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Syllabus for Seminar in Women's Health: Women and Disabilities

Stanford University, Spring 2007
Feminist Studies 260/360
Susan Krieger

This seminar in women's health explores the diversity of women's experiences of disabilities, visible and invisible disabilities, women's psychological as well as physical health, and feminist approaches to the study of disabilities. The range of disabilities covered includes blindness, multiple sclerosis, learning disorders, diabetes, arthritis, conditions requiring wheelchairs and other forms of physical assistance, and other disabilities of interest to the students. We will deal with issues such as who identifies as disabled, work and home accommodations, cross-cultural differences, self-labeling, and personal assistance. A central question is: what difference does gender make to how disabilities are experienced? Women, for example, have more of certain kinds of disabilities, such as autoimmune diseases, and given the same disability type, women often experience their disability in a different way than men. The readings for the course focus on women's personal accounts as well as more general studies.

The course is designed both for students with disabilities and for those who do not feel disabled but who would like to learn about the subject.  In addition to readings and class discussions, students interview disabled women during the quarter to learn about their experiences.  This is a limited enrollment seminar.  Permission of the instructor is required.  Brief papers are due weekly.  No exams.  No late papers.  5 units.

There are five required books and a selection of articles.  The required books (available both in the Bookstore and on library reserve) are:  Victoria A. Brownworth and Susan Raffo, eds., Restricted Access: Lesbians on Disability (Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 1999); Beth Finke, Long Time, No See (Champaign: Univ. of Illinois Press, 2003); Susan Krieger, Things No Longer There: A Memoir of Losing Sight and Finding Vision (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2005): Nancy Mairs, Waist-High in the World: A Life among the Nondisabled (Boston: Beacon: 1996); and Lorna Moorhead, Coffee in the Cereal: The First Year with Multiple Sclerosis (Oxnard, Calif.: Pathfinder Publishing, 2003).  Two optional books from which we read selections are: Georgina Kleege, Sight Unseen (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999); and Simi Linton, My Body Politic: A Memoir (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 2006).  The required articles are included in a brief course reader or are available on the web through the Stanford Library.

PERSONAL NATURE OF THE COURSE:  I am a legally blind teacher and writer (see http://susankrieger.stanford.edu).  I have selected the course readings and designed the research projects so that students can gain a realistic sense of what disabled women experience.  Certain writers discuss their experiences with exceptional honesty, and these are a large part of the reading list.  Because of the emotionally sensitive nature of our subject matter, I would like to ask those taking the course to help me make the classroom environment as hospitable and safe-feeling as possible.  Disabilities are often experienced as vulnerabilities.  We will be speaking personally in papers and in the classroom so please be prepared for learning through self-reflection.

Course Requirements:

READINGS, RESEARCH, PAPERS:

Reading and research assignments are due weekly.  Brief papers (approximately 2100 words) are due at the start of each class session.  There are two final papers:  a final research process paper (2800 words, due May 30) and a course summary paper (2100 words, due June 6, the date of the last class).

Student leaders will be responsible for framing our reading discussions each week on a rotating, assigned basis.  The work load is steady; it is important not to fall behind.  Research and reading assignments can be adjusted to the student's needs in consultation with the instructor.

Central to each student's work is a series of "conversations with disabled women."  Each student picks a topic and conducts a series of interviews or conversations with disabled women on that topic.  The exposure to others is supplemented with self-reflection and is discussed in the student's weekly papers in addition to responses to the readings.  Though brief, the weekly papers should be carefully written and well thought out.

Individual meetings:  To supplement class sessions and to assist with work on individual research topics, students will meet with me individually 3 times during the quarter.

OTHER PROCEDURES:

My office hours are Wednesday 11-1:00 and 4-5:30, by appointment.  My email address is: skrieger@stanford.edu. My direct phone is (415) 826-6820 (Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., home office).  The Feminist Studies Program office phone is 723-2412.  The program administrator is Zamora, email: zamoram@stanford.edu.  The Feminist Studies Program office is now temporarily located in Poplar Hall, 215 Panama Street, Building C, room 125.

