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Gender, Politics & Culture

Midterm Exam Questions

Answer three of the following questions.  Each of your answers should be about two pages long (one-inch margins, twelve-point font size, double spaced).

Note: If the connections between these questions and the required readings are not immediately apparent, it might help to do some further research on the Web.

New due date: 10/30.  Bring the exam questions to class on 10/23


Before you turn in your midterm, use the term-paper check list on the web page to fix common mistakes.  Any essays that contain the mistakes identified in the term-paper checklist will be marked down one grade.

All of your answers should be thoughtfully argued, well-organized, and free of grammatical and spelling errors. 


  1. Summarize the main points made by Simone de Beauvoir in "The Second Sex"

  2. Summarize the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973)

  3. Summarize the Supreme Court's ruling in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson (1986)

  4. Summarize what happened immediately before, during, and after the Hill/Thomas Hearings

  5. Specifically describe Bill Clinton's Testimony Before the Starr Grand Jury.

  6. Describe the government's efforts to move women into & out of the industrial workforce during and after World War Two.

  7. Summarize the Statement of Purpose of the National  Organization for Women (NOW), (1966).  Describe what this statement reveals about the socio-economic status of the women who wrote it.

  8. Summarize the main points made by Gloria Steinem in "Women's Liberation Aims to Free Men Too."

  9. Summarize the main points made by Katie Roiphe in "Date Rape's Other Victim."

  10. Summarize an important gender-related Supreme Court ruling that is not included in this exam.

  11. Summarize the circumstances of the murder of Harvey Milk

  12. Summarize the Supreme Court's ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986).

  13. Summarize the Supreme Court's ruling in Romer v. Evans (1996).

  14. Summarize the military policy known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue.

  15. Summarize the circumstances of the murder of Matthew Shepard


Questions for Reading & Discussion

Scroll down until you find questions that are relevant to the topic that you are pursuing.


  1. You are taking a course which is listed under the heading, "Gender Studies."  If this heading were changed to "Women's Studies," what would expect to be different about the course?  If this were defined as a course on sexual difference, what topics would you expect to study?

  2. Manet's Olympia elicited an uproar when it was first exhibited in 1863.  What do you think that Manet's contemporaries found disturbing in this painting?  How does Olympia differ from more traditional paintings of nudes?

  3. In a Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft addressed her readers as rational, educated, and civic-minded men.  Thanks in part to this approach to gender inequality, Wollstonecraft is frequently defined as a "first-wave feminist."  What does this definition imply about the distinctions between first-wave feminism and second-wave feminism?

  4. What does Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman have in common with the arguments made by Thomas Jefferson in The Declaration of Independence?

  5. Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders is frequently characterized as an exploration of the moral ambiguities inherent in modern commercial society.  Specify aspects of the novel that support this characterization.

  6. In Moll Flanders, the title character frequently asks God to save her from poverty so that she will not be inclined to lie or cheat or steal.  From a moral standpoint, what is the problem with Moll's prayer?

  7. In Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders, the title character commits all sorts of crimes, lies to everyone she meets, takes advantage of anyone she can, and ends up happy, healthy, and immensely rich.  What do you think that Defoe meant to imply by allowing Moll to enjoy such success?

  8. In what ways does Moll Flanders conform to assumptions commonly made about women who achieve worldly success? 

  9. In "The Second Sex," Simone de Beauvoir argued that men are generally held up as embodiments of the "norm" while women are viewed as "other."  Name one or more of the examples that Beauvoir used to support this point of view.

  10. In The Second Sex, which was first published in 1949, Simone de Beauvoir compared the situation of women throughout the world to that of American blacks.  What similarities did she find between the types of oppression imposed on these two groups?  What differences did she highlight in her comparisons between racist and sexist forms of domination?

  11. In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir observed that some women try to transcend the barriers imposed on women by refusing to describe themselves as women.  Why did Beauvoir disagree with this strategy?  If many women took this route in an effort to achieve worldly success, what would happen to women in general?

  12. In the aftermath of the Civil War, when black men were given the right to vote, many suffragettes separated themselves from the struggle for racial equality.  Specify ways in which this nineteenth-century separation affected both the civil rights movement and the women's liberation movement during the twentieth century.

  13. What were the leading characteristics of second-wave feminism?     

  14. Did the women's liberation movement succeed?

  15. Why did so many women begin to work outside the home during the 1970's?

  16. How do third-wave feminists distinguish themselves from second-wave feminists?

  17. Do you see Katie Roiphe as a feminist?

  18. How would you describe Roiphe's concept of freedom?

  19. What does Roiphe have in common with most second-wave feminists?

  20. Specify ways in which the women's liberation movement tended to promote class consolidation.

  21. More to come 10/23/00