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Women's Studies vs. Gender Studies

The issue of whether to call a program Women's Studies or Gender Studies
(or Feminist Studies or . . .) has been discussed on WMST-L many times.
This eight-part file contains discussions that took place in June 1993
(pt. 1), September 1994 (pt. 2), and October 1998, plus a few messages
from January 2002 (pt. 3), a 2005 bibliography of works dealing with
the naming issue (part 4), and messages from September 2008 (pt. 5), October
and November 2008 (part 6), December 2008 (part 7), and April 2009 (pt. 8) For
more WMST-L files available on the Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.

PART 1 OF 8 (Click NEXT at top right or bottom to go to next part)
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1993 16:00:56 +0500
From: Mykol Hamilton <mykol AT CENTRE.EDU>
Subject: Women's Studies vs. Gender Studies
Does  anyone know of any good pieces on why it's important to call the
discipline Women's Studies rather than Gender Studies, Women's and Gender
Studies, etc.?  Or for that matter, do you have some cogent arguments of
your own that you could pass along to me?  I am involved in trying to get
a Women's Studies minor instituted at my small, excellent, but a little
behind the times liberal arts college, and there is much resistance to the
name, even among many of those quite sympathetic to the general concept.
Thanks in advance.  Mykol C. Hamilton <mykol  AT>
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1993 14:59:17 -0600
Subject: Re: Women's Studies vs. Gender Studies
To me, there is a big difference between "women's studies" and "gender
studies."  The former concentrates on work relevant to women's issues;
psychology of women, women's history, literature, etc.  The latter is
more generic and would, I assume, concern itself with both women and
with men.  So, if what you're interested in dealing with is the broad
issue of how gender affects people, and want to examine both women's and
men's experiences, you probably want to opt for "gender studies."  If
your primary focus is to be on girls and women, you probably want to
opt for "women's studies."
Sharyl Bender Peterson
Colorado College
speterson  AT
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1993 14:57:43 -0700
Subject: Re: Women's Studies vs. Gender Studies
I think it is important to keep the name women's Studies for what we do.
It signifies the importance of studying women, whose omission from
scholarship and teaching prompted the formation of Women's Studies to
begin with.  Although we, in fact, use various theoretical frameworks on
gender relations to inform our understanding of women's lives and places
in human societies, it is important that we not obscure the political and
intellectual benefits that accrue from studying women.
In her American Historical Review article on using gender as a category of
analysis, Joan Scott noted that the use of the term gender fails to name the
aggrieved--women.  I would add that I fear a depoliticizing of feminist
scholarship if we shift too far away from the study of women.  Even using
gender as a category to study men, women's perspectives, actions, and concerns
can be omitted and the idea that men are the central actors in human societies
and women the passive receptors of their actions can be reinforced.
Karen Anderson, Univ. of Arizona.   karena  AT or karena  AT  arizrvax
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1993 18:03:39 EDT
From: "Diane M. Samdahl" <DSAMDAHL AT UGA.BITNET>
Subject: Re: Women's Studies vs. Gender Studies
I get a clearer understanding of the distinction between Women's Studies
and Gender Studies when I make a parallel between gender and race. A
Dept of African American Studies would study only African American
issues-- culture, demographics, politics, victimization through racism,
etc-- with the emphasis on experiences of that community. That's
comparable to Women's Studies.  You can see that a much different purpose
is created if that program were expanded to incorporate the study of
dominant white culture as well (which is what happens when Women's Studies
is expanded to address the broader topics of gender).
