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Men in Women's Studies Classes II


Date: Sun, 21 Feb 1999 09:38:11 -0400
From: millerg @ CC.DENISON.EDU
Subject: men in the classroom
I am sympathetic to putting out the extra effort for each student early in
a semester, male or female, for whatever reason.  We have so little
background on who they are as learners, and there is reason to believe
from my own history that simply being in a classroom could be somewhat
intimidating.  I would prefer to err on the side of compassion and
integration for each student, and then let them take it from there.
However, one thing I have not heard in this discussion that interests me
is the possibility that the male student may have been playing on a
completely different field when he told her that he considered dropping
the class nearly every day.  Given the nature of the system, if he
wanted to drop the course, why didn't he?
Because we don't have the whole discussion or the tones of voice on email,
I am wondering if he was attempting to intimidate her, threatening that
she needed to make certain considerations "or else."  Things that seem
possibilities relate to
(1) tone down the evidence/argument/etc. so that the topics would never
thoroughly be discussed, or
(2) make sure he would survive/succeed in the class (through grades, extra
help, special sense of inclusion) or, more simply,
(3) watch out for her numbers and evaluations.
I don't mean to be suspicious, but in my field -- dance-- I see us
whooping and hollering to get any man in the classroom, and even those who
can't dance nearly as well as the least-trained women get extra
considerations, just to keep them there.  My young (middle school) son got
first an invitation to auditions and then a role in Nutcracker
on the *promise* that he would take ballet classes along with the
rehearsals so that he could dance by the time the performances opened.
This is truly discouraging.

Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 16:28:58 -0600
From: Jill Bystydzienski <bystydj @ IASTATE.EDU>
Subject: Men in the classroom
At 02:02 PM 2/20/99 -0500, Angela Pattatucci Aragon wrote:
>While the two aren't exactly analagous, science classrooms are often
>arenas where women feel isolated and unwelcome.  I wonder if some of the
>strategies forwarded by Sue Rosser and others to help make science
>programs more hospitable for women could be adapted to the men in the
>Women's Studies classroom situation.
While I agree that men should be included in women's studies classrooms, I
take issue with the notion that any lone member of a group  who enters a
majority situation is like any other. The experience of those who belong to
privileged groups and who on occasion find themselves in the minority will
not be the same as the experience of members of historically excluded or
underrepresented groups in such situations. In many years of teaching
women' studies, I have found that white men at least initially expect to be
treated as privileged (and women often defer to them); however, once they
begin to understand what they're doing (usually as a result of extensive
discussion about how partiarchy works at the structural and interpersonal
levels) they become better listeners and are less likely to focus attention
on themselves (i.e.,  to invoke their privileged status). On the other
hand, research as well as personal accounts of many students I have known
indicate that the few women in physics or engineering classes are not
"privileged" by any stretch of the imagination.
Jill M. Bystydzienski
Director and
Professor of Sociology
Iowa State University
349 Catt Hall
Ames, IA 50014
Fax (515)294-5104
e-mail: bystydj  @  iastate.edu

Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 16:28:45 -0800
From: [Identity masked] @ STRIPE.COLORADO.EDU>
Subject: Men in the classroom/LONG
The current discussion raises so many important questions: issues
surrounding the experiences of women in predominantly male science
classrooms, men in predominantly women's studies classes, lone women of
color in classes where the dominant group is "white."
Most of these questions revolve around students whose identities are
"known" to us. But what about students whose minority status is unknown?
What about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender students? Their
experiences or views are unlikely, in a general class not devoted to
women's studies, gender studies, or gay and lesbian studies, to be
known. It seems to me that given the challenges we have been
discussing--surrounding issues around "visible" or "known" identities,
that we might take a moment to consider how we treat those whose
identities are "invisible" or "unknown." That might give us pause to
consider how best to treat those who are, ostensibly, "visible."
In my experience, GLBT students rarely reveal their identities. We are
often unsure if they are even present in the class. Who can tell? And if
they are uncomfortable with the heterosexist views (or even negative
stereotypes of LGBT people, sometimes expressed unwittingly) often
expressed in a typical classroom, they are usually powerless to say
anything about their experience. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
students can be regularly offended, injured and marginalized on a daily
basis by the typical dynamics of classroom life; the quality of their
learning is no doubt adversely affected by these experiences.
As an openly lesbian instructor, I am automatically in the minority in
every class I teach. I do come out to every class; not on the first day,
usually, but after a few sessions, when I feel that the students have
developed some kind of impression of who I am, and usually after I've
had to endure more than a few comments that are blatantly, but usually
not maliciously, heterosexist in tone. I teach classes on art and visual
analysis and we do our fair share of critiquing advertising imagery at
the beginning of the semester; exploitive images of women or
stereotypical views of men are often at the center of our discussions.
Surprisingly, comments like "All men like attractive women" or "All
women want to look attractive to men" abound. Of course, these are
golden opportunties to raise questions about heterosexism, as well as
racism, ageism, ableism, and more than a few other thorny issues.
When I come out, I know that I am speaking to students in the room, but
rarely get any acknowledgement of who they are. I often wonder if some
of them are happy that I come out, making life just a litle easier, or
if some are so self-conscious (or closeted) that they cringe inside when
they learn that I'm lesbian. One never knows. Some tell me later that
they have a gay brother or a lesbian mother, and they appreciate my
"courage" to come out. And of course, some object to it, complaining on
their anonymous FCQ's that I am proselytizing or putting down their
religious faith merely by stating who I am, but on the whole, I don't
find out who my gay students are while I'm teaching them, if ever. But
they are there, in some form or other, and I suppose my own unique
position makes me even more aware of them, as well as anyone else whose
minority position--be it a male in a predominantly female classroom, a
person of color in a predominantly "white" class, etc--might be a source
of discomfort.
So what is my point? If I must take care to be sure that everyone feels
safe, based on my own acute awareness of what it means to be invisible
in a classroom as well as in the larger society, the complexity of the
issue is magnified exponentially.
I think the issue of the lone male in the women's studies class is not a
simple one. Much of it revolves around the attitude of the student
himself. But whether I am teaching a women's studies class or a class in
the general curriculum, I'd like to think that it is my responsibility
to make sure that the climate is one where everyone is able to be
visible; to take advantage of the "demographic" of the course itself
is part of my teaching method. The people themselves are as much an
integral part of the "text" of the course as are the books and the
papers they write and workshop together.
I suppose I refuse to be marginalized as the instructor, so I feel
passionately about refusing to allow anyone in my class to be
marginalized, regardless of who the person may be, and even if I can't
"see" them.

