You’ve inevitably seen the course titles in your college catalog. Some are funny, like “Politicizing Beyonce,” others bizarre like “From Lenin to Pussy Riot: Gendering (Post) Soviet Russia.” Some seem like serious stretches like “Tobacco: Gender Matters.” Of course, all these courses are in the same department: “Gender Studies.”
Amusing as the courses and rhetoric may be, most modern gender studies programs are more than just jokes. They’re political propaganda ministries masquerading as academic departments. It doesn’t have to be this way. With the right changes, we can pull gender studies back from the divisive political arena into the truth-seeking scientific arena where it belongs.
What Is Gender Studies Anyway?
Gender studies is a very specialized discipline within sociology that studies the role gender plays in society. Its fundamental premise is that gender and biological sex are two different things and that “gender” refers to the cultural expectations of men, women and other genders.
You’re probably thinking, “Well what’s wrong with that? That all sounds perfectly reasonable to me.” And you’re right, it is perfectly reasonable.
A healthy forum of debate about gender has led to a lot of social epiphanies in the last century. However, beginning in the 90s, the social sciences, especially gender studies departments, became less about research and objective understanding and more about political indoctrination.
This isn’t something unique to gender studies. Radical regimes throughout history have used subjects like history, linguistics and biology to justify and give credence to their political movements. The problem is when political activists start out with a pre-existing belief and then direct research to prove it, instead of the other way around. The scientific research method is starting with an unbiased question and basing conclusions on the research.
The Transformation of Gender Studies Into a Propaganda Machine
The American Academy has generally leaned to the left of the political spectrum, at least since surveys started in the late 1950s. However, this was a minor imbalance. Back then, about 20% of professors still identified as right wing.
Starting in the 1990s, the proportion of left-wing professors increased dramatically. While the ratios in 1990 were about 40/40/20 left/moderate/conservative, the 2014 numbers were 60/30/10.
Indeed, writing for Heterodox Academy, a think tank concerned with ideological diversity on college campuses, Sam Abrams claims that university professors in 1990 were only 11% more left-wing than America as a whole. By 2013 that had tripled to 30% and has surely climbed higher by now.
This is not even the full picture, though. The political shift has been even more dramatic in the social sciences. Jonathan Haidt, one of the founders of Heterodox Academy, found that in a survey of 327 social psychology professors, only one identified as right of center.
The political self-identification of university professors from 1989-2014
The Downward Spiral of an Echo Chamber
What’s the implication? Well, for one thing, large groups of people who all think the same tend to get increasingly radical. They build off each other’s views without anyone to check their fallacies and exaggerations.
There are also no alternative ideas. Science, including social science, seeks to explain phenomena by developing theories. For example, the theory of gravity as proposed by Newton explains why things fall to the ground. The theory of evolution by natural selection as proposed by Darwin explains why life on earth is divided into distinct species.
But in an environment without critics, the establishment continues with traditional interpretations, continuously coming up with more absurd justifications for those theories even as new evidence discredits them.
Example? Early scientists watched astronomical bodies change with the days, months and seasons. Based on their observations, it seemed obvious that these bodies were circling the Earth. Given their existing (albeit limited) knowledge, this was perfectly logical.
However, as astronomy advanced, scientists made a lot of observations that just didn’t fit with this theory, especially the movements of the planets which seemed to have little consistency. It wasn’t until 1543 that Copernicus landed on the right answer: the Earth is only one of the planets, all of which orbit the sun.
Many people believe that Copernicus was persecuted for his beliefs, but this wasn’t really the case. He was mostly just ignored.
Despite the observational and mathematical undeniability of his claims, even 60 years after the publication of On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, only about 15 European astronomers had adopted the theory.
Why? All others scientists were busy trying to prove their old way of thinking right with increasingly ridiculous amendments to the theory of geocentrism.
Same Story, Different Century
This is what’s happening in modern social sciences, especially gender studies. Because there’s such a lopsided concentration of ideology and belief in these departments, more elegant theories such as those posited by Drs. Warren Farrel and Rosi Braidotti that address both the biological and social roots of gender roles as well as their advantages and disadvantages for both genders get no airtime.
Instead, the homogenous faculties spend all their time looking for more ways to subvert Occam’s razor and support their outdated Marxist theory of gender and “patriarchy” even in the face of blatant evidence to the contrary.
