All Posts Tagged With: "women’s studies"
Don’t let careerist naysayers derail your dreams
If you are a university student or a university-bound high school student you probably have the impression, thanks to Canadian media and possibly your parents, that the future is bleak. They would have you believe that learning for learning’s sake is a waste of time and picking a potentially lucrative major is not. There are no jobs, they warn, certainly not in art history or philosophy or whatever allegedly dead-end major you plan to pursue—so you may as well learn something “useful.” They are right about jobs. The future, not to mention the present, is bleak. Youth unemployment in Canada is exceedingly high; in Ontario, according to a September report, one in two persons between 15 and 24 has a paid job—the worst ratio we’ve seen since Statistics Canada began recording the numbers in 1976.
Professor Pettigrew on watching a discipline come of age
It was recently pointed out to me that the new director of the Institute of Women’s Studies at the University of Ottawa is a man, Michael Orsini. According to this interview, Orsini thought there might be flack from fellow scholars. Instead, got only bad jokes in the elevator. Not only do I not have a problem with a man running a Women’s Studies centre, I think it’s a positively good thing.
When I was an English major at the University of Western Ontario in the early 90s, the Women’s Studies Program there was just getting going. The new department was given swanky digs in historic University College and issued glossy ads with an elegant lavendar colour palette. Clearly the university was taking this seriously.
One day I found myself in conversation with a disgruntled friend who was complaining about two students in her Women’s Studies class who were ruining the course because, as she explained, they didn’t “accept that there’s patriarchy” and without everyone accepting that the world had always been run by men for the benefit of men, the course kept getting bogged down in arguments over basic assumptions.
York professor and Waterloo student deserve a closer look
A men’s issues event I reported on in March at the University of Toronto drew masked protesters who were there to intimidate people, city police there to keep things in order and it was, inevitably, delayed by a fire alarm. What followed was a rather lightweight critique of women’s studies from University of Ottawa professor Janice Fiamengo.
I was pleased that free speech prevailed, as it was by no means assured. A lecture a few months earlier hosted by the same men’s issues group, The Canadian Association for Equality, was almost shut down. Protesters accused professor Warren Farrell of “hate speech” for, among other things, his controversial views on date rape.
CAFE will host another provocative professor, Lionel Tiger, tonight in Toronto. That event will be at a private venue off campus where the group will raise funds for a men’s centre.
Emma Teitel on the Janice Fiamengo affair
Read more from Emma Teitel on Macleans.ca.
Nothing says free speech like pulling the fire alarm. It was a quarter past seven last night when police emptied U of T’s George Ignatieff Theatre. Keynote speaker Dr. Janice Fiamengo, an English professor at the University of Ottawa, rolled her eyes and adjusted her blouse as the crowd poured out of the building and onto the sidewalk to mingle with the small throng of protesters—pretty girls with big placards and little patience. They wanted Dr. Fiamengo to take her message elsewhere. But firemen came and went, and the professor, once a radical feminist, proceeded to do what the University of Toronto Men’s Issues Awareness Society, and the Canadian Association for Equality invited her to do: denounce women’s studies.
The discipline has devolved into an “intellectually incoherent and dishonest” one, she argued, replacing a “callow set of slogans for real thought.” It’s man-hating, anti-Western, and fundamentally illiberal. “It champions a “kind of masculinity that isn’t very masculine at all,” and shuts down freedom of debate, hence the fire alarm.
This message was quite pleasing to the minority in the room—greying baby boomers of the pro-Fiamengo, Men’s rights camp–and exceedingly distressing to the majority—by the looks of it, gender studies majors and people who would, if given the opportunity, personally execute Rob Ford. It looked like a small contingent of CARP wandered, bemused, into a Bon Iver concert.
Appearances aside though, it was a meeting of truly lunatic minds.
A few placards, a full house and a long line to speak
Janice Fiamengo, a professor who advocates for men’s rights, gave a lecture at the University of Toronto on Thursday evening entitled What’s wrong with Women’s Studies? Naturally, there were dozens of protesters, a few police, and a fire alarm set off, but free speech prevailed, her lecture was given and her opponents were able to challenge her afterward. Here’s what it looked like.
