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Daphne Patai, Women's Studies, and the Chronicle

The following WMST-L discussion arose in response to an essay by WMST-L member
Daphne Patai entitled "Will the Real Feminists in Academe Please Stand Up?" 
that appeared in the October 6, 2000 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, 
along with a Chronicle-sponsored live online discussion with Patai. The WMST-L 
discussion concerns both the content of the essay and the Chronicle's choice of
Patai to discuss the state of women's studies.  For additional WMST-L files now
available on the Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.

Date: Sun, 1 Oct 2000 12:55:36 -0500
From: Scott Jaschik <Scott.Jaschik @ CHRONICLE.COM>
Subject: online discussion with Daphne Patai about women's studies
The Chronicle of Higher Education is sponsoring a live, online discussion
about the state of women's studies on Wednesday,  October 4, at 1 p.m. U.S.
Eastern  time. Daphne Patai, a professor at the University of
Massachusetts, one of the authors of  "Professing Feminism:  Cautionary
Tales from the Strange World of
 Women's Studies, " and the author of an essay in the new issue of The
Chronicle about women's studies, will respond to questions and comments
about the discipline. The Chronicle invites members of this list to read
the essay and to offer comments or questions for Ms. Patai at

We encourage the posting of questions in advance of the chat. A transcript
of the discussion will be posted at that Web address after it is over.

Scott Jaschik
The Chronicle of Higher Education
scott.jaschik  @  chronicle.com
Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 10:39:08 -0400
From: Jo-Ann Pilardi <pilardi @ SABER.TOWSON.EDU>
Subject: Re: online discussion with Daphne Patai about women's studies
Just wondering, about this post:  has the Chronicle ever sponsored "Cautionary
Tales" about "The Strange World" of Physics, of Mathematics, of Marketing,
etc., etc.?

        Jo-Ann Pilardi
        Director, Women's  Studies, Towson University
        jpilardi  @  towson.edu
Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 11:14:15 -0600
From: Adam Jones <ajones @ DIS1.CIDE.MX>
Subject: Re: online discussion with Daphne Patai
At 10:39 a.m. 02/10/00 -0400, Jo-Ann Pilardi wrote:
>   has the Chronicle ever sponsored "Cautionary Tales" about "The Strange
>World" of Physics, of Mathematics, of Marketing, etc., etc.?

To be fair, the "cautionary tales" and "strange world" references are drawn
from the subtitle of Daphne Patai's co-authored book; they are not the
theme of the online discussion that the Chronicle is sponsoring.

Best wishes,

Adam Jones

Adam Jones, Profesor/Investigador
Divisi=F3n de Estudios Internacionales
Centro de Investigaci=F3n y Docencia Econ=F3micas (CIDE)
Carretera M=E9xico-Toluca 3655
Col. Lomas de Santa Fe, C.P. 01210, M=E9xico, D.F., M=C9XICO
Tel. (525) 727-9800, ext. 2447  Fax: (525) 727-9872

Executive Director, Gendercide Watch <http://www.gendercide.org>
Personal website: <http://www.interchange.ubc.ca/adamj>
Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 13:03:13 -0400
From: "David F. Austin" <David_Austin @ NCSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: online discussion with Daphne Patai about women's studies
>  Just wondering, about this post:  has the Chronicle ever sponsored
>"Cautionary Tales" about "The Strange World" of Physics, of Mathematics,
>of Marketing, etc., etc.?

So far as I can tell, every subject area, discipline, etc. has its own
special, characteristic strangeness - and the Chronicle often offers
articles, essays and fora that are relevant.  (Some participants revel in
their discipline's own special strangeness.) No doubt, some will find these
to be attacks on a discipline - whether or not it is, or is so intended. So
I don't think that Wmst is being "singled out" by the Chronicle.

If administrators who make funding decisions about Wmst programs are
inclined to make decisions based mainly on what they learn through the
Chronicle then it might be best either to "educate" the administrators or
to get new administrators with a clearer sense of how academic standards
ought to play a role in funding decisions. Typically, I think, the
"education" route is most available. And pursuing it is frequently a royal
pain that eats precious time.

