“By watering down the content of what used to be Women’s Studies, students are no longer inspired by feminism and by the prospect of feminist activism and research.”

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That is a sentence from this essay, excerpted below:

… There have been two competing forces in the theorising of Women’s Studies since its inception. On the one hand there are those who wish to ‘transform the curriculum’ and incorporate Women’s Studies into other disciplines and be prepared to shift naming conventions as it becomes expedient (Friedman et al. 1996). On the other hand, there are those who have fought for the establishment and continuation of Women’s Studies as an autonomous discipline (Bowles and Duelli-Klein 1983; Bowles 2009).

Those who have fought for the first option have had some achievements, but the curriculum has not exactly been transformed. Were it transformed it would have had the effect of challenging the structures in which such courses are taught. We would also be now seeing social change occurring in which hatred of women and violence against women was reduced. Such changes have not occurred indeed, hatred and violence are on the increase.

Those engaged in the project of transformation have not appeared to be too worried about calling Women’s Studies and Feminist Studies, Gender Studies or Cultural Studies or indeed subsuming what was once Women’s Studies into courses on Politics, Sociology, History or any other discipline (Robinson and Richardson 1996:179–187). However interesting such courses may be, they are not courses in Women’s Studies. Gender Studies and Cultural Studies are widely available, and many of them encourage students to read postmodern theorists whose work is not informed by feminism or by the discipline of Women’s Studies. Again, however interesting this is to particular students, it does not constitute Women’s Studies (see Bell and Klein 1996:279–417).

By watering down the content of what used to be Women’s Studies, students are no longer inspired by feminism and by the prospect of feminist activism and research.

Those who argued for Women’s Studies as a separate and independent discipline have attempted to make courses challenging, women-centred and inspired by feminist research methodologies and feminist pedagogy or gynagogy (Klein 1986). Where Women’s Studies has successfully maintained an autonomous existence, students and teachers speak of the energy of courses, of the ways in which their lives are transformed by reading, discussion, writing and research (Ã…s 1996:535–545). Gender mainstreaming has led to the demise of many autonomous Women’s Studies programs, or the invisibilising of the research of feminists whose work has disappeared from the curriculum in less than a couple of decades. The result of this will be the need for the next generation to reinvent the wheel. …

Read the whole thing here and see what you think.

–Ann Bartow

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