In the case of an unavoidable absence from class, students should inform me by phone or by email and make arrangements for completion of the required work.  Students should obtain missed class notes from other students.

Attendance is required at all class sessions.  No lateness; no exams; no late papers; no incompletes; course not offered pass/no credit.  Grades will be based on class participation (33%), weekly papers (33%), and the final research and course summary papers (33%).  All papers should be submitted as emailed attachments.  They are due in my mailbox by the start of each class session.  Word limits for the papers should be observed.  Specific instructions for paper submissions will be given in class.

Topics and Assignments

Week 1, April 4: INTRODUCTION TO WOMEN AND DISABILITIES; WOMEN'S PSYCHOLOGICAL AS WELL AS PHYSICAL HEALTH

No required reading; class discussion; student backgrounds

Week 2. April 11: DIVERSITY OF WOMEN'S EXPERIENCES OF DISABILITY; HIDDEN DISABILITIES; WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES FEMALE GENDER MAKE?

Nancy Mairs, Waist-High in the World: A Life among the Nondisabled (Boston: Beacon: 1996), chapters 1-2: 3-39 [37 pp]

Sharon Wachsler, "Still Femme," and Eli Clare, "Flirting With You: Some Notes on Isolation and Connection," in Victoria A. Brownworth and Susan Raffo, eds., Restricted Access: Lesbians on Disability (Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 1999): 109-114 and 127-135 [14 pp]

Megan Jones, "‘Gee, You Don't Look Handicapped . . .': Why I Use a White Cane to Tell People that I'm Deaf;" and Amanda Hamilton, "Oh the Joys of Invisibility," Electric Edge, July–August 1997 (Web Edition of The Ragged Edge) [6 pages] on the web at: http://www.ragged-edge-mag.com/archive/look.htm

Sucheng Chan, "You're Short, Besides!" in Asian Women United of California, ed., Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings by and about Asian American Women (Boston: Beacon, 1989): 265-273 [9 pp]

Jen Robinson, "Invisible Illnesses, Visible Stereotypes," in "Sick Chicks and Twisted Sisters: Empowering Disabled Women on the Web," Fall 2000; previously at http://sickchicks.homestead.com/invisibleillness.html [5 pp]

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, "Feminist Disability Studies," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30:2 (2005): 1557-1558 [31 pp]; on the web at:
http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/Signs/journal/issues/v30n2/300232/300232.html

Paper due April 11: (2100 words) responding to the readings and discussing each student's self-reflective research on background experiences; proposal of topic options due April 11 (300 words)

Week 3, April 11: DISABILITY AS DIFFERENCE; IDENTIFYING AS A DISABLED WOMAN; ASSISTANCE & SELF-DEFINITION

Nancy Mairs, Waist-High in the World: A Life among the Nondisabled (Boston: Beacon: 1996), chapters 3-6: 40-123 [83 pp]

Joan Didion, "In Bed," The White Album (N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1979):168-172 [5 pp]

Susan Wendell, The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability (N.Y.: Routledge, 1996): Introduction, pages 1-5; Chapter 1, pages 25-33 [14 pages]

D'Aoust, Vicky, "Complications: The Deaf Community, Disability and Being a Lesbian Mom--A Conversation with Myself," in Victoria A. Brownworth and Susan Raffo, eds., Restricted Access: Lesbians on Disability (Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 1999): 115-123 [9 pages]

Brenda Jo Brueggemann, "Interpreting Women," in Bonnie G. Smith and Beth Hutchison, eds., Gendering Disability (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2004): 61-72 [12 pages]

Susan Krieger, "Experiences in Teaching," Social Science and the Self: Personal Essays on an Art Form (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1991): 135-149 [15 pages]

Paper due April 18 (2100 words) responding to the readings and discussing research; brief proposal due (300 word) specifying a topic and a series of conversations with disabled women

Sign up for an office hour appointment on Wednesday April 25 to discuss your research plans

Week 4, April 25: SEEING DIFFERENTLY; NAMING ONESELF; EMOTIONAL DISABILITIES

I: Blindness: Georgina Kleege, Sight Unseen (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999): Intro. & Chapters 1,4, 5 [89 pages]