Date: Sun, 21 Feb 1999 09:59:24 -0600
From: Diana York Blaine <dblaine @ UNT.EDU>
Subject: men in the classroom
1.  The assumption that non "politicized" classrooms lack an agenda can
no longer be taken seriously by anyone who is willing to acknowledge the
constructed nature of reality.  While Women's and Ethnic Studies classes
are more honest in admitting an "advocacy" function--and indeed use that
very acknowledgment as a teaching tool that helps students to learn to
"think critically" by seeing that everything has a context--any academic
discipline advocates a particular world view, including those that
covertly encourage the status quo.  For example, dissection of non-human
animals in a science class does not support the binary opposition between
"us" and "them" and further propagate the notion that power over other
species is appropriate?  Sorry, it obviously does, whether the professor
puts it in his syllabus or not.
2.  The topics in my Women's Studies classes are legitimate fields of
intellectual inquiry.  I use feminist pedagogy, so everyone is involved
(we're in a circle;  students lead the discussions), but I am a professor,
not a "hostess."  Those of us who persist in the delusion that there are
no gender inequities pretend women and women's interests are not belittled
and degraded in and out of the academy;  the rest of us (we call ourselves
feminists, btw.) teach students to see exactly how the structures of our
culture (theological, political, philosophical, educational, familial,
etc) have caused these inequities (and those against all marginalized
groups in this  racially/sexually/economically/etc. stratified culture.)
We also teach towards changing these inequities, although I tell my
students, male or female, that they are welcome to keep the same values
that they came into the class with;  I only request that they realize they
hold these values and not propagate them unconsciously if they are doing
so (as many are).
It's not only the men in class who are uncomfortable with realizing how
unfair our institutions truly are;  we've just been taught to see male
discomfort as a sign of trouble that needs to be addressed (usually by
female comforting). But catering to male privilege is the old way and if
we want a different future, we need to change the way we do things now.
The student wants to drop?  Let him.  It's not the class he is
uncomfortable with; it's the truth of the message.
Diana York Blaine
University of North Texas
dblaine  @  unt.edu

Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 19:29:21 -0400
From: pamela kemner <kemnerpj @ EMAIL.UC.EDU>
Subject: men in the classroom
I hope to God women's studies isn't really "not an academic discipline" --
otherwise I've wasted a lot of my own adult life, haven't I?  What a
feckless thing to suggest, Marc Sacks.
I'm grateful to have come out of English/comp/rhetoric in one of my
original disciplines, because I have always approached women's studies as
discourse theory.  Like many teachers on this thread, I teach the
arguments.  My concern is that students understand the historical contexts,
assumptions, implications, strengths and limitations of various theories
and political activisms.  Also like other teachers on this thread, I
understand that there are moments of identifications and disidentification
all along the way.
And -- identification isn't ALWAYS the point.  A classroom is a place to
learn new things, not just be stuck in the proverbial Lacanian mirror
phase, right?
These issues up frequently among feminist teachers.
What is feminist teaching?
Is it grandstanding?
Is it advocacy?
Is it therapy?
Is it a hug-and-share fest?
Is it an academic discipline?
I vote for the last one.  And generally it is VERY VERY true that girls in
classrooms emotionally and socially caretake guys -- BUT they seem to not
do it at all if they see that I the teacher don't do it.  At least it's
been that way so far . . .
I've got a pro-life woman student who's in her second quarter with me.
What a tremendous amount of respect and trust we've developed for
eachother.  She respects my open-mindedness and I respect hers.  And I ran
a gyno/abortion clinic for three years!  I never thought I'd see a
situation like this.
Pamela Kemner

Date: Sun, 21 Feb 1999 14:36:10 -0600
From: Judith Baer <jbaer @ POLISCI.TAMU.EDU>
Subject: Men in the Classroom
I'm partly amused, partly annoyed by postings that suggest that the
situation of men who are uncomfortable in a wmst classroom is analogous to,
similar to, or the equivalent of the situation of a woman who is
uncomfortable in a regular classroom.  While this is the way some people
(including the US Supreme Court, unfortunately) look at issues of
inequality, it's similar to what Catharine MacKinnon calls "the stupid
theory of equality:" that is, equality "defined as distimnction, as
differentiation, indifferent to whther dominant or subordinated groups are
being hurt or helped."
Judy Baer
jbaer  @  politics.tamu.edu

Date: Sun, 21 Feb 1999 21:44:33 -0600
From: "Christie L. Fox" <clfox @ INDIANA.EDU>
Subject: Men in the classroom
I'd like to rejoin the discussion and say a couple of things. First of all,
I am very grateful to this list for the support and inquiry in response to
my question. I left my classroom feeling very isolated and the number of
private and public responses has made me feel part of a community of
feminist scholars; a feeling that is rare for (at least) part-time faculty.
Many thanks to all who have posted. I now have new strategies and ideas,
and am looking forward to implementing them this week.
Secondly, I'm glad that [some participants] brought up the issue of GLBT
students.  In fact, my male student is gay, is out to me (from almost the
first day), and is reigning Miss Gay ISU. He has brought pictures of other
"female illusionists" (his term), but the students in the class neither
made the connection to him nor were very open to that experience.
Incidentally, that is what I referred to when I said that my students were
not "enlightened." I would be horrified if, at the end of the semester, I
had 23 replications of my own ideology. I make it very clear in my
classroom--as do others on this list-- that there is room for a
multiplicity of voices, as long as we respectfully disagree. My students
are quite close-minded; that is what I meant by not "enlightened." Sorry
for the digression, but I felt compelled to defend myself on that point.
So, with the added layer of his sexuality, the perspective that it would be
good for him to be the only XXX in the room loses some punch, as I imagine
he feels that quite often. I do wonder, though, if his biological sex
overshadows other aspects of his identity in my classroom, as it is
otherwise female. He seems to feel that he is the representative of his
sex, although I quite specfically do not call upon him to speak for men in
general. I have tried to get him to understand oppression and patriarchy as
it affects all groups not in the dominant, but he is slow to get on that
I am relieved that I am not alone in thinking that this issue is not
simple. A lone male in a women's studies class raises issues because we are
all humans, above and beyond the curriculum. He may still drop, but as many
have said, that is his decision. I'm hoping that he won't because I think
that he has much to gain from the class material.
Christie Fox
Folklore Institute
Indiana University
clfox  @  indiana.edu

