Women’s Studies: A Major Error- Our Campus Scout Reports from the Front

Women’s Studies is a major that has been offered at an increasing number of colleges and universities since women’s colleges and institutions like the University of California at Berkeley incorporated it into their curricula 20 or so years ago. Luckily, it has not yet reached my own school, Butler University, but it has been added to other local colleges’ lists of majors. Its proponents want very much for it to be considered a science that gives the “women’s viewpoint” of all subjects.

The feminist ideology from which women’s studies springs can be broken down into two inconsistent schools of thought regarding the differences between the sexes. The first school teaches that there is absolutely no physiological or psychological difference between men and women. They are equal in all things, the only dividing line being the respective reproductive systems. This view results in one camp of women’s studies professors teaching regular physiology with an inordinate emphasis on the female reproductive system, as in the feminist physiology handbook Our Bodies, Our Selves by the Boston Women’s Health Collective. This viewpoint advocates the complete destruction of sex roles and characteristics and seeks to replace traditional roles, and even appearances, with androgyny.

By contrast, the second school of feminist thought teaches that men and women are different, and not at all equal. Women are the superior sex and have only been kept subordinate by the brute force of men. Feminists seek to separate themselves from society so that they can share their superiority and support each other. They seek to destroy societal norms of beauty and, in some cases, personal hygiene. They go out of their way to be as ugly and repulsively unattractive to men as possible. This view supports G.K. Chesterton’s definition of “feminist” as “one who dislikes the chief feminine characteristics.” Followers of this philosophy advocate “women’s physiology,” meaning a rejection of the “male dominated medical profession” in favor of herbal remedies, health food, and homeopathic cures dispensed by women. For example, a “female healer” might suggest teas and herbal enemas for appendicitis.

Despite their mutual contradictions and glaring fallacies, these two schools claim to promote the same principles. History taught from the “women’s perspective,” which claims to be the official viewpoint of all women everywhere, is actually the presentation of a catalogue of crimes committee by men against women during various points in western civilization. Occasionally Eastern civilizations are included, but the approach is the same. These crimes against women range from forced marriages, rape, want of suffrage, and no private property to lack of abortion on demand, unavailability of free birth control, and proscriptions against ordination into the priesthood. What few matriarchies there have been in history are extolled as peaceful, socialist utopias superior to patriarchies. Matriarchies, they say, should be established once more to counterbalance the cruel, warlike patriarchies, eventually overwhelm them, and establish peace on earth.

In order to argue in favor of matriarchies, one must begin from the premise that women are superior to men and are pacifists by nature. Therefore, any government made up of nothing but women and free from patriarchal trappings would be totally different from — and better than — present ruling institutions. They would have, so the theory goes, no military or weapons of any kind. Yet countries with women as heads of state — Pakistan, India, Great Britain, and the Philippines, for example — have not ushered in the obsolescence of war and strife. (Just ask the Argentines.)

One of the problems with studying women’s history is that you cannot separate it from the history of men. Without both sexes, there wouldn’t even be a history. Up until very recently, history was not broken into two such sections. Women are mentioned frequently in all works of history, because events throughout the chronicles of mankind did not occur to men alone. Wars, plagues, miracles, and revolutions involve both sexes. A truthful history cannot be written from the point of view of one sex, and up until modern times no one has tried. (Imagine trying to write the history of the Middle Ages without including popular devotions to Mary, or the history of Christianity without including women saints.)

Feminist academic Sandra Harding says that the aim of women’s studies in the realm of science is “to reinvent science and theorizing itself to make sense of the women’s social experience.” Theoretically, adhering to a “women’s perspective” of science is a little like saying that the law of gravity is sexist because it was discovered by Newton and not his wife. Practically speaking, scientific research that caters to women’s experience includes getting rid of the female responsibility of childbearing and menstruation. In a Monty Python skit that illustrates the absurdity of such an idea, Eric Idle plays a man who wants to be a woman so that he can bear children. John Cleese says to him in exasperation, “You can’t have any babies! You haven’t got a womb! Where is the fetus going to gestate, in a box?” If the women’s scientists have their way, it may well come to that.

Women’s studies departments are inevitably related to whatever gay student groups exist on campus because the social and political philosophy of feminism promotes lesbianism as a means of liberating women from patriarchy. I was once told by an angered teacher who would not believe that I rejected the feminist movement, “You’re just catering to white heterosexual norms!” My reply was quite honest: “But I like white heterosexual males.”

Despite overwhelming student opinion against them, gay student groups exist on campuses because of the support of activist faculty members found especially in politicized departments like women’s studies.

At Butler University, the average student reaction to the campus Gay Alliance lies somewhere between violence and cold indifference. Last fall the Alliance attempted to trick the student body into appearing as if it supported gay rights by declaring only 24 hours ahead of time that Gay Rights Day would also be Denim Day To Fight Homophobia — a clever tactic on a college campus where everyone lives in jeans. Nevertheless, the next day there were few students wearing denim and many wearing anything else possible, from sweats to dinner jackets. (Soon thereafter a group of students facetiously entitling themselves the Butler Heterosexual Alliance asked the campus to show support for heterosexual lifestyles by wearing shoes.)

