Martina Avanza


Course description
This course aims to approach some of the central issues of gender studies (gender socialization, the social construction of femininity and masculinity, women-rights and sexual minorities questions, equality and discrimination, power, sexual and reproductive issues, etc.) by focusing on politics. Given my specific expertise, particular attention will be focused on gender and activism and on the abortion issue. Other central subjects will be examined, such as citizenship, vote, political representation and identity politics.

Teaching and Evaluation methods
Sessions will be structured around the discussion of essays, and they will privilege interactivity. During most sessions a theoretic essay will be read, and a case study will be drawn, whenever possible, from the students' countries of origin. A theoretic issue will therefore be approached first (e.g. a critical review of political representation, from a gender point of view), then the second part of the session will consist in translating this theoretic question into practice (e.g. what is the sexual composition of Governments in the students' countries of origin?).
In some cases, the sessions will be in part dedicated to associating scientific literature (essentially revolving around gender studies, sociology and political science) to the first-hand material gathered with the help of the students, during classroom workshops (class exercises). This process will enable the students to add to the discussion their own knowledge of their countries of origin. This approach aims to diversify the sessions (as reading theoretical texts can prove monotonous in the long run), but also to make the most of the international composition of the class. This process will help the students in familiarizing with the analysis of first-hand documentation. We will also watch and discuss some documentary films related to the course subject.

Evaluation will be based on:
•Class participation (20%), that means not only to be there (I will record attendance, class absences will affect your grade), but also to be an active participant (you have to read the essays and be able to discuss them in class).
•Class exercises prepared by the students (20%).
•Two reports on our sessions (20%), to summarize the content of the texts that we have studied, as well as the discussions and exchanges during our work in the classroom. These reports will be available to other students on the Moodle platform.
•Final essay regarding the analysis of a “gender and politics case” in the student’s countries. For example, the debates around the law on same sex couples, the “tampon tax” protest, the Me Too campaign… (40%).

Co-curricular activities
-Meeting with the feminist activists of “Non una di Meno”, Venice chapter.
-Conference by the guest lecturer Sabrina Marchetti (Ca Foscari) about gender and globalization through the lens of domestic work.

1- Introduction 1
a) Program presentation, teaching methods presentation
b) Theoretical Introduction 1: What’s Gender? (Lecture)

2- Introduction 2
a) Theoretical Introduction 2
•GOFFMAN (Erving) “The Arrangement between the Sexes”, Theory and Society, Vol. 4, No. 3, 1977, p. 301-331.

b) Theoretical Introduction 3
•DELPHY (Christine) “The Main Enemy”, Feminist Issues, summer 1980, p. 23-40.

3- Gender Citizenship and the Right to vote
a) Does citizenship have a sex?
•WALBY (Sylvia), “Is citizenship gendered?”, Sociology, Vol. 28, No. 2, 1994, p. 379-395.
Exercise: When did women gain the right to vote in your country? Under which circumstances? Following which mobilizations?

b) Voting: a gendered act?
•HILL (Lisa) "Women's interests and political orientations. The gender voting gap in three industrialized settings" in The Politics of Women's Interests, edited by Louise Chappell and Lisa Hill, New York, Routledge, 2006, p.66-92.

4- Gender and Political Representation -1
a) Political representation theories and gender: does sex (and race) of the representative matter?
•MANSBRIDGE (Jane) "Should Blacks Represent Blacks and Women Represent Women? A Contingent 'Yes'", The Journal of Politics, Vol. 61, No.3, 1999, p.628-657.

b)Exercise 1: find data about the sexual composition of the Parliament and/or the Government of your country. Are these numbers controversial? Why? What the electoral system in your Country? Does quota exist?
Exercise 2: bring a photo (i.e. the official photo) of the Parliament and/or the Government of your country. What does it looks-like in terms of gender, age and race diversity?

5- Gender and Political Representation -2
a) Do gender quota bring equality?
•KROOK (Mona Lena), LOVENDUSKI (Joni), SQUIRES (Judith) "Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Gender Quotas in the context of citizenship models", in Women, Quotas and Politics, edited by Drude Dahlerup, New York, Routledge, 2006, p.194-221.

b) The BIG debate:
I will divide, at random, the class in two groups. One group will defend identity politics, quotas, mirror representation. The other group will defend substantive representation, underline the negative effects of quotas and identity politics. No matter what your opinion is, you have to defend the position that you have been assigned to. There will be a jury (myself and the 2 students making the summary of the session) that will choose the winner of the debate.
You will have 15 minutes with your group to prepare the arguments before the debate starts.
If you want to win, follow the rules:
1: you can’t interrupt when the other group is speaking (but the jury can if they are too long!)
2: when group 1 have spoken group 2 will (there can’t be 2 persons of the same group speaking one after the other).
3: every person in the group HAS to speak at least once in the debate. The better the whole group participates, the more you score.
4: you can of course use empirical cases from your country or from other countries, but you HAVE to use the arguments of the readings (especially Masbridge and Krook et al.) in the debate.

6- Gender and activism-1
a) Not only gender matters: introducing intersectionality
•CRENSHAW (Kimberle) “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color”, Stanford Law Review, Vol. 43, No. 6, 1991, p. 1241-1299.

b) Freedom Summer (documentary 2014)

7- Gender and activism-2:
a) Film discussion.
Use the Crenshaw paper to analyze the documentary. How is the activism described in the documentary (1964 Mississippi campaign to help black people to register to vote) shaped by gender, race and class?

b) The personal is political
•CLIFFORD (Rebecca), GILDEA (Robert) and WARRING (Anette) “Gender and Sexuality”, In Robert Gildea, James Mark, and Anette Warring (Ed.), Europe's 1968: Voices of Revolt, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

8- Gender and activism-3:
a) The birth of the LGBT movement
•Harvey Milk (1984 documentary about the life of the LGTB activist Harvey Milk, USA).

b) Prolife-prochoice activism
•GINSBURG (Faye) “Gender Politics and the Contradictions of Nurturance: Moral Authority and Contraints to Action for Female Abortion Activists”, Social Research, Vol. 58, No. 3, 1991, p. 653-676.
•LUKER (Kristin) “The war between the Women”, Family Planning Perspectives, Vol. 16, No. 3, 1984, pp. 105-110.

9- Beyond identity: queer politics
a) Queer theory
•BUTLER (Judith) Gender Trouble. Feminism and the subversion of Identiy, Routledge, 1990 (extract pp.1-34).

b) The queer dilemma
•GAMSON (Joshua), “Must Identity Movements Self-Destruct? A Queer Dilemma”, Social Problems, n. 3, 1995, pp. 390-407.

10- Abortion politics
a) Abortion: a feminist perspective
•MACKINNON (Catharine A.) Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, Cambridge-London, Harvard University Press, 1991 (chapter 10 “Abortion: On Public and Private”, pp. 184-194).

b) Methodology : how to do your essay.

11- Students Presentations
a) Students presentations 1

b) Students presentations 2

12- Students Presentations
a) Students presentations 3

b) Students presentations 4

Learning outcomes of the course
•To gain knowledge and critical sense about gender inequality today.
•To learn to read and discuss theoretical texts on the courses' subject.
•To link a theoretical issue (e.g. the theory of representation) to some very real cases.
•To learn to analyze first-hand material (the photograph of a politician, the speech of a presidential candidate), by applying the knowledge acquired during the lessons.

I will send out PDFs of the readings as the class progresses (on the Moodle platform). These are book chapters, or scholarly articles. Readings must be done on time.


Isola di San Servolo
30133 Venice,

phone: +39 041 2719511
fax:+39 041 2719510

VAT: 02928970272