Introduction & Policies

GSS 101, Spring 2022

Prof. Melissa M. González

Office: Chambers 3287

Watson 147

MW 8:05-9:20

Course Description for Introduction to Gender & Sexuality Studies

GSS 101 provides an interdisciplinary introduction to the analytical tools, key scholarly debates, history, and research subfields of gender and sexuality studies. Working within a transnational and multi-ethnic framework, we pay particular attention to the construction and deployment of gender as a cultural category across various social institutions. Students will learn to assess and analyze documents pertaining to the history of and contemporary state of feminisms and women’s rights, masculinity, queer theory, disability studies, trans* studies, intersectionality, as well as a host of gendered questions related to race, class, size, body image, health, work, the family, violence, and politics. [NB. This syllabus draws from the Master Syllabus for GSS 101, created by Professors González, Horowitz, Kaufman, and Tilburg.]

Learning Goals:

By the end of the semester, you should be able to:

  • Define key concepts such as gender, sexuality, intersectionality, race, and heteronormativity
  • Understand key debates and divergences (e.g. constructionism vs. essentialism)
  • Summarize the development of feminist thought and the history of theories of sexuality in a global and non-Anglo-centric framework
  • Apply gender and sexuality analysis to a variety of texts and media
  • Identify moments when a scholarly text addresses its disciplinary/interdisciplinary methods
  • Participate in dialogues that reduce stereotyping and increase mutual understanding.


  • Readings are available on our course website, and students will also post entries there:
  • You will be asked to watch material that requires borrowing a friend’s streaming subscription, or using a free trial of one, if you don’t have your own subscription.


Office Hours:

Please use Calendly to make an appointment for either Zoom or in-person office hours

  • You can always ask to speak with me after class if you have an urgent or quick question.
  • You should make every effort to make one of the appointments available through Calendly; however, if you can’t, email me to schedule a meeting outside of these times.

As indicated on the Schedule of Readings & Deadlines, you are expected to meet with me several times during the semester. You are also highly encouraged to come to office hours at any time to discuss your progress in the course as well as any academic interests I may be able to help you with. 

E-mail Policies: 

  • Students are expected to read their email at least once daily to keep up with important announcements regarding our class.
  • I aim to reply to all e-mails within 48 hours during the semester, not including weekends. If ever I do not respond to an e-mail within 48 hours, please e-mail me again. Sometimes e-mails get caught in the spam folder or get buried under the sometimes very large number of e-mails I receive daily. 
  • Please do not send e-mails asking for information that you could find on the syllabus or the course website. 
  • If you need information about anything you missed because you were not in class, please ask me after class instead of e-mailing.

Access and Accommodation Policy:

We all learn in different ways, and each student will work differently in order to meet the learning goals of the course.  Any student, at any time, is welcome to discuss with me their learning experience in order to strategize, with my support, how best to approach work for the course.

If you are a student with a disability documented by Davidson College who might need accommodations, please identify yourself to me within the first week or two of class so that I can learn from you as early as possible how best to work with your learning style. Students with un-documented issues requiring accommodations are also encouraged to self-identify so that we can explore accommodations that will enhance your learning experience. All such conversations will be fully confidential unless you otherwise stipulate. 

Davidson Access Statement: 

The college welcomes requests for accommodations related to disability and will grant those that are determined to be reasonable and maintain the integrity of a program or curriculum. To make such a request or to begin a conversation about a possible request, please contact the Office of Academic Access and Disability Resources, which is located in the Center for Teaching and Learning in the E.H. Little Library: Beth Bleil, Director,, 704-894-2129; or Alysen Beaty, Assistant Director,, 704-894-2939. It is best to submit accommodation requests within the drop/add period; however, requests can be made at any time in the semester. Please keep in mind that accommodations are not retroactive.

Electronics in the classroom:

Because computer screens block faces and provide distraction, I have sometimes asked that they not enter the classroom; however, given changing practices and needs, I have switched to setting laptop policies based on a conversation we will have the first week of class. 

Finally, it should go without saying, but every year I see more and more students using their smart phones during class discussion, reflecting perhaps changing social mores around phone use. Sometimes, it is entirely appropriate to use our digital tools to look up a word or concept during class, during group work, or to respond to a live poll in SLIDO; but it’s never acceptable to use your phone for personal tasks during class. I always notice even the more surreptitious texting, and it distracts me, and at least some of your peers. Please remember to silence your cell phones and always refrain from text messaging or using your smart device or laptop for personal tasks during class

You will be asked to reflect on how well you upheld our shared agreement about electronics in your final Self-Assessment.

Attendance & Participation: 

Regular and prepared attendance is a course requirement. According to College Policy, missing a substantial number of classes will result in automatic failure of the course. At the same time, this class is designed so that no student should feel pressured to come to class when sick, and every student can be absent a couple of times when they need to focus on other priorities. 

