The National Post editorial board hates women’s studies

The Post’s “sexist drivel”—as one commenter called it—makes the case for why women studies will live on


Is the editorial board at the National Post made up of a bunch of sexist, “ill-informed jackasses”? That is what is being argued from the sidelines of social media—blogs, Twitter, Facebook, [insert latest online soapbox here].

The chorus of anger is in response to Tuesday’s editorial in the Post called “Women Studies is Still With Us.” The column begins by outlining the news element: there have been reports that women studies programs are disappearing from Canadian campuses, they say. This is presumably a retort to the Toronto Star columnist Catherine Porter’s lament that Queen’s University is changing the name of their women studies program to “gender studies.”

Screen shot 2010-01-29 at 10.58.09 AMThe Post goes on to play the skeptic, but accomplishes sounding more like a self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist revealing what was on the front page of yesterday’s paper: “We would wave good-bye without shedding a tear, but we are pretty sure these angry, divisive and dubious programs are simply being renamed to make them appear less controversial.”

Uh… duh. As Maclean’s OnCampus reported last weekend, and Porter herself acknowledges, no one is claiming these classes and programs are gone, only that the name is changing. Porter is annoyed, apparently because of her nostalgic attachment to the resulting “empowerment” of seeing the word “woman” in the course calendar of her university days (which is sentimental nonsense, if you ask me). OnCampus’ Robyn Urback argues more rationally when she notes that the change to “gender studies” reflects the contemporary study of women’s role in society. “To properly understand the role of women in society you have to understand the role of men,” she writes. Furthermore, by depoliticizing the program by removing the word “women” surely the subject of study can move on to a more nuanced study of gender in society.

So, does the change make things less controversial? Probably. Moving the subject of women studies away from its traditional “man-hating” subject matter–if you will–you’d think would please the Post. But, nope, the editorial board sees the change as a manipulative way of masking women studies academics’ true intentions: to crush all things good in our society.

The Post then argues that women studies programs are downright evil. (I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.) Radical feminism at the core of these programs, they write, has wreaked havoc on families, labour law, court systems, constitutional freedoms and “even the ordinary relations between men and women.” According to the Post, women studies programs are responsible for the entirety of what feminism got wrong: they are to blame for ill-advised affirmative action in hiring, for convincing young women that all men are victimizers, for divorced men who find themselves unfairly blocked access to their children, for systematic unfairness in the Supreme Court, for increasing taxes with frivolous programs like universal child-care (because child-care is a women’s issue, right? sigh), and for insisting that men shouldn’t try to write novels from a woman’s perspective. These crazy women studies professors have gone so far as to argue that “all heterosexual sex is oppression because its ‘penetrative nature’ amounts to ‘occupation.’” And the result of all of these sins? “Executives, judges and university students must now sit through mandatory diversity training.” Boo hoo.

Although the Post doesn’t go to the trouble of letting the reader know when and at which university these sins were committed nor who said the things they quote in their editorial, I don’t doubt that each of these transgressions occurred at some point in history on some university campus. Nevertheless, it’s a cheap shot to seek out the most extreme of feminist arguments to make the case for why women studies should be extinct. Any movement will have its extremists—in this case, those who argue that sex is, by definition, “occupation”—and a rational person would look past those and listen to the majority in the middle.

Although I’m female, I don’t call myself a feminist; I believe that most of the work on that front is done and I feel alienated by extremists who continue to decry the inherent chauvinism at the basis of our society. Nevertheless, if women studies are to blame for all of the bad that resulted from feminism, as the Post would have you believe, then we should also applaud them for feminism’s accomplishments, which far outnumber the downsides. No progress in society happens without some steps backwards.

Even if equality has come a far way in our society, there continues to be a role for women’s studies, if not in leading the feminist movement, then in the study of its history. Only an ignorant person would look at our country and see perfect equality and access to achievement, and only in paying tribute to the inequalities of the past will we remember how far we’ve come and why it is important.

Unfortunately, the Post’s editorial accomplishes the opposite of its intention. Instead of making a compelling argument for why women studies programs should be a thing of the past, it only demonstrates why they are essential to our future.


The National Post editorial board hates women’s studies

  1. Is this a blog, news content or editorial content?

  2. Pingback: Ignorance is still with us (Unfortunately) « She Called Me Superman

  3. Agreed with Chris – this blurs the line far too much. How did this pass editorial review? Did it?

  4. This post is filed under Erin’s blog.

  5. This kind of thing is why the Post is so irrelevant and unread. With everything going on in the world they set up a straw-man opponent to take down? And one as obscure and irrelevant itself as university women’s studies programs, to boot?
    Honestly, talking about the editorial only encourages the Post writers to view themselves as opinion-makers, which they’ve long since ceased to be.

