Teaching “Women and Work” – Music Videos

When I taught “Women and Work” this winter, I had a great time experimenting with regular use of music videos. I played one just before class as students were coming in each day. I selected some of the songs myself (with help from the Sociologists for Women in Society listserve – thanks!), and others were suggested by students as part of an extra credit assignment (see more on the logic of incorporating student-generated content into the classroom in my post on the subject here). After the song finished, the person who proposed using it said a few words about why s/he chose it. Then, we might have a brief class discussion about the song and/or refer back to it for more analysis later in the class. Some of the songs expressed feminist ideals, some the opposite of that, and many were in ambiguous middle ground.

I found that playing songs as students are coming in had a number of benefits. First, it made it easier to start class on time with little disruption from late or chatty students. As they arrive they focus on watching the video and by the time  it ends they are quiet and ready to start class. For the first half of the quarter or so, students also seemed to be arriving earlier than usual so as not to miss the song. Second, it gave us a fun way to expand the reach of our reading beyond the classroom and out into the pop culture in which they are immersed in day-to-day life.

See the complete syllabus, including the extra-credit assignment, here.

Here’s what we listened to, listed with my reading assignments so you can see how the songs relate to the class content.

 

UNIT 1: INTRODUCTION

January 7th                        

  • SONG: 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton
  • Corbett, Christianne & Catherine Hill. 2012. “Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year After College Graduation.” Washington, D.C.: AAUW.

January 9th               

  • SONG: Gonna Be an Engineer by Peggy Seeger
  • Amott, Teresa and Julie Matthaei. 2001. “Race, Class, Gender, and Women’s Works.” Pp. 234-242 in Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology, 4th ed., edited by M. L. Andersen and P. H. Collins. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
  • Padavic, Irene & Barbara Reskin. 2002. Women and Men at Work. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. Ch. 3: “An Overview of Sex Inequality at Work”

 

UNIT 2: KEY CONCEPTS

January 14th                     Progress and Virtue

  • SONG: If You See(k) Amy by Brittany Spears
  • Faludi, Susan. 1991. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. New York: Crown Publishers.  Ch. 3: Backlashes Then and Now.
  • Boryczka, Jocelyn M. 2012. Suspect Citizens: Women, Virtue and Vice in Backlash Politics. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Introduction: Moral Guardians but Suspect Citizens: Women, Virtue and Vice in the Western Political Imaginary

January 16th                     Wages and Work

  • SONG: She Works Hard for the Money by Donna Summers
  • Kessler-Harris, Alice. 2001. “The Wage Conceived: Value and Need as Measures of a Woman’s Worth.” Pp. 239-252 in Feminist Frontiers, 5th ed., edited by L. Richardson, V. Taylor and N. Whittier. New York: McGraw Hill.
  • Sacks, N. E. and C. Marrone. 2004. Gender and Work in Today’s World: A Reader. Cambridge: Westview Press. Ehrenreich: “Nickel and Dimed: Selling in Minnesota”

January 21st                     Gendered Organizations

  • ADVERTISEMENT: Virgin Atlantic – 25 Years, Still Red Hot (thanks Meeno Kohli!)
  • Acker, Joan. 1990. “Hierarchies, Jobs, Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizations,” Gender & Society 4(2):139-158.
  • Schilt, Kristen. 2006. “Just One of the Guys? How Transmen Make Gender Visible at Work.” Gender & Society 20(4):465-490.

January 23rd                     Structure and Choice

  • TRAILER: The Wolf of Wall Street
  • England, Paula. 2010. “The Gender Revolution: Uneven and Stalled.” Gender & Society 24:149-166.
  • Reskin, Barbara F., & Michelle L. Maroto. 2011. “What Trends? Whose Choices?: Comment on England.” Gender & Society 25:81-87.