DIANE M. SAMDAHL                       BITNET: DSAMDAHL  AT  UGA
Recreation & Leisure Studies         INTERNET: DSAMDAHL  AT  UGA.CC.UGA.EDU
228 Hardman Hall                       OFFICE: 706-542-5064
University of Georgia                     FAX: 706-542-7917
Athens, GA  30602-2302                   HOME: 706-613-2406
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1993 18:44:48 EST
Subject: Re: Women's Studies vs. Gender Studies
Mykol must have read my mind.  I was just about to post exactly the same
message ,though for different reasons, about the differences between Women's
Studies and Gender Studies Programs, myself.  I am currently working on
something on the institutionalization of women's studies and have been trying
to locate information on that distinction myself.  I'd be interested in the
Although I was somewhat resistant to it at first, I find myself liking the name
Women's and Gender Studies (in spite of its unweildiness) because it
encapsulates a conflict within the field and allows the conflict to get stated
up front to students rather than being part of a hidden agenda.  It allows work
to proceed on the idea of gender as a relational system in which, in good
structuralist fashion, change in one part of the system requires change in
another (ie women's state will not change unless men's does), allows us to
explore gingerly the area of "men's studies," and still maintain a place in the
curriculum to view these issues through women's perspective.  IN our catalogue
copy we say something like in Women's and Gender Studies we study women and
men, the relations between women, between men and between the two but we do it
from a woman's perspective. I think that maintains a significant and important
I have always found curious the notion that gender studies was a retreat from a
more radical women's studies.  I had always thought that Women's Studies was a
compromise itself as a name, more innocuous than say Feminist Studies (which is
really what, to my mind, it is).  Somehow it seems less threatening to say well
we are studying women, without specifying that one is studying women from a
feminist perspective.  But since most WS programs have a "Feminist Theory"
course, it would seem that most remain committed to some kind of feminist
analysis.  I always thought gender studies was more radical since it held men
accountable for their privilege and made them responsible for change along with
women.  But I have been convinced by what I have heard that some (by this I
mean those who would be opposed to the word feminist) find gender less
threatening than women. We saw this at Lewis & Clark when we did some
assessment work.  Many male faculty would write in that they liked having a
gender studies program because it wasn't "feminist."  Boy did they have little
idea of what was going on in that program.  That response really surprised me,
so know I tend to think that the term "gender studies" can go both ways. IT can
be more conservative, but it can also be more radical in its insistence on
gender as a relational social structure.
One article that sort of speaks to this issue from a radical feminist
perspective is Kathleen Berry, "Deconstructing Deconstructionism" in MS
Magazine, January/Feb. 1991 pp. 83-85.
Laurie Finke
finkel  AT
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1993 18:48:39 EST
Subject: Re: Women's Studies vs. Gender Studies
I wouldn't disagree with Sharyl Peterson's characterization of the difference
between women's studies and gender studies, except to say that because of the
operation of semantic neutralization, only women have gender (as only blacks
have race, etc.)  That is gender studies quickly becomes exactly synonymous
with women's studies.  I have found almost universally that when I ask women to
talk about how they are "gendered" they have no trouble answering.  When I ask
men, they invariably say they don't have gender.  Nothing genders them.  They
are the norm, the unmarked term.  So the study of gender becomes much more
complicated than simply saying it is the study of men and women. It is also the
study of the power differential between them and the inequality that the system
of gender generates.
Laurie Finke
finkel  AT
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1993 18:56:34 EST
Subject: Re: Women's Studies vs. Gender Studies
I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with Diane's analogy.  It seems to me
that you could argue that an African-American dept. was not studying race
except from an African-American perspective.  That is, there are many other
races besides black and white and a department devoted to racial studies might
look at all sorts of racial injustice and would therefore be something
different (perhaps better because less fragmented) program.  As the director of
an interdisciplinary program one of my main concerns is the whole issue of
connection.  Do we keep creating little empires of isolated interdisciplinary
studies that increasingly compete with one another for limited resources in
spite of the fact that interdisciplinary programs are supposed to counter the
fragmentation and isolation of academic disciplines?  Or do we try to begin to
understand the interconnectedness of various oppressions?  Can we really study
AFrican-Americans without reference to the dominant white culture, or is our
goal to look at the relations of oppressor and oppressed from the perspective
of the oppressed?  The latter seems to me a much more useful endeavor.
Laurie Finke
finkel  AT
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1993 20:03:48 EDT
Subject: Re: Women's Studies vs. Gender Studies
I am responding to the whole list, rather than privately, because I feel this
is an important discussion for all.  To me, and this is very personal, gender,
in academic terms, reflects a broad concept that goes beyond "women's studies."
