Women in Politics: Term Paper Assignment
Late papers will not be accepted.

Guidelines:  The purpose of this term paper is three-fold: to develop your research skills, your writing skills, and lastly, to demonstrate your understanding of women active in the political arena.  The length of the paper should range from 8 to 15 (max!) pages.  Keep in mind that length does not guarantee a good grade, however, some topics may require a longer essay in order to complete the assignment. 
            The paper is worth one hundred points, so spend some quality time on it.  The paper should be typewritten and double-spaced using excellent grammar and spelling (use those spell- and grammar-checks!).  Do proofread the paper!  There are several style manuals (Chicago, MLA, etc) available in the Library and Bookstore that will be of great service to you as you develop your writing skills.  In addition, your paper should include a title page, page numbers, citations, and a bibliography.  A good bibliography will have at least three books listed.  Periodicals and newspaper articles can be good additions, but not replacements for, to your list of books. Wikipedia, as all encyclopedias, is NOT acceptable as a resource, so use of it by any student will result in a greatly reduced grade.

Topics:  There are a wide variety of topics that you may choose from.  You may choose to focus on a country or countries not already covered in class. As well, you may choose to write on specific aspects of women in the political arena: as activists, organizers, elected politicians, commentators, and so on.  You might focus on certain organizations or movements, such as political parties or well-known non-governmental organizations like the National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, or Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina.  Some of these organizations deal only with single issues, while others deal with an entire platform of issues.  Specific topics might be: women in elected office, women and public policy, women in the judicial/penal system, women and health issues, child care issues, women and economics/Social Security, women in the labor force, environmental issues, women in the military/guerrilla/terrorist organizations, religious women as political activists (i.e., Sr. Helen Prejean), race and sexual issues (are all women equal? separatist groups, etc), women as political philosophers, definitions of feminism (cultural, radical, lesbian, liberal, socialist, communist, Third World).  The instructor is available as a resource for determining topics.

Analysis: What follows is a list of questions that you may use to develop your analysis of your topic.  It is not a complete list of questions, nor should they be the only questions you use.  The purpose is to guide you and move you in a direction that helps to develop a logical and succinct presentation of your topic.

  1. What is the legal, economic, political, and social status of women? What impact do women have on national, state, or local politics, and vice versa? Are women treated differently than men in politics? Why or why not?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in politics?

  2. Under what conditions do women have their best political opportunities (i.e. electoral system, party system, party type, culture, religious traditions/practices, economic system, welfare state, state of the established government, etc)?  Which of these engage women in politics? Which of these opportunities have been the most and least successful? What are the most and least successful strategies for women to use as they access the political system?  Why are some opportunities and strategies successful, while others fail?

  3. Regarding feminist movements and other movements that rely on women as activists: How did they develop? What is the relationship between movements and other government organizations, such as political parties and the federal/state government? What social forces preceded the movement? Who are the activists, beneficiaries, and long-term goals of the movement? What impact do they have on the political system?  Compare and contrast with other movements and organizations in terms of accomplishments, shortcomings, the role of leaders, ideology and organization?

  4. What are the differences and similarities in the ways that women of color and white women participate in politics, both in an historical and contemporary context?  What are the political contributions, challenges and obstacles facing women of all colors? In what ways can all women approach politics? What presumptions can be made about women in politics, i.e., as an individual, part of a group, and in their relationships with others and to the state and towards politics. 

  5. What political, social, educational, labor, health and/or economic issues have the most impact on women? What current policies have been successful, and which have not lived up to expectations?  What, if any, changes can be made?  If you were an elected official and a female, what are your priorities? How would you accomplish your goals?

  6. Regarding women in the military: What attracts women to serve in the military? Are military women any different from civilian women, other than their career choice? Is it reasonable to exclude women from combat?  Why or why not? Why are people so uncomfortable and hostile with the idea of women serving in the military? What is the basis of this hostility towards women in the military, coming from both the civilian and military ranks?  What are the personal and professional challenges facing women in the military?  How do other countries deal with this issue?

  7. What impact did your topic have on you, as you wrote your paper? In what ways did the research teach you something you did not know before? Does the information you discovered do anything to alter or contribute to your personal or political philosophy?

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