The Independent Women’s Forum has released a major review of textbooks used in college Women’s Studies departments. The review, authored by senior fellow Chistine Stolba, challenges the “propaganda, not scholarship,” being put forth by women’s studies textbooks.
For her report, “Lying in a Room of One’s Own: How Women’s Studies Textbooks Miseducate Students” (online at www.iwf.org), Stolba reviewed syllabi from Women’s Studies departments at 30 major colleges and universities — including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — and examines the five most popular textbooks used.
A key concern of Stolba’s is the “large number of factual inaccuracies” put forth in women’s studies textbooks, which are, as Stolba shows, “deliberately misleading sisterly sophistries.” Because, as the books explain, the goal of women’s studies is “transform knowledge” since existing knowledge stems from a male bias, Stolba writes, the textbooks wantonly commit errors of fact. Those include the myths that women face a “wage gap” due to discrimination (a gap that disappears when “important factors such as age, education, consecutive years of experience, and type of job” are considered) and that women face a “glass ceiling” (while ignoring “evidence that women often eagerly pursue flexible work arrangements” because “Time and control over their schedules is more valuable to them than climbing the corporate ladder”).
The textbooks also blame societal discrimination rather than individual choice for occupational segregation, despite survey evidence even within the textbooks themselves that women workers choose “flexible work arrangements and Mommy Tracks.” Furthermore, they claim women have been shortchanged in medical research despite that canard having been “debunked by numerous scholars” (one textbook even states “the present ‘masculinity of science’ may very well kill us”).
For the issue of domestic violence, Stolba finds the texts rely on “repeating incendiary statistics” while ignoring countering research and “do little to inform readers of the complexity of the issue.” Wife beating is said without substantiating to spring from men’s “not only envy but rage” about their wives’ pregnancies. Also without substantiation, college men are portrayed as so likely to invoke sexual violence that their peers reading those texts are left with “the impression that gang rapes on fraternity row are a regular occurrence.”
Even though women “receive the majority of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and within a decade are projected to receive the majority of Ph.D.’s,” Stolba writes, the textbooks maintain that education is biased against women, even warning of a “hidden curriculum” that “reflect[s] the same sexist, racist, cultural, and class biases that are found in the dominant culture.” As they do with women’s academic success, the textbooks all treat women’s success in general as something not to be celebrated, but as something that needs to be explained and reconciled to the theoretical basis of “women under siege.”
Unsubstantiated theories abound in the textbooks, Stolba finds, and readers are told “the control of women by patriarchy” had made them the perfect slaves, “unaware of their condition, unaware that they were controlled, believing instead that they had freely chosen their life and situation”; women are forced by the power of “phallocentric thinking” to believe “women need men for sexual arousal and satisfaction,” which is one of the ways “heterosexuality is maintained by social control”; Marriage, an “instrument of social oppression” whose vision of intimacy is “How do I love thee, let me count the heterosexist, patriarchal ways,” is shaped by “patriarchy, heterosexist institutions, the class structure, and racism”; motherhood is “isolation” and “a mixture of satisfaction and pleasure plus anger, frustration, and bitterness”; “the traditional family is a source of social conflict and a haven only for men”; and fathers are the “foreign male element” who are given to perpetrating incest and child abuse.