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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 26, 1999)
More than an agenda
Women’s studies is about rethinking traditional roles
Editor's note: Each Tuesday this
semester, the Daily Nebraskan will
print an opinion column from a guest
columnist. Each works at the
University of Nebraska or is involved
with an issue that affects our campus
or our students.
Tina Giambastiani, Angie
BC DeVoss, Jill Matlock,
Erin Hansbrough, Andrew
Ascherl, Amanda Lighter,
Keri Wayne, Kat Koscho
and Gretchen Obrist are
The Women’s Studies Program.
Feminism? Lesbianism? Of course!
And a lot more. Women’s Studies
isn’t just about “understanding gen
der differences and how they contin
ue to affect different aspects of soci
ety,” as Jessica Flanagain puts it.
It is about rewriting history to
include women and rethinking tradi
tional and contemporary man-cen
tered theories and practices in all aca
demic fields, including English, phi
losophy, psychology, sociology,
anthropology, political science, fami
ly science and the study and applica
tion of the natural sciences and tech
And it is political. It came out of a
There is an assumption that all
fields other than the obvious ones,
like Women’s Studies, Chicana/o
Studies, Queer Studies and Ethnic
Studies, etc., are apolitical.
However, the university itself, as
a publicly funded institution, came
out of a political movement. It is
inherently political, as are all fields
within it, including philosophy,
English and journalism.
It is also assumed that the status
quo is apolitical, objective and repre
sentative of everyone’s experiences.
In fact, the very presence of women
in the university at all is a result of a
It is true that the Women’s Studies
Program ensures students the oppor
tunity to examine “alternative
lifestyles” when we define this
phrase as one that allows the student
to step outside of stereotypical boxes
and labels. Examining “alternative
; lifestyles” includes studying les
bians’ experiences as well as those of
single mothers, welfare recipients,
transgendered persons, sex workers
or any other “lifestyle” that is typical
ly ignored in the traditional andro
Women’s Studies is about decon
structing the institution of gender and
about women defining themselves -
for themselves. It is about women
learning about their context and
understanding that “gender differ
ences” are socially constructed.
What actually continues to “affect
different aspects of society” is the
assigning of roles and proper charac
teristics to each sex according to the
institution of gender and then sys
tematically valuing one constructed
“gender” schema over the Other.
The women’s movement today
and our Women’s Studies Program
are about making sure not only that
we include women’s experiences and
knowledge and accomplishments in
history, theory and activism, it is
about including all women.
Class, age, race, able-bodiedness,
sexual orientation and ethnicity, ele
ments that shape the pervasiveness of
racism, sexism, classism and homo
phobia in our culture make Women’s
Studies necessary and valuable.
Hofnophobia is part of the gen
dering process in acting as a tool to
help control people. This pervasive
attitude/norm of strict heterosexuali
ty makes it unacceptable for people
to live outside the roles set for them.
Because of this, there is obviously a '
great deal of discussion about homo
phobia, heterosexism and sexual ori
entation in Women’s Studies, includ
ing lesbianism and people’s fear of it.
Women’s Studies seeks to provide
a space for women to bring them
selves back to the center. Although
our classes often include students
who are simply there for the required
credit, we are there to learn and to
grow - a goal that is often hindered
by resistance in the classroom when
one point of view is privileged above
Women’s Studies students read
and listen and critically examine each
other’s work and ideas and the work
and ideas of their teachers and of
other academics. We frequently
respectfully disagree, and we chal
lenge each other intellectually. We
critique, and we learn, and we are
proud of our work and of our diversi
ty in perspective.
Although we don’t share a single
philosophy, we come to this field
knowing that we will study and theo
rize about and work on issues not
necessarily our own. We have an
understanding that learning about
and working on each other’s struggles
is an inherent part of our studies. The
only “agenda” we have is to respect
each other’s viewpoints.
There is no “feminist agenda”
agreed upon by all feminists. What
we agree on is that women have been
systematically and historically sub
ject to the standards, norms, laws,
politics, science, art, literature and
interests of men, and they still are.
We also agree on the compounding
effects of factors of race, class, sexu
al orientation, age and ability that
contribute to disadvantage for
There is no “black women’s agen
da” and there is no “lesbian agenda.”
Although these groups of women
may have common concerns and
issues in their lives, not all of these
issues coincide, and women will not
all agree on why they are faced with
them, how to address them or how to
solve the problems that issues pose.
The concerns of different women
often intersect, and one woman often
deals with race, sexual orientation
and class simultaneously. There is no
list anywhere that could possibly sum
up the complexity involved in these
issues and narrow them down to an
“agenda.” The assumption that such
agendas exist is absurdly narrow,
given the diversity of women.
