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Women's studies links gender to race, sexuality, class, and nation in order to define identity as a complex social phenomenon.  Popular methodologies within the field of women's studies include standpoint theory, intersectionality, multiculturalism, transnational feminism, autoethnography, and reading practices associated with critical theory, post-structuralism, and queer theory. The field researches and critiques societal norms of gender, race, class, sexuality, and other social inequalities. It is closely related to the broader field of gender studies.
The first accredited Women's Studies course was held in 1969 at Cornell University. The first two Women's Studies Programs in the United States were established in 1970 at San Diego State College (now San Diego State University) and SUNY-Buffalo. The SDSU program was initiated after a year of intense organizing of women's consciousness raising groups, rallies, petition circulating, and operating unofficial or experimental classes and presentations before seven committees and assemblies. The first scholarly journal in interdisciplinary women's studies, Feminist Studies, began publishing in 1972. The National Women's Studies Association (of the United States) was established in 1977. The first Ph.D. program in Women's Studies was established at Emory University in 1990.
As of 2012, there are 16 institutions offering a Ph.D. in Women's Studies in the United States. Courses in Women's Studies in the United Kingdom can be found through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
Methodology of Women Studies
Women's studies faculty practice a diverse array of pedagogies. However, there are common themes to the ways that many women's studies courses are taught; ideally, teaching and learning practices draw on feminist pedagogy. Women’s studies curricula often encourage students to participate in service-learning activities in addition to discussion and reflection upon course materials. The development of critical reading, writing, and oral expression are often key to these courses, which can be listed across curricula in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.[vague] The decentralization of the professor as the source of knowledge is often fundamental to women's studies classroom culture. Courses are often more egalitarian than those in traditional disciplines, stressing the critical analysis of texts and the development of critical writing. Not dissimilar to gender studies, women’s studies employs feminist, queer, and critical theories. Since the 1970s, scholars of women’s studies have taken post-modern approaches to understanding gender as it intersects with race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, age, and (dis)ability to produce and maintain power structures within society. With this turn, there has been a focus on language, subjectivity, and social hegemony, and how the lives of subjects, however they identify, are constituted. At the core of these theories is the notion that however one identifies, gender, sex, and sexuality are not intrinsic, but are socially constructed.
Women studies programs are involved in social justice and design curricula that are embedded with theory and also activism outside of the classroom. Some Women Studies programs offer internships that are community-based allowing students the opportunity to gain a better understanding of how oppression directly affects women’s lives. This experience, informed by theory from feminist studies, queer theory, black feminist theory, African studies, and many other theoretical frameworks, allows students the opportunity to critically analyze experience as well as create creative solutions for issues on a local level. However, Daphne Patai, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has criticized this aspect of women's studies programs, arguing that they place politics over education, arguing that "the strategies of faculty members in these programs have included policing insensitive language, championing research methods deemed congenial to women (such as qualitative over quantitative methods), and conducting classes as if they were therapy sessions." It is important to note, however, that many Women’s Studies curricula engage with a variety of different epistemological and methodological practices.[vague] Feminist scholarship is diverse and utilizes positivism, critical realism, and standpoint theory in its interdisciplinary scholarship.[vague]
Feminist activism not only focuses on women’s issues but has spread throughout many other movements including (but not limited to) environmental issues, body politics, feminist art, identity issues, reproductive rights, gender issues, animal rights, homosexual rights, and ethnic minority rights. These forms of activism can include letter writing, boycotting, protesting, the visual arts, bodily demonstrations, education, and leafleting. In current feminism, the focus has shifted to encompass an outlook and desire for equality for all—identifying oppressive systems and forces around the world that affect all types of beings. Feminist activism explores the intersections of social, political, and cultural histories (among various others denominators), their implications, and dedicates time and energy to the liberation of all people from injustices.[vague]
Simply studying or being a student of women’s studies can be seen as activism in it of itself; others consider women's studies to be an academic field which is separate from the feminist movement.
Some of the most predominant institutions to have women's studies programs at the undergraduate or graduate level include the University Of California system, Emory University, and universities in Michigan, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Many women's studies courses are designed to explore the intersectionality of gender and other topics. For example, in gender and science research, the sciences are explored and critiqued through feminism, as when Anne Fausto-Sterling, Professor of Biology at Brown University, explores biology through the feminist lens. Through her research, she has published many books on the topic including
- Separatist feminism
- Feminist Formations
- Feminist economics
- Feminist theory
- French feminism
- Gender studies
- Men's studies
- Social criticism
- Women artists
- Women's history
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|Wikiversity has learning materials about Women's Studies|
- Smith College List of Graduate Programs in Women's Studies and Gender Studies
- WSSLinks: women's studies web links from the American Library Association
- Women's Studies web resources
- Feminist Theory and Criticism 1. 1963-1972
- Center for Women's Studies of Tehran University, Iran
- The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
- Karen Lerhman, Off Course, Mother Jones, September 1993
- Main focus "Frauen- und Geschlechtergeschichte in Westfalen"
- List of Women's Studies Programs around the World
- List of Women's Studies Programs in the United States
- Women's Studies Resources from WIDNET: Women in Development Network
- Kay Armatage's Archival papers are held at the University of Toronto Archives and Record Management Services