Frances Lief Neer, "Traveling," Dancing in the Dark (San Francisco, CA: Wildstar Publishing, 1994): 77-86 [10 pp]

Sally Hobart Alexander, Do You Remember the Color Blue?  And other Questions Kids Ask about Blindness (N.Y.: Viking, 2000): 9-10, 36-42 [7 pp]

Melissa J. Frame, "What's Wrong With Her?  The Stigmatizing Effects of an Invisible Stigma," Disability Studies Quarterly 20:3 (2000): 243-253 [11 pp]

Deborah Peifer, "Seeing is Be(liev)ing" in Victoria A. Brownworth and Susan Raffo, eds., Restricted Access (Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 1999): 31-34 [4 pp]

II: Emotional Disability: Nancy Mairs, "On Living Behind Bars," Plaintext: Deciphering a Woman's Life (N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1986): 125-154 [30 pp]

Paper due April 25 (2100 words) responding to readings and discussing research, includes a revised research plan

Office hour appointments on Wednesday April 25

Week 5, May 2: INVISIBLE DISABILITIES; PASSING; IDEAS OF BEAUTY AND OF FEMALE ACCEPTABILITY; EMOTIONAL HERITAGE & GENDER

I: Lorna Moorhead, Coffee in the Cereal: The First Year with Multiple Sclerosis (Oxnard, Calif.: Pathfinder Publishing, 2003) [94 pp]

Daphne L. Hill, "and I will have sex again" in Shelley Tremain, ed., Pushing the Limits: Disabled Dykes Produce Culture (Ontario, Canada: Women's Press, 1996): 72-76 [5 pp]

Alice Walker, "Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self," in With Wings: An Anthology of Literature by and about Women with Disabilities. Edited by Marsha Saxton and Florence Howe (N.Y.: The Feminist Press, 1987): 152-158 [7 pp]

Simi Linton, My Body Politic: A Memoir (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006): Chapter 1: 1-12 [12 pp]

II: Emotional Heritage & Female Gender:

Susan Krieger, "The Passing Down of Sorrow," The Family Silver: Essays on Relationships among Women (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996): 82-106 [25 pp]

See also: Martha Manning, "The Legacy," in Nell Casey, ed., Unholy Ghosts: Writers on Depression (N.Y.: Morrow 2001): 256-269, in the readings for Week 9 [14 pp]

Paper due May 2 (2100 words) responding to readings and discussing individual research

Sign up for an office hour appointment on May 9 to discuss your revised research plans

Week 6, May 9:  AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES AND WOMEN: PREVALENCE, ATTITUDES, & THEMES

Patricia Nell Warren, "Autoimmune Disease: A Personal Perspective," in Victoria A. Brownworth and Susan Raffo, eds., Restricted Access (Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 1999): 81-89 [9 pages]

Nadine Goranson, "Silent Trespass" in Peggy Munson, ed. Stricken: Voices from the Hidden Epidemic of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (N.Y.: The Haworth Press, 2000): 53-60 [8 pages]

Carolyn Gage, "Hidden Disability: A Coming Out Story;" in Victoria A. Brownworth and Susan Raffo, eds., Restricted Access (Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 1999): 201-211 [11 pp]

Mary Felstiner, "Casing My Joints: A Private and Public Story of Arthritis," Feminist Studies 24:4 (2000): 273-285 [12 pp]

Mary Felstiner, Out of Joint: A Private and Public Story of Arthritis (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005): "Truths, 1996": 100-105 [6 pp]

Susan Cahn, "Come Out, Come Out Whatever You've Got! or, Still Crazy after All These Years," Feminist Studies 29:1 (2003): 7-18 [12 pages]

Nancy Mairs, Waist-High in the World (Boston: Beacon: 1996): chapters 6-7: 124-169 [46 pages]

Jen Robinson, "Homeless While Disabled with a Chronic Illness" (2000);  previously at www.womensstudies.homestead.com [5 pp]

Joan Nestle, "When Tiredness Gives Way to Tiredness," (39-42), in Peggy Munson, ed., Stricken: Voices from the Hidden Epidemic of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (N.Y.The Haworth Press, 2000) [4 pages]

