Monday, November 26, 2007

Is there "truth" in women's studies?

Personally, David Horowitz finds women's studies too political.

In fact, his discomfort with the discipline led him to write an article entitled No Ideologue Left Behind in the Weekly Standard to indite women's studies and other so-called "soft" disciplines (like "African American Studies, Peace Studies, Cultural Studies, Chicano Studies, Gay Lesbian Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Whiteness Studies, Communications Studies, Community Studies" - just to name a few of Horowitz's least favorite areas of academic exploration)that are, according to Horowitz,
the result not of scholarship or scientific developments but of political pressures brought to bear by ideological sects.

As a women's and gender studies scholar myself (and perhaps a member of the "Left" Horowitz seems to dislike so much), I cannot say that I am much surprised by Horowitz's, er, analysis. There really isn't much in his accusation that is so original. (I mean, at least he didn't ask what one does with a degree in women's and gender studies.)

What does not cease to amaze me, though, is the fact that the positivist idea that there is such a thing "value neutral" "Truth" (or even "truth") still seems to be so pervasive - and unrefuted. Maybe my perspective is just a result of all of that "indoctrination" I received when theorizing about epistemology in women's studies methodology courses, but I kind of thought that there was some consensus - or at least awareness - of the idea that knowledge is situated. As the executive director of the National Women's Studies Association Allison Kimmich smartly points out in Free Exchange on Campus,
Horowitz suggests that only women's studies and other disciplines he identifies are politicized, while others are presumably "pure" or "value-neutral." In fact, all academic work takes place within a historical, cultural, and political context. For example, we value and support public K-12 education in the US because we believe that an educated citizenry can better participate in our democracy.

And it's not like women's studies practitioners receive a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to tenure requirements, peer review, and other processes academic institutions use to self-regulate either.

One thing Horowitz does get right, though, is his assessment that "[t]he discipline of Women's Studies" is "the most important of [the] new fields" that came out of the political movements of the 1960s. Or, at least this interdisciplinarian would like to think so.

[Aside: And if Thomas Friedman is bemoaning the lack of politicalization of "Generation Q", then aren't "politicized" disciplines like women's studies helping to get those young'uns more involved in the political process?]

Please note that as my M.A. thesis project is complete, the George Washington University is no longer overseeing research conducted in conjunction with this blog (effective June 2007 to present). The Informed Consent Materials created while this blog was under GWU's IRB oversight are still available for your information and the principles outlined in them are still being used as a general guide for my continued work.

1 comment:

  1. Joan Tronto and I wrote about the charge that feministprofessors are accussed of being political advocates in the classroom (in 1998!). We de-bunked the idea that any class is "neutral."
    The cite our article


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