Saturday, March 29, 2008

The End of Women's Studies

I came across a rather interesting article written by Tedra Osell over at "Broadsheet" entitled "Is Women's Studies Dead?".

Apparently, in the UK, the undergraduate courses in Women's Studies are all but disappearing due to lack of numbers. And now that society is no longer "patriarchal and oppressive 'male hegemonies'", the need for the study of women's issues today is subsiding. Women are now opting to study courses that will assist in the need for employment or further career advancement.

I remember as a student at high school (so many years ago) when the subject of Women's Studies was first introduced - our teacher, a woman, was rather different from our other teachers - she rode a motorbike! she had a short manly haircut! she wore pants! My goodness how she rocked the establishment. We, her students, thought ourselves pioneers of the feminist cause. We were proud to be the first to study this revolutionary subject at our school. We saw ourselves of pioneers for the feminist movement. We were 15yo young women who had ambitions of asserting our independence in a male dominated world. We lived just on the other side of the feminist movement of the '60s and '70s - and we didn't want to be like our mothers - stay at home housewives - we wanted careers - and good ones at that. After high school we all planned to go to university and study.

My how things have changed. Some of us did go on to university - but we didn't continue our Women's Studies - it wasn't available at the time. And from what I could gather, the subject of Women's Studies was soon dropped from the high school curriculum of my old school. (Note: my old high school now calls itself a College!).

Whether the need for an undergraduate course in Australia is still relevant - I couldn't tell you. It's been a while since I was at university - though looking at some of the current courses being offered today - Women's Studies doesn't feature. It may be a sub-topic hidden away in an Arts or English course - but a separate degree it is not.

So, where does this leave us today - is Women's Studies a "dead" issue?? Is there any need to have a separate undergraduate course or should it be amalgamated into a more broader study of societal issues as a whole. Is it now, like the "Classics" becoming antiquated.

How do young women today perceive the feminist struggle which dated back to the 19th century and continued on into the 20th century. Do they take for granted all those things hard fought for years before they were even born?? Do they perceive a need to study this area - obviously not if the number of students enrolled is anything to go by.

A topic on one of the Forums I visit claim that there is no longer a need to study "Women's History" - certain aspects - suffragettes, feminism - yes - the this history of women - no. As women made up a large portion of society in general it is not necessary to study their "involvement" as separate from the male portion.

I would be very interested to know how Women's Studies and for that matter, Women's History, is perceived in other countries.

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