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Women's studies

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Title: Women's studies  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Feminist theory, Gender studies, Feminism, Women in the workforce, Feminist Studies
Collection: Feminism, Feminist Theory, Gender Studies, Postmodernism, Post-Structuralism, Women and Education, Women's History, Women's Studies
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Women's studies

Women's studies links gender to race, sexuality, class, and nation in order to define identity as a complex social phenomenon.[1] Popular methodologies within the field of women's studies include standpoint theory, intersectionality, multiculturalism, transnational feminism, autoethnography, and reading practices associated with critical theory, post-structuralism, and queer theory. The field researches and critiques societal norms of gender, race, Social class, sexuality, and other social inequalities. It is closely related to the broader field of gender studies.


  • History 1
  • Methodology of women's studies 2
  • Activism 3
  • Education 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


The first accredited women's studies course was held in 1960 at consciousness raising groups, rallies, petition circulating, and operating unofficial or experimental classes and presentations before seven committees and assemblies.[3][4] The first scholarly journal in interdisciplinary women's studies, Feminist Studies, began publishing in 1972.[5] The National Women's Studies Association (of the United States) was established in 1977.[6] The first Ph.D. program in Women's Studies was established at Emory University in 1990.[7] In 2015 at Kabul University the first master’s degree course in gender and women’s studies in Afghanistan began.[8]

As of 2012, there are 16 institutions offering a Ph.D. in Women's Studies in the United States.[9][10] Courses in Women's Studies in the United Kingdom can be found through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.[11]

Methodology of women's studies

Women's studies faculty practice a diverse array of pedagogies. However, there are common themes to the ways that many women's studies courses are taught; ideally, teaching and learning practices draw on feminist pedagogy. Women’s studies curricula often encourage students to participate in service-learning activities in addition to discussion and reflection upon course materials. The development of critical reading, writing, and oral expression are often key to these courses, which can be listed across curricula in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. The decentralization of the professor as the source of knowledge is often fundamental to women's studies classroom culture.[12] Courses are often more egalitarian than those in traditional disciplines, stressing the critical analysis of texts and the development of critical writing. Not dissimilar to gender studies, women’s studies employs feminist, queer, and critical theories. Since the 1970s, scholars of women’s studies have taken post-modern approaches to understanding gender as it intersects with race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, age, and (dis)ability to produce and maintain power structures within society. With this turn, there has been a focus on language, subjectivity, and social hegemony, and how the lives of subjects, however they identify, are constituted. At the core of these theories is the notion that however one identifies, gender, sex, and sexuality are not intrinsic, but are socially constructed.

Women studies programs are involved in social justice and design curricula that are embedded with theory and also activism outside of the classroom. Some Women Studies programs offer internships that are community-based allowing students the opportunity to gain a better understanding of how oppression directly affects women’s lives. This experience, informed by theory from feminist studies, queer theory, black feminist theory, African studies, and many other theoretical frameworks, allows students the opportunity to critically analyze experience as well as create creative solutions for issues on a local level. However, Daphne Patai, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has criticized this aspect of women's studies programs, arguing that they place politics over education, arguing that "the strategies of faculty members in these programs have included policing insensitive language, championing research methods deemed congenial to women (such as qualitative over quantitative methods), and conducting classes as if they were therapy sessions."[13] It is important to note, however, that many Women’s Studies curricula engage with a variety of different epistemological and methodological practices. Feminist scholarship is diverse and utilizes positivism, critical realism, and standpoint theory in its interdisciplinary scholarship.[14]


Feminist activism not only focuses on women’s issues but has spread throughout many other movements including (but not limited to) environmental issues, body politics, feminist art, identity issues, reproductive rights, gender issues, animal rights, homosexual rights, and ethnic minority rights. These forms of activism can include letter writing, boycotting, protesting, the visual arts, bodily demonstrations, education, and leafleting. In current feminism, the focus has shifted to encompass an outlook and desire for equality for all—identifying oppressive systems and forces around the world that affect all types of beings. Feminist activism explores the intersections of social, political, and cultural histories (among various others denominators), their implications, and dedicates time and energy to the liberation of all people from injustices.

Simply studying or being a student of women’s studies can be seen as activism in it of itself; others consider women's studies to be an academic field which is separate from the feminist movement.


Some of the most predominant institutions to have women's studies programs at the undergraduate or graduate level include the University Of California system, Emory University, and universities in Michigan, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New York.[15]

Many women's studies courses are designed to explore the intersectionality of gender and other topics. For example, in gender and science research, the sciences are explored and critiqued through feminism, as when Anne Fausto-Sterling, Professor of Biology at Brown University, explores biology through the feminist lens.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
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  6. ^
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  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Sprague, Joey. Feminist Methodologies for Critical Researchers: Bridging Differences. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira, 2005.
  15. ^ "Women's History." U.S. News & World U.S. News & World Report, 2009. Web. 20 Nov 2012.


  • Borland, K. (1991). That's not what I said: Interpretive conflict in oral narrative research. In Giuck, S. & Patai, D. (Eds.), Women's Words: The Feminist Practice of Oral History (pp 63–76). NY: Routledge
  • Brooks, A. (2007). Feminist standpoint epistemology: Building knowledge and empowerment through women’s lived experiences. In Hesse-Biber, S.N. & Leavy, P.L. (Eds.), Feminist Research Practice (pp. 53–82). CA: Sage Publications.
  • Brooks, A. & Hesse-Biber, S.N. (2007). An invitation to feminist research. In Hesse-Biber, S.N. & Leavy, P.L. (Eds.), Feminist Research Practice (pp. 1–24). CA: Sage Publications.
  • Buch, E.D. & Staller, K.M. (2007). The feminist practice of ethnography. In Hesse-Biber, S.N. & Leavy, P.L. (Eds.), Feminist Research Practice (pp. 187–221). CA: Sage Publications.
  • Dill, T.B & Zambrana, R. (2009) Emerging Intersections: Race, Class and Gender in Theory, Policy and Practice. NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  • Fausto-Sterling, Anne (2000). Sexing the body: gender politics and the construction of sexuality. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-07714-5.
  • Halse, C. & Honey, A. (2005). Unraveling ethics: Illuminating the moral dilemmas of research ethics. Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 30 (4), 2141-2162.
  • Harding, S. (1987). Introduction: Is there a feminist method? In Harding, S. (ed.), Feminism & Methodology. (pp. 1–14). IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Hesse-Biber, S.N. (2007). The practice of feminist in-depth interviewing. In Hesse-Biber, S.N. & Leavy, P.L. (Eds.), Feminist Research Practice (pp. 111–148). CA: Sage Publications.
  • Hyam, M. (2004). Hearing girls' silences: Thoughts on the politics and practices of a feminist method of group discussion. Gender, Place, and Culture, 11 (1), 105-119.
  • Leavy, P.L. (2007a). Feminist postmodernism and poststructuralism. In Hesse-Biber, S.N. & Leavy, P.L. (Eds.), Feminist Research Practice (pp. 83–108). CA: Sage Publications.
  • Leavy, P.L. (2007b). The practice of feminist oral history and focus group interviews. In Hesse-Biber, S.N. & Leavy, P.L. (Eds.), Feminist Research Practice (pp. 149–186). CA: Sage Publications.
  • Leavy, P.L. (2007c). The feminist practice of content analysis. In Hesse-Biber, S.N. & Leavy, P.L. (Eds.), Feminist Research Practice (pp. 223–248). CA: Sage Publications.
  • Leckenby, D. (2007). Feminist empiricism: Challenging gender bias and “setting the record straight.” In Hesse-Biber, S.N. & Leavy, P.L. (Eds.), Feminist Research Practice (pp. 27–52). CA: Sage Publications.
  • Lykes, M.B. & Coquillon, E. (2006). Participatory and Action Research and feminisms: Towards Transformative Praxis. In Sharlene Hesse-Biber (Ed.). Handbook of Feminist Research: Theory and Praxis. CA: Sage Publications.
  • Miner-Rubino, K. & Jayaratne, T.E. (2007). Feminist survey research. In Hesse-Biber, S.N. & Leavy, P.L. (Eds.), Feminist Research Practice (pp. 293–325). CA: Sage Publications.

Further reading

  • Berkin, Carol R., Judith L. Pinch, and Carole S. Appel, Exploring Women's Studies: Looking Forward, Looking Back, 2005, ISBN 0-13-185088-1 OCLC 57391427
  • Davis, Angela Y. (2003). Are Prisons Obsolete?, Open Media (April 2003), ISBN 1-58322-581-1
  • Fausto-Sterling, Anne (1992). Myths of gender: biological theories about women and men. New York: BasicBooks. ISBN 0-465-04792-0.
  • Fausto-Sterling, Anne (2000). Sexing the body: gender politics and the construction of sexuality. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-07714-5.
  • Fausto-Sterling, Anne (2012). Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social World. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415881456.
  • Grewal, Inderpal and Caren Kaplan, An Introduction to Women's Studies: Gender in a Transnational World, ISBN 0-07-109380-X OCLC 47161269
  • Ginsberg, Alice E. The Evolution of American Women's Studies: Reflections on Triumphs, Controversies and Change (Palgrave Macmillan: 2009). Online interview with Ginsberg
  • Griffin, Gabriele and Rosi Braidotti (eds.), Thinking Differently : A Reader in European Women's Studies, London etc. : Zed Books, 2002 ISBN 1-84277-002-0 OCLC 49375751
  • Howe, Florence (ed.), The Politics of Women's Studies: Testimony from Thirty Founding Mothers, Paperback edition, New York: Feminist Press 2001, ISBN 1-55861-241-6 OCLC 44313456
  • Lederman, Muriel, and Ingrid Bartsch, eds. The Gender and Science Reader. New York: Routledge, 2001. Print.
  • Messer-Davidow, Ellen, Disciplining Feminism : From Social Activism to Academic Discourse, Durham, NC etc. : Duke University Press, 2002 ISBN 0-8223-2829-1 OCLC 47705543
  • Schiebinger, Londa. Has Feminism Changed Science?. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999. Print.
  • Ruth, Sheila, Issues In Feminism: An Introduction to Women's Studies, 2000, ISBN 0-7674-1644-9 OCLC 43978372
  • Wiegman, Robyn (editor), Women's Studies on Its Own: A Next Wave Reader in Institutional Change, Duke University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8223-2950-6 OCLC 49421587

External links

  • Smith College List of Graduate Programs in Women's Studies and Gender Studies
  • WSSLinks: women's studies web links from the American Library Association
  • Women's Studies web resources
  • Feminist Theory and Criticism 1. 1963-1972
  • Center for Women's Studies of Tehran University, Iran
  • The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
  • Karen Lerhman, Off Course, Mother Jones, September 1993
  • Main focus "Frauen- und Geschlechtergeschichte in Westfalen"
  • List of Women's Studies Programs around the World
  • List of Women's Studies Programs in the United States
  • Women's Studies Resources from WIDNET: Women in Development Network
  • Kay Armatage's Archival papers are held at the University of Toronto Archives and Record Management Services
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