Sociology 1448/8448: Working Women
Fall 1997, University of Pittsburgh
MWF 3:00 pm - 3:50 pm CL 302
Professor: Lisa D. Brush
Office: 2J28 Forbes Quadrangle
Office hours: W 11:00 am to 12:30 and by appointment
Telephone and voicemail: (412) 648-7595
Email: Ask Dr. Brush
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URL for list of texts in this course:
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COURSE DESCRIPTION AND OBJECTIVES
This is an advanced undergraduate course in feminist
economic sociology. In accordance with the course listing, much
of the course will look at women and waged work. However, the
course is broader in its approach than just "working women." We
will interrogate the role of political economy in perpetuating
male dominance (that is, creating "gender") and in reinforcing
race, class, and international hierarchies. This means, among
other things, that we will also be studying the construction of
masculinity in workplace settings, and we will be looking closely
at the interactions between waged work and unpaid work as they
shape women's experience and relationships between men and women.
In the process, students will explore a variety of research
methods in economic sociology. Thus, the course seeks to equip
students to investigate in considerable detail the theory,
methods, and substance of feminist political economy through a
focus on gender and work.
This is an advanced undergraduate course. You are expected to learn from
every possible source -- from your readings, your peers, your life
experience, your professor.
In addition to reading the assigned materials (see schedule of readings
below), participating in discussion, and maintaining a set of Q-Cards,
everyone enrolled in this course is expected to complete the following:
- Participating in discussions is one of the best ways to learn. You
are expected to contribute your insights to the class. The culture of the
class will, I hope, be a congenial one for self-expression. I will work
to maintain such a culture by swiftly countering displays of contempt and
by practicing principles of pedagogical equity to the extent possible. I
cannot help you learn if you do not participate in discussion, however.
Doing excellent written work is not enough to demonstrate adequate
performance in an advanced university course. I will therefore call on
people -- at random -- to participate in discussion. Preparation is
obviously paramount. Whatever you do, don't just sit there. Say anything
you can defend against reasoned argument. Treat your colleagues'
contributions with respect (which means taking them seriously and
challenging them as well as extending basic courtesy).
- Attendance and Q-Cards
- In order to participate actively in discussion, you should prepare the
assigned readings before class begins. To help organize your
participation and preparation, and to allow you to help set the
agenda for discussion, you are required to maintain a collection of
Q-Cards. On a file card (I will provide these), write your name (along
with any nickname) on one side. On the obverse, keep a neatly-written
record of key questions about the readings. Date each question and be
sure to give a specific page reference. You may ask questions of fact,
context, clarification -- anything that gives articulate form to your
curiosity and engagement with the text. Take for granted that this will
get easier as we go along. Also assume that if your Q-Card is drawn, you
may have to elaborate the question as well as suggest a tentative
At the beginning of every class session, I will collect the Q-Cards, which
we will use to shape the discussion (I will call at random on people from
the submitted questions). I will take attendance by checking the Q-Cards.
This means you will need at least two cards "in circulation" at any given
time (one to leave with me and the other to have with you as you read).
Over the course of the semester, you are allowed three "passes" -- you may
withdraw from the question pool (by not handing in a question, in which
case you will be considered absent) or decline to answer when I call on
you. Attendance is mandatory: If you have more than five classes for
which I have no recorded question (either because you "passed" or because
you were physically absent), you will automatically receive an "F" in the
The learning you do in this course will be assessed in part through
two tests (worth a total of fifty percent of your final grade). Tests
will be in class (on Monday, September 29, and Wednesday, October 29).
The format will be mixed (multiple choice, identifications, etc.). There
will be no make-ups for these tests. Test responses should draw on
materials from lectures, readings, class discussions, your on-going
research project (if applicable), and life experience (again, if
Forty percent of your final grade will come from a research project
you complete and hand in by the end of the final exam period at the
conclusion of the semester. Either choose one of the following or consult
with me during office hours about an idea of your own. Either way, you
must hand in a brief statement of your choice of project by the
third week of classes (Friday, September 12). A statement of your
research problem and research design are due Wednesday,
October 1. You must be prepared to present and hand in a preliminary
summary of findings by Monday, November 24. Final drafts should be
typed or word-processed, double-spaced, in 12-pt font, with one-inch
margins, and should be about 3000 words. No late projects will be
accepted; papers are due, in lieu of a final examination, by 10:00 am on
Tuesday, December 9. You will make a formal, 5-minute presentation to the
class on either Wednesday, December 3, or Friday, December 5.
Research Projects Options
Have a brilliant idea of your own? Just check it out with me. I
am also very open to the idea of group problem-solving projects;
if, for example, one or more of your classmates work for the same
employer you do, you could do the ethnography together, or you
could analyze and propose a solution to a problem women face in
your workplace. Or you might address working conditions at Pitt.
- Collect and analyze cultural representations of gender at work (for
example, advertisements in magazines, songs about working people, movies
about people on the job). Do this in some comparative way (men and women,
change over time, variation across countries, or "traditional" versus
"nontraditional" occupations, for example). Report your results --
including an account of your method of collecting and analyzing your data
-- in a 10-page final paper.
- Interview four people about their work experiences. Analyze
their accounts for insights into "gender at work" in terms of any
of the themes of the course (sexual harassment, rewards of labor,
discrimination, wage gap, combining wage work and family, etc.).