I includes all kinds of genders, which I am personally in favor of, because of
my strong belief in the principle of feminist inclusiveness.  However, it seems
 to me that by calling women's studies "gender studies," we lose track of why
women's studies was implemented in the first place.  At least, that has been my
experience.  Women as an oppressed group that we can research and study disappe
ars.  All we have in gender studies becomes different groups or cultures within
cultures within a mainstream culture.  Again, this is a very personal OPINION,
not a bit reserach oriented.  But I just feel that it is VERY important to
remember that women's studies exist to study women.  When we say "gender studie
s," -- and you wonderful male feminists, please don't take it personally -- we,
once more, choose to accomodate men.  I am not necessarily a separatist, but I
strongly believe that until we have equal inter-disciplinary research that is
truly gender free, we must study women and not gender, so we can catch up
intellectually, theoretically, and of course, politically.
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1993 20:55:05 -0500
Subject: women's studies vs. gender studies
This has been on my mind a lot, too.  And the more I think it through
the more I think it doesn't matter.  Regardless of the name of the
program, I suspect the courses will be the same.  I think there is a
good historical reason why the initial programs were all call "Women's
Studies."  As cited by earlier posters, women have been (and continue
to be) neglected and oppressed.  "Women's Studies" brought attention
to women and their contributions and oppression.  In the beginning
there was also a general feeling that gender was real and basic--being
a woman meant having different traits, abilities, sensitivities, etc.
Fifteen years later the scene looks different.  More and more people
are coming to believe that gender, like race, is a social
construction.  The unique differences approach, despite the beliefs of
Chodorow, Gilligan, the Stone Center folks, and others, has not
materialized in research.  Most differences between women and men seem
best accounted for by opportunity, stereotypes, and the social
The advantage of "Women's Studies," I think, is that it does empower
women.  I, as a man, would not presume to teach Intro to WS or the
Psych. of Women myself.  However, I felt quite secure teaching The
Social Psychology of Gender by myself.  However, the Psych. of Women
and the Social Psychology of Gender classes had the same content!  On
the other hand, "Gender Studies" is more inclusive of men, and
suggests, as Laurie Finke suggested earlier, that we are dealing with
structural issues rather than personality issues.
I remember the discussions among the Psychology of Women division of
the American Psychological Association about what to call the new
journal.  "Psychology of Women Quarterly" was chosen, after much
debate.  Today, if I were on the executive committee and the issue
came up again, I'd opt for Laurie's compromise and call it,
"Psychology of Women and Gender Quarterly."  Likewise, were we to
rethink our Women's Studies Program, I'd like to see it be called
"Women and Gender Studies."
Arnie Kahn, Psychology, JMU, Harrisonburg, VA 22807     (703) 568-3963 - day
fac_askahn  AT                             (703) 434-0225 - night
fac_askahn  AT  jmuvax                                       (703) 568-3322 - fax
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1993 22:11:00 EST
Subject: Re: women's studies vs. gender studies
This is an interesting question because both terms have some advantages and
some disadvantages.  Women's studies has the advantage of focusing on women
--this allows the examination of some "unique" biological and reproductive
factors such as menstruation, childbirth, etc. in terms of their meaning
to the individual and society.  However, I find it impossible to discuss
women as separate from social practices such as power inequities, dif-
ferences in the role of "mother" vs "father", etc.  Gender studies allows
me to look at gender as a verb in terms of the interpersonal and societal
practices that create or construct women's and men's behavior.  It also
permits me to look at "male control groups" so that men can be shown to
have a gender just as women do.  For example, one can contrast psycho-
logical disorders that are more common to each sex and to discuss their
meaning in terms of how society views and treats sex-related disorders.
However, gender studies may reduce attention to important issues such as
rape and violence against women.  The analogy I find most helpful is
between child and developmental psychology.  Just as with gender, the latter
term focuses on processes rather than on essentialist qualities.  Thus,
with Arnie and others I prefer the term women and gender studies although it
is long and cumbersome.  Of course, feminist analysis is integral to the
field--whatever the term used.
Rhoda Unger
unger  AT    INTERNET
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1993 20:52:01 -0700
Subject: Re: women's studies vs. gender studies
I find it curious that some think that calling it Women's Studies means
that you abandon gender as an analytic tool or rely on essentialist
notions of difference.  Gender can be "basic" and be socially constructed
at the same time.
Focusing on women still means seeing gender as a relational term and making
comparisons to men.  Neither do I believe that the focus on women is
"narrow."  Given the strength of androcentric frameworks and generalizations
in scholarship, women-centered inquiry remains critical to analytic revision.
Karen Anderson.  karena  AT or karena  AT  arizrvax.
