GEND 2166 Syllabus

Women, Media and Representation

Tuesdays 12:30-3:20

The body has always occupied a central place in the Western imagination and images of women, in particular, have long been a part of our everyday world. In this course, we will consider the different ways in which women have been represented through various media. In studying popular representations of women we will pay close attention to the ways in which women are differentially represented along lines of race, class, sexuality and age. We will review contemporary cultural theories of representation, tools for creating critical cultural analysis, as well as recent debates in feminist media studies, with a specific focus on postfeminist media culture. This course may be credited towards Film and English Studies (Group 2) and a Major in Fine Arts (Art History and Visual Studies stream.)

Instructor: Dr. Wendy Peters
Office: A310 (above the small cafeteria)
Phone: 474-3450 ext. 4889
Fall 2018 office hours: Wednesdays 2:30-3:20 – or by appointment

Texts: Some of the readings are available online and others you will need to purchase at Print Plus. Weekly readings are required and should be completed before class. All materials including images and screenings are considered testable material.

Marking scheme
Attendance & participation 14%
Midterm Assignment   20%    Due October 2 2018 in class
Three reading responses @ 12% each = 36% Due between Oct 16-Nov 20 2018
Final original analysis 30%  Due November 30 2018 under my office door by 5:00 pm

Late penalties will be applied in this class. No assignment will be accepted after the due date without prior permission from the instructor. Extensions will be considered only in advance of the deadline and under truly exceptional circumstances. All assignments must be submitted at the beginning of class or they will be considered late. Any assignments submitted after the beginning of class will be penalized 10% per day, for up to 5 days, after which time assignments will not be accepted. Assignments will not be accepted by email.

All term work must be submitted by December 3, 2018, except with written permission of the Dean of Arts and Science.

Students with a range of learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. In particular, if you have a disability / health consideration that may require accommodations, please contact the Student Accessibility Services Office as soon as possible. The Student Accessibility Services staff are available by appointment to assess specific needs, provide referrals and arrange appropriate accommodations. The sooner you let us know your needs the quicker we can assist you in achieving your learning goals in this course. You can contact Student Accessibility Services at or 705-474-3450 x4362.

Laptops and phones
Students are permitted to use laptops only for taking notes from the lectures. Playing games, surfing the internet, checking e-mail, direct messaging, watching videos or listening to music are not permitted during class time. If you are disrupting other students with this kind of laptop or phone activity, you will be asked to turn off your device/s.

Intellectual Property
All materials developed for this course, including, but not limited to, lectures, lecture notes and slides, assignments, examinations and syllabi, that are provided in class or online, are the intellectual property of the course instructor. Posting, providing, sharing or selling any audio, video, or textual materials from the course is prohibited. Participation in this course constitutes an agreement by all parties to respect the intellectual property rights as well as the privacy of others during and after their association with Nipissing University. The only exception to the above is formally authorized accommodation arrangements made through Student Development Services.

September 4 2018
Welcome and Introduction

Screening: Codes of Gender (2009) 73 min., P96.S5 C6 2009  CANCELLED DUE TO TECH PROBLEM

September 11 2018
Critical Media Studies

Lind, R. A. (2010). Laying a Foundation for Studying race, gender, and the media. In R.A. Lind (Ed.), Race / Gender / Media: Considering Diversity across Audiences, Content, and Producers (2nd ed.) (pp. 1-11). Boston, MA: Pearson.

key concepts: social science media research; critical media / cultural studies; production; content; race; gender; ethnicity; social construction of identities and reality; symbolic annihilation; intersectionality; discourse; ideology; critical analysis

September 18 2018
“Inventing the Cosmo Girl”

Ouellette, L. (1999 / 2015). Inventing the Cosmo Girl: Class Identity and Girl-Style American Dreams. In G. Dines & J.M. Humez (Eds.), Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Critical Reader (4th ed.) (pp. 258-270). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

key concepts: discourse; the economic context that gave rise to the Cosmo girl; cultural capital; constructing “raced” and “classed” femininities; class climbing vs. class levelling

September 25 2018
Postfeminist Media Culture

Gill, R. (2012). Postfeminist Media Culture: Elements of a Sensibility. In M.C. Kearney (Ed.), The Gender and Media Reader (pp. 136-148). New York, NY: Routledge.

key concepts: postfeminist sensibility; centrality of women’s bodies; sexual objectification vs. active and desiring subjects; sex-positive vs. anti-sex; discourses of choice, autonomy and empowerment; self-surveillance of the body and self; disciplining women’s bodies; makeovers; essentializing sexual difference; ironic sexism; neoliberalism

October 2 2018
Confidence Culture

Gill, R. & Orgad, S. (2015). The Confidence Cult(ure). Australian Feminist Studies, 30 (86): 324-344. Read online via Nipissing e-journals. I recommend the following route:

2. Select “Journals by Title”
3. Sign in, if necessary
4. Beside title type in “Australian Feminist Studies”
5. Hit “GO”
6. Select the “Australian Feminist Studies” link
7. Get Full Text from Scholar’s Portal (or any of them really)
8. Select 2015, then Vol 30 issue 86