So far as I can tell, Wmst is not always at its best, whatever the criteria
for excellence are, and in that respect it differs not at all from every
other discipline.  Patai and others do describe cases is which it is not at
its best (and may also describe cases in which it's doing just fine, but
they think otherwise). What I've never seen from anyone are data on the
prevalence of the non-optimal situations.  So I have no good reason to
think that Wmst is different from any other discipline in how often it's
less than its best.  But, of course, there might be some such difference

Re-stating the obvious, as always,

David F. Austin <David_Austin  @  ncsu.edu>
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy and Religion
Winston Hall 006
Box 8103, NCSU
Raleigh, NC  27695-8103
(919) 515-6333  FAX (919) 513-4351
Harassment Resolution Officer:
Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 14:27:55 CDT
From: K M K <kkapusta @ HOTMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: online discussion with Daphne Patai about women's studies
I think that the cause for concern regarding Daphne Patai's article in the
Chronicle (you can read it on-line even w/out a subscription)is not that she
airs what many may see as Women's Studies' "dirty laundry"-i.e. discusses
controversial issues within the discipline.  Instead, I feel a large problem
lies in Patai's portrayal of WS as a unified, undifferentiated mass of
pseudo-educators that all blindly tow a PC, reactionary, exclusionary "party
line". Who are these people and where are these schools? Never mind about
the widely differing characters of the large number of very diverse
institutions at which WS is taught.  Never mind the widely varying
backgrounds of professors teaching WS.   It seems as if Patai's "critique"
of the ineffectuality of WS is based on a house of cards argument which is
easily knocked down by one good experience with WS in any institution.  Of
course WS has issues to deal with as a discipline.  I just wish we could
discuss these issues with an underlying basic respect for the discipline and
a commitment to making it better.  Judging from her article, I do not
believe Patai has this respect.   Therefore I question the Chronicle's
motives for presenting her as a representative of WS, when in fact she is a
much better representative of those who do not see any usefulness in WS at
There are WS educators out there who are not concerned with weird PC power
trips or touchy feely therapy session, but instead with actual education and
empowerment of students (oops, did I use one of the no-no words?).  Instead
of just lambasting (and perpetuating myths), why doesn't Patai try making
suggestions for improvement (this, of course, goes for the rest of us as

I suggest all of those on this list read Daphne's article and decide for
yourselves how you feel about the way your life's work is being represented,
and perhaps take time out to write to the Chronicle about your feelings,
good and bad (this listserv is mentioned in it, after all).

Karen Kapusta-Pofahl
Texas Woman's University
Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 01:53:36 -0500
From: marguerite rippy <mrippy @ EROLS.COM>
Subject: Patai & Chronicle
I contacted a friend who works at the Chronicle to inquire about the
possibility of representing several perspectives on Women's Studies
instead of just Patai's via internet, and I got the same response from
two separate women in relatively prominent positions (one was a senior
editor): the only representation of difference or dissent will come
through those who join the internet forum on their own.  In other words,
the Chronicle is promoting Patai's work alone--the rest of the voices in
feminist academe are relegated to the status of callers in to Larry King
& guest (in this case, Patai).

This is troubling to me in that in clearly lends Patai's views
legitimacy earned not through scholarship, but through sensationalism.
My concern is greatly enhanced by the violent cover of the Chronicle
Review, which depicts a blindfolded woman dangling from a noose of
pearls.  While it is appropriate in some ways to depict Patai's article
as a lynching of women, it still seems disturbing as a marketing ploy of
a purportedly academic publication.

As the masthead reveals, the six top editors of the Chronicle are still
men.  Maybe we should ask why Patai was selected to review 3 new books
on academic feminism.  Was Susan Gubar really too busy, or is Patai the
best reflection on feminism we can muster these days?

