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June 27, 2006

Comments

The Gonzman

The issue is, I think, that a degree in a field such as yours is (What one of mine is in, too, but alas, not a Ph.D.) demonstrates a capacity for intellectual rigor, whereas Feminist Studies is seen as one which is made up, with a political agenda and axe to grind.

I'm sure you've also seen a similar thing between the hard and soft sciences, which is a bias I subscribe to for the most part.

mythago

Realize that you're talking to people who are never, ever going to consider anything having to do with gender (other than anti-feminism) as in any way worthwhile. It's a waste of breath to try and persuade them that a Ph.D in Women's Studies is academic.

At the same time, it's good not to get defensive or hasten to act as though you certainly didn't get a Ph.D in an inferior subject. A bland "It's in English Medieval Studies. Why?" accomplishes the goal of diverting their childish attack without buying into the notion that the attack has any value.

Mermade

Speak of school, when are your office hours this summer? I'm going to drop by today for the writing lab.

Tom Head

I like mythago's advice.

FWIW, I hear similar comments about people who get degrees in African-American studies. The assumption is that you are awarded the degree for having the right opinions, rather than for conducting the right scholarship. This assumption is of course wrong, but it's still very real.

I suppose conservatives encounter a similar problem with doctorates in theology.

I'm a historian--I guess; I have an M.A. in humanities and have written or edited about a dozen reference books in history--and one of the things that holds me back is that I generally find military history unspeakably boring. And while I've studied five languages, the only one I can really work with in any useful way is English, though I can read Hebrew well enough to stumble through a siddur.

The Ph.D. I'm working on is in philosophy and religious studies. My B-plan was going to be applied ethics. But gender studies fascinates me, and I do sometimes find myself wishing that I had found some way of focusing on that field.


Cheers,

TH

mercedes

I'm sorry to have to differ with you on this subject Gonzman. It appears as if you have never taken a class in gender studies. I invite you to take a class in the field so you can see that there is indeed a high level of intellectual effort necessary. I'm a grad student in history and I have to tell you honestly that I was trully amazed when I started taking gender studies classes because I was actually required to think; whereas in other fields, I merely had to remember facts.

Tom Head

May I say for the record that I feel terrible about the way I chewed you out about the Other Thing and am deeply sorry for it, and not just because of what you have had to deal with recently, but because my behavior was churlish. I do think that your feet need to be held to the fire on these matters because you are a male women's studies professor and because you run a feminist blog, but there is a line between holding you accountable for your ideas and attacking your personal character and I played thirty rounds of hopscotch over it. For whatever it's worth, I never removed or altered your entry in my top feminist blogs list.


Cheers,

TH

Tom Head

mercedes, agreed. I am a relative novice at gender studies and have already seen enough to realize that I could exhaust a lifetime studying it if I wanted to. There is the terminology, the framework; the philosophies; the history, the literature, the arts; the culture; and on and on. It's an academic degree, not an activism degree, and anyone who is remotely familiar with the field knows that there is a great deal of work involved, and that the material that is studied is not just the product of the past 30 years, but rather of the past 30,000.


Cheers,

TH

Hugo

Mermade, alas, I don't have office hours in the summer -- the only free time I get is right before my first class (at 8 AM) -- all of my classes are back-to-back-to-back.

The Gonzman

I'm sorry to have to differ with you on this subject Gonzman. It appears as if you have never taken a class in gender studies. I invite you to take a class in the field so you can see that there is indeed a high level of intellectual effort necessary. I'm a grad student in history and I have to tell you honestly that I was trully amazed when I started taking gender studies classes because I was actually required to think; whereas in other fields, I merely had to remember facts.

I wasn't debating the issue, just presenting the viewpoint - that is how it is seen, precisely because it is very subjective but still chock full of orthodoxies. I have, however, taken no less than three courses under the Women's Studies umbrella as has been required by "diversity initiatives" in places where I have worked, and to be quite frank, I found them not impressive.

Douglas, Friend of Osho

Mythago's right, Hugo; you'll never please the sort that see no value to degrees in identity-studies of any sort. Why bother? Would you have argued with Lindbergh or Father Coughlin in the 1930s? I wouldn't have wasted my time and I surmise you're too smart for that as well. Still, informing folks about your credentials on a need-to-know basis is the honest thing to do. Trust your instincts on this one and don't be defensive.Off the subject, do you really know Anglo-Norman? I'm very impressed, Padre!! Being a francophone is, to my mind, one of life's best pleasures and I'd kill to learn Anglo-Norman. Cheers from the Breaker.

Mandolin

Gonzman:

Have you ever been in a lower division course you found impressive? They tend to be elementary, whatever the field.

I would imagine this is especially so in women's studies where the professor bears the burden of dispelling basic MRA myths which the students have absorbed before real academic work can be engaged.

(anthropology seems to suffer similarly, since you first have to get the students to stop saying "ewwww, they eat bugs?" or conversely "I saw Memoirs of a Geisha once; I know everything about Asia now, right?")

Anyway, you were too debating the viewpoint or you wouldn't have written "I'm sure you've also seen a similar thing between the hard and soft sciences, which is a bias I subscribe to for the most part."

Hugo

Douglas, alas my Breaker buddy, my language skills in both Latin and Norman French have slipped quite a bit. I haven't read a document of any length in either tongue in close to a decade.

Angl-Norman French is, I think EASIER than modern French. It's a fairly simple structure, generally a limited vocabulary in government documents, and if all else fails, you can figure it out by reading it aloud. That was what I was taught to do, and it worked.

Medium Dave

In the last few weeks, I've gotten a resurgence in the "hate e-mails."

Sad, but not surprising. There are people who see someone who's in a vulnerable position because of personal matters, and decide that that's the time to go on the attack. Well, that speaks volumes about their character.

