Gender Studies’ Mission Creep

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Gender Studies may never have had a clear mission but it is still susceptible to mission creep.  “And gender studies isn’t focused on analyzing gays and lesbians as a specific subgroup,” Paul Ketzle writes in the Winter issue of Continuum magazine. “Instead, it investigates how a central concept like sexual identity is conceptualized through cultural artifacts (such as novels, poems, art, and film), and also how myriad aspects of our society—from architecture to economic theory—are (sometimes surprisingly) gendered.”

Ketzle is an instructor in the University of Utah Honors College.  Continuum is the magazine of The University of Utah.

No one would confuse the road to Salt Lake City with the one to Damascus,” Ketzle writes. “But for Kathryn Bond Stockton, the journey that brought her from a nearly ordained Episcopal priest to professor of English, celebrated queer theorist, and director of the University of Utah Gender Studies Program was, like the Apostle Paul’s, a spiritual journey, one filled with unexpected revelations and inspiration.”

“There are many different stories we can tell about ourselves, Stockton points out.” She shared quite a few of them with Ketzle.

“What they’ve defined as ‘normal’—heterosexual, monogamous nuclear family—is not even ‘normal,’” she said. “If that’s your idea of normal, then few would even qualify.”

“ And you wouldn’t have any need for the instruction and rigid rules they insist upon if it were natural.”

“Stockton’s latest book, The Queer Child: Growing Sideways Through the Twentieth Century, observes that throughout the 20th century, there existed little public discourse on gay children, except among a very few major novelists and filmmakers in whose work the gay child lives and breathes,” Ketzle claims. “But now we’re a culture that’s finally recognizing these children who may see themselves as ‘gay’ and may have a relationship to that word—and that relationship might be happy, fearful, terrified, anxious, and/or excited, she argues.”

“This ‘gay’ child could tell us about the interesting, complicated, painful, and pleasurable complications of childhood that we might otherwise tend to deny.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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