Marguerite H. Rippy, Ph.D.
Asst. Professor of Literature & Languages
Marymount University
Arlington, VA
Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 08:09:26 -0400
From: Jackie Jablonski <jjablonski @ STCLAIR.CC.MI.US>
Subject: Women's Studies Online Colloquy
For those who don't subscribe, following is the announcement from
today's Chronicle of Higher Education (electronic) daily update:


Is women's studies gaining more acceptance or being rejected on
campuses? Are scholars in women's studies still trying to either
grandly create a better world or wallow in victimhood? Join
Daphne Patai, author of an essay on these issues in this week's
Chronicle for a live online discussion on Wednesday at 1 p.m.
U.S. Eastern time. As always, you are welcome to submit
questions in advance.
  --> SEE http://chronicle.com/colloquylive?e
Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 09:40:42 -0500
From: Scott Jaschik <Scott.Jaschik @ CHRONICLE.COM>
Subject: The Chronicle and Daphne Patai discussion
Since my post Sunday about the online chat with Daphne Patai, there have
been a number of comments on the list about The Chronicle and our decision
to publish her essay and hold an Internet discussion with her. A number of
people on this e-mail list have also sent me personal e-mails, criticizing
The Chronicle for this essay/Web discussion.

The concerns vary (and I have replied to some people individually), but in
light of the continued discussion on this list, I thought it appropriate to
offer some comments for the list. In general, the concerns seem to be that
The Chronicle -- through its online discussion or the essay it published --
is giving Daphne Patai too much legitimacy and that we must be endorsing
her views by holding this Web discussion or publishing her essay, or that
we must have some campaign against women's studies.

The implication made in several e-mails that we have some sort of
ideological agenda in our Web chats is unfair. We haven't been doing these
online discussions for very long, but they have included a variety of
political perspectives (from Robert Reich to Ward Connerly); a number of
disciplines (just last week we featured a discussion on an ethics scandal
in anthropology, and an earlier chat on black studies featured Manning
Marable and Leith Mullings); and a number of women (the head of the
American Association of University Professors on faculty unionization, and
the provost of Dartmouth College, talking about career paths for female
administrators). You are welcome to judge these chats for yourselves -- you
can read them at http://chronicle.com/colloquylive, which is also where you
can read Ms. Patai's essay and post questions for her.

Our opinion pages are also not dominated by any one perspective of women's
studies, or of any discipline. We publish Linda Kerber, Elaine Showalter,
Sherrie Tucker, Mari Jo Buhle, Leslie Heywood, Nancy Hopkins, Ruth Rosen,
Mary Beth Norton -- and yes, Daphne Patai and Camille Paglia and others
whose views may offend some of you. In our news pages, our coverage of
women's studies is also diverse. In the last year, we've written about
efforts to include Queen Elizabeth I in the canon of writers; new books on
Southern women's literature; the impact of feminist thinking in scholarship
on foreign affairs; the impact of "the Madwoman in the Attic." For the sake
of brevity (or relative brevity), I won't even go into our coverage of
issues facing academic women in the job market, of Title IX and
intercollegiate athletics, articles on the treatment of women abroad, etc.
We strive to give our readers a sense of the range of ideas in academe --
knowing that our readers will embrace some of those ideas and reject
others. But it would wrong for us to exclude Daphne Patai from our coverage
just because some scholars disagree with her. (And it bothers me just as
much when critics of women's studies on the right suggest that we shouldn't
publish pieces or cover women's studies scholars who are among those Ms.
Patai criticizes.)

To close, I'd love to hear from people with ideas for articles that The
Chronicle should do on women's studies or anything in academe. I'd also be
happy to forward to our opinion staff any names of members of this list who
would like to write essays for us on women's studies or any topic of
interest to academics. We want as many voices and ideas as possible
represented in our pages.

Scott Jaschik
The Chronicle of Higher Education
scott.jaschik  @  chronicle.com
Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000 08:17:55 -0400
From: Paula Rothenberg <rothenbe @ EMAIL.NJIN.NET>
Subject: Rothenberg on Patai
I was astonished by Daphne Patai's reading of my new book Invisible
Privilege A Memoir of Race, Class, and Gender when I encountered her
"review" in The Chronicle.  But perhaps I should not have been.  Patai,
the Queen of Out of Context, has made a career out of misrepresenting
Women's Studies and misrepresenting the work of individual feminist
scholars and teachers.  I hope that members of this list will check out my
book for themselves and not allow Patai's venomous and distorted reading
to stand as the last word on it.

