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June 1 2002

Lying in a Room of One's Own

Christine Stolba

Do you know what your daughters may be learning in their "Intro to Women's Studies" courses? During the Women's History month of March, IWF released a study by Senior Fellow Christine Stolba entitled Lying in a Room of One's Own: How Women's Studies Textbooks Miseducate Students. Stolba's eye-opening analysis concludes that "the 'knowledge' transmitted by Women's Studies textbooks is often factually and interpretively at odds with reality."

Stolba reviewed the syllabi used by Women's Studies departments at 30 major universities and colleges and closely examined five popular textbooks used in Women's Studies classrooms. Not surprisingly, she found that propaganda, not scholarship, best describes most "Intro to Women's Studies" courses.

Stolba observes that though "Women's Studies textbooks often remark on the positive, transformative experience of their students, what have these women actually learned?"

The problem with these textbooks is that information is presented uncritically, with only part of the story being told -- so young, impressionable college women emerge from their assigned reading with a jaded view of a world in which patriarchy reigns supreme and women don't stand a chance at success unless they "transform knowledge." The textbooks claim that women will conquer patriarchy and reclaim their empowered selves by learning their own "history of struggle and achievement." But according to Stolba, Women's Studies has actually only "encouraged this process of internalizing subordination and inferiority by promoting a message of women-as-victims."

Moreover, its sins of omission and obvious biases of interpretation have taught young women "that dismissive -- even contemptuous -- and shoddy summaries of their opponents' work is an appropriate intellectual response to ideas that challenge one's own." In the end, all Women's Studies has done is engage in much myth-making; unfortunately, myth-making is not scholarship. As its textbooks demonstrate, the field of Women's Studies has turned "rooms of their own" into narrow intellectual prisons presided over by matriarchs of mediocrity who mistake ideology for learning and scholarship.

Naturally, such an "assault" on Women's Studies has captured the attention of the media and has drawn ire from Women's Studies departments nationwide.

George Will devoted an entire column to this study, and Rush Limbaugh read from it on his radio show. Christine Stolba appeared as a guest on FOX's O'Reilly Factor, as well as on numerous radio stations across the nation -- including the Laura Ingraham Show -- and was the subject of lengthy pieces in publications such as the Washington Times, Reason, and National Review Online.

Stolba made an excellent point to Bill O'Reilly when interviewed on his show: "I would urge any student who has been assigned these textbooks to set them aside and read the collected works of Shakespeare -- you will learn more about gender politics and human nature from Taming of the Shrew than from any ofthese books."

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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