We want to thank Ms. Flanagain
for directing the attention of the read
ers to our Women’s Studies Web site
http://www. uni. edu/womenssp/wsho
me.html. If any readers looked at it,
they would have found that the word
“lesbian” is mentioned four times
among 4,000-plus words, and it is
clearly not the only theme addressed.
Even if it were accurate that one
English class Ms. Flanagain took fea
tured lesbian work “70 percent” of
the time, three credit hours for one
class is one semester of a four-plus
year, 125-plus credit hour undergrad
uate degree seems to be very little. In
fact, it would make up .0168 percent
of a college degree.
It seems to us that Ms. Flanagain
could take another couple of
Women’s Studies classes and still
keep the amount of woman-centered
curriculum in her education down to
less than 51 percent.
Finally, if Ms. Flanagain thinks
that the Women’s Studies Program at
UNL promotes a “Slanted Agenda”
perhaps she should do some research
and theorizing about the agenda of
mainstream American education
institutions. There are some stagger
ing statistics there to ponder.
With a new female roommate, lifestyle changes are bound to occur
A.L. FORKNER is a junior
new8-editorial major and
a Daily Nebraskan colum
There’s a bunny on my couch.
It’s not a live bunny, mind you. It’s
stuffed, just like the Tigger doll resting
its head on the bunny’s lap.
No, I haven’t gotten in touch with
my feminine side. Both creatures
belong to my new roommate.
Yes, that does mean I’m living with
a girl, a chick, a female, a member of
the opposite sex, a trim, a broad, a hot
mommy, a senorita, ein fraulein.
Or, for our purposes, Jill.
No, she’s not my girlfriend, she’s
my roommate. I’m Jack to her Janet.
It’s all innocent We’ve never had any
thing and we never will.
See, it all started when my then
roommate Jeff met Vicki. Yes, the
loneliest guy in the world is getting
married. (Would someone call the
National Weather Service and get me
the weather forecast for Hell?)
Therefore, Jeff’s moving out soon.
Enter his sister, Jill. She needed a place
to live, I needed a roommate.
Coincidence? Yeah, probably^
I’m pretty sure Jeff is a bit uncom
fortable about all this. Of course, tins
whole arrangement was her folks’ idea,
so Jefiy’s been quiet about it
But you can still tell he’s a little
stressed. Either drat or he’s developed
Aside from Jeff, the true magnitude
of this arrangement didn’t really hit me
until I returned from class Friday.
When I entered my apartment my nose
was assaulted with the aroma of pot
pourri, perfume and nail polish.
Not my apartment’s usual smell.
The luxurious aroma was a dramat
ic change from the smell of whatever
animal flesh was charred and con- ^
sumed the night before.
So, needless to say,
this is going to mean a
few changes in my
For example, no
more Nude Tuesdays. I
tried to get Jill hip to the
idea, but... well, you know
how women can get. (Or not get,
as the case is.)
I’ll also have to stop
watching NASCAR all day
Sunday in my skivvies.
I’ll actually have to start
taking my clothes with me into
the shower. Sorry Jill, no freebies
as I sprint to my room post-show
A guy’s got to have some stan
dards, you know.
However, I am mostly concerned
about Jill’s traits rubbing off on me.
You see, when Jeff and I roomed
together we were described to people as
Brian and Joe Hackett, America’s
favorite aviating brothers from
All of our friends expected I would
bring Jeff more toward the wild side
and he would serve as a calming influ
ence on me.
Hey, it was a good idea on paper..
However, both Jeff and I ended up
moving further to the right. Please bear
in mind Jeff is the guy with the framed
portrait of him and Eton Quayle.
The only change I like to think I
instituted in Jeff was his success with a
In other words, Jeff wound up
influencing me a lot more than I influ
Could the same thing happen
J Might the day come when I own
and utilize a “Caboodle” as a tack
le box because it’s so much prettier?
It’s entirely possible.
So to you, my readers), I promise
- utmost not to
change. But 1... _
need more help then usual. I need all <
of you to keep an eye on me. ^
If I start referring to my feelings 1
in a serious way in a column, write me.
If I ever use the phrase, “I care
about...,” e-mail me.
If I talkabout finding a great deal
on a pair of shoes, screw calling or
writing - find me and smack me.
I can usually be found around
Avery Hall, like any other frenetic,
crazed, half-babbling unable-to-gradu
It’s where all the journalism classes
¥■ . ' •
So, while I hate to harp on the sub
ject, I really don’t want to turn into a
suit’s always been
are complex, high-mamte
ce, mysterious creatures.Dear God
ve ’em, I just don’t want to be one.
So Jill, consider this your warning.
If 1 ever act really crude, rude and
'Tass, forgive me. It’s nothing personal.
Most likely I was just feeling a bit
scute in my manhood and was over
Vhich brings me back to the
I almost forgot. Poker game, my
women allowed. Unless you
pay half the rent, of course.
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