Movember hate, law school admissions & Guelph’s Ti-Cats
1. Every year some student decides to hate on Movember, the mustache-growing prostate cancer fundraiser. This year it’s Hector Villeda-Martinez, a women’s studies major at Concordia University. “Movember is a celebration of hegemonic, patriarchal, heterosexist masculinities,” he writes. “When was the last time, for example that Movember made outreach to transwomen?”
2. Students are getting the message that law school is no longer a route to a guaranteed job. In October 2012, 16.4 per cent fewer students took the Law School Admission Test than in October 2011. That’s following a 16.9 percent drop last October. The overall numbers of test takers is at a 10-year low. For those planning to apply to law school, the lighter competition is probably welcome.
3. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will play most or all of their 2013 home games at the University of Guelph, reports the Spectator. Guelph’s stadium recently underwent a $4.5-million renovation.
Texas tuition freeze, a stabbing & mandatory women’s studies
1. Two people were stabbed during a fight at a house party near McMaster University early on Sunday. This isn’t the first stabbing at a house party near McMaster. Many of the people in attendance were from out of town, police say.
2. Rick Perry, the conservative Texas governor who ran for the Republican presidential nomination, has endorsed a four-year tuition freeze at state colleges and universities. Anti-tuition advocates usually have more success with left-wing parties, but this statement won’t surprise anyone who has heard of Perry’s push to create a $10,000 degree in the Lonestar State.
3. The York Federation of Students is pushing for “a mandatory equity or women’s studies course to help students gain awareness of the root causes behind sexual assaults and violence.” A professor in York’s the School of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies says it may not be the best idea and that there is no guarantee such a course would actually reduce sexual assaults.
Simon Fraser students debate gender-exclusive spaces
Keenan Midgley played basketball, soccer, baseball and football. But it isn’t his athletic skill that has made him well-known on campus in Burnaby, B.C. It’s the budget he’s written as treasurer of the Simon Fraser Student Society.
The fifth-year accounting student added funding that will carve out a special space on campus for guys. The men’s centre, assuming the budget passes a final vote, will get $30,000 next year. That’s the same amount that the women’s centre, started in 1974, will receive.
The pending creation of the men-only space is the source of much discussion at Simon Fraser University. Since the news broke in April, many students have questioned whether the men deserve funding. Along with that, a debate has emerged over whether women—who make up 55 per cent of undergraduate students at SFU—still need their own women-only space.
Now: Gender Studies
Memorial University’s Department of Women’s Studies will officially become the Department of Gender Studies on Aug. 31. Katherine Side, the department head, told today.mun.ca that the name change, which has been discussed since 2005, better reflects the diverse work the department already does. “We are pleased to join 28 other Canadian universities that include gender in one form or another in their undergraduate and graduate degree program titles,” she added.
It’s redundant, it’s unfair, and coercion causes resentment
A third-year student from First Nations University wants to force all students at the nearby University of Regina—and eventually everywhere—to take mandatory Indigenous Studies courses.
The idea is gaining steam more quickly than Julianne Beaudin-Herney, 20, had imagined.
More than 1,000 people have signed her petition entitled Students Initiative to Change On-Campus Systemic Racism. Administrators have offered support, student union presidents across the country have fallen over themselves to sign. NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton added her name.
The only people who have dared to publicly question the proposal are a few U of R engineering students. They don’t want to lose the single humanities course they get out of 45 classes in 4.5 years. Engineering undergrads are already so busy that only 64 per cent of them finish in six years.
It is no longer just about the women’s movement
Princeton University is taking the right approach when it comes to revamping their women’s studies department. The program, previously known as Study of Women and Gender, will now be called Gender and Sexuality Studies after a unanimous vote of the department’s faculty.
