January 07, 2008

Mercer, Christia Silver_nugget
[PHIL V2110] Philosophy and Feminism

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Although I refuse to take any more philosophy after this class, I recommend it to all students. I had taken neither philosophy nor women’s studies previously and thus found the subjects in conjunction eye-opening. Though not my favorite, of the classes I have taken in college thus far this one has most changed how I think about myself, my authority, how people treat me, and how I treat others. Mercer’s tension rises visibly when an account of sexually-based injustice prickles her but she can also laugh at such accounts for their absurdity. The reading is dense, dense, dense, but usually fascinating, if you can get through it. Likewise papers are challenging and it’s demoralizing to think you’ve turned in a winner only to learn your foundational assumption was wrong. Generally you can salvage your grade by writing well and being consistent (even if you are consistently wrong), and if you’re ambitious there are many T.A./prof hours of which you can avail yourself. Nonetheless, you will likely earn your lowest grade or close to it in this class and Mercer makes sure to remind you of that, which became annoying. Her lectures are generally quite clear—students’ comments less so—except on the occasions she refers to other philosophers or ideas unfamiliar to students new to philosophy. Nietzsche? Marx? Meta-physics? Sure, I’ve heard of them…
The final exam proved much more difficult than her repeated admonitions to “relax” would suggest. Having done nearly all the reading, I found it harder than any other exam I had, and I was agitated by how, after two hours taking the test, she worsened a high-pressure situation by telling the class, “It shouldn’t take this long.” Regardless, her quirks and humor sandwiched between integral issues of gender, sexuality, race, and power make the class worthwhile and will make you question the accuracy of yours and others’ claims to truth and authority within and beyond feminist issues.


Dense readings; three essays (of 2, 3, and 6 pages respectively); two lecture analyses; tough final exam