Date: Mon, 22 Feb 1999 07:42:55 -0500
From: jeannie ludlow <jludlow @ BGNET.BGSU.EDU>
Subject: (gay) men in the classroom
Hi Christie and everyone,
I, too, was really glad that [some participants] brought up GLBT students.  When I teach
my classes, I try to always assume (and to behave as though) there is at
least one GLBT student, one person not born in the US, one student raised
working class or in poverty, etc., etc.  So often, I have heard teachers
talk about college/univ. students as tho they were a homogenous group of
people.  Then, we tend to complain about the lack of diversity in our
courses!  (At least, where I teach we do  :-)  What I have found is this:
students feel freer to express themselves when I go into the class saying,
"for those of us who are heterosexual . . ." and "for those of us who are
U.S.-born . . ."
I think that Christie's students' being gay is a crucial aspect of the
story.  It seems to me that he would be perfectly reasonable to respond as
the only man in the class _and_ as the only (? so far as he knows,
perhaps?) gay person in the room, too.  He cannot separate out his
"maleness" from his "gayness" anymore than I can separate my "femaleness"
from my "whiteness" or my "straightness" or any other aspect of my
identity.  That all aspects of identity are interconnected and work
together to shape our experiences of the world around us is the message
that women of colors have been getting out to us for a long time, now.
(See, for example, the work of Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Aida Hurtado,
Chela Sandoval, and all the essays in Mohanty, Russo and Torres' _Third
_World_Women_and_the_Politics_of_Feminism_.)  It is in the understanding
of how all our identity markers work together that we can fully understand
how our experiences are shaped by power.
I am not saying that it is impossible that this man's response to the
class is rooted in sexism/gender privilege.  I am saying that his
responses are also--at the same time--shaped by the fact that information
about gay life that he has brought into class has been, if I understand
the story correctly, dismissed or ignored by the other students.
It might, then, be that his discomfort in the class, his inability to
"identify," might be just as much about the heterosexism as about his
Christie, if you don't teach S. Pharr's "Homophobia as a Weapon of
Sexism," this might be a good time to check it out.  I have found that her
points about how systemic heterosexism works to keep us all "in our
places" in relationship to the patriarchal power structures are very
compelling to students who are trying to work through the intersections of
sexism and heterosexism--esp. for folks who are trying to work through
these issues in their own lives.
The essay is in Paula Rothenberg's _Gender,_Race_and_Class_in_the_U.S._
(all editions, I believe) and in many other places.  It is well worth the
class time!
Hope this is helpful.  Good luck,
"Remembering...is like a song.  It has a different voice with every
    singer."  --Linda Hogan (Chickasaw)  _Solar_Storms_
"...if all the birds died,...it would be next to impossible to describe
    to our children the wonder of their flight."
            --Alice Walker  "The Universe Responds"
Jeannie Ludlow            jludlow  @  bgnet.bgsu.edu
Bowling Green S U        American Culture
Bowling Green Ohio        Women's Studies

Date: Mon, 22 Feb 1999 10:31:56 -0500
From: "Leah C. Ulansey" <leou @ JHUNIX.HCF.JHU.EDU>
Subject: (gay) men in the classroom
On Mon, 22 Feb 1999, jeannie ludlow wrote:
> I think that Christie's students' being gay is a crucial aspect of the
> story.
> I am not saying that it is impossible that this man's response to the
> class is rooted in sexism/gender privilege.  I am saying that his
> responses are also--at the same time--shaped by the fact that information
> about gay life that he has brought into class has been, if I understand
> the story correctly, dismissed or ignored by the other students.
> It might, then, be that his discomfort in the class, his inability to
> "identify," might be just as much about the heterosexism as about his
> sexism.
Interesting discussion. Just wanted to add another point to Jeannie's
comments. Gender is a continuum, and sometimes male students who
don't identify as gay will come to class motivated to critique
historically constructed masculinity, perhaps from the standpoint of their
race, class, sexuality or personal values which envision a masculinity
quite different from the enforced norm. I think WS instructors shouldn't
underestimate the extent to which these men face ostracism and ridicule
from other men and from women who consciously or unconsciously defend male
privilge and heterosexual privilege because they've been trained to depend
on them for their own vicarious or sometimes hard-won status.
What I'm trying to say is that I've become aware of the pressure on me as
an instructor to accomodate the privileged and the defenders of
privilege of both genders. If I tallied the numbers, I might still find
that I accomodate males more often than females, but I find it helpful to
acknowlege that the pressure can come from both sides.
Leah Ulansey
leou  @  jhunix.hcf.jhu.edu
Maryland Inst. C. of Art