Paula Rothenberg    The New Jersey Project on Inclusive
            Scholarship, Curriculum, and Teaching
            William Paterson University
            Wayne, New Jersey 07470
            Phone: (973) 720 - 2296 Fax: (973) 720 - 2974
            rothenbe  @  pilot.njin.net
Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000 08:43:19 -0400
From: Anne Carson <arc3 @ CORNELL.EDU>
Subject: Enough With Patai Already
Can we please lay off Daphne Patai? I've been on this
list for five or six years and am well aware of what
some list members think of her and her statements. I for
one usually read her posts because I never know what
provocative/provoking thing she'll say next. I do the
same with posts from Pauline Bart (where have you been,
Pauline?), who always has something incisive, witty, and
perceptive to contribute. There's enough nastiness in
what passes for discourse these days - we don't need to
be sending any more of it out into the world.

Anne Carson
Olin Library
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
arc3  @  cornell.edu
Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000 10:31:14 -0700
From: Joan Callahan <buddy @ POP.UKY.EDU>
Subject: Re: The Chronicle and Daphne Patai discussion
Well, this doesn't in any way change my impression that this is a typical
journalistic ploy to fuel controversy and, thereby, sell newspapers.  We
see this again and again with Christina Hoff Sommers, who has made a career
of attacking feminists.  A far more credible plan from the Chronicle would
have included (at least) someone in addition to Daphne Patai who is part of
the Women's Studies leadership in this country (e.g., Claire Moses).  So I,
for one, am not buying this defense.

At 09:40 AM 10/03/2000 -0500, Scott Jaschik, Editor, The Chronicle of
Higher Education wrote:

>Since my post Sunday about the online chat with Daphne Patai, there have
>been a number of comments on the list about The Chronicle and our decision
>to publish her essay and hold an Internet discussion with her. A number of
>people on this e-mail list have also sent me personal e-mails, criticizing
>The Chronicle for this essay/Web discussion. [see above for rest of msg]
Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000 09:52:39 -0500
From: Anne Donadey <adonadey @ BLUE.WEEG.UIOWA.EDU>
Subject: Re: The Chronicle and Daphne Patai discussion
Dear Colleagues,

I agree.  One proof of this is that, according to Scott Jaschik himself,
"an earlier chat on black studies featured Manning Marable and Leith
Mullings", both respected and established progressive scholars in Black
studies.  A different standard seems to be applied to Women's Studies.
Instead of choosing a somewhat representative voice (and yes, I'm aware of
the problems with this concept), the _Chronicle_ chooses to highlight
someone whose perspective on Women's Studies is not shared by the majority
of Women's Studies practitioners.  Of course, the _Chronicle_ is always
going to select "public intellectuals," people who make their voices heard
outside of strictly academic circles.  Yes, more of us need to learn to
inhabit thoses spaces, but I can't believe the _Chronicle_ would only have
such one name in their files when it comes to Women's Studies.

Anne Donadey
Associate Professor
Comparative Literature & Women's Studies
The University of Iowa
202 JB
Iowa City, IA  52242
Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000 11:00:38 -0400
From: Jo-Ann Pilardi <pilardi @ SABER.TOWSON.EDU>
Subject: Re: Enough With Patai Already
I'm afraid I disagree with Anne [Carson] about the current issue--though I do
agree with her generally about not calling more attention to Patai.

But this is a very public incident we're discussing:  the CHRONICLE'S
printing of Patai's review and the planned online colloquy today.  If
anyone has read the review, they will wonder why the only book that
passes muster for her is written by an individual who slams Women's
Studies on the heels of a nasty personal experience--about which we
might even sympathize, if we knew more than one side of it--while
publications by highly experienced people in the field, Florence Howe
and Paula Rothenberg, are trivialized.  Nor do I think--as a couple have
implied but surely can't mean--that all critical assessments of academic
disciplines printed by the CHRONICLE serve the same purposes--regardless
of the CHRONICLE's intent in running them.

One expects a more measured assessment of texts for academia than what I
read there.  I appreciate Scott Jaschik's clarifications about the
CHRONICLE, but I wonder if there are any criteria by which blatant
political attacks can be flushed out of this process.  Perhaps not.
When I read Patai et al about protecting "feminism" from "the
feminists," I'm reminded of May West's line that goes something
like--"men are always trying to protect me--I wonder from whom."

