Study Questions on Articles for Class Discussion on Feminism


1.      Does Coontz (in “The Myth of Male Decline”) think there has been significant progress in the treatment of women in the last 50 years? If so, what are some of the positive changes? If not, why not? What are some of the ways she thinks women have not achieved equality with men?

         a.      What % of CEO in Fortune top 1000 companies are women?

         b.      What has happened to job segregation by gender in the last 50-60 years? In the last 10-15 years? Consider computer science as an example.

         c.      What percent of married women in dual earner households out earn their husbands? 4% or 30%?

         d.      What has happened in the last 20 years to domestic violence rates, rates of sexual assault & rapes, and the share of housework and child care that men do?

2.      Coontz suggests that boys/men need to liberate themselves from pressure to prove their masculinity because they are held back by a “male mystique” enforced by bullying and ostracism if they engage in “girlie” activities. What are her examples? Do you agree that this is a problem? Why or why not?

3.      Gates (in “Balancing the Burden of Unpaid Work”) suggest that women in both poor and rich countries “do an outsized proportion of the unpaid work.” Is this true in your family?

         a.      Explain the story of the Tanzanian 14 year old girl.

         b.      Is Gates correct that “our economies are built on the back of unpaid work?”

         c.      Do you think that there is “huge potential” in women that our economies are not tapping into because of women’s “time poverty?” Would the economy be invigorated if “slacker men” did more of the chores and/or if new technologies reduced the amount of unpaid work women end up doing?

         d.      What concrete public policy does Gates suggest for redistributing “unpaid work” in this country? Do you favor such a policy?

         e.      Are you planning on there being equality in terms of household/child duties with your partner?

4.      Concerning “Myths That Make It Hard To Stop Campus Rape”:

         a.      When 2000 college men were asked if they had ever forced sex w/o consent, how many said yes? 1/5, 1/16, 1/50, 1/100, or 1/1000?

         b.      Did they admit it reluctantly or did they brag?

         c.      Are campus rapists men who get drunk and make a one time mistake or are they serial rapists who target the most vulnerable women?

         d.      What weapon do the serial rapists use?

         e.      According to this article, what percent of college woman are sexually assaulted? 1/3, 1/5, 1/10, 1/20, 1/50, 1/100?

         f.      Should college men found responsible for sexual assault be expelled? Or should we treat these events as “teachable moments” and give the offenders a second chance? What % are expelled?

         g.      Are women who get drunk and then are sexually assaulted responsible (significantly, partly, not at all?) for these assaults?

5.      The Bechdel Test:

         a.      State the test. Hint it has 3 (or perhaps 4) requirements. What is it a test for?

         b.      What % of films allegedly meet these requirements? 1/10, 1/3, ½, 3/4, 9/10?

         c.      Why might one think that films that fails this test are likely to be sexist? Do you think this is a good test for sexism? What might be an example of a movie that fails this test but is not sexist?

         d.      What is “the sexy lamp test?”

         e.      Is the film industry’s portrayal of women sexist? What other factors besides failing the Bechdel test suggest it is?

         f.      Discuss: A character from the television series Sex and the City has one of its 4 female main characters ask: "How does it happen that four such smart women have nothing to talk about but boyfriends? It's like seventh grade with bank accounts!"

         g.      What are some reasons for thinking that even if a work of fiction passes the Bechdel test, that is no guarantee that it promotes gender equality.

6.      Miss Representation video:

         a.      How important is the media in shaping our values? Does media “create consciousness?”

         b.      Is one main message of our society and the media that what is most important for a woman is how she looks; that is, that a woman’s worth depends on looks and it doesn’t matter what her accomplishments are, she is judged on looks.

         c.      Is this concern equally true for men?

         d.      Does advertising make women self-conscious and insecure?

         e.      Does the media contribute to violence against women?

         f.      Does America lead the world in terms of women in national legislatures?

         g.      Discuss: “You can’t be what you can’t see”

         h.      Can the media be a powerful force for social change?