the ways in which race, class, ethnicity, and global affairs affect women and men of diverse sexualities;

5)  Determine how social norms involving gender and sexuality also constitute and reinforce systems of privilege, oppression, and sexism;

6)  Articulate this new understanding about gender and sexuality in both written and oral forms.

General Education Rationale:

WGST 202 meets the requirements of the General Education Program in the U.S. Diversity area by demonstrating the ways in which gender and sexual conditioning influence the experiences or men and women and shapes their sense of identity as it intersects with different classes, racial/ethnic groups, and sexualities.  The course helps students understand and explore the ways in which these complex constructions and attitudes toward gender and sexuality lead to prejudice in the spheres of family, education, employment, health, politics, and the media.

Course Texts and Materials:



* Octavia Butler, Kindred  (Beacon 2004; ISBN# 0807083690)**

* Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Houghton Mifflin, 2006; ISBN# 0618477942)**

Recommended but not required:

* Introducing the New Sexuality Studies, 2nd Ed. (Routledge, 2011; ISBN# 9780415781268)**

The other texts can be accessed online and printed for free on any campus computer.  See the Electronic Reserves (ER):, password 202.  ** Make sure to bring copies of the texts that we are covering to class.  You will need everything on hand for groupwork and class discussions.

Instructor Availability

I will be delighted to discuss any course-related questions, interests, or concerns during my office hours, as well as at any time through email (abbcoy at Emails with straightforward questions usually receive a reply within a few hours to a day; those with thornier issues usually receive a reply within a week. Please limit inquiries to those that I alone can answer so I can give the more pressing issues of other students the attention that they deserve. If, for example, you are unsure about a due date, consult the syllabus (/f11.htm), the handouts (schedule / exam1 / essay / exam2), or the peers in your group (/grp.htm), and then email me only if the confusion persists. The first time that you visit my office hours in person with a course-related inquiry, such as to get guidance on homework, discuss readings lately covered, or brainstorm essay ideas, I will give you 10 points extra credit for the visit.

Assignments & Assessment:

Nothing is more vital for success in this course than keeping up with, and actively engaging in, the reading assignments, response papers, and class discussions each day.  The more actively you participate in class, the more the course content can reflect your unique needs and interests.  As with any university course, homework will take around two hours to complete for every unit of class or, in other words, six hours per week.  *Note: Almost all course hyperlinks begin with the same sequence:


Participation  (Homework, responses, groupwork, presentation)

 due dates:


Exam #1  (Essay question on the films, incorporating course readings)

October 10


Research Essay (4˝ pages with scholarly sources)

November 21


Exam #2 (Essay question on the novels, incorporating course readings)

December 14


As you can see from the Schedule (sched.htm), there will be informal homework assignments due almost every week to ensure ongoing preparation for and participation in class. Depending on your group number, you will be composing discussion questions, writing responses on the materials, or reviewing materials for your peers in preparation for the exams. Check the Groups handout (grp.htm) for your group assignment.

Groupwork is simply a way to organize which set of students do which assignment (and with which materials) each week, thus diversifying the topics highlighted in class discussion, the people responsible for bringing those issues to our attention, as well as the skills that they use to do so. Most classes will consist of interactive discussions stemming from the homework. However, there is no “groupwork” properly speaking; that is, collaboration with peers on the same assignment. You will not need to meet with peers outside of class, only contact them on occasion by email to ensure that you are not covering the same text or topic.


The most essential information—due dates, assignment instructions, clarification of outstanding issues—is given at the beginning of class, so it is essential to come on time. Leave early just in case you encounter any problems along the way (traffic jams, late busses, no parking). Arriving well into the period or exiting well before its conclusion both count as half an absence. If you are late, it is your responsibility to sign the attendance sheet to avoid being marked absent. Habitual lateness that disrupts the class eventually counts as an absence (or absences) as well.


Because this course primarily consists of reading and discussion—rather than facts, figures, or memorization—regular attendance is crucial. You never need to explain your absences, as I will always assume that you have an excellent reason to miss class. However, students who miss more than FOUR classes for any reason will have their final grade reduced by a full mark, and those who miss more than FIVE classes will not be eligible to pass. Reserve absences for illnesses, car accidents, or other unforeseen emergencies preventing you from coming to class and make sure not to exhaust your allowable absences too early in the term.

When you must be absent, contact the other students in your group (/grp.htm) to share notes or determine what you missed. All missed homework is due on your return, and any changes to the Schedule (/sched.htm) will be sent to the class as a whole by email.

Classroom Etiquette

It is important to be mindful of your peers during class time, listening to them with the same respect and attention that you hope to receive yourself. Once class begins, do not distract your peers by walking in or out of the room unless there is a genuine emergency. If you have a medical condition requiring you to leave occasionally, bring a doctor’s note confirming as such; otherwise, conduct all personal business outside of class.

Disruptive exits can be both mental and physical. Students unprepared to discuss the materials for the day, or discovered using laptops or phones for purposes unrelated to the course, will be asked to leave and marked absent. This course has a no-laptop, no-cell-phone policy, so do not bother using these instruments during class time unless specifically asked to do so to look something up.

Grading Scale:





























Academic Integrity

Understanding and avoiding academic dishonesty, and doing all coursework on your own, is imperative. Copying the homework of peers, taking credit for essays that you find on the internet, cheating on exams, or recycling your own essays written for other classes for double credit are all forms of academic dishonesty.

The worst form of academic dishonesty is plagiarism, which, put simply, is taking either the ideas or the words of another person and reusing them as if they are your own. You must acknowledge when you make use of the concepts and/or expressions of other people without any exception under any circumstance, whether it be by drawing on Wikipedia for mundane (and quite possibly specious) information or channeling the most holy of holy books for heavenly inspiration.

When describing the ideas of someone else in your own words, make sure to signal as such (e.g., So and so says X … ”); most importantly, when inserting the words of someone else into your own writing, make sure to credit that person for the passage and place quotation marks on either side (e.g., So and so says “X”). Writing that lacks these acknowledgements will pass as your own by default, and any writing that thus seems to be your own, without actually being your own, will be plagiarizing the original source.

All instances of academic dishonesty will result in an automatic 0% grade for the assignment; second instances will result in outright failure of the course. There is no excuse for academic dishonesty, nor will there be any exceptions to this policy. Make sure that your work is plagiarism-free before turning it in.

Academic Resources & Campus Safety

If any of the course materials touch too close to home, and you would like to discuss issues of gender and sexuality at a personal level, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center is an ideal place to find information and support:

At some point in the term, you might consider taking advantage of the University Writing Center located in Halle 115 (9-6 M-Th; 11-4 Fri.), which assists with the writing skills necessary for success in this or any other class. The Academic Projects Center located in Halle 116 (11-5 M-Th) offers one-to-one consulting for students on writing, research, or technology-related issues. The International Student Resource Center located in Alexander 200 (487-0370) is dedicated to second-language students from abroad. 

You can also avail yourself of the campus escort service, Student Eyes and Ears for University Safety, by calling 48-SEEUS (487-3387).  If you sign up for the emergency text-messaging system (, DPS can notify us of any calamity afflicting the campus.


File last saved August 30, 2011