    Jo-Ann Pilardi
    Director, Women's Studies, Towson University
        pilardi  @  saber.towson.edu
Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000 09:23:58 -0400
From: jillcoe <jillcoe @ UMICH.EDU>
Subject: Re: Enough With Patai Already
[In response to Anne Carson]

It seems difficult at times to make distinctions between nasty speech,
counterspeech, critical speech, and honest speech. The world is
polyvocal *and* dynamic.

Jill Coe
jillcoe  @  umich.edu
Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000 09:03:23 -0400
From: "Dr. Viki Soady" <vsoady @ VALDOSTA.EDU>
Subject: Re: Enough With Patai Already
I agree with Anne [Carson], and I, too, have been on this list for a long time.  
I do not often agree with Daphne, but if we cannot listen to "difference" how 
can we continue to speak to how we must honor it and enjoin others to do so?
What I hear coming from Daphne is a legitimate belief that Women's Studies
needs to be self-reflexive and to critque its positions and effectiveness.

I, for one, will be online at 1:00 today and will take what I can from
the discussion and will respond with substance for the health of our

I, personally, know the transformative effect that feminist theory and
ethnic theory are having way down here in the deep rural South where I
have toiled for six years now.  I can't speak for the students and
professors in more privileged economic and educational venues, but I
do and will speak from my location.

Cheers to all.  Hope to hear/see you at 1:00.


Dr. A.V. (Viki) Soady
Director of Women's Studies/Department of Modern and Classical Languages
Regents' Distinguished Professor, 1998-99
Valdosta State University
Valdosta, Georgia 31698
FAX: 912-293-6300

Amor vincit omnia, nos cedamus amori.
Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000 12:48:14 -0700
From: Jenea Tallentire <jltallen @ INTERCHANGE.UBC.CA>
Subject: Re: The Chronicle and Daphne Patai discussion
Hi. I'd like to respond to Daphne Patai about something I saw in her
article. I would also like input from the list.

I am a graduate student in Women's Studies and History, and I was disturbed
by the treatment of students in the article. I noticed in the article that
you had drawn very little distinction between the attitudes of students and
that of professors in WS. You also noted with approval the takeover of the
Women's Resource Centre by Mandle, who called it a 'feminist "theme"
dormitory.' Taking away a student-run centre and calling it a 'dorm' is
simply silly. These places are not about or for the profs, they're for us.
To dismiss student initiatives like that shows to me a very good reason why
Mandle might have been dismissed.

As to the example of the Colgate students: In my experience as an undergrad
and grad student in WS, I find that often some students - especially those
new to the program - take a very enthusiastic, even problematic stance in
the classroom and in activism. I chalk this up to the experience of being
legitimized, needed to let out the anger that living with sexism causes, and
from being simply excited about the possibilities inherent in a world made
as if women mattered. To conflate this exuberant, loud, and sometimes
inexperienced/unexamined voice with that of the professors seems to me to be
a mistake.

Perhaps you wanted to show how illegitimate WS was through the actions of
its students. However, I think what you're seeing is not a direct product of
the professors' 'ideology' in the classroom being rammed down our throats -
because I was in such classrooms, seeing the transformations in people's
consciousness. Our profs did not 'encourage' anything beyond the simple fact
that women are full, equal humans. That knowledge was enough. (To say they
are telling us we are 'victims' is simply incorrect and shows very little
understanding of what actually goes on in a classroom. The realities we see
about racism, sexism, etc. do not need any assistance.) Yes, some people
become fairly radical in their statements and actions. But many students did
not take on 'Colgate-style' behaviours. Both are okay, and a part of our
development as thinking, expressive people who are unafraid to speak, which
WS promotes (in contrast to the often chilly climate of other fields.) I
think some of the criticisms of WS come from those who are offended or made
uncomfortable by the actions of students, not profs (though profs can do
this too) and the difficulty of the subjects we examine. A more careful
assessment of the actual interworkings of *all* participants in WS is in
order before dismissive statements should be made.

I do wonder if anyone on the list can speak to this - I do not think that
this explosion of different attitudes is a direct result of profs
'indoctrinating' us at all - but I do wonder if there is agreement on that.

