The Department of Feminist Studies enjoys an untouchable place at our university. We in the public discourse are allowed only to exalt its great virtue, and anyone who questions its necessity is immediately silenced. Some go even further: last winter, Associated Students passed, by an overwhelming majority, A Resolution Supporting the Establishment of a Gender and Sexuality GE requirement.
However, far from requiring everyone to take gender studies classes, I think we should be questioning why they are taught at all.
Consider this: University of California Regents Policy 2301 states that the Regents “are responsible to see that the University remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest. Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination … constitutes misuse of the University as an institution.”
How can an academic department which is explicitly named after a political movement possibly claim to be “aloof from politics?”
Imagine how you would feel if there was a Department of Objectivist Studies at UCSB. The department was dedicated to promoting Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. All of the professors were Objectivists, and students in the department were taught heavy doses of Objectivism without being exposed to a single dissenting opinion.
Would you consider such a department to be “an instrument for the advance of partisan interest?” You probably would.
So why is the Department of Feminist Studies not held to the same standard?
Two years ago, I took an introductory course in the Feminist Studies department. I wanted to broaden my mind and hear all sorts of diverse perspectives on gender issues.
Instead, the class’s bias was made evident early on. In the first class, we were given a series of points of feminist thought which we were expected to accept without question or debate, before promptly moving on to the content of the course. These included “Equal worth of men and women,” “Recognition of male privilege within groups” and “Commitment to social change.”
You might ask yourself: How can a field committed to social change also be committed to unbiased academic analysis?
In fact, it was made clear to us that the course was not even interested in pursuing unbiased academic analysis. One of the course objectives was “To demonstrate how feminist research and ethics question objectivity.”
Throughout the field of women’s studies, academic feminists attack objectivity with concepts like “standpoint theory” and the laughably misnamed “strong objectivity.” These concepts state that knowledge is socially situated, and therefore research should begin with the lives of marginalized women as a starting point, despite the fact that any legitimate scientific research should begin with no starting point other than an objective search for the facts.
Feminist academics justify their explicit bias by arguing that mainstream academia is also biased — toward the patriarchy — and so they are merely evening the scales. Here, they display a fundamental misunderstanding of the philosophy of science.
It is true that all people have some inherent biases. Scientists already recognize this. That is why the scientific method as a system is designed to encourage the greatest degree of objectivity possible, and minimize (if not completely eliminate) the influence of individual biases. Research norms such as double-blind studies, control groups, randomization, peer review, replicability and publication of data all exist within science for this very reason.
Science, with its silly, antiquated notion of “objectivity,” has brought about far more tangible improvement in the quality of life for women (and men) worldwide than academic feminism ever has.
Because of researchers who believe in objectivity, UCSB has been at the forefront of scientific advancement in many fields, and has been named the No. 7 research university in the world by Leiden University. What justification can there be for such a highly ranked research university to foster an entire academic discipline which openly denies the legitimacy of the scientific method?
If UCSB creates a Gender and Sexuality GE requirement, then we will no longer deserve to be considered one of the top research universities in the world because we will have proven that we are more committed to ideology than to unbiased academic research.
Early on in our class, we were introduced to blatantly pseudoscientific concepts. We were taught to reject “gender essentialism” (the belief that gender is a biological reality) in favor of “social constructionism” (the belief that gender is a complete social fiction).
We were told that feminists believe in social constructionism because it makes social change easier — not because it is true, but because it is desirable. Our professor freely admitted that scholars in some of the harder science fields have a different perspective.
In fact, the nature/nurture debate is one of the most contentious in biology. There is strong evidence to support the proposition that gender has a biological component as well as a social one. To give only a small sample:
- A study of monkeys, published in 2008, shows that male monkeys are more likely to play with boy-typical toys (such as toy cars) and female monkeys are more likely to play with girl-typical toys (such as dolls). Are monkeys also socialized by the patriarchy? Probably not.
- Research done by psychologist Gerianne Alexander shows that male babies with higher testosterone levels spend more time looking at boy-typical toys, as early as three months old.
- Girls with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (a condition which causes them to have higher androgen levels than typical girls) are more likely than girls without CAH to play with boy-typical toys and engage in rough, competitive play. They are also more likely to pursue traditionally male careers and become lesbian later in life.
- David Reimer, a boy who was raised as a girl after a botched circumcision, repeatedly refused to accept the female role despite years of abusive “socialization” by Dr. John Money. He played with boy’s toys and his father’s tools, peed standing up, refused to wear dresses, and said that he wanted to marry a woman. When he found out the truth about his sex, he transitioned back into a man.
- What about transgender people? Such individuals consistently refuse to conform to the sex they were born as, despite being socialized into that sex. Does this not show that there is some innate, biological basis for gender identity that can never be fully socialized? (Ironically, if social constructionism were true, “gender conversion therapy” might be a legitimate solution to transgenderism. But it is not.)
Of course, we were not presented with any of this in feminist studies. Feminist scholars happily ignore any evidence which does not affirm their social agenda.
David Reimer committed suicide in 2004, after a life ruined by the practical application of feminist theory. “Social constructionism” should have died with him, but this basic denial of human nature remains a near dogma in UCSB’s feminist studies department.
If a group of climate change deniers or young earth creationists were teaching classes at UCSB, we would demand to know why they were being allowed to indoctrinate students at taxpayer expense with their unscientific worldview in clear violation of University of California Regents Policy 2301. We should ask no less of academic feminists.
It is understandable to feel that UCSB students should be educated on women’s and gender issues. However, the Department of Feminist Studies at UCSB, in its current form, does not do justice to this complex field. Rather than giving this department an exalted place in our university and dismissing all criticism as misogyny, we should be willing to question it openly and call it out for doing women (and men) a great disservice with its misinformation about science, gender and biology.
Jason would rather study quantum theory than queer theory in college.