The latter half of 2009 saw many similar moves by Canadian universities. Queen’s University renamed their program Gender Studies, while Simon Fraser University’s program is now called Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. Catherine Murray, SFU’s program chair, hit the nail on the head regarding the titular change movement:
“We’re not abandoning women’s studies, or saying the women’s movement is dead. We’re saying things are changing. It’s about moving forward, staying ahead of the game and recognizing the need to include broader discussions surrounding gender,” she told the National Post in late January.
The National Post found itself in hot water a day later when their editorial board tried to claim that “these angry, divisive and dubious programs are simply being renamed to make them appear less controversial.” The national response only proved that discussions around gender are still necessary.
Women’s studies are important, and the firestorm that surrounded the Post in January proved just that. But there’s also room for other discussions that surround gender and sexuality to be addressed as well. Princeton’s latest move is showing us that it has no intention of reducing its focus on women; they are simply including more voices. The department is keeping most of its original course names, but adding some new ones to address a wider scope of gender issues that are part of modern discussions.
It’s about evolution.
“The newly renamed Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton will continue to address each phase of the field’s development, maintaining its historical commitment to the specificity of women’s experience while offering feminist analytic tools across disciplines,” program director Jill Dolan told the Daily Princetonian.
Women’s studies programs first came on the scene over 40 years ago — the first at San Diego State University in 1970 — to address many of the same concerns that are facing other areas of the gender discussion now — gay, lesbian and transgender people are just some examples of the groups whose voices now need to be heard. At first, it was the result of pressure from women’s liberation movements to include female perspectives in education. Modern discussions around “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and “It gets better” are proof that gender discussions are still an important part of our daily lives.
“The first women’s studies programs were created as scholars attempted to re-examine history, literature, anthropology, psychology and other subjects, and to explore the missing perspective,” explains an article on About.com. And today, it’s more missing perspectives that are propelling the expansion of gender programs at universities.
Margaret, a Maclean’s commenter, sums it up beautifully: “I would love to see the day come when women’s contributions (and the contributions of people of colour, alternative sexualities, etc etc) are given the same airtime as the contributions of white men. Until that day comes, we need programs such as women’s studies and first nations studies to bring other perspectives to higher education.”
And while detractors like the National Post’s editorial board will always be around to try and stop those perspectives, universities are right in rising above their ignorance and trying to lend a hand to bring them along for the ride.
If women’s studies programs exist to advance an agenda at the expense of scholarship, then reform is needed
The heat generated over the National Post‘s editorial last Tuesday excoriating women’s studies programs obscures the most important question: is the research and teaching in women’s studies departments held to the same academic standards as more traditional programs? The Post‘s editorialists blame women studies for the adoption of hiring quotas, family law that punishes men, and a general climate where males are viewed as de-facto date-rapists. The newspaper didn’t even consider questions of scholarship, teaching standards, and academic freedom. Unfortunately neither do the Post‘s detractors.
Instead, some of the Post‘s critics adopt one of the newspaper’s central underlying arguments: that women studies programs exist for political reasons, not academic ones. For example, a letter to the editor penned by Pennie Stewart of the CAUT and Katherine Giroux-Bougard of the CFS, argue that women’s studies are still necessary because “women still hit a glass ceiling.” (As an aside, my colleague and friend Erin Millar, endorses this letter.)
Stewart and Giroux-Bougard’s letter does nothing but concede the point that the legitimacy of women’s studies departments is to be measured against factors extraneous to the logic of the university. A better defense would be to demonstrate that such programs contribute to human understanding as rigourously and responsibly as we should expect from a university department. Even if women studies programs were implemented for political purposes, that does not mean that they still do. However, if this cannot be shown, and women’s studies programs really do exist to advance an agenda, and the quality of scholarship and teaching suffers as a result, then serious reform is needed.
Is there still a place for women’s studies in universities?