Sappho is overemphasized in women’s literature because she is the only female poet from ancient Greece whose works have survived and because she is thought to have been a lesbian. As she wrote at least one poem to her daughter and also wrote about men, at one point she must have been interested in at least one man. Very little is known about her, so there is ample room for speculation and mythologizing, and the professors take full advantage of it. By invoking Sappho’s name as both a poet and a lesbian, they attempt to justify their ideology and practices. It is a basic set-subset fallacy: Sappho was a wonderful creative person who was also a lesbian; therefore, all lesbians are wonderful creative people.

Women’s literature does not include romance novels. This fact is one of the most amusing aspects of the field. I work in a used bookstore, and I know that to deny that romance novels are written by women, about women, and for women is a joke. Women of all ages routinely come into the store and buy unwieldy stacks of them at a time. I’ve seen women reading them in junior high schools, college dormitories, and nursing homes.

Feminists are disgusted by romance novels for obvious reasons. They depict traditional relationships between men and women. There are simply no sexual aberrations in the books at all. Two people fall in love, (usually) get married, and go off happily to spend the rest of their lives together or die together. Barbara Cartland does not write about cross-dressers or bisexuals. To feminists, therefore, such books are the scourge of the modern world. Imagine a woman letting herself become dependent on a man and voluntarily putting herself into the state of slavery called marriage! The whole feminist approach to women’s literature fails because it doesn’t include what most women read and does include what most women would not even let in their homes. A vast majority of literate women would rather pick up a novel by Emily Brontë or a guide on how to apply make-up than an anthology of twentieth-century lesbian authors.

Feminists claim that the core of Western literature is sexist and should be removed from the college curriculum. To come to such a conclusion, they must either never have read these works or must have read them with the stubborn, preconceived belief that they were sexist. The female characters in Greek drama and poetry, whether mortals or goddesses, are some of the strongest and most complex to be found anywhere. (Medea a victim? Antigone docile? Lysistrata downtrodden?) Socrates’s views of women and their education were probably the most radical of his day, yet he is also lumped in the roster of dead white European males. Male writers throughout the ages have formed the foundation of Western thought, and to excoriate them for their gender is witless.

Women’s music does not include mainstream female musicians and singers or even semi-professional heterosexual musicians. It consists of very bad folk music with titles like “Leaping Lesbians” and “Ode to a Gym Teacher.” Some heterosexual female musicians, including some very good blues guitarists, show up at women’s music festivals, but they are the exception. The nonconformists are immediately made to feel out of place because love songs about men do not go over well with the audiences.

Women’s spirituality, which is taught as religion or philosophy, involves rejecting Christianity in favor of neo-paganism or trying to transform it to fit feminist ideals. The first option means some kind of nature worship, New Age dogma about the magical powers of crystals, rocks, and the menstrual cycle, goddess worship, witchcraft, or a combination of any of these things.

The reasoning behind rejecting Christianity is that it is “male-centered” — God the Father, the patriarchs, the prophets, Jesus as the Son, the twelve apostles, papacy, and the Catholic hierarchy — and therefore not binding upon free-thinking feminists who believe that just because men wrote the rules, women are exempt from following them. They turn to worshipping a goddess instead of God, invoking names such as Athena, Artemis, Isis, or Gaia. Whereas Christianity is said to be gloomy, guilt-ridden, and preoccupied with sin, witches can dance in the woods or frolic around bonfires in their backyards with their covens and call it religion. If the advent of Christ set all people free, male and female, then these women want to sell themselves back into bondage.

Those who choose to stay within the fold of Christianity try to mold it to fit their own opinions and ideology. This option may be the worst one, since they do much more damage than if they separate themselves from Christianity completely. Reshaping the Catholic Church in particular includes insisting on inclusive language in biblical readings, prayers, and homilies, incorporating “liturgical dances” into the Mass, working at parishes and Newman Centers and adopting inappropriate and misleading titles such as “associate pastor” or “associate chaplain.” Demands about reversing the Church’s teachings on abortion, birth control, and the ordination of women are made to local authorities regularly. When in administrative positions in campus ministries, they appeal to psychology when counseling students, rather than trying to help them spiritually. Troubled young people who look to campus ministries for help want concrete spiritual solutions to their problems. They don’t want to be referred to a group therapy session at a downtown psychotherapist’s office.

After taking classes where they are taught these types of outlooks on life and other people, the students often wonder whether the whole major is a waste of time and money. The question they must ultimately ask themselves or their counselors is: “What kind of job or career can I find with a degree in women’s studies?” My favorite teacher of all time answered that same question in her typically practical yet insightful way: “If you don’t teach, you can get a job working in business or unions making sure that affirmative action is implemented, inclusive language is used, and the female employees aren’t harassed or paid less. But don’t expect to get any dates for the rest of your life.”


  • Kimberly J. Gustin

    At the time this article was published, Kimberly J. Gustin was a student at Butler University.

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