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1993 22:48:30 PDT
From: Kathryn Kerns <kathy.kerns AT STANFORD.BITNET>
Subject: women's studies/gender studies
I've watched the women's studies vs. gender studies debate with
interest, and though my comments do not directly address the
original question, I would like to add them.
1) Is Stanford the only place where the program is called Feminist
Studies?  During my job interviews for Reference Librarian/Feminist
Studies I had to answer repeated questions about the difference
between Women's Studies and Feminist Studies from someone obviously
very hostile to the idea of Feminist anything.  Which leads me to my
second question...
2) Are we getting caught up in the old idea that everything has to
be a dichotomy?  I know this is an important discussion and I've
watched it especially in my field of history and know that it
represents a great deal, some of which goes unsaid, but I worry
about the way it divides feminists.
Kathy Kerns
Stanford University
cn.kmk  AT
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 05:15:34 EDT
From: judy long <JLONG AT SUVM.BITNET>
Subject: race analogy
In reply to Laurie Fink: the race analogy is useful as long as we stay clear we
're using the term in a commonsense way; it gets more complicated  when Laurie
says there are 'other races' besides African American.  Actually, there are no
races. I don't know any Program of African American Studies that wouldn't
problematize the idea of race. Nevertheless, tho we as students might apply a
new conception of "race" to other groups we are accustomed to viewing in ethnic
/race terms, I would still expect to find an African_American Studies Program
focussing on the experience of African Americans (and other groups in the
African diaspora) rather than this whole range.
 --103 SIMS IV, SYRACUSE, NY 13244-1230, USA     (315)443-4580          --
 --Bitnet: JLONG  AT  SUVM        Internet: JLONG  AT  SUVM.ACS.SYR.EDU           --
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 08:19:52 -0500
Subject: women's studies v. gender studies
It seems to me that there is an inherant difference between women's studies
and gender studies, in that women's studies is clearly based outside of
traditional patriarcy.  I've seen too many examples of "gender studies"
where female is studied as different from male, but with the underlying
assumption intact that male is better.  This is not what women's studies is
Gender studies is certainly closely related to women's studies, and perhaps
women and gender studies is an acceptable alternative.
Mary Ellen Huls
College of St. Catherine
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 08:23:13 -0600
Subject: Re: Women's Studies vs. Gender Studies
I want to second Chris Delbe's comment, and add a bit more to my earlier
comment.  Briefly, she said that "by calling women's studies 'gender studies,'
we lose track of why women's studies was implemented in the first place . . .
when we say 'gender studies' . . . we, once more, choose to accomodate men."
My own experience here, and at my previous institution, both reflect this
For the past two years, I have been teaching a course on the "psychology of
women."  The content of this course is on the experiences of women.  Naturally,
we consider how gender is constructed, and how/why gender roles are developed
and perpetuated in terms of dominant culture and power issues.  The whole
focus of the course, however, is on WOMEN'S experiences and lives.
Next year, due to a departmental decision, this course will no longer be
taught, and a course on "Gender Roles" will be taught instead, similar to
a course that used to be taught here.  The focus of that course is on
both men and women's roles, and my impression from what older students hve
told me (sorry for the typo) is that it used to focus far more on men than
on women.  The students who talked with me suggested that the course often
embodied the assumption of males as normative, and women as other.
At my previous institution, when I advocated teaching a course on psychology
of women, I was told very clearly that it was not inclusive enough, and that
if I wanted to teach a course on GENDER instead, that might be acceptable.
Clearly, taking the tack of teaching about gender means that the focus is
shifted markedly.  So, again, if what you're interested in is teaching
students about women's experiences, the appropriate focus/title is probably
"women's studies," and not gender studies.  While I certainly agree with
the point that several people have made that "women have gender, while
men don't" (aka "people of color have race, while white people don't"),
my experience suggests that many people are going to interpret a title of
"gender studies" as suggesting that you will need to include courses that
represent both women's and men's experiences.
Sharyl Bender Peterson
Colorado College
speterson  AT
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 10:29:25 EST
This is in reply to the following:
I find it curious that some think that calling it Women's Studies means
that you abandon gender as an analytic tool or rely on essentialist
notions of difference.  Gender can be "basic" and be socially constructed
at the same time.