I am also disturbed by the fact that we are shown to be basically sheep in
the article and live discussion - even worse, that our education is
deficient.  To call WS ideologically bound, made for 'comfort' not for
serious teaching, makes my education (a minor, a certificate, and an ongoing
engagement in my PhD) sound like fluff. That is also the opinion of many
people in other fields who argue that studying women or gender issues is
also 'fluff' and not a serious study. I have had the privilege of a rigorous
and rewarding education, not just from the superb (and tough!) profs but
because it makes room for difference, and legitimizes my ideas.
This will not be news to the list, I am sure. I just thought something from
a student's perspective was in order. WS can be a difficult study, one that
causes discomfort as we face the realities of the world - and students are a
big part of that study, and should not be dismissed as mere ciphers.

Jenea Tallentire
PhD student, History
University of British Columbia
jltallen  @  interchange.ubc.ca
Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000 23:29:11 -0400
From: MRFanning <MRFanning @ EMAIL.MSN.COM>
Subject: Re: Enough With Patai Already
This whole thread has brought up (again) a question that's been on my mind
for some time now.

How has it come to pass that so very few Women's Studies (and others, such
as English just to include my own) people--faculty, students, and
others--are being heard in public spaces, as opposed to the relatively
narrow confines of academia? Why are there more "readings" of public
discourses going on *in public*? Isn't that one of the things that we
(especially those of us in English and or Rhetoric) are supposed to be
especially good at doing? And is there more to be gained by pursuing this
question than in a more or less closed discussion of differences with one or
two people who do get a hearing in public?

For the record, I'm by no means defending the positions taken in Ms. Patai's
article/review, or the assumptions these are grounded on. And, being a just
a graduate student, maybe I'm just being naive. But how are we to balance
legitimate academic and professional considerations with civic engagement of
the kind it seems to me we are often specifically equipped for?

best regards,

Robert Fanning
English MA Candidate
West Virginia University
Date: Thu, 5 Oct 2000 15:07:43 -0400
From: "Eileen C. Boris" <ecb4d @ CMS.MAIL.VIRGINIA.EDU>
Subject: Chronicle
I appreciate the diverse voices found in The Chronicle of
Higher Education. However, the list of women's studies and
feminist scholars that the editor provided begs the
question. How many of them have written on the state of the
discipline or field and how many of them have addressed
other related issues in their reviews and commentaries?
I'd appreciate knowing when The Chronicle has had a
Marilyn Boxer, a Berenice Carroll (past president of NWSA),
a Claire Moses. a Leora Auslander, a Judith A. Allen, a
Sally L. Kitch, a Robyn Weigman, a Sonya Michel, or a
Sandra Harding discuss women's studies and its recent
developments?  If not recently, then I suggest that The
Chronicle invite a discussion led by Moses or Harding, for
example, on the development of the PhD in Women's Studies.
Or commission someone involved in an academic women's
studies program or department.

Eileen Boris
Professor, Studies in Women and Gender
Coordinating Editor, IRIS
227 Minor Hall
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22903
804-982-2926; fax: 804-924-6969
eboris  @  virginia.edu
Date: Thu, 5 Oct 2000 10:29:08 -0700
From: Jenea Tallentire <jltallen @ INTERCHANGE.UBC.CA>
Subject: Re: Enough With Patai Already
Robert's question needs some real consideration: "how are we to balance
legitimate academic and professional considerations with civic engagement of
the kind it seems to me we are often specifically equipped for?"
I often wonder how one gets into such civic engagement - or, specifically,
how people like Patai get their voices heard. I do believe that many editors
are looking for voices that will discredit women's studies and the women's
movement. In looking at the Chronicle situation, I can't see any other
reasoning for having such a one-sided (and poorly researched) piece without
any 'counterpoint' piece or interview. Patai's strong and continuous
assertions that WS is illegitimate and WS people behave as if they cannot be
criticized is encouraged by the article and the control she had over the
online  forum. I guess I should credit people with more ability to think for
themselves, but I do believe that those who are predisposed to see the study
of women as pointless- or dangerous -  can use Patai's voice, supported by
such a well-known forum, to damage WS and the study of women in all areas.
It is not just the voice, it is the editorial support that is vital here.
So what do we do? Solicit editors with our own pieces? Go the newspapers and
offer columns? I am particularly interested in these questions as I think
history (other than the classic 'dead white men' sense) is also
underrepresented in the 'popular' arena. My somewhat (?) cynical view that
many forums do not want to hear/present a reasoned pro-WS/pro-women argument
makes me think that this will be an uphill battle.
Suggestions? Has anyone tried these approaches?