9. The article is the second one listed

key concepts: technology of self; confidence as a discursive formation; subject formation; poststructural theories of power; postfeminism

October 9 2018 – Reading Week 

October 16 2018
Constructing and Instructing Gendered Heterosexual Subjectivities

Farvid, P. & Braun, V. (2014). The “Sassy woman” and the “Performing man:” Heterosexual casual sex advice and the (re)constitution of gendered subjectivities. Feminist Media Studies, 14 (1): 118-134. Read online via Nipissing e-journals

key concepts: constructing and instructing gendered heterosexual subjectivities; self-help; essentializing sexual difference; the social construction of casual heterosexual sex; discourse analysis; the “strategic” and “performing” man; the “sassy” and “vulnerable” woman

Reading response: According to Farvid and Braun, and in relation to “casual” sex advice, how do the subject positions offered to heterosexual men and women reflect gendered constructions of sexuality? This is to say, how are men’s and women’s approaches to casual sex characterized in relation to one another? Give examples from the article to support your claims. In what ways does this advice regarding casual sex reflect and / or challenge a “postfeminist sensibility”?

October 23 2018
Disability and Representation
Guest Speaker: Dr. Kathryn Trevenen, University of Ottawa

Clare, E. (2009). The Mountain. In Exile and Pride (pp. 1-13). Brooklyn, NY: South End Press.

Garland-Thomson, R. (2011). Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory. In K.Q. Hall (Ed.) Feminist Disability Studies (pp. 13-44). Indiana: Indiana University Press.

The Body is not an Apology:

Key concepts: medical and social models of disability; disability and representation; supercrip narratives; ableism; and productivity

Reading response: According to Eli Clare, what is a supercrip story? What critique is offered of the representation of the supercrip? According to Rosemarie Garland-Thompson, how can disability studies deepen feminist analysis of gender and representation? Offer one representation of a “supercrip” and how the authors for today might analyze it.

October 30 2018
Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty

Murray, D.P. (2012 / 2015). Branding “Real” Social Change in Dove’s Campaign for Beauty. In G. Dines & J.M. Humez (Eds.), Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Critical Reader (4th ed.) (pp. 285-296). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

key concepts: postfeminist citizenship; cause branding; neoliberal; linking consumption and self-governance in the service of “the goals of institutional power” (287); appropriation / co-optation of subcultural signs; “commodity feminism”

Reading response: Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty is arguably an example of “‘commodity feminism,’ wherein advertisers attempt ‘to reincorporate the cultural power of feminism’… and, in so doing, depoliticize the feminist message” (287-288). Drawing on Murray, give two examples of how the campaign draws on or acknowledges feminism, while also promoting a postfeminist sensibility. Relate these examples to Murray’s claim that “the feminist task is to realize social change that revolutionizes social structures, not to support corporate strategies that seek audiences’ brand attachment” (292-293).

November 6 2018
Missing / Murdered Women

Gilchrist, K. (2010). “Newsworthy” Victims: Exploring differences in Canadian local press coverage of missing/murdered Aboriginal and White women. Feminist Media Studies, 10 (4): 373-390. Read online via Nipissing e-journals.

Screening: Highway of Tears (2014), 1h 19 min

key concepts: newsworthiness; constructing daily news; racial bias; “good” women and “bad” women; the “girl next door;” hierarchy of female victims—worthy / unworthy; symbolic annihilation

Reading response: Drawing on Gilchrist, identify and explain two “differences in Canadian local press coverage of missing / murdered Aboriginal and White women.” Connect these differences to the claim that “[ra]ther than objectively reporting events and facts, newsmakers engage in a highly subjective and selective process of news production based on socially and culturally constructed criteria” (374). Comment on how these “selective processes” may reflect symbolic annihilation (Gilchrist, 373; Lind, 5).

November 13 2018
“Bad” Rich Mothers

Lee, M.J. & Moscowitz, L. (2012 / 2015). The “Rich Bitch:” Class and Gender on the Real Housewives of New York City. In G. Dines & J.M. Humez (Eds.), Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Critical Reader (4th ed.) (pp. 143-156). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

key concepts: postfeminist; the “rich bitch;” irony; class; cultural capital; hegemonic motherhood; mother-blaming

Reading response: Drawing on Lee and Moscowitz, give three examples of how the “real housewives” are represented as failing at class and / or gender norms. In your response, make reference to at least two of the following key concepts: postfeminist; the “rich bitch;” irony; class; cultural capital; hegemonic motherhood; and mother-blaming. In closing, respond to the authors’ claim that “scapegoating women during an unfolding economic crisis smacks of retrograde gender politics” (154).

