Stephanie Oliveira 1
Chapter 1: What is Women Studies
What is Women Studies?
Women studies courses investigate women’s experiences, perspectives, and
contributions, placing women at the center of inquiry.
Barrie Thorne- says that women studies has been a two-pronged project:
1. It has created courses within disciplines, such as women and literature
or sociology of women that seek to incorporate the experiences of women
into the subject matter of the disciplines.
2. To create interdisciplinary courses and lines of inquiry. Allows us to
understand aspects of the world that other subject (like sociology,
philosophy etc.) would not cover
This is two different things that women’s studies focuses one
Women studies have generated new concepts and approaches to
understanding the world.
We cannot understand the world without understanding women’s
experiences, perspectives, and contributions.
Women’s studies emphasize an interactive learning process that challenges
students intellectually and emotionally.
Women’s studies emerged from questions women asked about their own
experiences, and this process remains a central part of women’s education.
The values of feminism have shaped an approach to teaching termed feminist
For many women, especially those who have experienced discrimination,
educational institutions of our society have been limiting, rather than
empowering, to women.
The practices of educational institutions frequently encourage women to
pursue jobs in female areas and not in male areas.
Men have historically exercised authority in institutions of higher learning,
determining “valid” areas of inquiry and “legitimate” methods of analysis and
There has been some progress in the past four decades, but for the most part
the massive outpouring of research by women’s studies scholars has not
been integrated into mainstream education.
Emergering from the feminist movement of the late 1960s and 1970s,
women’s studies courses were political.
By 1989, over 500 colleges in the USA had women’s studies programs. In the
past 40 years, thousands of book and articles about women have been
Gender- the socially constructed behaviors and characteristics that are
associated with each sex.
Sexism- behaviors, attitudes, and institutions based on the assumption of
male superiority. Patriarchy- refers to “power of the father” and is used by feminists in two
1. To describe a society in which older men are in positions of power
2. To describe a male-dominated society
Initially, women’s scholars endeavored to address the absence of women in
the literature of varied academic areas by uncovering women’s
It quickly became apparent that the central concepts of many academic
disciplines excluded women or assumed women’s inferiority to men.
About 20 years ago, anthropologist Emily Martin exposed how “scientific”
descriptions of the egg and the sperm relied on stereotyped notions of male
and female roles and power.
In the field of history, subject matter was traditionally limited to the public
arena, such as political parties, wars and the economy. The domestic world,
where many women spent a great deal of their time, was considered trivial
or irrelevant, and the relationship between the domestic and public worlds
In literature, the definition of great literature was based on standards that
white male authors generated. Feminist anthropologists have demonstrated
the important contributions women make in forging societies and have
examined the status of women in relationship to public and private activities.
By emphasizing the contributions of women, women’s studies is
transforming the terrain of human knowledge.
Examining gender is more than examining women’s lives but it also includes
acknowledging the enormous influence of gender on all of our lives.
Gender Studies examines the ways that ideas about the social relations of
women and men structure our politics and culture and the way we all
experience our world.
Feminism- Originated in Frances and was introduced in this country in the