P.S. Thanks to everyone who responded with support for my earlier post!

Jenea Tallentire
PhD student, History
University of British Columbia
jltallen  @  interchange.ubc.ca
Date: Fri, 6 Oct 2000 16:02:57 -0400
From: "Dra. Rosa Maria Pegueros" <rpe2836u @ POSTOFFICE.URI.EDU>
Subject: Daphne Patai & The Chronicle's Forum
The chair of my department (history) stopped by my office yesterday
afternoon. He had been on-line and was baffled by Daphne Patai's
arguments.  He says that he is confused by this controversy because his
experience with the feminists on this campus is a very favorable one. In
his more than 25 years here, in addition to teaching history, he has worked
with the women in our (history) department, with colleagues from other
departments on committees, as a leader in the faculty senate, and in the
union.  Why is she saying those things? he asked me.  It was a query I
really couldn't answer. I could only say that her point of view reflects
the position of a very small, VERY small minority in Women's Studies. I
really don't know what else to say about it.
Rosa Maria Pegueros, J.D., Ph.D.   pegueros  @  uri.edu
Department of History           217C Washburn Hall
    & Women's Studies Program    Phone:(401) 874-4092
80 Upper College Road, Suite 3
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881        Fax  :(401) 874-2595
Date: Thu, 5 Oct 2000 13:34:00 -0700
From: Jenea Tallentire <jltallen @ INTERCHANGE.UBC.CA>
Subject: Re: Daphne Patai & The Chronicle's Forum
Hi. As to your finding it hard to say anything about your dept. head's
question, I can sympathize - I often find it hard to respond to queries from
my friends/peers who bring these things to me as the one WS/feminist studies
person they know. How do you respond without inviting the kind of protective
name-calling that Patai indulges in (which was really bad on the online
forum)? I find appealing to the person's sense of fairness (i.e. is it a
balanced discussion?) and suggesting that there are logical holes in the
argument is the most I can do without getting the 'you WOULD say that'
response. (Isn't it funny that this sort of response is usually deemed
unprofessional, yet used so often against feminists?)

Often I find my best argument is saying - "do I come off as (fill in the
blank)?" And they usually say no, of course not. And then I say - "but I am
a feminist/women's studies person/whatever." This often gets at least a
thoughtful look. It's a strategy I developed on the front porch of my
residence, speaking with many first-year students who wanted to know 'what I
did anyway.' (I was new to that university but already had 2 degrees under
my belt, so I was the anomalous 'oldster' in Res). I noticed that young men
especially were interested in hearing me out, though I had a few heated
discussions with some. I sensed their bewilderment because they had 'heard
of' that mythical fire-breathing feminist and got me - I kept my 'fires' to
a minimum. ;) I tried to stress the varied opinions in feminist studies
(also news to most people), and the fact that many who say they are
feminists are nothing of the kind, or at least do not 'represent' even a
good number of feminists.

Sometimes it bugs me that I need to take such an even, cautious approach - I
resent the need to be so careful and tiptoe around, not revealing the anger,
or passion, or the hard truth too much in what I say so as not to alienate.
(So now I go home and rant to my partner!) But it seems to have made a
difference with many people I've spoken with. I'm starting to think that a
course in 'how to talk to everyone else' (and a forum for these
frustrations) would be a really useful part of a WS program.


Jenea Tallentire
PhD student, History
University of British Columbia
jltallen  @  interchange.ubc.ca
Date: Thu, 5 Oct 2000 17:46:58 -0500
From: Suzanne Franks <sefranks @ KSU.EDU>
Subject: Appropriate focus for sci/eng programs
I was in a meeting yesterday and unable to participate in the
Chronicle of Higher Ed's on-line colloquy about women's studies.
I did read over the transcript and thought it might be worth sharing
my thoughts on one part of it with the list membership.

