Women’s Studies: I do not think it means what you think it means.

My friends, Women’s Studies has morphed into “Gender Studies.” Women come in second (“Gender and Women’s Studies,”) or even third (“Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies.”) Lots of trans scholarship, too.

One program is called “Women Studies” and this is why:

Women Studies is the history and future of our department. Analyses of sexism and of women’s places in the world are critical to our work. We retain the non-possessive “women” instead of the more common “Women’s Studies” to indicate that our work as a department is not owned by or solely relevant to women.

First part’s great; the second’s baffling: Why is the work not owned by women?  Would that be bad? Shouldn’t it be solely relevant to us, at least most of the time? Should I just slit my wrists with my labrys charm?

There’s nothing wrong with focusing on men, trans, or queer studies if that’s what you want, but I want Women’s Studies. I want to study the lives and experiences of lesbian feminists; even separatists. I want a program where it’s OK to be that, and I’m not finding it. I’m even afraid to include a link to this blog in an application — it’s much more likely to hurt than help me — and that says a lot.

Also. I found out today that I’d be the oldest Gender and Women’s Studies Ph.D. candidate at my local university, should I decide to apply. I’d spend the next 6 years “investigating gender in society and culture in historical and contemporary contexts from nuanced multi-cultural and multi-racial perspectives” as well as “utilizing and interrogating existing methodologies” with a bunch of people born in 1990 who’ve never paid their own rent. No thanks.

I know I can read and learn on my own; a Ph.D. is expensive and unnecessary and no one can find a university-level teaching job anyway. But tonight, I’m sad and discouraged.

14 thoughts on “Women’s Studies: I do not think it means what you think it means.

  1. But you would have so much to teach others from how much you already know! Fuck age, who cares?! I say fuck fear and go for it. Someone needs to ride their asses about their approach to “women studies,” if not you, who? Hell, you could incorporate something of that nature into your dissertation topic/research – open some eyes, forge some pathways.

    And I truly believe it. I think, if women’s studies is so inundated with only one “type” of feminist, then the best thing we could do is encourage radfems, separatists, lesbians and non sex positive feminists in general, to get into it.

    We need more research from a diversity of women, how else will policy and culture ever change if we don’t have more and more academic research, articles, and books being written from a perspective other than the one dominant culture already upholds?

    That is me gently encouraging, and doing some cheerleading… LOL 😛

    Off my soapbox now…

  2. Yeah, I feel you. I hate my Women’s Studies classes. (now officially Women, Sexuality, and Gender studies.) I have to pander to these sex pozzie instructors. I wanted to do a final paper on a criticism of pornography by analyzing the documentary, Hardcore. “you can’t do that. it’s a documentary, it’s already an analysis.” clearly she’d never seen it. so, i just asked her,’what would you like me to write my paper on?’ since she wasn’t going to allow me to choose my own topic that didn’t align with her porny beliefs.

  3. Ah, the beauty of going to school as a “mature” student surrounded by very young people –is that you really see and hear and feel how smart your life has made you. it’s very exciting. and encouraging.

    anyway, you’ll find the rads, my dear. we find each other. They might not be in the women’s studies departments, but they’re around.

    the answer will come.

  4. 😦 Maybe you can go be Sheila Jeffrey’s student at the University of Melbourne? I know that she’s in a political science department and not Women’s Studies. Or Gail Dines’ student at Wheelock College in Boston?

  5. Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies

    That eerily resembles society’s priorities:
    First, gender, the social construct which has killed many women.
    Second, sexuality, the social construct which has killed many women.
    And then on third place actual real women whose suffering is so unimportant that we must avoid at all costs to put them first.

    Someone should write a paper on that.

  6. Since you are sad and discouraged at the state and lack of the Women’s Studies programs, why not use your excellent mind and writing skills and write a book?

  7. Someday I would LOVE to write a book — but I want to learn and know more, too. I want to read and research full-time, and realize after a couple of years that I have much more to write about.

  8. “you can’t do that. it’s a documentary, it’s already an analysis.”
    This is coming from someone with a PhD? or at least someone with a by-your-leave from the academy to speak for it in matters of what is acceptable for research? Let me see, I’m pretty sure every PhD dissertation and academic research paper written by a PhD-holder that I’ve ever read had analysis of other analyses. She’s a liar, in other words. This is a lovely illumination of the utter vacuous reasoning of academics who think they have a license to squelch ideas that either scare them or refute the foundations of the parochial island they’ve staked out in the academy. (And a roundabout way of helping phonaesthetica feel better about not joining their ranks.)

  9. “I want to study the lives and experiences of lesbian feminists; even separatists. I want a program where it’s OK to be that, and I’m not finding it.” — Wow, a place where lesbian separatists and our philosophy is welcome and part of the academic “diversity” what a concept. Mary Daly is a separatist, Janice Raymond is one, and many other pioneering feminists are or were. That’s the irony.

    What’s wrong with women being the sole subject of study and under the control of feminists?
    Men control their dogmas (vatican rag playing in the background… or foreground in Daly’s words), but can radical women control our ideology, and can it be taught in a compelling way to women?

    Trans have made inroads in most women’s studies departments… the give away is the use of the word “gender studies” instead of women’s studies, because again, we can’t have women be central, we have to take the light off of women and replace it with that b.s word “gender.”

    I’ve read academic lists of all the books required for a PhD in women’s studies… maybe from Smith College…online, there was the book list. I’d read almost every damn book on the list, and most of them when they were first published. So I already have the credential without the PhD after my name.

    It would be so fun to study with a group of lesbians the works of radical feminist theory, the lives of the radical feminists and how they worked… and sad that you’d be afraid to link this blog for fear of some fun feminist professors wanting pro-trans and pro-porn fun feminism on it.

    Even the pioneering academic feminists out there are afraid of radical lesbian, het critiquing writing… you’d be shocked at how much of my writing gets censored by those “academic types” online. And separatism… just mention that you take it seriously, and everyone freaks out, but put some chop off the penis theory of true womanhood on the course list, and they are all slobbering to take the course. I kid you not, at a recent lesbian conference they had a lecture on lesbians in sexual relationships with MTFs… and this is lesbian appropriate?

    Slit wrist with labyrus bracelet…. ohhh noooo, don’t do it. How about taking a labyrus to the course book of gender studies blender studies.

  10. A idea occured to me…. women’s studies departments should have truth in advertising. They need to state quite clearly that women is the topic. Just like they need to state quite clearly that trans is mixed in, or intersectionality is mixed in… so if it is not focused on the herstory, liberation and lives of women, it isn’t women’s studies, it’s males coming in and stealing the stage yet again or female impersonators… maybe it should be a post modern department, and then the feminists who want the real thing won’t have to waste their time and money.

  11. I don’t know if this is the right post to leave a reply on, but anyway. With respect to finding decent PhD programs, my impression was that one should choose a supervisor and go to them – if the supervisor is good enough, you can pretty much disregard the university and the department they’re in. The woman who I want to do a PhD with (in a few years time) works in the political science department at my university, and she’s amazing. The woman’s studies department has morphed into “gender studies” and I stay as far away from it as possible. But maybe things are different in the US…

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