Date: Tue, 23 Feb 1999 12:52:53 -0500
From: Marc Sacks <msacks @ WORLD.STD.COM>
Subject: Men in the classroom
[Someone asked], in response to my posting last Friday, if I "had questioned
whether women's studies was/is a legitimate field of academic inquiry,
as, for instance, we consider a subject like Physics to be."  I was in
fact questioning that, and I very much appreciate the variety of responses
that have come through on the subject.  I don't plan to stop questioning,
but I certainly respect the disagreement many on this list have with my
viewpoint, and I hope to hear more from them as time goes on.  My concerns
about the field have to do with the depth of academic background people
bring to it, the intertwining of academic discipline with issues of
personal identity (under which category I subsume the original question of
whether men and women are or perceive themselves to be treated differently
in WS and other classes), and the relationship between a field of study
and a political stance.
I was a medieval-studies major in college and graduate school, so I have
an idea of what goes into an interdisciplinary program.  In order to
understand the medieval world, I needed a background that included
history, a variety of languages, art, literature, music history and theory
(my area of interest), and philosophy (though in fact I neglected the last
of these as I never found it all that engrossing).  Each of these
disciplines imparts its own skills and its own way of looking at the
world, and to study the Middle Ages at any more than a superficial level
requires grounding in as many of them as possible; otherwise you've got a
survey course, or a bit of the Middle Ages embedded in the study of
something else, hardly an interdisciplinary approach.  And it is possible
as part of this program to study the Middle Ages in the eyes of those who
have contemplated it over time, such as what Arthurian legends meant to
Tennyson and the Victorians, or why Johan Huizinga wrote "The Waning of
the Middle Ages" as he did soon after World War I.
From this viewpoint I ask, what are the comparable disciplines needed and
required for a women's studies program?  Pamela Kenner wrote:
"I'm grateful to have come out of English/comp/rhetoric in one of my
original disciplines, because I have always approached women's studies as
discourse theory.  Like many teachers on this thread, I teach the
arguments.  My concern is that students understand the historical
contexts, assumptions, implications, strengths and limitations of various
theories and political activisms. . . ."
I think this is a fine approach to one of the many perspectives required,
but I wonder what many of the others are, since most of the work I have
seen and people I have heard from in WS is similarly "discourse"-oriented.
I would like to know what other viewpoints are available, and how
acquire the tools for independent research.  I would think it necessary
for a scholar in the field to have training in one or more of the
"traditional" disciplines in order to pursue her or his inquiries, whether
it be sociology, anthropology, historical research, or any of the hard
While participants to this list have occasionally posted reading lists or
syllabi, I don't think I've ever seen a list of requirements for a major
in women's studies.  My ideal one would include at least introductory
courses in sociology, history, physiology (as a prelude to dealing with
women's health issues), and at least one of the sciences (before
denouncing the scientific method as patriarchal, at least have an
understanding of how it works and what it has accomplished over the
centuries, as well as its failings).Following these overviews there ought
to be an intensive concentration in one of these as a discipline, along
with the study of its applicability to women and women's issues.  Of
course, this is just my opinion; I'll be happy to hear from others with
greater knowledge of the field.
The second issue I want to address is the importance of personal identity
in what Diana York Blaine called "feminist pedagogy."  This seems to carry
"the personal is the political" into the educational realm as well; except
that it is really "the group identity is the personal identity," denying
or downplaying individuality with respect to group membership.  In other
lines of thought this is called prejudice or stereotyping.  I find any
statement that begins "men are," or "gays and lesbians feel," or
"race-specific discomfort" (this one from Beti Ellerson's post) highly
suspect.  Many in this group are advising a colleague on how to deal with
the one man in her class without knowing more about him than that he is
uncomfortable.  He may be a poor kid from Appalachia or the son of a
millionaire; I certainly don't know, so I'd be a little reluctant to call
him "privileged" based on gender alone.  There are a lot of unhappy,
downtrodden people in the world, almost all of them "privileged" with
respect to some other group, if that's all they have to console themselves
with:  At least I'm not a (woman, black, Jew, gay, capitalist pig,
breeder--add your favorite group-you-don't-like here).  The cure for this
sort of thing is to see people in all their complex individuality, of
which some but by no means all is formed by group membership.  That said,
I find nothing wrong with bringing out the myriad ways the world is
constructed for the benefit of men and the relative disbenefit of women,
and it can be quite bracing to someone who has never looked at the world
in that way before..
Group identity matters a great deal to many WS professors and cultural
critics.  I read [someone's] post about her coming out as a lesbian.
If it weren't for that post, I wouldn't know [she] was a lesbian (or a
woman, for that matter).  Her gender and sexual orientation should have no
bearing on the quality of her work, though they might well inspire her
choice of field.  The context of her remarks was the need for sensitivity
to whatever closeted identities her students carry.  I don't think
sensitivity is an issue for the members of this group, who have trained
themselves to use language as inclusively and non-judgmentally as possible
(what detractors call "political correctness," and what must surely be
very artificial for many people beyond the level of avoiding ethnic jokes,
racial slurs, and other obvious offenses of this nature).  For those for
whom it is an issue, such as the political-science professor whom Beti
Ellerson cites as ignoring the views of an African woman in his class, a
bit of updating on the matter is in order; otherwise it is best to assume
that people or people and carry a lot more inside them than their ethnic,
racial, and other identities.
I come from a tradition, perhaps a generation, when people were supposed
to identify with others.  You don't have to be black to imagine life as a
slave in the South.  You don't have to be a woman to empathize with Anna
Karenina (or to create her, either).  To create these identifications has
long been the function of good writing; to know their objects, or their
real-life equivalents, requires some research and some just being alive
and attuned.  I have trouble understanding the ethos of separatism, the
philosophy of "you can't know what it feels like if you haven't been
there."  If that were true, there would be no point to studying anything
except to learn about worlds you can't possibly understand.  Now that,
Pamela Kenner, would be wasting your life.
While I can't honestly say with Terence that "nothing human is alien to
me," I do strive to find out about the many varieties of people in this
world and I appreciate what I have learned from women's studies and gender
theory about them.  I can only wish that those in the field not shut
themselves off from the individualities behind their group identities
(which, after all, are socially constructed anyway, though I can't believe
that people really are) and concentrate on the lives women have led and do
lead, seeing them through the lenses of many disciplines, not just from
the feminist perspective.
Thanks for reading through all this.  I welcome comments.
Marc Sacks
msacks  @  world.std.com