Of course, this trend can only get worse. I’m not going to make the unsubstantiated claim that left-wing feminist university departments are actively discriminating against anyone who disagrees with them in the hiring process. Indeed, in The Politically Correct University, author Richard E. Redding finds that university faculty are so radically left because it’s only the radically left who go for PhDs and tenure track positions. It’s different choices, not discrimination.
Okay, but isn’t this just like feminists complaining about women in STEM? If you were a moderate, non-feminist gender theorist, would you bother spending seven years swimming against the current to get your PhD? You’d be at odds with any potential advisor and nearly all professors. Then would you bother to apply for a tenure track professorship in a department where all your colleagues will at best ignore you and at worst openly despise you?
No, of course not. The gender studies bias feeds itself.
Average student loan debt held by students and their parents from 1994-2018
Marxism and Gender Studies
When I point out that social science departments have become increasingly “left wing,” I’m not talking about “Democrats” or even “Liberals” but actual Marxists.
Indeed, the modern gender theory and much of the feminism that dominates American universities is truly rooted in Marxism. Gender studies developed as a discipline in the 1970s, propelled by second wave feminism. Consider that some of the most famous and frequently required readings in gender studies programs include The Dialectic of Sex by Shulamith Firestone, a book based in Marxism, and Sexual Politics by Kate Millett, an activist known for attending communist rallies.
These writers and their books view gender through the lens of Marxism, which says that history is merely the record of oppressors and oppressed. These Marxist gender scholars tack on gender too, attempting to show that gender and sex are political and politics is just power imbalances between groups, the oppressors and oppressed. In other words, the core feminist theory of “patiarchy.”
Now, back in the day, even I was a card-carrying commie. I went to CPUSA meetings and had an IWW dues card. I wore a red and yellow hammer-and-sickle t-shirt. Although it’s embarrassing, I admit this so you know I’m not just using “Marxism” as a bad word to manipulate you with some kind of McCarthy-era fear. I just want us to look objectively at the value of these programs.
Like gender studies as a concept, its readiness to use Marxist theory isn’t necessarily a problem. All ideas and interpretive lenses should have a shot at the table. The question is, why is Marxist gender theory the only lens at the table? Especially considering that its tenets such as the labor theory of value, collective agriculture and many more have been so thoroughly proven false in real-world application.
If you get an economic degree at any quality university, you will inevitably get exposed to Marxist ideas. The labor theory of value and command economies will come up. That’s good. You should get the full picture to fully understand the field.
However, if Das Kapital were your only required text, and 99% of your professors taught that collective agriculture is the most effective form of food production despite several centuries’ worth of evidence to the contrary, you might begin to doubt the value of the program. Just like you would if the astronomy department refused to teach Copernicus and Galileo.
Bad Philosophy Means Bad Research
We’ve discovered that gender studies is a discipline not based in the scientific quest for objective knowledge but rather ad hoc justification for their political agenda. We’ve also discovered that the current climate of genders studies is an echo chamber based in a school of thought whose application in most other disciplines has been totally discarded. Is it really a surprise then that the research these departments turn out is extremely flawed?
Just take a look at these claims from Tim Martin, a gender scholar who ultimately sued his university, the London School of Economics for anti-male discrimination. Though he constantly met resistance throughout his scholarship, he discovered that women usually dominate men in interpersonal relationships, that women verbalize four times more misandry than men do misogyny, and that women are actually more likely to initiate domestic violence than men. Nevertheless, his peers didn’t like his ideas.
We Need More Tim Martins
We can dissect gender studies and its biased professors endlessly. We can complain and laugh at them. Meanwhile, they get more money from the state and make sure their bad science creates a more divisive and profitable political climate.
Action is the only real way to make a change. We have to get enough people in gender studies who actually care about researching the sociology of gender and not just trying to give credibility to their prejudiced political agenda. Then we can replace their bad science with real science that benefits everyone.
If you’re interested in gender, sociology, social psychology or similar fields, don’t be afraid to study them. Yes, you will face bias and discrimination in the department. Yes, you will constantly be criticized by your peers. But like Copernicus, this is often the price for revealing the truth. Ultimately, humanity will thank you.