Focusing on women still means seeing gender as a relational term and making
comparisons to men.  Neither do I believe that the focus on women is
"narrow."  Given the strength of androcentric frameworks and generalizations
in scholarship, women-centered inquiry remains critical to analytic revision.
Karen Anderson.  karena  AT or karena  AT  arizrvax.
It seems equally curious to me that calling it Gender Studies means abandoning
the study of women, especially since we don't especially think of men as
having gender.  What you seem to be saying is that it doesn't matter that
much what you call it. It is possible that by insisting on Women's Studies
exclusively we collude in perpetuating the notion that men don't have gender,
that they are a universal "norm" studied in the "regular curriculum" while
women are studied in this special area of the curriculum.
I still see gender studies as holding men accountable for their power. If we
do "men's studies" in one of my classes, it would not necessarily be
comfortable for the men. I do not see the study of gender as giving equal
weight to the two genders, but to examine the unequal distribution of power.
Similarly when I am teaching so called "regular courses" in my own department,
gender is a weighty component of every class.  Women appear in half (if not
all) of the material.  In this I am not calling for mainstreaming.  My research
sggests that both approaches (mainstreaming and "women's room" approaches) are
really necessarily and integral to a good program.
                                    (o o)
|        Laurie Finke, Women's and Gender Studies, Kenyon College            |
|                  Gambier, OH 43022       phone:                            |
| mail: FinkeL AT Kenyon.Edu   
                                    () ()
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 10:43:58 EST 10:43:58 EST
Subject: Re: women's studies/gender studies
In response to Kathy Kerns' posting.  I have not heard of any other program
called Feminist Studies and that is really what we need to be calling our
programs.  I would prefer Feminist Studies to either of the other names,
which would be calling it what it is and avoid the debate altogether.  On the
other hand,the name Women's and Gender Studies at least encapsulates the debate
and brings it into the open.
I noticed that noone has mentioned any articles that have appeared on this
subject. Does anyone know if anyone has written on it.  My informal search on
Infotrack didn't yield any results.
                                                        /______ \
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|=o=|\_                                                \_/____  _|||_
|___|__\_________________________________________________()   \0)    \
|=o=|===============================================|=o=|| " __/~ _/ /
|   |   Laurie Finke  | Women's and Gender Studies  |   | \___/ |#||     ___ //
|=o=|=================|=============================|=o=| _|#|| / _ \/
|   | (614) 000-0000  | Kenyon College              |   |     // /||__/  / \ \
|=o=|=================|=============================|=o=| || | \_/ /
|   |FinkeL  AT  Kenyon.Edu| Gambier, OH 43022           |   |   __\_/  ______   |
|=o=|===============================================|=o=| /_/_6__/ /_/____\ ===========================================================================
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 10:50:11 EST
Subject: Re: women's studies v. gender studies
I wonder if the debate about women's v. gender studies doesn't have a
disciplinary component toit.  That is, in disciplines (I would presume
primarily in the social sciences) in which gender has long been a category of
analysis and in which the presumption has been that male gender is better (as
Mary Ellen Huls suggested), gender studies seems much more problematic.  In
disciplines where the idea of gender as an analytic category (as in my
discipline of English) seems newer and thus less contaminated.
Any comments?
By the way I would agree with Judy Long's comment about my racial analogy.  I
wasn't suggesting a program in racial studies only trying to trouble the waters
over the gender issue.  I guess we need to insist on "women" as a political
category, one with historical reality if not essential reality.  We need to
destabilize gender at the same time we insist that historically and politically
a category or class of individuals called women have systematically been
                                    (o o)
|        Laurie Finke, Women's and Gender Studies, Kenyon College            |
|                  Gambier, OH 43022       phone: 614-000-0000               |
|        home: 614-000-0000, P.O. Box 731     mail: FinkeL  AT  Kenyon.Edu       |
                                   ()   ()
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 10:42:47 EDT
From: Jo Ellen Green Kaiser <JGKAIS00 AT UKCC.UKY.EDU>
Subject: Re: women's studies v. gender studies
Mary Huls argued that women's studies is outside of traditional patriarchy.
