Enough about you

What happened here?

What caused The University of Iowa’s Women’s Studies Program to become the Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies Program?

They narrate the history, briefly, but they don’t explain the reason.

The Women’s Studies Program was established at The University of Iowa in 1974 and is one of the first programs in the United States. Our initial strength in joint appointments in the social sciences made the program unique within an interdisciplinary field most often drawn from the humanities. Our recent appointments give us strength in both social sciences and the humanities and enable us to continue to develop the breadth of interdisciplinary strength we believe to be the cornerstone of a strong gender, women’s and sexuality studies program. Certainly, the interdisciplinary nature of the program evokes strong support from faculty and students who consider themselves part of the Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies community even though their ties are informal and their rewards intrinsic.

In 2000, Women’s Studies gained departmental status, and in 2010, the Iowa State Board of Regents approved our proposal to unite with the existing Sexuality Studies Program and become the new Department of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies (GWSS).  We offer a major and minor in Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, and a graduate certificate that can be combined with a disciplinary graduate degree.  Our department has grown dramatically in the last 15 years. Starting with only one half-time faculty member, the Department now has sixteen faculty with joint appointments.

Ok, but why did Women’s Studies decide to unite with the existing Sexuality Studies Program and become the new Department of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies? Why can’t there just be departments and bookstore shelves and politics about women any more? Who decided women weren’t enough and had to be supplemented with “gender” and “sexuality studies”?

The latter is especially creepy because it seems to buy into that background idea that sex is about women and women are about sex, in other words, a male view of women and what women are for. In advertising men are there to look manly and strong and fond of fishing or driving or fixing the roof, while women are there to look fuck-ready. Why would universities mirror that kind of thinking?

The graduate program page may help us understand.

Historically, the fields of Women’s Studies and Sexuality Studies have consisted of scholars trained in one of the traditional disciplines who developed a specialization in the study of women, gender, or sexuality.  Our current faculty configuration reflects this history. In the last generation, however, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies has matured as a discipline in its own right, with its own specialized graduate education, methodologies, theoretical frameworks, and “canon” of scholarly literature. The discipline now engages in deep study of intersectionality: that is, it takes as the center of its investigation the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and class.

In other words, they have embraced the common mistake of thinking that intersectionality means women aren’t allowed to focus on women’s issues while being well aware that gender, sexuality, race, and class also matter; that instead women have to talk about gender, sexuality, race, and class at all times, because women qua women just aren’t really oppressed enough.

Or am I wrong? Does the African American Studies Department say the same kind of thing? Let’s look.

African American Studies examines the shared experiences of African-descended people throughout the diaspora. Drawing on a rich tradition of scholarship, teaching, and civic engagement, the faculty introduce students to the foundations of African American Studies (AAS) and collaborates with them to develop projects and analyze information that leads to new intellectual perspectives. The African American Studies major involves three core areas of study:  history, religion, and the diaspora; literature and performing arts; and media, politics, and social institutions.

This interdisciplinary unit draws on faculty from many academic departments, including American Studies, Communication Studies, English, History, Journalism & Mass Communication, Religious Studies, Rhetoric, Sociology, Theatre Arts, and Women’s Studies.

No. No it doesn’t. Not a word about intersectionality, nor has its name been changed or its subject matter expanded.

Women are just never enough. Sad.

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