Dorothy Wall, "Encounters with the Invisible," in Peggy Munson, ed., Stricken: Voices from the Hidden Epidemic of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (N.Y. The Haworth Press, 2000): 23-30 [8 pp]

Paper due May 9 (2100 words) responding to the readings and discussing individual research

Reading contribution citations due May 9 (student favorites for last class session)

         Office hour appointments on Wednesday May 9

Week 7: May 16:  LOSS, CHANGE, & GROWTH; DISABILITY & PERSONAL IDENTITY

         Susan Krieger, Things No Longer There: A Memoir of Losing Sight and Finding Vision (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005) [232 pages]
         Susan Krieger, "Adventure in Vision" (KQED-fm radio program, Jan. 6, 2006, 1 hour): http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R601261000 (click on "listen")
         Or use the direct link to the MP3: http://www.kqed.org/.stream/anon/radio/forum/2006/01/2006-01-26b-forum.mp3
         Explore the website: http://susankrieger.stanford.edu

         Paper due May 16 (2100 words) responding to the readings and discussing individual research

         Reading contributions due May 16 from each student

         Sign up for an office hour appointment on Wednesday May 23 to discuss progress with your research topic

Week 8, May 23:  THE INVISIBLE WORK DISABLED WOMEN DO; CARE-TAKING AND SELF-CARE

Beth Finke, Long Time, No See (Champaign: Univ. of Illinois Press, 2003) [201 pp]

Mary Frances Platt, "Passing through Shame" and "Personal Assistance" in Victoria A. Brownworth and Susan Raffo, eds., Restricted Access (Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 1999): 180-191 [12 pages]

Paper due May 23 (2100 words) responding to the readings and discussing individual research

Office hour appointments on Wednesday May 23

Week 9, May 30: BREAKING SILENCES, CLAIMING IDENTITY, & SEEKING COMMUNITY

Judith Moses, "Connections," in Shelley Tremain, ed., Pushing the Limits: Disabled Dykes Produce Culture (Ontario, Canada: Women's Press, 1996): 204-5 [2 pp]      

Nomy Lamm, "Private Dancer: Evolution of a Freak," in Victoria A. Brownworth and Susan Raffo, eds., Restricted Access: Lesbians on Disability (Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 1999): 152-161 [10 pages]

Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals (San Francisco: Spinsters Ink, 1980): 9-17 [9 pp]

Joan Tollifson, "Imperfection is a Beautiful Thing: On Disability and Meditation," in Kenny Fries, ed., Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out (New York: Plume/Penguin, 1997): 105-112 [8 pp]

Mary Felstiner, Out of Joint: A Private and Public Story of Arthritis (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005): "Rights, 1999": 169-173 [5 pp]

Simi Linton, My Body Politic: A Memoir (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006): Chapter 3: 38-55 [18 pp]

Ursula Katan, "To Open My Mouth and Speak What I Know," in Danya Ruttenberg, ed., Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism (Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 2001): 154-160 [5 pages]

Martha Manning, "The Legacy," in Nell Casey, ed., Unholy Ghosts: Writers on Depression (N.Y.: Morrow 2001): 256-269 [14 pp]

Mary Grimley Mason, Working Against Odds: Stories of Disabled Women's Work Lives (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004): Introduction & Chapter 1: 3-13, 19-23 [16 pp]

Harriet McBryde Johnson, Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life (N.Y.: Henry Holt, 2005): Preface and Ch. 1, pages 1-5 & 7-17 [16 pp]

 Final Research Process paper due May 30 (2800 words; no late papers), includes a readings discussion.  This paper is a culmination of the "Conversations with Disabled Women" research project conducted by each student.  The paper emphasizes the student's development of insights as a result of her or his research.

Week 10, June 6:  CONCLUSION: THEMES AND TRENDS IN THE EXPERIENCES OF DISABLED WOMEN

Readings:  Student Favorites

Course Summary paper due in class on June 6 (2100 words; no late papers); this paper summarizes the experiences of the course, the readings, and the research; the emphasis is on themes identified by each student.

Class attendance on Wednesday June 6 is required; please make sure that no end-quarter commitments will conflict with your attending this last session.