| November 14, 2012

The days of ‘blanket support’ are over

As the winds of austerity sweep through the country, winter is coming for academia,” Walter Russell Mead recently wrote (‘Academia’s Day of Reckoning Draws Nearer’). “Taxpayers and their representatives can no longer afford to supply blanket support to every academic venture, field, and practitioner.”

Hats off to University of Oklahoma president David Boren for at least asking the question: “Do we need all the course offerings we have?”

I would suggest the answer is no. Take Women’s Studies (please). Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, who has taught economics at Yale University and elsewhere, has argued that the Women’s Studies program at the University of Oklahoma—a harmful program devoted to the study of women and the promotion of a socially destructive ideology—is completely unnecessary. She says the taxpayers of Oklahoma should stop paying for it.

Those taxpayers, after all, are among the most conservative, pro-life, pro-traditional-family taxpayers in the United States. A full 57 percent describe themselves as somewhat or very conservative, while only 9 percent self-identify as somewhat or very liberal (the other 29 percent are moderate). And they’re not an inexhaustible source of cash.

In the April-June 2006 edition of the scholarly journal Food and Foodways—yes, there is such a thing—OU women’s studies professor Julia C. Ehrhardt published an article entitled “Towards Queering Food Studies: Foodways, Heteronormativity, and Hungry Women in Chicana Lesbian Writing.” Here, presented without comment, is the abstract:

As the nascent field of food studies takes shape, insights from queer studies have the potential to enrich our understandings of the interrelationships among food, gender, and sexuality. The project of queering food studies invites us to consider how food practices and beliefs reinforce and resist heterosexual gender ideologies. In this article, I analyze foodways in recent Chicana lesbian literature, examining writings that illustrate the cultural endurance of heteronormative constructions of gender even as they demonstrate how these beliefs are disrupted, destabilized, and transformed in queer literary kitchens. Poetry and essays by Chicana lesbians challenge dominant models of Chicana culinary roles by emphasizing women’s efforts to satisfy their physical and sexual appetites. In particular, Carla Trujillo's 2003 novel, What Night Brings, highlights the figure of the hungry lesbian as a provocative counterpoint to the literary image of the Chicana as cook. Literature by Chicana lesbians not only invites scholars to question heteronormative assumptions about food, gender, and identity, but also demonstrates the potential of queer studies to enrich a variety of topics in food scholarship.

Consider also some of the course offerings our young baristas-in-training can choose from: Contemporary Feminist Thought; Lesbian Literature; Early Modern Witch-Hunt; Feminist Anthropology; Varieties of Radical Dissent; Food and Power; Women Creating Social Change; Sociology of Family; Human Sexuality; Human Sexuality II; Women’s Health; You’ve Come a Long Way Baby: How Female Athletes Arrived; Sociology of Gender; Women and Gender Relations; Race, Gender and the Media; Gender in East Asia; and Women and Development in Latin America.

The good news is that the Women’s and Gender Studies budget at OU has been reduced 52 percent in the past two years. Mead is correct: “Taxpayers and their representatives can no longer afford to supply blanket support to every academic venture, field, and practitioner.”

[Cross-posted at]

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