I would argue that the reason we have women's studies is that patriarchy,
as a dominant structure in our society, cannot be 'escaped" in any simple
way--only be revealing the inadequacies of patriarchy can we begin to
forge an alternate conception of gender.  That is why I like calling our
programs women and gender studies--that incorporates the two major strands
of feminist theory structuring programs today; the gynocentric, essentialist
view that we must focus on women, women's language, women's work, etc., and
the poststructuralist/marxist view that we can only forge political change
by deconstructing traditional gender roles (note:  I take deconstruction to
be a positive effort--an act of questioning traditional constructions).
Jo Ellen Green Kaiser jgkais00  AT
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 10:41:59 EDT
Subject: Re: Women's Studies vs. Gender Studies
One problem is that, for many people (and many departments), Women's
Studies is already a euphemism for Feminist Studies; a Dept. of Feminist
Studies could/would study the whole world from the vantage point you get
from assuming that the existing society is an oppressive patriarchy, and
that this oppression causes social pathologies of far-reaching conse-
quences, affecting everything from economic systems to child-raising to
beliefs about God and meaning.  It would include the study of men and
boys as well as of women and girls, but would not have to "sneak in" a
tendency to use feminist text as basic while using text such as Sigmund
Freud more as subject matter to be analyzed and subjected to critique
for its patriarchal distortions and how they have affected the fields of
patriarchal study that have relied upon him, etc, etc.
In many universities, it would be difficult if not impossible to operate
such a program or department (it would be viewed as "biased" or somehow
"political" rather than "academic"), and so a lot of this overall ap-
proach has come to exist under the title Women's Studies.  Since the
study OF women, even as subject matter, has been neglected anyway, it is
not too much of a distortion to present an initiative to create such a
department, then include the study (of all kinds of things) BY women as
a subset of the study OF women, since such studies are things that women
have DONE (i.e., as if the reason for reading Kate Millett's SEXUAL
POLITICS is that Kate Millett, a woman, wrote it, making it a significant
contribution by a woman).
Gender Studies comes about because there is plenty of social behavior to
be analyzed in terms of gender (especially from a feminist perspective)
that is not specifically about WOMEN.  It also arises from nonfeminist or
possibly anti-feminist intentions to reopen gender issues from perspectives
that are more easily taught by males, or by either males or females who
have no interest or familiarity with feminist viewpoints.  The label
Women's Studies, if applied to a program or department that is essentially
interested in doing comprehensive study of gender from feminist viewpoints,
can make it hard to argue against such changes; and changes that start off
as mere changes in program title can lead to changes in content and in
personnel later on.
I don't mean to imply that all programs/departments of Women's Studies are
feminist, or that it isn't true that many of them ARE best described by
the title Women's Studies.
Personally, I wish there were more departments or programs calling them-
selves Feminist Studies, though.
- Allan Hunter
 <ahunter  AT  sbccvm>
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 10:45:11 -0600
From: Diane Price Herndl <dpherndl AT NMSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: women's studies v. gender studies
A lot that is useful has already been said, but let me add one problem
(also lest anyone think the gender v. women's studies issues is really
uncontested in English).  Despite the enormously useful work of some
scholars, male and female, on issues of gender in literature and film
(there has been a lot of wonderful gender studies work on film, my
favorite is Susan Jeffords' _The Remasculinization of America_), there is
also a danger, most cogently and effectively pointed out in Tania
Modleski's _Feminism Without Women_, that the methods and ideas of
feminism get translated into a kind of analysis that somehow also leaves
out the ideology of feminism, and becomes just a "men are oppressed, too"
kind of thinking.  Not--male colleagues on the net--that I don't hold that
men HAVE been damaged by patriarchy, but it isn't the same, and it ignores
the important issue other contributors have noted that there needs to be a
space in the university where one actually studies *women*.
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 12:45:40 CDT
Subject: Re: women's studies v. gender studies
Something that hasn't yet clearly surfaced in this discussion, but clearly has
been suggested in many replies is the genedered condition of all education. Two
years ago when her text Racism and Sexism: An Integrated Study, became the cen-
ter of debate at the University of Texas in the proposal to revise English com-
position, Paula Rothenberg responsed briliantly in the CHRONICAL OF HIGHER ED
(April 10, 1991, B1,3):
"The traditional curriculum teaches us all to see the world through the eyes of
privileged, white, European males and to adopt their interests and perspective
 as our own.  It calls books by middle-class, white, male writers 'literature'
and honors them as timeless and universal, while treating the literature pro-
duced by everyone else as idiosyncratic and transitory.  The traditional cur-
riculum introduces the (mythical) white, middle-class, patriarchal, heterosex-
usal family and its values and calls it 'Introduction to Psychology.' It
 teaches the values of white men of property and position and calls it 'Intro-
duction to Ethics.'  It reduces the true majority of people in this society to
'women and minorities' and calls it 'political science.' It teaches the art
produced by privileged white men in the West and calls it 'art history.'"
Women's Studies, by design, is transformation.  I'm not so sure what serves as
"gender studies" always is, but it might be.
Bob Bender
University of Missouri-Columbia, engbob  AT  mizzou1
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 13:23:56 CST
From: Ruth Schauer <schauerr AT UWWVAX.UWW.EDU>
Subject: Women's Studies vs Gender Studies
I have followed the discussion of differences between women's studies,
feminist studies, and gender studies with interest.  My advice is
much more practical.  Your critics probably know very little about these
distinctions and are quite possibly pushing gender studies because it
seems less threatening (and includes men).
   Stick to your original proposal.  Tell them simply that the discipline
you are propositing is called Women's Studies.  It has a national
professional organization, the NWSA.  Tell them that in l990 the NWSA
Directory of Women's Studies Programs listed 621 programs, making
Women's Studies the fastest growing discipline nationally.  Cite the
existence of numerous journals in the discipline, many of which include
Women's Studies in the title, for example "Women's Studies," "Women's
Studies in Communication," "Women's Studies International Forum," and
"Women's Studies Quarterly."  You could also mention Women's Studies
Research centers and Women's Studies Consortiums.  The University of W\
Wisconsin System has a consortium, for example, and also a Women's
Studies Librarian.
Draw upon existing programs and organizations for support.  NWSA can
probably give you newer figures on the numbers of programs than those
listed in the 1990 directory.
I believe that presenting your opponents with information about the
strength of Women's Studies nationally will be more effective than
divisive arguments about what the program should be called.
Ruth Schauer, Chair
Women's Studies
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Whitewater, WI 53190
schauerr  AT  UWWVAX.UWW.EDU
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 12:43:15 -0800
I share many of the reasons which have been cited for retaining
the title Women's Studies.  As Coordinator of the Women's Studies
program at Claremont, I have heard many of them on both sides in
the past year.  While the majority of colleges and the inter-
collegiate program for our consortium have retained the term
Women's Studies, Pitzer College on reflection changed to the
title "Gender and Feminist Studies" - a title which does make
the value orientation of the program very clear.
At least one concern which precipitated their change was the
fact that it facilitated incorporating feminist males teaching
men's studies and the growing body of gay and lesbian studies
courses and faculty.
You'll be happy to know that the discussion and the decision
went forward without rancor - and the change has not affected
the relation of Pitzer to the other colleges in our program -
or our relation to Pitzer.
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 13:30:08 -0700
Subject: gender studies or women's studies
This is in response to a message from Laurie Finke earlier today.
With regard to the idea that my earlier remarks indicate that it doesn't
matter what we call it.  Actually, I do believe it matters and think it is
important that the term "women's studies" be in the title simply because the
notion that women are important enough to study remains important to women's
well-being, as does the feminist scholarship on women.
I do not believe that the choice of the title "women's studies" colludes in
the idea that men do not have gender or that they are normative.  Particularly
on the latter point, women's studies has been critical to unmasking androcentric
assumptions that make men the human norm.
Finally, the idea that gender studies holds men accountable for gender
inequalities in power while women's studies does not is contradicted by the
volumes of women's studies scholarship that precisely do point to men's part
in the constructions of these systems.  Part of the dispute may center in the
various definitions of gender that appear in scholarship.  They range from
the social relations of the sexes (usually analyzed in terms of power
inequalities) to "a vocabulary for power," one of the definitions used by
Joan Scott.  Others derive from literary theories.
Given that most of the curriculum and scholarship focus on men, whether
gender is used as an analytic framework or not, I remain persuaded that
programs focusing on the study of women are critically necessary.
Karen Anderson   karena  AT  or karena  AT  arizrvax.
Date: Fri, 4 Jun 1993 09:48:48 EST
Subject: Re: women's studies v. gender studies
What BobBender suggests in his quotation from the Chronicle is that one of the
functions our programs must serve (whatever we call them) is to call attention
to the move on the part of the "regular curriculum" to naturalize and
universalize itself.  If we don't *name* the traditional curriculum as a white,
heterosexist, Eurocentric, men's studies, then we really aren't going to be
transforming much of anything.
Gerald Graff in his book Professing Literature talks about the ways in which
the universities absorb transformation by accretion. When a new area emerges
you just "add it" to departmental (or collegiate) curriculum, i.e. an English
department hires a feminist critic one year and a  Spenser scholar the next; a
psych department hires someone to do Psych of Women and then a
psychopharmacologist the next.  But rarely is there much connection between
areas of specialization or departments.  Thus women's studies (or gender
studies, even feminist studies) can exist within a university alongside of a
Straussian political science department (as is the case here) which thinks that
the only important piece of knowledge anyone needs is Plato as part of what
Kant called "THe Conflict of the Faculties."  However, that poly sci department
is not perceived as political.  It is perceived as rigorous, intellectual, etc.
It is women's studies that is political.  Thus the white, Eurocentric,
heterosexist, men's studies department is allowed to continue to pass itself
off as "just knowledge."  Until we are addressing this issue we probably aren't
really transforming the university, but just carving out our own domains within
                                    (o o)
|        Laurie Finke, Women's and Gender Studies, Kenyon College            |
|                  Gambier, OH 43022       phone: 614-00000000               |
|         614-000-0000, P.O. Box 731     mail: FinkeL  AT  Kenyon.Edu        |
                                   ()   ()
Date: Fri, 4 Jun 1993 13:39:09 CDT
From: lisa c brawley <braw AT MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU>
I am surprised to find that in the *lengthy* exchange about the
advantages and disadvantages of "women's studies" versus "gender
studies" no one has yet spoken about *sexuality.*  It has seemed
clear to me that in the 90s the shift to gender studies represents
less a shift toward an identitarian inclusion of men (i.e. to add
"men's studies" to "women's studies"--admittedly a spurious move),
and more the crucial acknowledgement that "women" is a critically vexed
term. The work with which I am familiar that designates itself as
"Gender Studies" is work that decenters the heteronormativity of
"Women's Studies" and attempts to think more productively about the
interaction of what Gayle Rubin eons ago designated the sex/gender
system.  This is not to say that such work isn't done or couldn't be
done in "Women's Studies" departments--nor is it to overlook the important
ways in which these terms are locally inflected.  Nevertheless, the
absence of consideration of sexuality in *this* WMST-L conversation about
gender/women's studies seems to demonstrate precisely the critical aporias that
the shift to "Gender Studies" means to address.
Yrs, etc.
    Lisa Brawley
    braw  AT
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 1993 18:08:33 -0500
From: Gabriella Hochmann <GABRIEL AT VAX2.CONCORDIA.CA>
Subject: Women's Studies/Gender Studies/Feminist Studies
See Margit Eichler's article "What's in a Name?  Report #3 of the
Canadian Women's Studies Project - Atlantis, Vol.16 No.1.
Date: Mon, 20 Jun 1994 18:48:52 -0400
Subject: women's studies vs. gender studies
I realize this is a very belated response to a question which was discussed some
time ago, however, I'm playing catch up after many weeks of frustration with
computer problems originating at this end.
Sally Sternglanz our assistant director asked me to forward the following
information re women's studies vs. gender studies
...effect on enrollment.  I track enrollments for the courses
which count for our women's studies minor. Most wns classes have a
male enrollment of 10-20%  Our sociology program gives a course on
sociology of gender. The male enrollment in this course is also 10-20%
Last year they gave a course entitled the sociology of men, taught by
a male. Male enrollment was 10%  In short, attracting men is no reason
to change the name of your program in my experience (at a large state
U).  I do think it is important that men take women's studies
courses--if anyone has discovered an effective approach short of a
direct requirement I'd love to know what it is. At this point I almost
don't care why they don't--lack of interest in women, sure they know
it all, fear of being thought to be gay, avoidance of what is thought
to be touchy-feely stuff--I'd just like to know one thing that works.
Sally Sternglanz, Assoc.Dir., WNS, SUNY at Stony Brook.
Sarah.Sternglanz  AT

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