November 20 2018
Female Celebrity, Ageing and the Gossip Industry

Fairclough, K. (2012 / 2015). Nothing Less Than Perfect: Female Celebrity, Ageing, and Hyper-Scrutiny in the Gossip Industry. In G. Dines & J.M. Humez (Eds.), Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Critical Reader (4th ed.) (pp. 297-305). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

key concepts: postfeminist; neoliberal; sexual objectification; gender and “age appropriateness;” ageing and the female body; to “deride and revere the processes of surgical transformation” (300); “the gruesome;” “the desperate;” “the sanctioned”

Reading response: Drawing on Fairclough, how are “older” women treated within celebrity culture? How can this be contrasted with the treatment of “older” A-list male celebrities? Identify and explain two contradictions inherent in the gossip industry’s coverage of female celebrities’ plastic surgeries? Rather than scrutinizing women’s faces and bodies, what might happen if we turned our critical eyes on cultural beauty standards and the beauty industry?

November 27 2018
Use the class time to work on your final original analysis (value 30%). Please contact me if you have any questions. This assignment may be submitted under my office door (A310) any time before Friday, November 30 2018 at 5:00 pm.


Attendance & participation 14%
Attendance will be taken in class each week. Late entries, as well as early exits, are disruptive, and often result in the missing of important information. Participation includes, but is not limited to, contributing one’s own insights or ideas to class. It also entails respectful listening and a commitment to involving others in the learning process. You are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the day’s readings. Verbal participation in class should be relevant and connected to the readings for the week.

Midterm 20% Due in class on October 2 2018
The take-home midterm will be a combination of short answer questions, as well as argument and evidence identification. It will be based on the following four readings: Lind; Ouellette, Gill (2012); and Gill and Orgad (2015).

Reading Responses 3 @ 12% = 36%
Due between October 16 – November 20 2018
Between October 16-November 20 2018, you are required to submit three reading response papers. Each reading response should be a minimum of 500 words (about 2 pages), double-spaced and must address all aspects of the questions as listed weekly in the syllabus (below the readings). Use in-text citations as usual, but no title page or bibliography is required. These assignments are due at the beginning of class on the same day that the readings are being discussed. For example, if you are responding to the questions about Farvid and Braun then your paper is due at the beginning of class on October 16 2018.

Evaluation criteria: understanding of the relevant course concepts; ability to employ course concepts and approaches; originality; clarity; organization; writing mechanics

Original analysis 30% Due November 30 2018 under my office door by 5:00 pm
Students are asked to choose a media text that meaningfully exemplifies or challenges what we have read in this class. You are expected to draw on the course readings (minimum of two) and demonstrate that you understand them. Be sure to define the course concepts that you are using (quoting from the readings is ideal) and draw direct parallels to the media example. For example, “Gill and Orgad define confidence culture as x and that can clearly be seen in the media text y.” In turn, give supporting evidence to demonstrate how the media text defies, conforms to or reworks confidence culture. Give specific examples to convince your reader; Show, don’t tell. Give your reader enough information about your chosen media text to understand how it relates to the course concepts, without describing it more than necessary.

The essay should be a minimum of 6 pages and a maximum of 7 pages. This minimum and maximum do not include the bibliography (required) or a title page (optional). Please use a recognized style: APA, MLA, Turabian, Chicago. See “Important notes for written assignments” below.

Important notes for written assignments
– On the title page please include your name and always keep a copy of your paper in print or computer file.
– All assignments must be double-spaced, in 12 point font (not a fancy font please), with1 inch margins and page numbers.
– Remember to provide a title, preferably one that highlights your thesis or central concerns.
– Avoid lengthy, overly general introduction; state your intentions concisely and engagingly.
– Each paragraph is to be a unit of thought and should develop an idea.
– Provide transition between topics. Your essay should have continuity; it should “hang together.”
– Support or illustrate your assertions; be as specific and precise as possible.
– Quoted materials (see “plagiarism” below) belong in quotation marks and a page number should be supplied. See syllabus for APA references for readings in the course reader. Use a style guide for references and be consistent. Ideas or passages that are paraphrased (written in your own words) also need to be referenced.
– Avoid over-use of quoted materials. Passages that are quoted need to be contextualized and require comments that directly forward your own argument.
– You may use the word “I” in your work for this class, but your claims must be supported by peer-reviewed academic citations.
– Proofread to avoid errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Academic Integrity
Plagiarism and academic dishonesty are serious offences. It is your responsibility to be familiar with Nipissing’s policies on academic dishonesty:

Any instances of students plagiarizing or cheating will be dealt with according to this policy.

Statement of what grades mean

80-100% indicates EXCEPTIONAL PERFORMANCE: comprehensive in-depth knowledge of the principles and materials treated in the course, fluency in communicating that knowledge and independence in applying material and principles.

70-79% indicates GOOD PERFORMANCE: thorough understanding of the breadth of materials and principles treated in the course and ability to apply and communicate that understanding effectively.

60-69% indicates SATISFACTORY PERFORMANCE: basic understanding of the breadth of principles and material treated in the course and an ability to apply and communicate that understanding competently.

50-59% indicates MINIMALLY COMPETENT PERFORMANCE: adequate understanding of most principles and materials treated in the course, but with significant weakness in some areas and in the ability to apply and communicate that understanding.

0- 49% indicates FAILURE: inadequate or fragmentary knowledge of the principles and materials treated in the course or a failure to complete the work required in the course”

Faculty handbook, “Final Grades:”