Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Rebranding of Women's Studies Courses in Academia

An interesting discussion occurred on the CBC's The Current radio show recently (link below) between the host and two journalists. 

In the radio interview Barbara Kay will argue these courses are recruitment mechanisms into an ideology of feminism. The Toronto Star Reporter, Catherine Porter will whine about women not being representative in positions like partners in law firms and that same old argument Parliament. She will posit these courses are designed to get fresh ideas so women can have it all, a career, motherhood, vacations and maybe even a husband. Barbara will describe it as the Utopian ideal. Marxism was one of those same Utopian ideologies from whence feminism came.

What Porter fails to realize is women can have these things but only if they get a partner who will look after the children and is prepared to make the same sacrifices as a man by working long days and commuting great distances. The other option is to stay single and get a nanny or not have any children at all. There are choices but what Porter really means is lets just appoint a certain number of women to these positions (the old quota game) so they don't have to do it on merit and then they can have it all. Nothing much has changed in the feminist song book despite the much larger proportion of degrees granted to females over males. Its still an entitlement mentality and women deserve to be placed on a pedestal.

Recruiting feminists must be losing its appeal at Canadian Universities so the resident feminist faculty are trying to lure new recruits by new marketing techniques.  When a business wants to refresh its product it assigns the "New and Improved Label". The professional feminists in academia are re-branding, re-positioning and trying to attract men too would you believe.  They aren't necessarily pushing masculinity mind you but if you are male and gay you may just qualify as part of the "gender" portion of the re-branding.  If you are a transsexual or transvestite you qualify. Have you seen the label they use for the gay community now. It is LGBT or is an initialism referring collectively to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. You all may qualify for study along with women.  That opens up to a larger more inclusive audience - doesn't it? If you are a male - does that increase your interest?

At McGill University in Montreal the new branding in March 2009 gives us the name

McGill Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF)

"The McGill Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF) examines social perspectives on women and women's contributions to society."

You see the emphasis is on women but it is hoped the new name will attract more men and women of different sexualities and diversities.

Here is a sampling of these courses:

WMST 200 (3) Introduction to Women's Studies . Offered in the: Fall

This course introduces students to theoretical positions and topical issues in the broad, interdisciplinary field of Women’s Studies. This course aims to demonstrate how “women” is applied as a social and political category imbued with certain, yet contested meanings depending on place and time, and cannot usefully be considered a self-evident effect of biology. Students are introduced to a great variety of analytical tools and topical intersections that will enable them to entangle seemingly natural and obvious truth claims regarding the meanings of gender, sex, sexuality, and feminism in contemporary societies. In addition to key academic texts, we will look at online material, view films and podcasts, and discuss news stories on matters such as gay marriage, sex trafficking, ‘hook up’ cultures, and creative new reproductive strategies.
Elisabeth Engebretsen
MWF 1:35-2:25 pm

WMST 301 (3) Women's Studies Current Topics 1 . Offered in the: Fall

Topic for Fall 2009: Queer Cultures: Gender systems and sexual meanings in a modern, global world
(Prerequisite: WMST 200 or PHIL 242 or permission of instructor.)This course explores alternative sexual and gender expressions cross-culturally, with an emphasis on the modern, global period, and ethnographic accounts of same-sex sexuality and non-normative and trans-gender forms. We examine how sexuality and gender intersect with formations of modern nation states, colonialism, religion, race, and ethnicity worldwide. The course literature emphasizes accounts of people’s lived experiences in different yet intersecting cultural locations, through examples of identity formation, coming out practices, non-normative families incl. same-sex marriage, rights and recognition, and the globalization of queer identity and culture.
Elisabeth Engebretsen
MW 10:05am-11:25 am

The question remains - what do you do with a degree in women's studies after its all said and done? The purpose of the re-branding is to attract more students to keep the programs alive. There are only so many tax supported professional feminist jobs out there and with government cutbacks on the horizon they will be fewer in number. MJM

From the CBC "The Current" web site:

Women Studies 
Forty years ago, there was a revolution on university campuses across North America. No longer content to accept the status quo as defined by male professors, women created a new field of study ... one centred on their own experiences and perspectives.
In the United States, San Diego State University became the first to establish a women's studies program in 1970. Canadian universities and colleges quickly followed suit. And today, the field stretches everywhere from China to India to Uganda. But at the same time, the field is under-going a major shift. Women's studies departments from Harvard to Queen's are being renamed as "gender", "equality" or "sexuality" studies or in some cases all of them.
The Women's Studies Department at Simon Fraser University is in the process of changing its name to The Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies. We heard from Catherine Murray, the department's chair.

Women's studies departments were an early part of the women's liberation movement. And the name change has sparked a debate about the state of that movement, as well as what its goals should be. For their thoughts on those questions, we were joined by two women. Catherine Porter is a columnist with The Toronto Star. She was in Toronto. And Barbara Kay writes a column for The National Post. She was in Montreal.

Follow the link below or click on the player here.

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