Women Studies Essays

Women Studies Essays-14
While there were a few new ones at postgraduate level (usually badged as gender studies), free standing undergraduate degrees gradually disappeared, although a few universities still offer women’s or gender studies routes through other degree programmes.Postgraduate courses have, however, proved more durable.

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Women featured only briefly, in lectures on family and kinship.

This was not a problem peculiar to sociology; women in other disciplines were facing similar biases in relation to what counted as knowledge.

What mattered, we were told, was ‘bums on seats’, and provided we could achieve this (and bring in the fees paid by said bums), the powers that be had little interest in what we were teaching.

Programmes such as this one were initially successful.

At the same time cuts in the funding of students, the decline in student grants and their replacement by loans meant many less advantaged women could no longer contemplate a degree course while others opted for ‘safer’ subjects.

As student numbers declined in the 1990s and early 2000s, many degree programmes shut down.Feminist knowledge, in particular feminist theory, was increasingly more abstract and distant from the everyday challenges facing women in the outside world.There was pressure to keep up with whatever intellectual trend was currently fashionable in order to appear respectably intellectual and ‘cutting edge’.It was the Thatcher era, with its cuts in central government funding of HE, leading to a lack of academic jobs and thus little opportunity for job mobility.Yet among those who had been recruited into academia before the job slump took hold, there was a critical mass of committed young feminists willing to put considerable effort into developing women’s studies.Looking back, we were remarkably successful within a very short period of time.The first women’s studies courses, at postgraduate level were set up in the early 1980s, initially at Kent and Bradford, then York, followed by many others.Some of us, inspired by feminist ideas, began to complain and then to act.By the middle of the 1970s feminists began to organise across disciplines as well as within them.Some of it has made, and continues to make, a difference in the ‘real world’, impacting on government and international policies in a number of areas, some of it still making connections with activism. Most of the surviving programmes in the UK are now branded as gender studies or gender and women’s studies.The pragmatic reason for this is that it is seen as less feminist, more respectable and less threatening than women’s studies.


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