Gender Studies | Themes in Gender Studies: Speaking Up and Speaking Out
G205 | 14246 | Schusterbauer, E


In the U.S, at the current moment, self-disclosure is a part of our
everyday cultural landscape.  On daytime talk shows and primetime
reality shows, people tell everything about their childhood
experiences, their relationships, their aspirations, and their
sexual practices.  Whether to television talk show hosts or
untended “confessional booth” cameras, formerly unknown “average
Joes” disclose everything from the banal to the bawdy.  And, U.S.
viewers lap up their confessions, making “tell all” television an
exceedingly lucrative ratings bonanza.
In this class, we will analyze the relationship between U.S.
feminist activism and such “tell all,” or confessional, speech
practices.  Breaking down the distinction between popular culture
and political activism, we will examine the ways in which “speaking
out” about personal experiences has shaped U.S. feminism since U.S.
feminist Carol Hanisch’s 1969 declaration that “the personal is
political.” We will begin our investigation by examining the
relationship between “speaking out” and “consciousness raising,”
both of which were advocated by U.S. Second Wave feminists
determined to uncover the systemic roots of women’s oppression.
Next, we will consider the continued presence of feminist “speak
outs” on college campuses and in other communities, despite growing
cultural distaste for the decidedly communal speaking practice
of “consciousness raising.”  Next, we will examine more closely how
the feminist practice of “speaking out” has been co-opted by the
mainstream media on shows like Oprah and The View.  And, finally, we
will examine some of the controversies that have surrounded the
feminist impulse to “speak out,” paying particular attention to the
Recovered Memory controversy that swirled around women’s disclosures
of childhood sexual abuse in the 1980s and 1990s.