Women’s Studies critique from Wendy Brown #postfeminism #genderqueer

Posted: March 17, 2010 in 2010

A major reason why contemporary sceptics crave the dissolution of Women’s Studies is because of its inflexible adherence to the subject of woman. According to one influential critic, this has made Women’s Studies:

politically and theoretically incoherent, and tacitly conservative.  It is incoherent because by definition it circumscribes  uncircumscribable "women" as an object of study, and it is  conservative because it must, finally resist all objections to such  circumscription: hence the persistent theory wars, and race wars,  and sex wars, notoriously ravaging women's studies (Brown,  Politics out of History 34).

Elaborating on her view regarding the impossibility of women’s studies Brown concedes that as a critique of the ubiquitous misogynist, masculinist, and sexist norms in academic institutions, Women’s Studies was “politically important and intellectually creative” but, nevertheless, concludes that today “there is no such thing as women’s studies (Politics out of History 34). She offers this bleak conclusion because, in her view, Women’s Studies is not sustainable in the face of the swathe of theoretical objections to its singular project. Biddy Martin similarly rebukes contemporary practitioners of Women’s Studies who obstinately hold fast to the insularity and self-righteousness that its attachment to its originary subject invokes. Affirming Brown’s prognosis, Martin suggests that “women’s studies has lost much of its critical and intellectual vigor” (353). This is the case because women’s studies is impelled to insist on its defense of its theoretical foundations which results in a “stultifying entrenchment” (354).

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