Teaching Points: “Women and Addiction: A Feminist Perspective”

Editor’s Note: In the third installment in Points’ back-to-school celebration of teaching, Sarah Carnahan, candidate for an MSW and a PhD at Ohio State University, discusses the class “Women and Addiction: A Feminist Perspective.”  The syllabus is below; her discussion of the issues arising from the class will appear tomorrow. Carnahan’s work focuses on the intersections of transnational feminist theory, critical trauma theory, and feminist narrative theory in the post-9/11 conflict narratives of women from the U.S., the Middle East, and the Middle Eastern diaspora. 

Contributor’s Note: The OSU class “Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 326 : Women and Addiction” examines the experiences, issues, representations, and obstacles of addicted women in society, policy, and culture.  Though it is not a clinical course, the department does try to have instructors with some clinical knowledge teach it. The bulk of this syllabus is actually the result of a lot of hard work by Victoria Genetin, the instructor who taught this course prior to me, and who trained me to teach it. While I tweaked some of the assignments and changed a few readings, Victoria deserves the credit for the vast majority of this syllabus, and I consider myself very lucky to have her as a resource and mentor as I am beginning to teach Women and Addiction.

Women and Addiction: A Feminist Perspective
Course Description

Social Construction-- and Destruction

This course offers a multicultural feminist perspective on women and addiction.  Using an interdisciplinary approach, students will explore addiction within the contexts of social construction, popular culture, mental health, and public policy. Discussion topics explore the socially constructed meanings of addiction, gender, power, and privilege.  Particular attention will be given to the various ways these social constructions can create cultural beliefs about addictions.  Careful attention is paid to the ways in which popular culture shapes cultural beliefs and knowledge about women and addictions and how those beliefs impact public policy and even the recovery process.  Students will engage in an interactive approach to learning about women and addiction.  Through lectures, class discussions, readings, popular culture analyses, blogging/journaling, group work, and in-class activities, students will gain a better perspective on gender, intersectionality, and addiction.

Learning Objectives:

  • Acquire an understanding of how issues of addiction might be viewed within an intersectional feminist framework, and how such perspective relies on and departs from traditional addiction theories.
  • Consider how addiction can operate as a tool of social control based on the social construction of difference, i.e. race, sex, class, and sexual orientation.
  • Examine how systems of oppression and inequality can be factors in the development of addiction.
  • Explore the relationships between gender ideology, socialization, and addiction.
  • Challenge dominant beliefs about addiction within the contexts of intersectional identities and oppressions, motherhood, and reproduction.

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