InstitutionalOpinion

Women’s Studies needs a divorce from feminism

“Why Women’s and Gender Studies?” the department’s website asks. Because, according to its “About Us” page, the world needs feminism. But is it wise for a university department to align itself so closely to a single social movement? Should its students be wary and critical of a discipline that treats an ideology as the peak of intellectualism, as the end to an ongoing debate?

This is my problem with the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. By overtly associating itself with feminism, it has become regressive simply because it refuses to acknowledge differing opinions. Whereas other departments in the Faculty of Arts encourage students to reach independent conclusions about important topics, WGS is premised on the assumption that feminism is the ultimate good for society, and only an uneducated, misogynistic asshole would think otherwise.

To be clear, I fully believe that the type of equality feminism endorses is the ultimate good for society. But “feminism” does not simply denote parity among the sexes. The modern movement’s homogenous and seemingly uncritical support of abortion, workplace gender quotas, and controversial campaigns like Black Lives Matter and the anti-Zionist Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement means that feminism has become heavily biased and one-sided. By association, the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies has, too.

WGS uses modern feminist thought as a framework for picking and choosing aspects of political science, literature media studies, ethnic studies, disability studies, sociology, and history to incorporate into a scholarly paradigm that seeks to explain social relations in relatively simple terms. In doing so, it ignores alternative ideas that may hold just as much truth as those put forth by feminists.

This also means that the content taught by WGS professors panders to only a certain group of people who already possess a specific set of beliefs. I strongly disagree with the claim that radical feminism should be trimmed and refined to become more palatable for everyone, but at a school that claims its goal is to “(uplift) the whole people,” course material should be accessible for all. Any discipline that discourages critical thought from its students or teaches opinions as facts has no place at the University of Alberta.

The Department of Political Science doesn’t advertise its program on its website with pictures from the most recent NDP convention or somber-looking students holding “I need socialism because…” cards. In the same way, WGS should refrain from being so explicitly partisan. Women’s Studies has degenerated from a serious, meaningful discipline to hour-long mental masturbation sessions for smug liberal arts students trying to wield power over those they deem to be less politically correct. For these individuals, education is not an intellectual pursuit — it’s about achieving status and validation within a political movement without taking the time to consider other convincing perspectives.

17 Comments

  1. Have you ever even been in a wgs class? Id guess not since you seem to think a core part of the department that helps it grow and flourish is funny. Id also advise you to do some more reading into the subject.

  2. Feminism is gender studies is only focused on giving ever more advantages and power to women as are most institutions in society. It was never about “equality”, but female superiority and full on matriarchy. Men’s issues and inequalities are never considered as though they could never exist. Feminism is an ideology, like Marxism, the Inquisition and all the rest… #killallmen pretty much sums it up.

  3. Arts & Humanities full of marxists & feminists, STEM full of people with common sense & actually are productive

  4. Okay, so I only say this based on the assumption that the UofA’s WGS program is similar to WGST at the UofL … but as a student in this program, nearing the end of my studies, I take issue with a lot of what you’ve said here… that said, (and it’s probably because over the past 4 years I’ve learned to critically question EVERYTHING, and at least attempt to understand opinions that differ from my own), I’m genuinely curious as to what lead you to form these opinions… I doubt you’ll engage, but I do have some questions…

    1. You say that the WGS department signifies a university aligning itself with “a single social movement” that “refuses to acknowledge differing opinions” … I’m curious as to what SINGLE movement you associate with feminism? Because in my studies, I’ve learned that there are many different kinds of feminism, that all signify some sort of ‘movement’,and they don’t always align with one another. However, they tend to serve a specific purpose in contexts of specific places or times…

    2. You say that you believe that “the type of equality feminism endorses IS the ultimate good for society”, but that alternative ideas demand more weight… so I’d like to know what “type of equality” you feel ALL feminisms promote? And also, what opinions should be promoted over feminist based arguments? In your eyes, what framework holds the most value? And what qualifies one school of thought as superior to another?

    3. You say that the WGS department “panders” to a specific group. What group is that? And whose voices do you feel are not being heard? … because to me that sounds like a good basis for some feminist critique….

    4. You say that “any discipline that discourages critical thought has no place at the UofA”; I would tend to agree with this statement, but I think your article implies that you believe the WGS department there discourages critical thought, which I find kind of hard to believe… if that is the case, then what the crap are they studying? Or rather, what exactly do you think those people are studying/working towards? Because in my experience, critical thought is the foundation of most feminist theory/movement.

    … I really could go on…

    I guess it’s just difficult for me to take any of this seriously when the author contradicts herself, and doesn’t include any evidence to back these claims. I’m not really sure what you have against the field… but like I said, I’d be curious to know the actual reasoning (if any) behind all of these claims.

  5. As long as you begin with the premise that feminism is an opinion rather than an academic discipline, your arguments will fall flat.

    Maybe I don’t believe in evolution – it’s only an opinion, no? Perhaps the university should stop funding the biology department if they are going to continue to align themselves with such a movement.

