Gendered Violence, Law, & Social Movements

Political Science/Women’s & Gender Studies


Course Description

In 2013, widespread coverage of campus protests and schools under investigation for Title IX violations propelled the movement to end sexual violence on college campuses into the national spotlight. And in 2017, the reality television star who was caught on tape bragging about “grabbing women by the pussy” and getting away with it became the 45th President of the United States. The #MeToo campaign subsequently exploded internationally in an effort to expose just how common sexual violence and rape culture perpetrates our everyday lives.

This interdisciplinary class engages with gendered violence, the law, and social movements during this pivotal historical moment. We begin by studying feminist texts on intersectionality, emphasizing that interlocking layers of oppression—such as race, gender, sexuality, and citizenship—shape people’s lived experiences of empowerment and marginalization. Class members will learn how feminist icons such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg successfully established legal precedent to ensure equal protection under the law on the basis of sex. We will seek to answer questions such as: How do legal scholars and activists use the law to challenge rape culture and victim-blaming? What are effective ways to turn rage and trauma into political activism? What does queering sexual violence prevention and educational programming look like? And finally, what are the best practices to restore justice for individuals and communities that have experienced traumatic violence?

By the end of the course, class members will:

  • Learn how to build a feminist framework for connecting the personal and political through written assignments, films, class discussions, and a creative final project

  • Understand the relationships between toxic masculinity, rape culture, and gender-based violence

  • Be able to analyze how variables such as gender, race, ethnicity, class, age, body size, and ability shape individual identity, social relationships, and institutions of power

Course Assignments

Class Contribution and Participation (20%)

Students are expected to regularly attend, complete the assigned readings, and participate. I view my role as a facilitator whose primary objective is to work with students in stimulating thought and discussion. Participation can take many different forms: asking questions about unclear concepts, raising ideas class members may have overlooked, respectfully sharing opinions, volunteering to read passages when asked, contributing to class discussions in large and small groups without monopolizing conversations, paying attention to me and to your classmates, and taking risks when there are questions asked that have no clear answers. Participation does not only mean talking—it also means working to be aware of the space you inhabit and how you can best contribute to an atmosphere of supportive learning. 

Writing Reflections (25%)

Reflective writing is the process of considering, evaluating, and critically engaging with the course material to organize and assemble your ideas. Throughout the course, students will be asked to write critical reflections, sometimes on your own and other times in groups. I will present to you writing prompts to get you started. Typically the recommended length for written responses will be 2-3 pages. All writing should be proofread for basic spelling and grammatical errors. If the writing is significantly filled with errors and is unreadable, students will be required to revise and resubmit a cleaner version.

Reading Quizzes (20%)

Preparation for class requires critically reading the assigned texts. Reading quizzes are designed to prevent class members from falling behind in their coursework. Quizzes will be administered periodically when students routinely attend class unprepared. Class meetings are more effective and enjoyable when everyone, including the instructor, is prepared!

Final Creative Project (20%)

Your final project requires a creative response to the course material, incorporating major course themes such as intersectionality, the politics of the body, mobilization against rape culture, and transforming anger to activism. The project allows you to use your imagination, so long as it is remains relevant to the course. Possible submissions may include a portfolio of poems, a website, a musical or spoken word performance, a collage of interviews, a piece of artwork, or a video. Whatever you choose to pursue, your final project must be accompanied by a concise artist’s statement (3-5 pages) that offers an interpretation of your work and how it relates to issues raised in the class, with explicit reference to texts and films on this syllabus.

Final Project Peer Evaluation + Participation in Peer Evaluation Process (15%)

Each student will present their final projects to class members during the last two weeks of the semester. Presentations will be no longer than 10 minutes each, with approximately 5 minutes allocated to the presentation of the project and a 5-minute synopsis of the artist’s statement. All class members are responsible for attending all presentations and using the creative project rubric to evaluate your classmates’ projects.

Course Schedule

PART I: Feminist Readings on Intersectionality, the Body, and Anger

Week 1:  Introduction

Week 2:  Intersectionality and Politics of the Body

  • Film: NO! The Rape Documentary (2006)

  • Patricia Hill Collins. 2010. “Assume the Position: The Changing Contours of Sexual Violence.” In The Body Reader: Essential Social and Cultural Readings, edited by Lisa Jean Moore and Mary Kosut, 80–107. New York University Press.

  • Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. 1991. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review 43: 1241-99.

Weeks 3 & 4:  Righteous Fury

  • Audre Lorde. 1984. “Eye to Eye: Black Women, Hatred, and Anger,” in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Berkeley: Crossing Press.

  • Rebecca Traister. 2018. Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, Simon & Schuster, excerpts.

  • Kate Manne. 2018. Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, Oxford University Press, excerpts.

PART II: Feminist Jurisprudence, Equal Protection Under the Law, & Title IX

Week 5:  Equal Protection Under the Law

Weeks 6 & 7:  Legal Claims for Sexual Harassment as Sex Discrimination in Employment and Education

Week 8:  Using the Law to Fight Rape Culture and Victim-Blaming

  • Anderson, Michelle J. 2010. “Diminishing the Legal Impact of Negative Social Attitudes Toward Acquaintance Rape Victims.” New Criminal Law Review 13 (4): 644–664.

  • Deborah Brake. 2017. “Fighting the Rape Culture Wars Through the Preponderance of Evidence Standard,” Montana Law Review 78 (April), available at:

  • Helen Chen, Alejandra Domenzain, and Karen Andrews. 2016. The Perfect Storm: How Supervisors Get Away with Sexually Harassing Workers Who Work Alone at Night. Labor Occupational Health Program, University of California-Berkeley. Download the report here:

PART III: Confronting Campus Sexual Violence and Rape Culture

Week 9:  Rape Discourses and Toxic Masculinity

  • Susan Ehrlich. 2001. Representing Rape: Language and Sexual Consent. Routledge, excerpts.

  • Rus Ervin Funk. 2012. “Queer Men and Sexual Assault: What Being Raped Says About Being a Man.” In Gendered Outcasts and Sexual Outlaws: Sexual Oppression and Gender Hierarchies in Queer Men’s Lives, eds. Chris Kendall and Wayne Martino. Routledge.

  • Film: Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood & American Culture (2013)

  • Dave Zirin. 2013. How Jock Culture Supports Rape Culture, From Maryville to Steubenville. The Nation (Oct. 2013), available at:

Week 10:  Queering Violence

  • Jennifer Patterson. 2016. Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Violence Movement. Riverdale, NY: Riverdale Ave Books, excerpts.

  • Doug Meyer. 2015. Violence Against Queer People: Race, Class, Gender, and the Persistence of Anti-LGBT Discrimination. Rutgers Univ. Press, excerpts.

Week 11:  Confronting Campus Sexual Violence

Week 12:  #MeToo, #TimesUp, & #SayHerName: Mobilization Online and In the Streets

Week 13:  Institutional Betrayal, Trauma, & Courage

  • Carly Parnitzke Smith and Jennifer Freyd. 2013. “Dangerous Safe Havens: Institutional Betrayal Exacerbates Sexual Trauma." Journal of Traumatic Stress 26: 119–124.

  • Katie Baker. 2014. “Rape Victims Don’t Trust the Fixers Colleges Hire to Help Them,” BuzzFeed News (Apr. 25), available at:

  • Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. 2016. The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities, 2nd ed. AK Press, excerpts.

Weeks 14 & 15:  Final Creative Project Presentations & Peer Evaluations