The National Post continued its dialogue about whether women studies departments should continue to exist on university campuses today by publishing a letter to the editor written by Penni Stewart of the Canadian Association of University Teachers and Katherine Giroux-Bougard of the Canadian Federation of Students. Stewart and Giroux-Bougard countered last week’s doozy of an editorial piece, in which the Post’s editorial board argued that Radical feminism at the core of these programs has reaped havoc on families, labour law, court systems, constitutional freedoms and “even the ordinary relations between men and women.”
Predictably, the editorial sparked a chorus of anger from all corners of the internet. Read my coverage and opinion (yes, it is clearly an opinion) here.
Thankfully, today’s paper included Stewart and Giroux-Bougard’s refreshing response. They argue (rightly, in my view) that women studies programs are “essential to an equitable society” and that they have evolved over the last 40 years to reflect the current state of inequality between men and women. Sure, we’ve come a long way, but there’s much work and study to be done:
In the world imagined by the editorial board, women and men are treated equally, and feminism has fundamentally undermined individual rights, the court system and Canadian society. Women’s Studies programs have destroyed the traditional family and radically reshaped constitutional freedoms.
On the planet the rest of us live on, women continue to earn significantly less than men for performing the same work, are underrepresented at every level of government, are more likely to live in poverty and are at a significantly higher risk of violence and abuse. Despite progress in recent decades, women still hit a glass ceiling that maintains the upper echelons of business, government and society as a male domain.
The Post’s “sexist drivel”—as one commenter called it—makes the case for why women studies will live on
Is the editorial board at the National Post made up of a bunch of sexist, “ill-informed jackasses”? That is what is being argued from the sidelines of social media—blogs, Twitter, Facebook, [insert latest online soapbox here].
The chorus of anger is in response to Tuesday’s editorial in the Post called “Women Studies is Still With Us.” The column begins by outlining the news element: there have been reports that women studies programs are disappearing from Canadian campuses, they say. This is presumably a retort to the Toronto Star columnist Catherine Porter’s lament that Queen’s University is changing the name of their women studies program to “gender studies.”
The Post goes on to play the skeptic, but accomplishes sounding more like a self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist revealing what was on the front page of yesterday’s paper: “We would wave good-bye without shedding a tear, but we are pretty sure these angry, divisive and dubious programs are simply being renamed to make them appear less controversial.”
Uh… duh. As Maclean’s OnCampus reported last weekend, and Porter herself acknowledges, no one is claiming these classes and programs are gone, only that the name is changing. Porter is annoyed, apparently because of her nostalgic attachment to the resulting “empowerment” of seeing the word “woman” in the course calendar of her university days (which is sentimental nonsense, if you ask me). OnCampus’ Robyn Urback argues more rationally when she notes that the change to “gender studies” reflects the contemporary study of women’s role in society. “To properly understand the role of women in society you have to understand the role of men,” she writes. Furthermore, by depoliticizing the program by removing the word “women” surely the subject of study can move on to a more nuanced study of gender in society.
So, does the change make things less controversial? Probably. Moving the subject of women studies away from its traditional “man-hating” subject matter–if you will–you’d think would please the Post. But, nope, the editorial board sees the change as a manipulative way of masking women studies academics’ true intentions: to crush all things good in our society.
The Post then argues that women studies programs are downright evil. (I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.) Radical feminism at the core of these programs, they write, has wreaked havoc on families, labour law, court systems, constitutional freedoms and “even the ordinary relations between men and women.” According to the Post, women studies programs are responsible for the entirety of what feminism got wrong: they are to blame for ill-advised affirmative action in hiring, for convincing young women that all men are victimizers, for divorced men who find themselves unfairly blocked access to their children, for systematic unfairness in the Supreme Court, for increasing taxes with frivolous programs like universal child-care (because child-care is a women’s issue, right? sigh), and for insisting that men shouldn’t try to write novels from a woman’s perspective. These crazy women studies professors have gone so far as to argue that “all heterosexual sex is oppression because its ‘penetrative nature’ amounts to ‘occupation.’” And the result of all of these sins? “Executives, judges and university students must now sit through mandatory diversity training.” Boo hoo.
