The State of Women's Studies, 1973

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 E A §ax&«;1hovg.«’r: mike Twjéfcll U5meu's gudfeo Cflfiuua aT' no.9:

You've probably already seen the cncloscd (from this week's Voice). I am sending it to illustrate the point that

there are many differing conceptions of what Women's Studies is or should be. For example, at Richmond it is clear that Women's Studies is not considered to be, as Kate and Annette stated, separate from the Women's Movement.

Is it then possible to hold a conference on the established intellectual foundations of Women's Studies? Also, I caught a hint, in what Annette and Suzanne were saying,

of an intention or desire to render Women's Studies at Barnard respectable to Columbia. This is the old legitimacy—via—the—approval-of-men route: it is bound

to be destructive to the growth of a lively and autonomous field of study.

Underlying all this is the deep political question: is the Women's Movement reformist or revolutionary? If Women's Studies is to be, after all, only another department like American Studies, then the impact of it is limited. Hence

if the focus of the conference is to be questions that the field, Women's Studies, raises, one of the questions is: the relation of Women's Studies to the Women's fiovement.

Another is, Women's Studies and the University; and another is, Women's Studies in relation to traditional disciplines. After all, hasn't "academic" always meant "male"? Aren't detachment, objectivity, the statistical, uninvolved approach to data of traditional and modern academic fields, the epitome of male culture as it has been transmitted in American universities?

In other words, the conception of a purely academic or "straight" conference on Women's Studies is not an over- view of the state of the art, but rather, a statement, and a position on what Women's Studies ought to be. As such, it is bound to be furiously contested and/or boycotted by many Movement women.

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Hester Eisenstein June 22, 1973

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ie villdgé Vo1€:E,‘Janr;» 21, 1973

Conflicts within Women’s Studies

y Allis Rosenberg Wolfe

Over the past few years, the evelopment of Women’s Studies rograms on American college ampuses has paralleled the rapid rowth of the feminist movement. ow that the first programs are lmost three years old, it is time 3 subject them to a critical evalu- tion. For the past two years I ave been teaching in the I/omen’s Studies program at Lichmond College. The program ; the only one within the City Uni- ersity of New York system, and ne of the first to be established in rte country. At Richmond, stu- ents can major or minor in Vomen's Studies. The program ires its own staff and develops ;s own courses.

When I first started to teach in he program last fall, I was ec- tatic at having the opportunity to .articipate with a community of yomen who were engaging in ‘ rious scholarship, and who

ere sharing in a teaching and

arning experience that would eflect the positive energy of the eminist movement out of which it vas born. Now, after a year and a Ialf, I can sadly report that this

Dodging baseball - hats in

Search of

female culture

did not happen at Richmond College.

The situation at Richmond, precisely because it is one of the first collegiate Women's Studies programs, can serve as a model for the pitfalls to be avoided in the creation of such programs elsewhere. It should be noted that despite the__(_)ppositio_n_existing in many institutionsrgfor the inau- guration of Women’s Studies——the usual case presented is the old sexist view that women‘s past and present is inseparable from that of men—Women‘s Studies rests on awareness that women have had a separate historical experi- ence whose changing forms can be studied. It women‘s experience and position is ever to be fully un- derstood and changed, it necessi- tates a separate curriculum of study.

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There are different ways such a curriculum has been developed. Some colleges offer courses per- taining to women—Women and Literature within existing English departments, or Women in Amer- ican History taught within the his- tory department. Other institu- tions have moved to develop sepa- rate departments of Women‘s Studies. To leave courses within existing departments, proponents of the latter path argue. would be to leave control of the courses in the hands of men. Most depart- ment chairpersons are men, and it has been felt that once pressure to present a course evaporates, it would disappear from the curric- ulum.

Others argue, however, that‘ to put Women‘s Studies off by itself. with limited financial resources. would result in the field not being taken seriously by the college community. It might serve to ghettoize women by establishing an area of study that only narrows their knowledge of the rest of the world. Women should be trained, these people argue, to

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‘age Tltirtgf-six W0 men’s Studies

fontinued from preceding page lecome doctors, engineers. law- rers, and to move into other pro- essional areas that require mowledge of skills that women lave been discouraged from pur- suing. A separate curriculum would only interfere with meeting his goal.

While this debate has yet to be resolved. it is already clear that some Women's Studies programs are facing conflicts arising out of ideological divisions within the women's movement. These con- flicts are detrimental when they lead to programs which are not open to women of varying ideolog- ical persuasions. Departments cannot be dominated by any one group of women. who may argue that their approach is the one that speaks for all women. There is no one feminist ideology. Feminism

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W omen’s Studies

Continued from page 36

The program must be able to pass this knowledge on to the students. Programs such as the one begun at Sarah Lawrence College by his- torian Gerda Lerner serve as an example of how an intelligent and thoughtful program in women’s history is producing enthusiasm, scholarship, and meaningful fe- minist consciousness.

If Women’s Studies programs fail to attain these goals they have failed their students. At Rich- mond, moreover, the failure has been revealed in a developing anti-intellectualism whose sup-

. porters oppose disciplined schol-

arship. The emphasis upon purely non-academic pursuits produces a dilettantism which may produce a raised consciousness, and an awareness of female culture, but a program in which a female student can graduate without the slightest idea of how to write a paper, construct a logical ar- gument, or read a book critically —not to mention understanding of

uuw wumens position 15 main- tained through institutional struc- tures such as the family and knowledge of women’s role in the work force. If it is not intellec- tually rigorous, Women's Studies will continue to fail.

I know some will construe this article as an attack on Women’s Studies, or as an attack on the gay community. I do not mean it to be either. I have seen fantastic

: things happen to women who dis-

cover their own history and iden- tity. I have seen women become aware of themselves and reclaim

their lives. Being part of such a

program has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.

It is precisely because Women‘s

Studies programs are so impor- tant and can be of such great val- ue that these issues must be publicly aired. Conflicts within Women’s Studies have already functioned to destroy existing pro- grams that could have been of meaning to a varied group of women. Unless we move seriously to build a sound and intellectually rigorous program of Women’s Studies, open to all women, we will only be working against the development of a mature feminist consciousness among women.