To mark a powerful turning point in the 2002 film Real Women Have Curves, America Ferrera’s character Ana talks back to her hypercritical mother, “This is who we are, Mama. Real women.” Ana’s declaration goes beyond her personal relationship with her mother as she stands up for all women who have been made to feel ashamed for their bodies, their choices, their desires, or their differences. The journey from childhood to adulthood, from innocence to experience, that the film traces is a movement from shame to pride and self-acceptance, a not uncommon story of growing up for American women. In our course we will explore how women use the coming-of-age narrative to portray the diverse experiences of growing up in the U.S. What do their stories tell us about identity, difference, and gender roles? What is their relationship and responsibility to active feminist movements? What are the range of possibilities for “This is who we are”? Students will apply historical, cultural, formal, and feminist theoretical knowledge to a critical analysis of primary works that may include Julia Ward Howe’s The Hermaphrodite, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Zitkala-Ša’s American Indian Stories, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.
Folklore/Ethnic/Women’s Literature courses focus on works in Folklore, ethnic American writing, and writing by women.
Gender, Ability, Queer Studies, and/or Sexuality courses focus on the ways that issues of sexuality, gender, queerness, and disability are represented, critiqued, and developed in media and literature.