Although the Post doesn’t go to the trouble of letting the reader know when and at which university these sins were committed nor who said the things they quote in their editorial, I don’t doubt that each of these transgressions occurred at some point in history on some university campus. Nevertheless, it’s a cheap shot to seek out the most extreme of feminist arguments to make the case for why women studies should be extinct. Any movement will have its extremists—in this case, those who argue that sex is, by definition, “occupation”—and a rational person would look past those and listen to the majority in the middle.
Although I’m female, I don’t call myself a feminist; I believe that most of the work on that front is done and I feel alienated by extremists who continue to decry the inherent chauvinism at the basis of our society. Nevertheless, if women studies are to blame for all of the bad that resulted from feminism, as the Post would have you believe, then we should also applaud them for feminism’s accomplishments, which far outnumber the downsides. No progress in society happens without some steps backwards.
Even if equality has come a far way in our society, there continues to be a role for women’s studies, if not in leading the feminist movement, then in the study of its history. Only an ignorant person would look at our country and see perfect equality and access to achievement, and only in paying tribute to the inequalities of the past will we remember how far we’ve come and why it is important.
Unfortunately, the Post’s editorial accomplishes the opposite of its intention. Instead of making a compelling argument for why women studies programs should be a thing of the past, it only demonstrates why they are essential to our future.
“Women’s studies” becomes “gender studies” . . . and rightfully so.
What’s in a name?
Is it, “That which we call a rose?” Or, “Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame?” How about, “A history of structural and psychological oppression wrought with prejudice and inequality to capitulate only through ongoing and relentless insurgent pressure?”
Or, maybe it’s just a name.
Queen’s University has become the latest school to change the name of their “Women’s Studies” program to “Gender Studies.” And some people, such as Toronto Star columnist Catherine Porter, aren’t celebrating the rechristening.
Recalling her time as a student at McGill University, Porter writes:
I’d spent the summer flipping through the course catalogue, stomach down on my bed. There were all the history and English literature courses I would end up taking, the descriptions filled with names including Plato, Charlemagne and Shakespeare.
Then, turning the page, I saw the word that was missing elsewhere — woman. It was empowering.
It still is.
I’m very glad to hear Porter had a fulfilling class selection experience, but I’m more pleased to see universities shifting with the times. If that means swapping “women” for “gender,” so be it.
While I will explain why I’m in favour of the name change, I don’t seek to examine the merits of a women’s/gender studies program, nor do I wish to undermine the history of enormous struggle heaved by the women before me to bring society where it is today. But “today” is just what I’m going to focus on. And, in my opinion, “Gender Studies” is the more appropriate and relevant program title for contemporary study.
I’ll start with the obvious. To properly understand the role of women in society you have to understand the role of men. The history of one gender can’t be contextualized in a vacuum. “Gender Studies” better encompasses that idea; it is simply the more correct term. Furthermore, I think the name change will entice a greater breadth of student applicants. Those who have studied feminist literature know it often goes beyond the study of women, incorporating theory on many other forms of oppression (such as religious, racial and ethnic). “Gender” speaks to a wider audience. It is more inclusive (yes, I’m using that word) and doesn’t reek of an “us” versus “them” dichotomy.
Which brings me to some of my more general views on gender politics. (I’ve touched on some of these ideas in previous posts, but I’ll reiterate.) To be frank, I applaud dropping the “women” from “studies” because in doing so, I think it purges a very unnecessary proverbial “crutch.” Women want to be treated equally, right? So why call for special attention? To be perceived as equal, women need to present themselves as equal. After all, men are disadvantaged too, just in different ways. Women don’t need to victimize themselves by calling for special consideration. I think to do so is to insult all the progress we’ve made.
What a luxury it is to have these nomenclature debates. Nellie McClung, Jessie Gray, Dorthea Palmer wouldn’t believe.
I want my achievements to be successes for me as an individual, not as a woman. But if I keep reminding you how disadvantaged I am as a female, you’ll never see it that way.
