When Lawrence Summers suggested that biology might be partially responsible for the relative rarity of female mathematics professors, he was provoking an academic giant. Powerful as the president of Harvard may be, his influence is as nothing compared with that of the behemoth that is the women’s studies movement. The field of women’s studies originated in the heady sixties and grew exponentially through the seventies and eighties. By the mid-nineties, when Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge published Professing Feminism, their searing critique of the field, more than 600 undergraduate and several dozen graduate women’s studies programs were up and running at colleges and universities across the country.
The intellectual cornerstone of women’s studies is “gender,” the notion that differences between men and women are not rooted in biology, as Summers had hypothesized some might be, but are cultural artifacts, inculcated by an oppressive patriarchal society. Precisely because the gender idea builds a specific (radical) political orientation into the field, Patai and Koertge point out, women’s studies proved intellectually suspect from the start. You can read that radical politics right in the National Women’s Studies Association constitution: “Women’s Studies . . . is equipping women to transform the world to one that will be free of all oppression . . . [and is] a force which furthers the realization of feminist aims.” True justice for these radical feminists means overcoming gender and establishing an androgynous society. So when Summers asserted that something besides artificial cultural roles—something besides “gender”—might account for the distinct positions of men and women in society, he was undermining the intellectual and political foundation of the entire women’s studies establishment.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Stanley Kurtz has an insightful piece on how the concept of "gender," created by academic feminists, is but the first step on the path to their ideal of an androgynous society. Why is such a society the ideal? Because it is the belief in such an ideal society, where the roles of men and women are interchangeable, that inspires much of the left's philosophy concerning the restucturing of the definition of "family." The article is self explanatory, but here's the introduction: