May 04, 2010

Mercer, Christia Silver_nugget
[PHIL V2110] Philosophy and Feminism

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

There are two kinds of students who take Philosophy and Feminism: philosophers, and feminists. I would caution anyone in the former category who is considering taking this class to think about it again.

Before I begin, let me explain the many "disagree" votes that will surely be cast upon this review — I took this class for the opposite reason that most others did (I was a philosopher, they were feminists), which from the outset doomed me to a semester of slight frustration with this class. Our spring 2010 section was, unsurprisingly, 92% female. Most of these were the Barnard, fair-trade-coffee-drinking liberal elitist type who went to SXSW for spring break. I don't dislike these women — I, in fact, a lot of the time more or less fit into this stereotype. However, I had taken philosophy classes before and was planning on being a philosophy concentrator and was taking the class to do philosophy, whereas most of my classmates were there to learn about women and their struggle.

This general characteristic of my classmates led to the almost universal worship of Christia Mercer. I don't dislike Christia — she is a fairly cool woman, she tells funny stories, she swears, she's not married to the father of her children out of solidarity for gay marriage rights. She is also a fairly interesting lecturer. Okay, great. But the one big problem I had with Christia was how often she repeated the phrase, "Sorry, now I'm just ranting, BUT..." It is wonderful that she is so interested in feminism and is invested in what she is teaching us, but when her lectures so frequently collapse into Christia Mercer's Very Strong Opinions About Topic X, I think there is something fundamentally wrong with the structure of the course.

Therefore, for those who agreed with Christia's opinions simply by virtue of the fact that they were feminists who hadn't taken the time to really think their reasoning through, the class was wonderful. But for those of us who held alternate opinions, her lectures were slightly frustrating. Our unit titled "Ethnicity, Gender, and Truth" was perhaps the best example of this: we spent two weeks reading essays about the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas debacle, and it was clear by the end of the first lecture on this unit that there was only ONE correct interpretation of the events. In other words, Christia's Way or the High Way. There was an incident during one lecture in which some particularly strong-minded students openly disagreed with her; everyone else in the class was of the opinion that these students were simply being belligerent troublemakers. The way they addressed Christia was indeed a bit hostile, but Christia's equally brutal response to their points made me cringe. It was clear to me that several months' worth of pent-up frustration with Christia's teaching style had simply gotten to them.

However, let me finish this review with the good news (?) that even if you disagree with everything Christia is saying, you will still probably be able to do reasonably well in the class. The only thing graded is your papers, and as long as you argue convincingly you'll do fine.

The only thing you should think about before taking this class is whether you'll be able to stand a semester's worth of Christia's opinion-spouting. It's not impossible to get something out of the class, but if you're a proponent of approaching philosophy objectively, I would caution you against taking this class.


Reasonable. Reading for each class, most of which can be skimmed since the main points will be elaborated upon in class. Three one-page papers, one five-page paper. Two lecture analyses. The final is made up of passage IDs and a wishy-washy essay.