  6. Carson, there is absolutely no indication as to whether it is a news item, column, blog or something else entirely. No where on this page, nor on the main page from which it is linked. (or in the URL for that matter)

    I don’t particularly object to this as a column or blog or whatever, it’s just odd that after years of being active this website still does not clearly indicate whether content is supposed to be news or editorial.

  7. Chris and Kate: I don’t think this piece is more opinionated than many of the other posts on this site written by Todd, Carson, Robyn, Jeff and others. But since I regularly write news for the site as well, it can definitely get confusing. We’re as frustrated by the limitations of the layout of the site as you are. There’s no good way to differentiate items the way things are currently set up on our end. But be assured that Macleans.ca has a redesign on this site in the works, and this site should soon be pulled under the auspices of the main macleans.ca site, which will make our jobs easier–and hopefully make reading and analyzing the posts easier for you as well.

  8. @Chris,

    On the main page, there is an archive titled “From the Blogs.” You will find this post listed there.

  9. you know i think your response is well written, but i find it disappointing that you are one of many women in this generation who seem to this Feminism is a dirty word. it’s not. it’s a belief in gender equality. obviously this means different things to different people, but just remember equality has not totally arrived.

    yes, women outnumber men in BA programs, but their numbers thin by the time you reach PhD status. yes, women now earn more than their partners in 22% of relationships, but still only earn $0.70 on the dollar. yes, our sexual assault laws are stronger now, but the most likely cause of death for a pregnant woman in canada today is assault by her current or former partner; staggering numbers of women are still sexually assaulted or domestically abused. gender violence persists. exploitation persists.

    don’t think feminism is a bad thing. recognize that different people interpret the remaining challenges women face in different ways, and form your own version of feminism.

  10. there’s seems to be a lot unsubstantiated facts floating all over this issue, from both sides.

    Equality has not been reached, strive for it. But, if it’s not done across the board, what’s the point? What about racism, sexism (on both sides), ageism, caste system, homophobia….etc.

    We need to address the heart of the issue. the human desire for power/control, physical and mental abuse, lack of confidence, lack of proper education…etc.

  11. Pingback: Little Miss Brightside » Blog Archive » The National Post Hates Women, Seeks to Have Womens Studies Abolished

  12. Women’s Studies is a necessary program of study. In an educational system that overwhelmingly discusses men’s contributions to literature, science, and society in general, Women’s Studies provides some balance.

    I began my degree in a university that did not offer Women’s Studies. The first two years of my education, to say nothing of elementary school through high school, was overwhelmingly the study of white male thought. Now, I have nothing against white men who have something to say. It just seems that they have more air time than anybody else. We should strive for gender and racial diversity in our university programs.

    I would love to see the day come when women’s contributions (and the contributions of people of colour, alternative sexualities, etc etc) are given the same airtime as the contributions of white men. Until that day comes, we need programs such as women’s studies and first nations studies to bring other perspectives to higher education.

  13. Pingback: Dear National Post’s editorial board: We are unimpressed «

  14. @Chris & Kate
    this whole website is designed using WordPress, ergo IT’S A BLOG

  15. Why are colleges offering courses, and even degrees, in this one-sided ideology? Public education does not offer degrees in Jehovah’s Witness Studies, Ayn Rand Studies, Intelligent Design Studies or any of the thousands of ideologies that claim to own the truth and be able to solve all problems. Even that other lefty favorite, Communist Studies, is missing. The Ivory Tower was already overwhelming left-wing before Feminist Studies. To a minority, feminism is a fight for ‘equality’, except when equality is inconvenient like with child custody, affirmative action, and women-only programs. Another minority sees feminism as a dishonest, man-hating, victimhood-wallowing, outdated, anti-family cult. Regardless, it should not be taught in a public institutions. Ideologies belong in the streets. Women are 54% of the electorate and will vote in policies as they see fit without Big Sister. And yes, as Christina Hoff Sommers points out, Feminist Studies are mindlessly one-sided. If opposing viewpoints mentioned at all, they are only given as straw-men. Name one FS professor that thinks that women have it easy compared to men or that ‘the patriarchy’ is a good thing.

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