Daphne Patai stated in response to a question that " [the questioner]
seems to be saying that we can't teach about the principles of solid
bridge construction without getting into questions of who builds
bridges, men or women? whether or not they should at all be built? and
so on. Their are appropriate fora, no doubt, for dealing with such
questions, but I don't think they should be the main focus of an
engineering program or a chemistry program."

It might interest list members to know that a growing number of
scientists and engineers would disagree with this statement, at least
to some extent.  The meeting I attended yesterday was a consortium of
industry, government and university members who are dedicated to
improving engineering education in Kansas.  Questions like "who builds
bridges, men or women" and "whether or not they should at all be
built" are very much a focus of discussion for this group and have
been for some time. [Perhaps I should here state that this group is
almost entirely comprised of white male, establishment engineering
CEOs, deans, professors, and so on.] William Wulf, President of the
National Academy of Engineers has made a point over the past year or
two in his speeches of the absolute need for diversity in engineering
(you can find some of his comments at www.nae.edu ) and this argument
is made not from the "it's the right thing to do" perspective but
rather from the point of view of the real costs to engineering of not
having a diverse workforce, and the opportunities to be gained from
having one.

The Chronicle recently featured an article on "green chemistry"
(August 4, 2000) Paul T. Anastas, a senior policy analyst at the White
House Office of Science and Technology Policy is quoted in the article
describing green chemistry as "It's not really a different set of
skills or techniques; it's much more just a different perspective on
how we go about practicing chemistry."  The article goes on to say
that "Green chemists also think of other factors: whether the starting
materials come from renewable resources; whether solvents used to
dissolve compounds are easy to recycle; whether the processes waste
chemicals; and whether any of the components -- reactants, solvents,
products, waste -- are hazardous. "  This is more or less the
chemistry equivalent of asking whether the bridge ought to be built or

Industry reps who recruit here at K-State consistently state that they
want new employees who can think critically; evaluate problems and
determine if a solution is even possible or desirable - not just solve
problems; and who are able to function in a multicultural, diverse
global workplace (these are the recruiters' words, not mine).  The new
ABET 2000 engineering accreditation criteria includes attention to
diversity in engineering programs and to making engineering education
a place where engineers learn to ask questions like should the bridge
be built, not just know how to build one when asked.

These examples tell me that a non-negligible portion of traditional
scientists and engineers feel that science and engineering classrooms need
very much to address the kinds of issues Dr. Patai felt should be
excluded from those classrooms, for both the health of the professions
and of society at large.  I personally feel that women's studies programs
and women in engineering/science programs can and should help in
addressing these issues in the classroom.  One such place where
scientists/engineers and women's studies faculty are working together to
do just that is the Curriculum Reform Institute

It is also my personal opinion, strengthened by having spent the past
20 years in science/engineering work and educational environments,
that the lack of explicit declaration of a particular agenda or focus
does not mean that one does not exist.  And having an agenda or focus
is not equivalent with "bad".  Most companies (and engineering
departments!) today have mission and vision statements - their
explicit declaration of agenda and focus.  Many companies and
departments find that clearly articulating that agenda and making it
explicit often helps them become more successful and productive.
Therefore I do not find it reasonable to conclude that the mere fact
that women's studies, as a discipline, may have an agenda means it is
automatically suspect.  Nor do I find it reasonable to conclude that
science and engineering departments who have not explicitly declared
theirs and their discipline's agendas, do not have one.

Dr. Suzanne E. Franks
Director, Women in Engineering and Science Program
Kansas State University
sefranks  @  ksu.edu
Date: Thu, 5 Oct 2000 19:13:42 -0400
From: Daphne Patai <daphne.patai @ SPANPORT.UMASS.EDU>
Subject: Re: Appropriate focus for sci/eng programs
1.  Suzanne seems to agree with me - that there are appropriate fora for
dealing with these issues.  She does not say these should be "the main
focus" [my very words] of an engineering or chemistry department, nor does
she address my comment, yesterday, about the principles of bridge
construction, which have nothing to do with gender.

2.  Suzanne argues that many programs have "a focus" or "an agenda."  I was
not refuting that statement (which no one had made) or calling it a 'bad'
thing - as she says.  I explicitly, and repeatedly, made clear that I was
talking about a political agenda.  She leaves out the key term.

Accuracy matters.
daphne.patai  @  spanport.umass.edu

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