Date: Wed, 24 Feb 1999 22:18:20 -0500
From: Suzanne E Franks <SFranks2 @ COMPUSERVE.COM>
Subject: women's studies as a major and science
This is in response to Marc's recent post where he posed the question
of what a women's studies major would look like.
Marc wrote:
        "My ideal...would include at least introductory courses in
sociology, history, physiology...and at least one of the sciences (before
denouncing the scientific method as patriarchal, at least have an
understanding of how it works and
what it has accomplished over the centuries, as well as its failings). 
        Following these overviews there ought to be an intensive
concentration in one of these as a discipline, along with the study of its
applicability to women and women's issues."
        As someone trained both as an engineer and scientist, and in
graduate women's studies as well, I have to respectfully disagree with this
proposal for a women's studies major at least insofar as the sciences are
concerned, if we are talking here about traditional science and engineering
courses.  In my experience, there is little to nothing in a traditional
science classroom that would educate one about how "science works" or what
science has accomplished over the centuries, or science's failings.  In
fact, I would argue that the very absence of these components from
traditional science classrooms plays a part in turning many students off
from a career in science or even some active engagement
with scientific thought and approaches to understanding the world we are
part of.  
        What one gets in a traditional science class is a huge amount of
facts an d equations and ways of manipulating information that must be
memorized. (not in all, and not in the best science classes, but  in a
majority, at least in my education!) While this "background knowledge" as
we might call it, is necessary for one's active engagement with the
practice of science, taking a course like that  does not teach one about
how science is actually done day to day, or what the history of science's
achievements and failings might be.  This latter material is often
deliberately left out of scientific classrooms and labeled "political" and
therefore irrelevant to the actual learning and doing of science. (See
Bonnie Spanier's book "Im/Partial Science:  Gender Ideology in Molecular
Biology" Indiana U. Press, 1995, for a fascinating development of this
idea. Spanier is a trained molecular biologist.)  I might also argue that
to really understand how science is done, one would need to know a lot
about big business and politics, but that's for another day...
        To learn about science's accomplishments and failings, one would be
much better off consulting historians and philosophers of science rather
than lab scientists/professors, who are many times amazingly ignorant of
the histo ry and development of their own disciplines.  Among the
historians and philosophers, you will find feminists, who have a great deal
to offer, though they may never have taken calculus.  I am not saying that
training in science would not  be useful to a feminist wanting to critique
science - I feel my own scientific training has given me a valuable
perspective from which to understand and evaluate existing critiques, and
to develop my own.  What I am saying is that standard scientific courses
would not provide one with exposure to this information, and inde ed are
often opposed to it, marginalize it, and label it irrelevant.  
        To understand how science works, it might be more useful to take a
lab course or actually work in a lab for awhile...but then, to do so, one
needs all the background information...must one, then, train for years as a
scientist in order to critique science? I believe the answer is no.  One
can collaborate with practicing scientis ts who are interested in analysis
and critiques of science, as for example philosoph er Helen Longino has
done with biologist Ruth Doell.   It is not necessary,  in any case, to
know how to prepare and run a protein gel in order to produce a valid
critque of the uses, abuses, and philosophy behind molecular biology.  I do
not want to live in a world where I must depend on scientists for my
critiques of science, for I know that in such a world I would have few
critiques, and those few, of pitifu l use.  I have stated elsewhere that
scientists are trained to think that science is the best a nd most useful
tool for asking questions, not something itself about which questions can
be asked.  
        (not just feminist questions are considered irrelevant by
scientists--almost any kind of questioning of science is considered to be
de facto "non scientific" and therefore less valid, not
knowledge-producing.) There are, of course, exceptions, and we should not
forget that many of these exceptions are feminist scientists, who have been
responsible for producing a large portion of the body of feminist
critiques concerning science (e.g., Ruth Hubbard,  Sue Rosser, Anne
Fausto-Sterling, Ruth Bleier, Bonnie Spanier, to name some of the better
known ones).  
        A better start to a women's studies major that wanted to include an
examination of science and gender, might be a course designed specifically
for that purpose.  
        There is new textbook (caveat:  I reviewed draft chapters of this
book) that attempts to present such a curriculum for women's biology.  It
is called,  "The Second X:  The Biology of Women" by Colleen Belk and
Virginia Borden, Harcourt Brace, 1998.  
And THIS gets closer to what MY ideal of a women's studies major would be
        courses where gender is central to the subject matter, whatever
other subject matter you want to look at through the lens of gender.  
Because for me,  I am  interested in the intertwining of gender with, for
example, science, and how that shapes the science we do and what we learn
and how we use it.  I think a program that offered a variety of traditional
content-area courses and then later said,  "let's look at how this is
applicable to women and women's issues", to paraphrase Marc, is not a
women's studies major.   (as if women and women's issues had nothing to do
with "science proper", but are only an area to which science can be
applied.)  Another feminist philosopher of science, Sandra Harding, has a
book titled "The Science Question in Feminism" and  I guess this is what I
am trying to get at - not, study science and then think about women, but
take gender/women as the starting point of inquiry, and think about
everything else - science, sociology, art, politics, everything.
        thanks to those of you who stuck through to the end of this very
long message! I would enjoy hearing from others regarding their ideas of
women's studie s majors. Perhaps any list members who actually have or are
pursuing a major in women's studies could offer a valuable perspective
Suzanne Franks
sfranks2  @  compuserve.com

Date: Wed, 24 Feb 1999 23:41:50 -0600
From: Ines Shaw <ishaw @ BADLANDS.NODAK.EDU>
Subject: Women's Studies as a discipline
Dear Marc,
You said in your Feb 23 posting:
"While participants to this list have occasionally posted reading lists or
syllabi, I don't think I've ever seen a list of requirements for a major
in women's studies.  My ideal one would include ... Of  course, this is
just my opinion; I'll be happy to hear from others with greater knowledge
of the field."
Given that the content of Women's Studies, as reflected in a Women's
Studies major as you mention, is a key issue in your questioning of women's
studies as a discipline, I am wondering why you have not looked at the
descriptions of at least a few Women's Studies majors before!
I say all of this because you said, "I don't plan to stop questioning..."
By all means, do continue your questioning, but shouldn't you be doing so
from an informed basis? And why ask the subscribers to give you this kind
of information when you can easily access it?
This list has repeatedly had messages posted with links to such
information, so access to it is easy and fast.  In addition, there have
been several announcements of master and ph.d degrees in Women's Studies as
well.  Or you can use a search engine, such as Alta Vista, and type
"Women's Studies major," or "Women's Studies M.A. degrees," and so on.  You
will get links to sites with descriptions of majors or other degrees
(depending on what you are asking), courses, and course content.
By the way, if you have not attended the National Women's Studies
Association (NWSA), consider attending it next June in Albuquerque.  It's
an opportunity to meet and talk with Women's Studies teachers-scholars and
administrators (e.g., chairs of Women's Studies departments) and learn a
great deal in a few days about Women's Studies as a discipline.
I think your thoughts are important, and I do hope you will pursue more
knowledge about Women's Studies as a discipline and then share your
thoughts again.
Ines Shaw
Linguistics & Women's Studies

Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 00:04:26 -0800
From: [Identity masked] @ STRIPE.COLORADO.EDU>
Subject: Men in the classroom/Science, etc (LONG)
(Warning! This posting veers and swerves in and out of the personal and
political--sometimes confusing and conflating the two, so if you have
something better to do, please do it! Don't waste time reading my
circumlocutions! Get back to those footnotes! ;-)
I've been so busy preparing for classes that I haven't had time to
respond to Marc's posting, but I'm glad (and grateful) to see others on
the list responding to the thread dealing with men in the classroom and
with Marc's questions about the quality of the intellectual and
scholarly "texture" of women's studies as a major, a program, a field of
academic inquiry, and of those who teach it. As several others on list
have noted, the syllabi of hundreds of women's studies courses, as well
as the requirements for a major in women's studies and its intersection
with other fields at a variety of institutions, are available--most of
them on the very server that we are corresponding through now--what I'll
affectionately call "Joan K's Lists." So there is a rich resource
available to Marc if he is not familiar with the bibliography,
requirements for majors and degrees as well as the academic/scholarly
credentials of those who teach the subject/s.
I was, I must say, mildly amused to find a posting opening with my name,
with a remark later on referring to the apparent ambiguity of what my
gender (as well as sexual orientation) might be (this is the first time
in recent memory that I've ever been mistaken for a man on email--in
person, yes, but never on email!)--especially as Marc related all of
these to my apparent choice of fields! He noted--rather graciously, if a
little (perhaps unwittingly) patronizingly, I must say--that my "gender
and sexual orientation should have no bearing on the quality of [my]
work, though they might inspire [my] choice of field." Thank you!
Interesting. I wonder if one might not consider that I might even be
"trans-gender," but we'll save that for another day. But seriously, I
think that my gender AND my sexual orientation--especially the
latter--have more than a little bearing on the quality of my work. Both
of them have made my work better! Knowledge of what it means to "have" a
gender, or to "be" a gender, or to "be gendered" is more than relevant
for how I approach what I do. Not only that, but I must point out that
we might, if I can use a little jargon here, "problematize" my gender a
bit; yes, I am indeed a woman--whatever that might mean as we've come
to understand it and its social construction--and that gender identity
probably means many things to many people, depending on what part of the
sexually oriented crowd they occupy (homo, bi, het); but I have
"another" gender, too, as a lesbian, and that is far more complex than
the term "woman" can begin to cover. I move in more than one gendered
world at any one time, occupying that ambiguous identity of "woman" in
the larger culture, and some variant of whatever lesbians understand the
idea of "butch" to be in another realm, simultaneously, all day long. So
those multivalent aspects of my gender identity, the complexities of
which Marc could probably never appreciate unless he were in a room with
me--and even then, because he is not--I assume--a lesbian (unless he is
one of those famed "male" lesbians we keep reading about, but have yet
to meet), are more than lost in email correspondence. As they are with
any one of us here. Certainly we are all iridescent in our identities,
depending on the quality of the light that shines on us in any one or
several contexts in which we find ourselves.
As to my sexual orientation, I think that the knowledge of what that
happens to be and how it situates me in the world has more than a little
to do with the quality of my work, too. And as to my choice of
fields--well, it was not, and hasn't been, until just recently, women's
studies. I come to women's studies by a circuitous route--I have
advanced degrees in studio art, and in art history--in fields that have
common links to Marc's areas of interest--medieval and renaissance
studies. Most of my research has focused on medieval theology and its
relationship to renaissance art--I have two articles in progress on
Michelangelo and his collaboration with a medieval-leaning theologian
for the iconographic scheme of the Sistine Ceiling frescoes. So, like
most everyone who teaches in any field these days (it would be difficult
to teach much of anything in the "humanities" without having an
interdisciplinary focus and interest anymore), I am more than familiar
with the necessities of cross-disciplinary scholarship; in order to
undertake the work I've done I had to have knowledge of medieval and
renaissance history and theology, the history of renaissance and
medieval art, as well as work in the italian, latin, septuagint greek,
and hebrew languages. Not to mention patristic studies. So what?! We all
have excess baggage, don't we? ;-)
Turning to the question raised about teaching "about" science in women's
studies if one is not a scientist: this argument is one that I thought
had been termed an "old chestnut" long ago. With this logic, one would
argue that in order to teach the history of art one would need to be an
artist; that in order to teach the history of music that one need be a
performing musician; or that to teach the history of literature one need
be a poet. Not so. Anyone who has studied art history knows very well
that those who often know the least about the myriad dimensions of how
art is situated in its cultural context are artists
themselves--especially regarding their own work! The same thing
has been said here, and rightly so, of scientists. They are too busy
"doing science," just as artists are too busy "doing art." Placing those
endeavors in a larger critical framework is the job of the cultural or
social historian/critic/scholar, however she or he may be configured.
Lastly, I must say that the remarks I made about being an out lesbian in
my largely (apparently) heterosexual classroom were _indeed_ framed as
such and presented in order to heighten our sensitivities to those whose
identities may be invisible to us. Yes, sensitivity for most of the
participants on this list is not an issue--nor is it a matter of
"language training" or "political correctness." That doesn't mean that
we can't remind ourselves of it now and then, or more often, if
necessary. I had not, at that point, seen a lesbian perspective
registered. No problem for me--I love coming out. It's my job--(the
other one)! But I think that most likely, a feminist perspective and the
sensitivities that it engenders (pardon the pun) is not only an
intellectual stance, but a way of life for most of us (how can one
separate the two?), a way of maintaining one's fundamental intellectual
and ethical integrity in a society and an educational system that
enforced/es--in a variety of pernicious ways--the silence of "them

Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 11:07:58 -0500 (EST)
From: GNesmith @ AOL.COM
Subject: women's studies as a discipline
        <<"My ideal...would include at least introductory courses in
sociology, history, physiology...and at least one of the sciences (before
denouncing the scientific method as patriarchal, at least have an
understanding of how it works and what it has accomplished over the
centuries, as well as its failings). Following these overviews there ought
to be an intensive concentration in one of these as a discipline, along
with the study of its applicability to women and women's issues." >>
This reminds me ever so much of students' complaints about my approach to
teaching introduction to mass communication. I started with the definition of
mass communication, and pointed out that how one defines mass communication
depends upon the philosophical, epistemological, political, economic, and
ontogenic assumptions regarding the nature of reality and what it means to be
human. I then discussed a wide range of perspectives on mass communication,
and how different assumptions about all of the above (including feminist and
Marxist) yielded different methodologies, different explanatory frameworks for
data, different definitions of what counts as data, and contradictory answers
to the same questions.
The complaint? "Please explain what mass communications is before teaching us
different perspectives about it."
If you want a solid grounding in a discipline, I recommend you go to feminist,
Marxist, and other critical analyses of the traditional disciplines.  Marc
assumes that the traditional disciplines are somehow freestanding. But the
very nature of scientific inquiry depends upon epistemological assumptions
(which come from philosophy) that excude certain kinds of data and certain
kinds of questions--they especially exclude history as irrelevant. Yet the
history of science is a history of politics, social relations, and economic
conditions. The very idea of a "discipline" is a social construct. Why divide
the world this way and not that? Why did sociology for so long exclude
history, and vice versa? Is it an accident that sociology began as a
discipline at a time when rapid social change was bringing chaos, and the
ultimate application of sociology was to enable social control by the elite
classes? How can you know the discipline of psychology without understanding
the extent to which it has been used to control women and the lower classes?
How can you do good history without considering sociological (including
feminist sociology) explanations for phenomena? How can you do good science
without considering the political and social conditions in which you do it?
How can you take, as an article of faith, that science is free of such
In short, adequate training in the "disciplines" should include historical and
critical perspectives on them. That includes feminist perspectives. The
problem isn't that women's studies lacks "discipline;" the problem is that the
so-called traditional disciplines lack critical self-consciousness, which
should be at their very core.
Georgia NeSmith
gnesmith  @  aol.com

Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 16:23:25 -0400
From: pamela kemner <kemnerpj @ EMAIL.UC.EDU>
Subject: disciplinarity/seriousness
This issue of perspective dogs me in this thread.
How odd to come off entire day building coalitions with other agencies
regarding literacy and welfare-to-work issues in the rural community I
serve to see these discussions about academic seriousness and authority and
so ongoing on on the net.
What I learned in women's studies -- to see intersections of race, class
and gender in issues, and to think through many different disciplines while
trying to address multi-faceted problems -- is INVALUABLE in the literacy
work I do now. I wish MORE people in politics, social services, and
education HAD HAD that kind of education.  Without training in
intersectional analysis, so many seem stuck only with their own little
piece of enormous, complex human problems, insisting that their own take on
a situation is the one way the truth and the light.
Marc, get your feet more wet in the interdisciplinarity field of women's
studies before you write endless opinions about what the field should be
like. Whatever your intentions, you come off simply sounding arrogant and
disrespectful of the work that has been done and the people who've  paid in
blood to do it and take it outside the university to do and and make it
meaningful in the world. (And God knows I've done what you've done,
blundered into a situation and run off at the mouth with my own opinions
before I really knew what I was talking about.  Jesus, am I chagrined now.)
Women's studies is larger than the classroom, larger than academia  -- most
of our students graduate, and take their analytical skills with them,
hopefully to make changes in the world.  That's worth something.
I'm going to try to keep this short.

Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 22:47:22 -0600
From: Joanne Callahan <jmcalla1 @ AIRMAIL.NET>
Subject: Men in the classroom
This discussion is striking a personal chord in me since I have broken
up in the past six months with two "progressive" guys who refused to do
their feminist homework.  I learned that "doing your fair share" isn't
just about housework and childcare.  It also means taking equal
responsibility for patriarchy.  Until a man starts owning up to his role
in perpetuating the system, he will not have egalitarian relationships
with women.
I have paid close attention to Marc Sacks' comments and have some
"academic" questions for him.  I think the "audience" in WMST-L deserves
to hear the answers.  Here goes:
1.  Have you ever taken a Women's Studies class?  If so, then tell us
about the requirements, the teaching style, etc.  Also, tell us your
final grade.
2.  Which books on feminist theory have you read?  And by the way,
please give us detailed descriptions of the following types of
feminism:  liberal, radical, psychoanalytic, postmodern,
marxist/socialist, and the various types of religious feminism (in
Christianity, we have evangelical, mainline, and post-Christian).
3.  Which feminist organizations do you belong to?  Are you an active
member?  Describe the differences between NOW, 9-to-5, Women Against
Pornography, Christians for Biblical Equality, and National Organization
for Men Against Sexism.
4.  Which feminist journals do you subscribe to?  Describe the
philosophy of Feminista!, On the Issues, Ms, Working Woman, and Hypatia.
5.  When you're in an all-male group and some guy makes a sexist remark,
how do you usually respond?  Do you remain silent, do you fan the
flames, or do you speak out?
6.  When a woman says you made a sexist remark, how do you respond?  Do
you get defensive, do you try to placate her, do you insult her or do
you take mature responsibility for it?
7.  What science and technology classes have you taken?  Have you ever
worked in a high-tech environment and actually seen how hyper-emotional
and subjective these engineers can get?  Believe me, dahling, if I had
a dollar for every time a male engineer in my work environment has been
irrational, I'd be a millionaire.  Even the EE Times admits that
engineers and scientists are as emotional and opinionated as anyone
else!  I'm not against the scientific method and I'm not "above" using
it in my feminist research, but I strongly caution anyone against
idolizing it.
8.  Tell us about your male friends.  Are they pro-feminist activists?
Are they involved in men against violence groups?  Which books on
patriarchy by men have you read?  (Hint!Hint!  Read Allan Johnson's "The
Gender Knot:  Unraveling Our Patriarchal Letacy")
Marc, are you getting the drift?  I'm trying to tell you how much I
resent people asking for free knowledge.  In general, men are much more
guilty than women of asking feminists to spoon feed them complex
information.  Ah, to be a member of a dominant group.  Feminist
knowledge demands lots of hard intellectual and emotional work.  It's
just as challenging to learn about patriarchy as to learn calculus,
classical violin, jazz piano, Catholic theology, computer programming,
English composition, or any other "respected" discipline.  And feminist
activism takes enormous energy.
I don't mind answering questions if someone has done their homework, but
I'm not at all convinced you've done your share.
Joanne Callahan
jmcalla1  @  airmail.net

Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 12:03:29 -0500
From: Daphne Patai <daphne.patai @ SPANPORT.UMASS.EDU>
Subject: Men in the classroom
JCallahan wrote:
>> I have broken up in the past six months with two "progressive" guys
> who refused to do  their feminist homework.  I learned that "doing your
fair share" isn't
> just about housework and childcare.  It also means taking equal
> responsibility for patriarchy.  Until a man starts owning up to his role
> in perpetuating the system, he will not have egalitarian relationships
> with women.
I would like to suggest that imposing rituals of self-criticism,
humiliation, and avowals of guilt and responsibility on others (a practice
which has a long and disgraceful history in the twentieth century)  is not
an effective way of either educating those others or winning allies. The
familiar stance of "it's not up to us to educte *them*," which  implies
that those others read minds and figure out what they ought to be doing to
appease unspoken demands and expectations, is, furthermore, an unlikely
precursor to to "egalitarian relationships."
daphne.patai  @  spanport.umass.edu

Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 14:11:06 -0600
From: Marva Nelson <orisha @ SIU.EDU>
Subject: Men in the classroom
[Re the preceding message from Daphne Patai] 
        And, this, circular reasoning explains as well why women of color
"need" to keep teaching others about oppression, privilege, etc.  Because
those poor men, the ones in and out of the classroom, as well as others
don't know, can't see, and know of no resources to fall back and we have to
just keep on teaching because, of course, we are the nurturing earthmammas
of the world.  And that's why Mr. King dragged old Jasper behind a truck
because no one took the time to explain the history of race relations in
America and elsewhere and, if only one or several of us had taken the
responsibility of sitting down with those of his ilk and the men who just
don't get it, and give them extensive lessons on feminism, racism,
homophobia,.....,of course, squeezing this all in between our raising
children, holding relationships together, not to mention performing service
and research in our respective institutions, then they wouldn't have to
squint and read and struggle to understand their complicity, privilege and
need for reflection.
        Please, please, please, can we just kill this thread on men in the
classroom because it's a no-win proposition when those of us who take
exception to the notion of feminism being a capable tool of education a/k/a
academic discipline that "teaches" and is not just simply touchy-feely just
want to bash it to death instead of providing constructive criticism.  I'm
not against seeing the holes in feminist theory, because God knows there
are some, but why is it some of you are so willing to challenge feminist
work as being viable because women do it? And the in-your-face implications
of how male brainwashing is threaded throughout this notion that Feminist
Studies or Women's Studies is not as valuable as what men teach or do. 
Plus, I'm sure the index has more than enough fodder about this subject and
the constantly re-surfacing discussion of this same old same old....
Sisterly yours,
Marva Nelson
Women's Studies
Southern Illinois University
  at Carbondale

Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 17:34:10 -0800
From: moahm @ JUNO.COM
Subject: Men in the classroom
These questions Joanne posed are not only good for Marc, but I think they
are ones that should be posed to women claiming to be feminists, or state
that their thinking is informed by feminist theory.  I have to confess, I
fall down on understanding the range and types of religious feminism
because of some of my biases as well as limited time. I am not even sure
what post-Christian is.  I have no idea what 9-5 is, other than a movie
with Melanie Griffiths (sp?), Dolly Parton and Dabney Coleman and Women
Against Pornography--is that informed by the work of Dworkin and
McKinnon?  Lest you think that I am not involved as an activist, I
volunteer as an advocate in a shelter for women, facilitate support
groups for women who have been battered, sexually assaulted and/or are
homeless and also co facilitate 2 Batterer Intervention Program groups.
Yet I belong to no organizations and do not read (time constraints)
feminist magazines.  In groups that make sexist jokes (even women will
degrade other women through story telling and jokes), I weigh a code of
politeness against speaking out and sometimes remain silent or leave
depending on how safe I feel, whether I believe I will be heard.  I will
not fall back to dominating and abusive behaviors to interrupt sexism.
As to the few male friends I have, they are hardly non-sexist and I do my
best to set boundaries, model respect and ask that it be returned.  I
have noticed that people that hang with me for awhile start to develop a
critical voice, but one that often applies to other people's behavior and
not their own.  My point here is that if we interrogated all woman on
their feminism, we might find them lacking in awareness, in breadth and
scope of understanding.  Query some women, and they might declare there
is no need for feminist activism because we have equality and the "victim
feminists" have got it wrong.  Because I claim to be a feminist and a
woman does not mean that I have it down.   It does mean that my personal
experiences have involved struggling with barriers simply because of my
sex and my gender, experiences that men do not have in the same ways or
with the same frequency.
I believe that as a tool of social analysis, feminisms are invaluable.  I
draw on an analysis of power that has its roots in the Frankfurt School
and in the sociological theory of Giddens but is informed by feminist
theory and ethnography of communication(see Dell
Hymes)--multi-disciplinary.  My degree was in communications studies.  My
grounding in feminist theory did not come through women's studies because
the course work was not available at a graduate level.  I wish that it
had been because it would have provided me with the classroom interaction
which is more conducive to my learning style.  It certainly would have
helped with some of the more theoretically dense works (for me) of Cixous
and Kristeva for example.
So in answer to the question about Women's Studies, I think that it draws
on a number of disciplines while drawing attention to the work of and
about women that would not otherwise be presented in most of the core
curriculum.  An added benefit is that in these classes it is already a
given that the work of women is worthy of study and the feminist
perspectives have value.  I also would like to add that those classes
that were not part of WS put were taught from a feminist perspective were
of greater value to me than those that did not include a critical

Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 13:17:17 -0500
From: "Carolyn I. Wright" <ciwright @ MAILBOX.SYR.EDU>
Subject: Men in the classroom
Thank you, Kathy, for this message.
I try to refer to myself as a "feminist in process"--I have no doubt that
I have been socialized with a gender bias along with the
rest of us. I
struggle with that and keep myself open to learning and increasing my
awareness but I am not perfect.Knowing the theory is not enough. Being
active in the cause for women is not enough. It truly is a lifestyle
change..it affects all parts of our lives including the way we interact at
work and the way we raise children, the way we are in relationship with
men as well as with women.Still...when someone talks about a new college
president, physcian, professor, etc.,I often mentally think "male" first.
Even though all my physcians are female--eyes, teeth, gyn, etc., my
professors have mostly been female and certainly my mentors have mostly
been female. So---it is a process for me. I stay willing in the struggle.
Carolyn Wright

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