And Hugo, I would like to add my sincere condolences following your loss.

djw

I can't believe you actually personally respond to emails like that.

Hugo

DJW, I don't, always -- but I find that in the stress of the last few awful weeks, I'm a bit less restrained...

mythago

The assumption is that you are awarded the degree for having the right opinions, rather than for conducting the right scholarship.

Because every other academic discipline is objective, without biases and has no orthodoxies to which students are expected to adhere. *snerk*

perplexed

I would imagine this is especially so in women's studies where the professor bears the burden of dispelling basic MRA myths which the students have absorbed before real academic work can be engaged.

What are these myths? Can you point to sources that state these myths?

Sara

While your questioner obviously rejects the validity of a degree in women's studies because he rejects the validity of women's studies itself, I don't think it sexist to mention the fact that you came from a different background than others who teach the same subject matter that you do. People are suspicious of all sorts of corners of academia, and to someone from the outside, gender studies or literary theory or dance theory can seem to be a field for self-perpetuating mutual intellectual masturbation. (In other words: "I don't know much about this so it must not be important!") I actually have never taken a women's studies class, and while I think it would have been fun, I went to school to become a scientist, after all. Showing that concern about gender issues arises organically outside what might seem a world of indoctrination is useful. Arriving at a strong feminist belief system without the aid of gender studies classes doesn't make my feminism any more genuine, but it does put a hole in the theory that feminism only exists to keep gender studies professors employed.

The Gonzman

Have you ever been in a lower division course you found impressive? They tend to be elementary, whatever the field.

In fact, I have.

I would imagine this is especially so in women's studies where the professor bears the burden of dispelling basic MRA myths which the students have absorbed before real academic work can be engaged.

Or is busy trying to indoctrinate with myths of their own.

I recieved a "B" in one of the classes I had to take because the feminist professor said that men got knocked down a letter grade automatically as an object lesson. She was upheld by the university administration.

I can't regard that as "serious" academics - just activism.

kacey

Gonzman, I'm so disappointed in your attitude toward this serious academic dicipline.

The Gonzman

Well, Kacey, if it is serious then it needs to police itself, instead of being afraid that exiling the kooks to Kookville will undermine it. It apparently doesn't have enough of the sourage of its own convictions to do so, doesn't take itself seriously enough to do so - and yet other people are expected to do so? Exactly how many breaks is one supposed to give?

There's all kinds of crap about "Well, we can't be held responsible for..." and it's crap. It's hooey. If someone came and told me that "Females should be lobotomized at birth" and started preaching about it, I'd lead off on my blog with the statement that this guy is a fruitcake. I wouldn't call him brother. And I'd be damned "Judgemental" about it. Darren Mack is a psycho. While I can certainly understand his frustration, and sympathize with despair, but turning into an assassin is uncategorically bad mojo, and gets his testicles revoked. If nothing else at all, real men don't do things that way.

In the law enforcement world this type of thing is referred to as the "Blue Wall of Silence" where police officers will often close ranks and defend one of "their own" even if he is a bad seed. Nixon did the same thing with his doctrine of "Never criticize a fellow Republican."

If I took a biology class and the professor started teaching some twaddle like "Spontaneous generation" heads would roll - fellow biologist or no. Well, same thing here. If you don't take your bad apples - your gender seperatists, and such - and consign them to the whacko edge of your movement, AND DISASSOCIATE FROM THEM, but instead welcome them as "sister," then you have nobody else to blame when people assume you approve of their rhetoric and agree with it.

A man is known by the company he keeps. Well, sauce for the gander and all...

You know, if I was to teach a math class and knock women down a letter grade because "Math is Hard" I'd have my hide tacked to the wall, and rightly so. I'd have math teachers far and wide screeching for my gonads on a platter for bringing discredit and disrepute on the discipline and profession. That damned class I had to take, I required a "C+" to keep my f***ing job, back in the days when I still believed in teaching as a noble profession, and before I saw it for the corporate political crock it was.

And you're "disappointed?" Pardon me all to perdition if I don't see a movement which speaks one thing out of one side of its mouth, platitudes like "equality for all" and gives silent assent, defense, and even praise to the concept of lowering my grade on the basis of what is between my legs as opposed to between my ears out of the other side, and conclude that what it does is far more significant that what it says.

The Happy Feminist

Well, Gonz, I doubt that anyone here would think it's okay to automatically knock all men down a letter grade based on their gender. I find it hard to believe that a university administration would allow such blatant and possibly illegal discrimination. But if that is indeed what happened, I would certainly condemn that.

It sounds like it's the university that closed ranks behind the professor, not all women's studies professors throughout the country. It seems a bit much to condemn an entire academic discipline because of the abuses of one professor.

David Thompson

But by saying "No, my degree is actually in medieval military and ecclesiastical history", I end up partially making the MRA case.

Ah hell, just tell them that no, you didn't major in women's studies but that's not a bad idea and thanks for the suggestion. This only works if you then go out and actually get a degree in Matriarchal Hegemony or something.

EC

It sounds like it's the university that closed ranks behind the professor, not all women's studies professors throughout the country. It seems a bit much to condemn an entire academic discipline because of the abuses of one professor.

Semantics. Where was the uproar by the OTHER professors towards this "loose cannon" professor?

jfpbookworm

Gonz: That a professor routinely penalizes male students a full letter grade (in a class that affects job eligibility, no less, which makes it a matter for the EEOC), openly admits to this, is supported by the administration, and has received absolutely no media attention therefor or legal challenge thereto (at least, that I've been able to find) is an extraordinary claim.

I know we're all supposed to play along and unquestioningly accept any assertion that gets thrown out here, but I'm just not buying this. Do you have anything at all to back this up? Name of the professor, name of the university, any kind of record, anything.

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