  6. I see that you wrote a previous article stating that men can’t be feminists. (The actual wording you used equated “male” with “man”, but that’s just even more incorrect, as it assumes that all males have a masculine gender identity.) How do you propose to speak out against feminism (and WGS) if you don’t understand what feminism is?

    Let me be clear. I’m not arguing that there are not misogynistic “feminists” out there, or that there isn’t a “feminism” out there that is all about gaining that status and validation on the premise of making gender equality a reality. But when it comes to the feminism promoted by the U of A’s WGS department, and by those students within it, it comes down to this:

    Those who have a proper understanding of, and who are truly devoted to, the concept of feminism, and to the WGS department more specifically, are not going to care about status, popularity, or validation within political movements. It is in no way about achieving status, achieving popularity, or achieving validation from peers/academics/broader societies in general. It is about the fundamental belief that all humans ought to be given equal opportunity in everything they do, yet that there are many who are not (for a wide variety of complicated and intersecting reasons), and that this oppression needs to be identified, brought to light, and the perpetuators–or perpetuating social structures–held accountable.

    Regarding WGS class discussions themselves: They are hardly about “mental masturbation”. The reality is, there are some seriously heavy topics discussed in WGS classes–the denouncement of which is hardly a source of self-righteousness, but instead of tears or rage. I am talking in-depth discussions of sexual assault, horrendous acts of violence against nonwhite populations, and far more. WGS students are concerned with discovering the truth about who is being marginalized, and about how this is or has been happening. They are all too familiar with the devastating effects that this marginalization has upon the oppressed to start suddenly forgetting what they’ve learned and putting non-WGS students down for not being in the department. These scholars should feel like good people for believing that no one demographic trait makes a person better than another, yes. This doesn’t automatically mean that they start acting like they’re better than those around them who aren’t familiar with feminism or the department. (Again: Are there students out there who make others feel bad for not taking WGS courses? Possibly. Is this the intention of the WGS department and, more broadly, feminism? Absolutely not.)

    You say that WGS students’ motivation is “about achieving status and validation within a political movement without taking the time to consider other convincing perspectives”. Yet WGS courses all across the department will methodically examine the ideas and education that have been circulating on a given topic, sometimes dating back hundreds upon hundreds of years. You claim that students in the department are “smug liberal arts students trying to wield power over those they deem to be less politically correct”, yet not only do the students (or professors) in any given WGS class come from a wide variety of departments, faculties, generations and life circumstances, but as stated previously, the very meaning of feminism, the very same principles upon which the department is founded, contradicts exactly what you’ve written.

  7. Jaded liberal arts student here! For someone who considers herself to be the peak of enlightened academia, and a person who represents the already-problematic PLLC nonetheless, you should seriously consider reading a book. Any book. And perhaps a white conservative female may find the discourse of intersectionality difficult to grasp, thats what the entire department of WGS creates discussions about. This article, along with your Nazism one, are as embarrassing as your weak arguments.

  8. you think the oppression of marginalized groups is controversial? (the alternative being what? racism, sexism, ableism??) how can you write that feminism pushes what is good for society and then directly following that, write that it’s too controversial? feminism is about equality for all people and freedom from oppression.

  9. I am entirely baffled by this op-ed. Your premise is that we should question whether a faculty dedicated to the study of the marginalized group should tie itself to the belief that marginalized people should be considered as equal rather than lesser than others. You further posit that the ideology is ‘dangerous’ because it also considers other marginalized people who have been historically undervalued or eliminated from this ideology’s leaders, as well as from academic studies and historical records.

    You don’t actually list the “opposing viewpoints” that you seem to think should be given equal weight in the conversation. It makes sense that you wouldn’t clearly aligned with them, given that those viewpoints are misogyny, racism, anti-LGBTQ+, and xenophobia. However, you either need to study your subject material better or be upfront about who you are suggesting deserves equal footing.

  10. As someone who is actually in the program, I feel I have the experience to say that you couldn’t be more wrong. Your own opinion is biased as you clearly dont know anything about the faculty besides what is at face value and your own ideas.
    The wgs department welcomes adversary and conflicting ideas. Yes there is a focus on intersectional feminism, but i fail to see how that is a bad thing? So the faculty is not focused on a single issue. I am actually taking a wgs class on masculinity this semester.
    Before you publish again I urge you to do better research because this is embarrassing.

  11. “The modern movement’s homogenous and seemingly uncritical support of
    abortion, workplace gender quotas, and controversial campaigns like
    Black Lives Matter and the anti-Zionist Boycott, Divestment, and
    Sanctions Movement means that feminism has become heavily biased and
    one-sided.” Uh, the movement tackles oppression and – surprise! Oppression isn’t limited to gender: in fact, gender and race can intertwine to create interlocking oppressions. You may want to delve a bit deeper than the Mirriam-Webster definition of “feminism” next time you want to write about the concept. And FWIW: I uncritically support abortion, workplace gender quotas, BLM, and BDS. And I’ve never taken a women’s studies class in my life.

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