For many, the mention of Women’s Studies conjures up images of angry feminists stewing over the injustices they feel men have inflicted upon them since the beginning of time. This, however, is a grossly distorted view of Women’s Studies. Stemming from the feminist movement of the 1970s, Women’s Studies was never intended to be an outlet for females holding a grudge against males, but rather a program designed to adjust aspects of modern academic curriculums which have conspicuously based their content on and around men–omitting for the most part the contributions of women to the advancement of civilization.
The Institute of Women’s Studies at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario defines Women’s Studies as a program that “provides a scholarly critique of the conventional ideas of what it means to be a human and a woman.” In fact, several WMST programs have already changed their name to Gender Studies, and many could easily change their title to Human Studies, incorporating race and sexual orientation as well as gender issues into their course material.
However, this may prove to be a hindrance to WMST according to one student who says:
“The biggest challenge facing Women’s Studies right now is the push to change it to Gender Studies.”
Although there is the possibility that Gender Studies and WMST can successfully co-exist, there is a fear that if Gender Studies replaces WMST, the essence of the original program could easily be lost.
The University of Calgary’s Dr. Janice Dickin believes that WMST has already won the “first battle,” meaning that the goals of the original WMST programs have been met now that women are recognized in course curriculums. The search for a new direction is now a primary concern for the program, and Dr. Dickin suggests that this is likely to come in the form of a merger between several programs.
The future of WMST is uncertain because it now stands at a fork in the academic road, trying to find a new direction. Will it be transformed through the incorporation of another program’s curriculum, or develop new women-centred goals to work towards and remain independent of other disciplines?
While the first battle may have been won, it seems the second is only just beginning.