Often Gender study is mixed with women’s studies but it has major differences. In CSS examination, questions are often given on the major differences between Gender and Women Studies. So, here I am going to analyze the major differences between these two.
Gender and Women’s Studies is an interdisciplinary journal that aspires to engage with aspects of gender and sex through a feminist lens covering a broad spectrum of issues, including, but not limited to, the social and natural sciences, the arts, the humanities, media, and popular culture.
Women’s Studies was an offshoot of second-wave feminism. Gender Studies reflect a shift to the third wave and the recognition that disempowerment and gender were more fluid concepts than previously thought.
“Women’s Studies” is older than the term “Gender Studies”. Gender Studies includes Women’s Studies plus other things like Queer Theory, etc.
Women’s Studies addresses not only the need for a fuller understanding of women in society but also for new criteria and methods of assessing the status of women.
Gender Studies is an interdisciplinary field that concentrates on the new scholarship in women’s and men’s studies. The impact of gender on all levels of experience may be addressed in every liberal arts discipline.
The struggle for gender equality in politics, education, the family, the labor force, literature, and the media are key topics; and, in many courses, this involves cross-cultural studies of gender relations.
Gender Studies will discuss men just as equally as women, whereas Women’s Studies will favor women for the most.
Gender Studies is the intellectual examination of women from history a fresh look in a non-Freudian way at the social psychology of women, the study of women in literature and images of women in arts, the economic and legal history of the family; and speculation about “androgyny” a state of society and a state of mind where sex differences might be socially, economically, and politically overcome.
So now the question is what are Women’s Studies?
Defining Women Studies
The founders of the US National Women’s Studies Association define it as “an education strategy for change” owing its existence to the women’s Liberation Movement.
Although in the 1990s there has been a debate over whether women’s studies is an extension of the women’s movement or it is now structurally distant from that movement (Sheridan 1990) but it is obvious that Women’s Studies consist of both teaching and research. In other words, we can say, it is an interaction and a process of learning along with a feminist scholarship.
It is learning which takes place in the classroom which inspires, probes, reinforces expands, develops, and transmits knowledge as the truth from expert to the ignorant.
In Women’s Studies, teachers and students try to create knowledge in an environment in which all are learners. Teachers and students both contribute to the existing knowledge of the scholarship, bring rich experiences of their lives and contribute equally.
A Rustenburg (1980) says that during learning experiences in women’s studies “the personal becomes the intellectual and the intellectual becomes the personal”. Women’s learning experiences are no longer distant from their lives. Instead, what emerges is an attempt to understand problems and to develop means of solving them.
Women’s Studies as a discipline stems from the attempt to blend theory and praxis, a rare case in other disciplines.
Whether the topic of health, work, politics or literature, it discusses these topics from a perspective that puts women at its center and allows us to compare and contrast our own and other people’s experiences and ideas with the given facts and figures.
Women’s Studies allows its students and teachers to break down hierarchies, and interact collectively, rather than competitively, and also stresses the need to take each other seriously and respect each other’s different points of view particularly relevant among women from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
In women’s studies, feminist thoughts and ideologies that are raised by the feminist outside academia are tested and analyzed.
According to Klein (1980), the ‘Subject matter of women’s studies is women, but women’s lives do not exist in a vacuum: they are located in a social context which includes the study of men and children as well as the natural and the man-made environment.
The economic situation of women is as much part of women’s studies as is violence against women, dangers and possibilities in technological psychological, and ideological aspects of life and the various forms of art that have been created by women.
Women’s Studies is not confined to specific women’s issues such as female biology, health care, and reproduction, nor studies on the sexual division of labor or to women’s participation in men’s trade unions of men’s wars.
Every human issue is a women’s issue, and at the core of Women’s Studies lies the demand to look critically at every facet of life from interpersonal relationships to politics, from language to law, from the use of natural resources to the social construction of reality and to look at it differently, from a women-centered perspective.
It is very clear from the above definition that Women’s Studies is not confined to certain compartmentalization of knowledge but it encompasses many other disciplines regarding issues existing in societies.
Between 1971 and 1976, as Women’s Studies proliferated the issues Women’s Studies concentrated on are summarized as under:
- Study of Women: What is a female personality?
- Masculinity and Femininity: What are the implications of these terms? How are they defined? How is the behavior learned? Is it universally the same?
- Female Culture: What is common in the female experience? How would it be evaluated in a male-dominated society?
- Academic Disciplines: Having discovered the absence of women from history and the minimizing of the subject of sex-role socialization, students and teachers proceeded to examine the disciplines themselves for bias. In this period, feminist literary criticism and fundamental critique of social science methodology began to appear.
- Male Society and Culture: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the majority when viewed as male instead of a human?
- Theory and Practice of Gender: What is the outcome when gender, regarded as a social system for allocating tasks, rewards, and characteristics, is supported by a belief system justifying those arrangements? What are the ramifications of gender as sexism? (Tobias 1978)
Despite these areas of focus, recently many other issues have become crucial subjects in women’s studies such as feminist ideas and perspectives on race, ethnicity, science, and technology.
feminist theory of motherhood, health education and networking of women, and the need for networking within women’s organizations and as well as with other organizations in the world.
Debates within Women’s Studies among the students who are studying feminism and gender relations have become very interesting and distinct features of women’s studies.
The development of Women’s Studies courses has not been controlled by a single coherent theory of women’s studies or feminist education though some initial work has been done on this particular aspect.
Looking at the production of scholarship in women’s studies the body of knowledge classes in Women’s Studies are based on various types of research that can be compensatory as defined by Learner (1981).
In her research, she used a women-centered perspective and what we currently call knowledge which is omitted, absent, and trivialized. It was and still is a very relevant question that where were all the women in history?
Compensatory research and the collection of data cannot take place without “criticizing”. This eventually leads to the production of new theories, and models and this is an important aspect of feminist research. For the last two decades, there has been a virtual explosion in feminist scholarship.
There has been hardly any field that has not been touched by feminists, however, much of it is still in line with traditional concepts. Hence women’s studies as a discipline provide us the opportunity to look at and analyze the different existing theories and ideologies in the academic disciplines with a perspective of life in societies.
To Understand this concept in detail please view the following articles:
- Origin of Women’s Studies in Pakistan
- Identity Crisis for Women’s Studies
- Gender Studies as Multidisciplinary & Interdisciplinary Nature
- Autonomy vs. Integration Debate in Gender Studies
- Status of Gender Studies in Pakistan
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