Focus on comparison: you might want to be sure you have two men
and two women, one of each in a "traditional" versus
"nontraditional" occupation, or perhaps you could compare women
who differ in terms of race, age, or occupation. Report your
results -- including an account of your method of collecting and
analyzing your data -- in a 10-page final paper.
- Write a workplace ethnography based on your participation and
observations of your own current or very recent employment
experience. Analyze not just your own position in the work
organization but the gender politics/economics of as much of the
organization as you are able to observe/research. Present your
description and analysis of your workplace in a 10-page final
- Collect, analyze, and critique any set of statistics about
gender and the workforce (unemployment rate, occupational
segregation, wage gap, unionization trends, labor force
participation rate, etc.). Compare: international, national,
regional, local; race; time series; etc. Report your results --
including an account of your method of collecting and analyzing
your data -- in a 10-page final paper.
Remember: Your final project is an opportunity to demonstrate what
you have learned in this course. Be sure your final paper -- driven by
your empirical research -- is framed around issues, concepts, or problems
from the readings and class discussions.
Grading will be criteria-based, not norm-based, and there will be no
curve. That is, if you demonstrate (through your accumulated points on
the tests, the final paper, and participation in discussions) mastery of
90 percent or more of the material (that is, accumulate 90 or more
points), you will earn an "A." To receive a "B," you must demonstrate
mastery of at least 80 percent of the material (that is, accumulate at
least 80 points); for a "C," at least 70 percent (that is, accumulate at
least 70 points); for a "D," at least 55 percent (that is, accumulate at
least 55 points). If you fail to accumulate at least 55 points (thus
indicating you have mastered at least 55 percent of the material), you
will receive an "F" for a final grade. Students who earn seven (7) points
above the minimum cut-off for a given grade will receive a "+" grade. For
example, if you accumulated 77 points, you will receive a "C+." Remember:
If you have more than five "passes" (including absences), you will
automatically receive a failing grade in the course.
Your final grade will be calculated using the following:
Tests: 2 @ 25 points each
Final project and presentation: 40 points
Preparation and participation: 10 points
Special Note for "W" Students
This course may, with special permission, be taken to fulfill the "W"
requirement for Sociology majors. To receive "W" credit, students will:
Please see me if you have questions about this option.
- substitute written abstracts for Q-Cards for six of the weeks prior to
Test 2 on October 29.
- write final papers of approximately 6000 words (about 20 pages).
I have ordered a set of books at the
University of Pittsburgh Book Center. They are required reading for this
course, and we will be reading them in their entirety. I have ordered
paperback editions. If you find it prohibitively expensive to purchase all
the books, try to find some of them in the library (many are available at
Assigned readings also include selections collected in a Course Pack, available at the Copy Cat Copy Center
on Forbes Avenue. Some are chapters from books I deemed too expensive
or specialized to read in their entirety and others are articles from
sociology journals. The Course Pack is well-produced, convenient, and
SCHEDULE OF READINGS
All readings should of course be completed for the week assigned, as
Q-Cards are due at the beginning of class. Drop this course if you cannot
keep up with this reading schedule. Be sure to bring the readings for
the week to class, as we will often refer to the texts.
Final drafts of RESEARCH PROJECTS DUE in lieu of final examination
(hand in before 10:00 am Tuesday, December 9, 1997). Presentations of
finding summaries may continue into the final examination period, as
well (8:00 am to 10:00 am).
- August 27-29 -- Course introduction.
- Read: "Introduction" and "A Conceptual Framework" -- that
is, Part I -- in Amott and Matthaei.
- September 3-5 (No classes Monday, September 1) -- The Plight of Poor
- Read: Sidel (all).
- September 8-12 -- Histories of Women's Work.
- Read: Part II of Amott and Matthaei. RESEARCH PROJECT CHOICE DUE.
- September 15-19 -- She Works Hard For The Money.
- Read: Part III in Amott and Matthaei; Dellinger and Williams in
reader; Browne in the reader.
- September 22-26 -- Gender, Work, and Welfare.
- Read: Ridgeway in reader; Edin and Lein in reader.
- September 29-October 1 (No class Friday, October 3) -- TEST ONE on
Monday, September 29. Problem statements/research designs due.
- No new readings.
- October 6-8 (No class Friday, October 10) -- Domestic Work.
- Read: Romero (all).
- October 13-17 -- Women in Nontraditional jobs.
- Read: Excerpts from Martin in reader. Yoder and Aniakudo article
- October 20-24 -- Men doing "Women's Work."
- Read: Excerpts from Williams in reader.
- October 27-31 -- "I don't wanna work, I just wanna bang on these drums
- Read: Hamper (all). TEST TWO on Wednesday, October 29.
- November 3-7 -- Working Girls.
- Read: Excerpts from Delacoste and Alexander in reader.
- November 10-14 -- The Global Assembly Line.
- Read: Excerpts from Rowbotham and Mitter in reader.
- November 17-21 -- Working for Change.
- Read: Excerpts from Baxandall and Gordon reader.
- November 24 -- Preliminary findings reports due (No class November 26
and November 28).
- No new readings.
- December 1-5 -- In-class presentations.
- No new readings.