COVID Considerations:

As you consider whether to attend class in person, you will likely find covid tests to be useful. The College will have covid testing in a tent outside Student Health (M-F business hours only). Additionally, if you have health insurance, you are eligible for 8 free (covered by insurance) tests each month due to a federal policy. In most cases, you can go to whatever pharmacy you use (hello, CVS on Main St.), bring your at-home tests to the pharmacy counter, and ask them to run your insurance to purchase them. Then, you can walk out with 8 free tests each month to take at your convenience! NC also has sites (here and here) where you can search for nearby locations to pick up tests, have them sent to you, or go in for free testing. Best practice (and FDA guidance) is to wait for two (or even 3) negative at home tests, taken 24-48 hrs from each other, to be sure you aren’t going to spread to others (this method yields a ~79% (if asymptomatic) to 93% (if symptomatic) likelihood of detecting infection; you’re more likely to miss that you’re infected if you only take one test). Thanks to Prof. Crowder-Meyer for this paragraph.

Documenting Absences & Excusing Your Absence(s) due to Sickness:

Please follow these guidelines to make sure your absences are appropriately documented and excused.

  1. As explained in the grading specifications below, any student can have two absences and still earn an A. Furthermore, the grading specifications allow for a third absence to be made up with a Token (kind of like extra credit) while still fulfilling the requirements for the A bundle. During COVID times, absences excused because of illness do NOT count toward the number of absences allowed for each grade bundle.
  2. E-mail me before or after every absence with an honest explanation for your absence so that I am aware of your situation. This helps me support students. I appreciate the honesty in explanations such as “I’ve been struggling adjusting to a new medication and I overslept”; “I am having a hard time personally and needed to stay in my room today”; or “I needed time to work on a big project for another class” ––all real examples of explanations I have received. Students can also simply say, “I needed a mental health/personal day” or “I needed an absence for personal reasons”. 
  3. Students are responsible for determining and completing any work missed because of any absence, when they are no longer too sick to be in class. 
  4. If you are sick, please do not come to class, whether it is COVID or another contagious or debilitating illness. If you don’t feel well enough to pay close attention in class and it’s not contagious, please stay home.
  5. If you miss class because of illness, it will be excused if you 1.) email me right before or after the absence to let me know you are ill, 2.) do the reading/viewing assigned for the day and check out the slides reviewed in the class you missed, in the shared PPT with Daily Lesson Plans 3.) complete a reading/viewing summary, 4.) check in with a classmate about any announcements you may have missed, and 5.) email me affirming that you have done 1-4 in this paragraph, the absence will be excused (and it will NOT count toward the absences specified for each grade bundle).
  6. College scholar-athletes attending required away games may also get their absences excused when following guidelines 1-5 in the paragraph above.
  7. Please remember that at the end of the semester, there should be emails explaining each student’s absence in my inbox, and students are also required to keep track of each of their own absences and summarize them in their final Self-Reflection for the course.
  8. The Specifications Grading Policy below further specifies the relationship of number of absences to different grade bundles. 
An important note about religious observance: 

Please look carefully at the syllabus during the first week of class.  If any of the assignments or class meetings conflict with a major religious holiday for your faith, then please let me know.  I will make every effort to make the necessary accommodations. Religious observance warrants a legitimately excused absence.

Late Assignments: 

I understand that finishing work on time has become more challenging and stressful in COVID times. If you familiarize yourself with the guidelines below, and follow them, you should find that completing work for this course on time is a lower-stress undertaking.

  • At the start of the semester, please look over deadlines for assignments in the syllabus and note any conflicts with your own schedule (e.g. multiple assignments or exams due in a brief period). Repeat this schedule cross-comparison at the start of every week. 
  • Know that extensions will be automatically granted if you notify me of a conflict at least 10 days in advance and propose an extension for yourself of 1-5 days. 
  • If you encounter difficulties completing work by the deadline outside of the indicated time frame above (10 days in advance), don’t panic. Contact me with an honest explanation by the original due date, and we will negotiate an extended deadline that works for both of us. (Extensions may not be possible for group projects, but still contact me with an honest explanation that your group should also include in the final reflection on the collaboration.)
  • If you turn in work late, or fail to turn it in at all, without notifying me as described above, there will be a late penalty. The impact of a late on the final grade can be removed by completing the extra work needed to gain a Token.
  • Experience has shown me that this extension policy supports student learning, but I also know that accountability mechanisms support everybody’s ability to turn in work; please remember that if you miss an already extended deadline, a late penalty will apply.
  • This class also has a system of Tokens/Fichas, outlined in the Specifications Grading Policy below, which you can choose to participate in without informing me until the end of the semester, to rework deadlines or make up for late work; check the details in the Specifications Grading Policy, below.
  • Please remember that at the end of the semester, there should be emails from any student requesting an extension archived in my inbox, and you are also required to keep track of any extensions and summarize them in your final Self-Reflection for the course.
Honor Code:

All students are expected to work within the bounds of Davidson College’s Honor Code. Acts of plagiarism on class assignments are considered an honors violation and are cause for failure in the course.