Thoughts on "Women's Studies" at Barnard, 1971, page 3

Download: Transcript

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 View All

Show transcript

          determined by the educational and practical considerations that guide depart-
mental offerings along with the impalpable criterion that applies to each
course at Barnard: does it have a convincing life of its own? The applica-
tion of these traditional criteria will in itself discourage an incongruous
proliferation of courses.

One could raise the further objection: why courses on women? Don't they
make as little sense as courses on men? Those who propose such analogies are
failing to acknowledge that most courses already center around the experiences
and perceptions of males. In existing courses attention is rarely given to
the social and economic role of women, which means that there is a neglect
of the resulting psychological relationship between men and women, which in
turn influences the nature of society and partly determines its values.

The distinguished historian David Potter has observed that the frontier
phenomenon in American history, with the high value it has placed on certain
traits of aggressiveness and adventurousness, has resulted in significant
differences in the experiences of men and women in American society. Courses
on the West do not customarily explore this difference. Primary sources on
women's life in the West would not typically appear on a reading list, al-
though they add a needed perspective to a major period in American history.

To give another example, the implications of Social Darwinism for the
structuring of American society inspired a wide spectrum of critical response.
It ranged from the belief in cooperation to the belief in competition as the
most desirable means of social growth. what have loosely been called masculine
and feminine traits might be associated with these modes of behavior. How one
assessed sexual differences would perhaps influence one's intellectual con-
frontation with Darwinism. Such considerations are not apt to arise in
standard histories of social thought.