UWinnipeg course will focus on myths, theories and images of men in popular culture
Starting in the winter 2010 term, the University of Winnipeg will be offering its first-ever men’s studies course.
According to the school, the discipline has been around as early as the 1970s, with the intention of filling the gap left between women’s studies, which didn’t engage with “the gendered construction of masculinity,” and the men’s rights movement, which “failed to recognize masculinity’s complex relation to power.”
The full-credit course, titled “Boys, Men, and Popular Culture: Filmed Genders,” will examine myths, theories, and images of boys and men that shape how they are represented and how they represent themselves in popular culture, particularly in movies.
“When Women’s Studies became Women’s and Gender Studies several years ago, we incorporated perspectives from men’s studies into our courses, but this is the first time we have devoted a course specifically to the area,” says professor Pauline Greenhill, who will teaching the course.
Students will also be taught by guest lecturers from a variety of disciplines, from peace and conflict studies, to economics, to criminal justice, along with experts from the Winnipeg community. Topics addressed are set to include work, relationships, boyhood and violence.
$16-million deficit puts other programs on the chopping block as well
The Guelph Mercury is reporting that the University of Guelph’s women’s studies program and the organic agriculture major have been eliminated. The decision was made by the senate board of undergraduate studies two days ago.
The university is facing a $16-million deficit, which means eight programs with low enrolment won’t be offered next September.
The Mercury says the senate will decide the fate of the bachelor of science in technology degree program and a bachelor of applied computing degree program at the University of Guelph-Humber on April 7.
At the senate meeting, dean of arts Donald Bruce explained to the board the women’s studies program, created in 1979, is at an impasse and hasn’t had a curriculum revision since 1994.
“It has been stagnant since then,” said Bruce.
Serge Desmarais, the university’s vice-president academic, says senior administration provided guidelines for the college deans to find ways to cut their budgets. He says the university will probably have to continue to consider further courses and programs for elimination.
Part of her “thesis project”; bids up to $3.8 million
Natalie Dylan, a 22-year old women’s studies graduate from Sacremento, California, is auctioning off her virginity. She writes in the Daily Beast that she is preparing to enter graduate school and is “exploring my upcoming thesis project: the value of virginity”:
“It started in college, where my eyes were opened by my Women’s Studies professors and fellow classmates. I came to understand the role of “woman” spanning culture and time. At the university level, I was given permission to think differently and form a moral code of my own design. College opened my eyes.
Like most little girls, I was raised to believe that virginity is a sacred gift a woman should reserve for just the right man. But college taught me that this concept is just a tool to keep the status quo intact. Deflowering is historically oppressive—early European marriages began with a dowry, in which a father would sell his virginal daughter to the man whose family could offer the most agricultural wealth. Dads were basically their daughters’ pimps.
When I learned this, it became apparent to me that idealized virginity is just a tool to keep women in their place. But then I realized something else: if virginity is considered that valuable, what’s to stop me from benefiting from that? It is mine, after all. And the value of my chastity is one level on which men cannot compete with me. I decided to flip the equation, and turn my virginity into something that allows me to gain power and opportunity from men. I took the ancient notion that a woman’s virginity is priceless and used it as a vehicle for capitalism.”
Interested parties can bid and consummate the deal at the Bunny Ranch, a house of prostitution in Nevada that is sort of like this, but without the musical numbers. Dylan claims that bidding for the right to deflour her has reached…. US$3.8 million. The oldest profession is supposed to be recession-proof, but if you find that number a little hard to believe, you are not alone.
But the alleged principal investigator’s publicity-seeking exaggerations aside, the question she claims to be trying to answer is a real, graduate-school-appropriate question. How much is virginity worth? You’d love to see someone like this guy considering the issue: his months with a Chicago crack-dealing gang allowed him to precisely measure the degree to which drug dealing can be a remarkably low-income business for most of the people involved (but not for a very small number of people at the top of the pyramid). I suspect prostitution is a similar story.
Oh, wait a second… Dylan is apparently now reconsidering her project.