By June Watkins, Former Women's Studies Director
Women's Studies is an interdisciplinary field of study that produces and advances analyses of gender as they are defined by race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, age, and ability. Academic disciplines have traditionally marginalized or ignored the experiences and contributions of women. To attempt to correct this distortion and imbalance in scholarship, the field of Women's Studies focuses on women's experiences and women's voices as the grounds for feminist theory. Women's Studies at the University of West Florida emphasizes important developments in feminist scholarship through its programming and curriculum.
Anna Quindlen, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, said "It's important to remember that feminism is no longer a group of organizations or leaders. It's the expectations that parents have for their daughters, and their sons, too. It's the way we talk about and treat one another. It's who makes the money and who makes the compromises and who makes the dinner. It's a state of mind. It's the way we live now." And while the quote is compelling, it is wrong to believe that the job is done and women's studies programs are no longer relevant within a liberal arts education.
This is not to say that there hasn't been any progress. There have been limited successes here in the United States; however the situation has not improved for most women around the world, in legislatures, boardrooms, and as members of faculties in higher education. Women still own less than 20% of the world's resources, and yet are responsible for 80% of the production of work worldwide. Women activists continue to struggle for pay equity, reproductive rights and protection for women from violence, rape, and slavery. Our work is a long way from being completed and scholarship in the field of Women's Studies is still very much needed to bring justice and equity to the world. If it is true that current scholarship is distorted in that it reflects mostly men's experiences, then we need more feminist scholarship and not less. Only when women's voices are included in the world's knowledge will we have the kind of justice that will benefit both men and women.