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Gender Studies: The Demise of Feminism or the Vision of an Inclusive Curriculum?

Jennifer M Stanley, Johnson & Wales University


Women have been struggling to find their place on campus and in the curriculum since the early 1970s. Despite the accomplishments that women claim in the fight for equality over the past 40 years, many colleges remain resistant to the concept of establishing women's studies or gender-focused academic programs (Scully, 2006; Stake, 2006; Stromquist, 2001). Some scholars argue that women's studies curricula lacks legitimacy due to the personal reflection and emotional connection that characterizes these programs (Burghardt & Colbeck, 2005; Coate, 2006; Stake, 2006). In addition, there is a level of societal complacency about feminism that suggests these issues are resolved and no longer need attention (Stromquist, 2001). As a result, gender studies programs began to spring up in schools around the globe, making the outlook of women's studies more inclusive and offering a greater academic perspective (Coate, 2006; Stake, 2006; Stromquist, 2001). This study examined the structure of gender-focused curricula and their supporting programs, including campus Women's Centers utilizing a mixed methods approach. A questionnaire was disseminated to 147 four-year public and private colleges in the Northeast to determine the size, structure, and nature of their gender-focused programs Subsequently, a series of 11 qualitative campus interviews were conducted to examine curriculum content, structure of services provided, and the role of gender programs on specific campuses. Analyses consisted of descriptive statistics of the questionnaire responses and thematic analyses of the interview data. Although there are many existing structures for gender-focused programs, there is little published regarding the impact on faculty and administrator perceptions of feminism and the role of women in a more inclusive gender curriculum (Auslander, 1997; Yee, 1997). This study found that there are a significant number of schools that do not include gender-based academic or co-curricular programs and for those that do, there is no one right way to offer the programs and services. For those campuses with strong historically-rooted Women's Studies programs, the inclusion of "women" in the title of the program was essential to their identity. For others the shift in the vernacular of "women" to "gender" is an increasingly common and somewhat controversial trend.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Womens studies|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

Stanley, Jennifer M, "Gender Studies: The Demise of Feminism or the Vision of an Inclusive Curriculum?" (2013). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3612292.