 

UNIT 3: WOMEN’S WORK THROUGHOUT US HISTORY

January 28th                     Historical Overview

  • SONG: Rosie the Riveter by The Four Vagabonds
  • Coleman, Margaret S. 2000. “Undercounted and Underpaid Heroines: The Path to Equal Opportunity in Employment During the Twentieth Century.” WorkingUSA 3(5):37-65.
  • Padavic, Irene & Barbara Reskin. 2002. Women and Men at Work. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. Ch. 2: Gendered Work in Time and Place

January 30th                     Racialized Experiences over Time

  • SONG: Strange Fruit by Billy Holiday
  • Ammott, Teresa & Julie Matthaei. 1996. Race, Gender and Work: A Multicultural Economic History of Women in the United States. Boston, MA: South End Press. “Climbing Gold Mountain: Asian American Women” and “We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible: African-American Women”

 

UNIT 4: THE DAILY EXPERIENCE OF WORK

February 4th                      Race, Class and Gender at Work

  • SONG: El Picket Sign by El Teatro Campesino (on the Rolas de Aztlan: Songs of the Chicano Movement cd)
  • García-Lopez, Gladys & Denise A. Segura. 2008. “’They are testing you all the time’: Negotiating Dual Femininities among Chicana Attorneys.” Feminist Studies 34(1/2):229-258.
  • Castaneda, Xochitl & Patricia Zavella. 2003. “Changing Constructions of Sexuality and Risk: Migrant Mexican Women Farmworkers in California.” The Journal of Latin American Anthropology 8(2):126-151.

February 6th                                  Sexualized Workplaces

  • SONG: I’m ‘n Luv Wit A Stripper by T-Pain
  • Jefreys, Sheila. 2009. Keeping Women Down and Out: The Strip Club Boom and the Reinforcement of Male Dominance. Signs 34(1):151-173.
  • Zinn, Maxin Baca, Pierette Hondagneu-Sotelo and Michael A. Messner, eds. 2011. Gender Through the Prism of Difference. New York: Oxford University Press. Patti A. Guiffre and Christine L. Williams: “Boundary Lines: Labeling Sexual Harassment in Restaurants”

February 11th                                  Emotional Labor

  • SONG: Run the World (Girls) by Beyoncé
  • Wharton, Amy S. 2009. “The Sociology of Emotional Labor.” Annual Review of Sociology. 35:147-165.
  • Lois: “Peaks and Valleys: The Gendered Emotional Culture of Rescue Workers”

 

UNIT 5: FAMILY LIFE AND WORK

February 13th                                  Parenting and Work

 

February 18th                                  Outsourcing Family Work

  • SONG: Sadie’s Servant Room Blues by Hattie Burleson
  • Duffy, Mignon. 2007. “Doing the Dirty Work: Gender, Race, and Reproductive Labor in Historical Perspective.” Gender and Society 21:313-336.
  • Sacks, N. E. and C. Marrone. 2004. Gender and Work in Today’s World: A Reader. Cambridge: Westview Press. Hondagneu-Sotelo: “Domestica: Maid in L.A.”

 

UNIT 6:  WOMEN MAKING CHANGE 

February 20th                                  Women and Activism

  • SONG: Girls Lie Too by Terri Clark
  • Wallace, Aubrey. 1993. Eco-Heroes: Twelve Tales of Environmental Victory. San Francisco, CA: Mercury House. “Mrs. Gibbs Goes to Washington.”
  • Perkins, Tracy. 2012. “Women’s Pathways Into Activism: Rethinking the Women’s Environmental Justice Narrative in California’s San Joaquin Valley.” Organization & Environment 25(1):76-94.

February 25th                                  Women and the Labor Movement

  • SONG: We Were There by Bev Grant and the Brooklyn Women’s Chorus
  • Boris, Eileen and Annelise Orleck. 2011. “Feminism and the Labor Movement: A Century of Collaboration and Conflict.” New Labor Forum 20(1):33-41.

March 4th                                              Case Study: Facebook’s Cheryl Sandberg

  • Sandberg, Cheryl. 2013. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Chapters 1-6

March 6th                                              Case Study: Facebook’s Cheryl Sandberg

 

UNIT 7: STUDENT-LED LEARNING 

March 11th                                              Student Presentations

March 13th                                               Student Presentations

March 19th                                              Student Presentations

Teaching “Women and Work” – Syllabus

Now that summer is here, I’m hoping to post some of the things I did in my “Women and Work” class from January – March. I had a great time with the class and tried out a bunch of new activities with my students. To get started, here’s a copy of the syllabus I created. I drew inspiration in shaping it from Rachel Bryant-Anderson, the last instructor to teach the class in my department. I also selected readings from the many syllabi kindly shared with me by the users of the Sociologists for Women in Society list-serve.

Student-generated classroom content

This year I’m participating in the HASTAC Scholars program organized by Duke University and UC Irvine. It is an online forum for scholars to discuss ideas and share resources related to the intersection of the humanities, arts, sciences and technology. We are organized into working groups and posting on various HASTAC blogs and online forums.

One of the HASTAC groups has created the “Pedagogy Project,” which will be publicized by the  #FutureEd folks. They are organizing a collection of blog posts on teaching and the HASTAC Scholars have all been invited to contribute material. So, here’s my contribution!

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I try to find way to incorporate student-generated content into my classes whenever possible. The idea is to improve student learning by creating an environment that encourages them to be active learners who see their own lives and interests reflected in class content.

There are a wide variety of ways to approach this, from your standard student-presentations on independent research projects to fully democratized student-led courses.  Over the last few years, I’ve been experimenting with techniques in the middle of the spectrum that incorporate student generated content but still give me room to “curate” their ideas.

Different classes require different kinds of models for incorporating student ideas. I’ve listed some of what I’ve been doing below. These are all specific to student-generated classroom content. They do not cover ways to increase student participation in classroom processes such as grading, assignment design, peer-review of papers, or discussion.

CLASSICAL & CONTEMPORARY SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY: Theory courses are challenging. They assign dense, abstract readings that most students struggle to understand. In these courses, I assigned students the task of supplying me with a constant stream of media sources related to the class content. The idea was to 1) give students a formal way to practice applying sociological theory to the world around them by asking them to choose and submit a media item that exemplifies that week’s theories, and 2) to help me generate interesting, relevant classroom content that speaks to their age group.

Students sign up to submit a media piece once during the quarter. For pedagogical purposes it would be great to have them do it more often, but to keep my grading manageable I limited it to one piece per student. This means that when I sit down to put together my lesson plans at the beginning of the week, I have 5-8 one page papers that I can skim for ideas. Each mini-paper presents a media item, describes the strengths and weaknesses of using that week’s key theory to analyze it, and suggests how to use the media item in class. This has resulted in classes in which we use The Simpsons to help students understand Marx’s concept of primitive accumulation or alienation; news coverage of a police surveillance tower at an Occupy rally to understand Foucault’s idea of the panopticon; and YouTube “haul videos” to understand Herbert Marcuse’s critique of consumer society.

When we analyze the media items, I push students not only to think about what aspects of the piece fit the theory in question, but also to think about the ways the theory does not fit the media piece. This helps the students learn to assess the limits and potential weaknesses of each theory, which is usually challenging for them.

You can see the details of the assignment, as well as what was generated from it in both classes here and here.

WOMEN & WORK: I have two small extra-credit assignments designed to help me incorporate student-generated content in this class. Students can sign up to submit a song and/or a news item with a one page mini-paper that describes how it relates to the key concepts in that week’s readings. When I am putting together my lesson plans at the beginning of the week, I read that week’s mini-papers and select one song and one news item to share at the beginning of each class. The song plays as students are coming in to class and getting settled, while the news items are shared after class has begun.

Playing songs as students are coming in has a number of benefits. First, it makes it easier to start class on time with little disruption from late or chatty students. Students arrive earlier than usual so as not to miss the song, and when it ends they are quiet and ready to start class. Second, it gives us a fun way to expand the reach of our reading beyond the classroom and out into the pop culture in which they are immersed in day-to-day life. Third, having them help choose the songs means that the songs are much more current than they would be if I picked them all myself. For example, we’ve screened the 2005 song suggested by a student for our day on sex work I’m ‘n Luv (Wit a Stripper), as well as my own contribution from 1971, Gonna Be an Engineer. After the song finishes, the person who proposed using it says a few words about why s/he chose it. Then, we might have a brief class discussion about the song and/or refer back to it for more analysis later in the class.

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In all of these assignments, I make the final decisions about what student ideas to share with the rest of the class. This helps me do quality control to ensure that the only media pieces, songs or news items shared with the entire class are a close fit for that week’s content and will aid, not hinder, student understanding. When some of the unchosen items are a also a good fit for the class content, I often briefly reference them at the beginning of the class without making them a focal point of the class session. This gives the students a sense of how widely the theories in question can be applied, and helps bring our readings alive.