“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.