What is the difference between gender studies and womens studies

Women's Studies or Gender Studies?

Ellen Krause and Hannelore Faulstich-Wieland provide introductions to political and educational gender studies

By Rolf Löchel

Discussed books / references

By Rolf Löchel

"Feminist Studies go to Gender Studies?" - Christine Kanz discussed this question a few years ago in literaturkritik.de on the basis of two introductions to gender studies, one of which had the topos 'Feminist Theories' in the title, the other, however, 'Gender Studies' (cf. literaturkritik.de 7/8 2000 ). Kanz stated that Regina Becker-Schmitt and Gudrun-Axeli Knapp already take a position in the debate about correct labeling in the title of their book - "Introduction to Feminist Theories" (and not, for example, "Introduction to Gender Studies"). Of course, despite all the similarities and overlaps in content, both labels refer to different things. The same applies to women's studies and the gender studies that emerged from them. It is all the more irritating that the educational scientist Hannelore Faulstich-Wieland speaks of an "introduction to women's studies" in the first sentence of her book, which is entitled "Introduction to Gender Studies". The "focus" of the volume, it is explained, is the "understanding of 'women's studies'". At the same time, however, the term gender studies should also be used as a "uniform term". The author initially leaves the difference between women's and gender studies largely in the dark. However, she is very well aware that the "change from the designation Women Studies [sic!] To gender studies" reflects the "theoretical discussion about the meaning of gender", which she only goes into in the penultimate of the six chapters . Here she traces the "theoretical development" from women's to gender research, whereby the subtext of her remarks makes it clear that she herself still prefers women's research.

However, before Faulstich-Wieland turns to the theoretical fundamentals of gender studies and thus how they differ from women's studies, she first takes a look at "Women's Studies in the USA - and elsewhere in the world" (with a focus on four of the selected examples whose selection is somewhat coincidental as it is based on a six-month research stay by the author in one of these four research institutions located in the San Francisco Bay Area), then dedicates itself to women's and gender studies in German with a special focus on educational science Universities and finally discusses the questions of whether there is a feminist didactic and whether women learn and teach differently. The explanations on the theoretical foundations of gender studies are then only followed by a rather short section on gender mainstreaming and "gender-relevant aspects of educational science fields" as well as an - albeit extensive - appendix.

The late treatment of the basic theories is astonishing. However, Faulstich-Wieland's main interest is apparently not them, but the forms of institutionalization and curricula of women and gender studies. The fact that theories are discussed at all is thanks to the fact that they are included "[i] in all concepts of gender studies as compulsory elements". "It does so It makes sense to take a closer look at what is to be understood by it. "(Herv. RL) Since the theories of women and gender studies are only of derived interest, their presentation is also much shorter than that of the institutional forms, curricula and courses of study the approaches of "doing gender", the "reflexive criticism of bisexuality" and the "paradoxes of gender theory and women's politics" are rarely dealt with on either page Introduction too brief. Especially since it is often less about the theories themselves than about which theoretician stands for which approach. However, the closer the author gets to her actual subject area, pedagogy, the more detailed she goes into the theories themselves a.

The volume closes with an appendix which, in addition to a detailed bibliography, provides an overview of German universities and their research institutions and courses on women's and gender studies (with a focus on educational science).

Anyone who wants to get an overview of "at which universities an institutionalization of gender studies exists in what form" is certainly well served with the book. But Wieland-Faulstich's remarks on the theories, methods and approaches in women's and gender studies are not satisfactory.

Political scientist Ellen Krause takes a different path than Wieland-Faulstich with her "Introduction to Gender Studies in Political Science". Right at the beginning she emphasizes the didactic claim of this introduction "with the features of a textbook", which offers work suggestions in the form of reading questions, pre-structured comparisons, exercises and word problems with suggested answers. However, "theorems" or "summarizing general statements" are deliberately omitted. The aim of the book is to enable students to "independently enter specialized literature in feminist or gender-categorical political science". Basic knowledge of political science is required, however. In addition, the author would like to provide "assistance" to teachers who offer an event on feminist political science or a "gender categorical" issue.

At the beginning Krause lists some commonalities of all approaches of feminist science, among them the "criticism of oppression, subordination, discrimination of women based on their gender", "reflections on the social and political consequences of bisexuality" and "theorising of gender". Hardly any feminist scholar would disagree with this. Here and there, however, an objection might be raised against the "criticism of the claim to universalization of conventional theory"; for example by the philosopher Herta Nagl-Docekal, who is of the opinion "that a universalistic moral conception is indispensable for the formation of feminist theories". And a few pages after her list of feminist similarities, Krause herself knows that "liberal feminism" follows the "ideal of universal humanity".

In the first chapter, the author concisely explains some central terms, trends and theories in women's and gender studies, although surprisingly uncritical about men's studies, which are not actually part of feminist science. Then various connections between political theory and feminism are shown. The third section presents the theories of four American authors (Carol Pateman, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Nancy Fraser and Judith Butler) and one German author (Eva Kreisky) as "classic texts of feminist theorizing" in more detail. That this is introduced into the "world of thought [s]" of these authors is said a little too much, as they are only examined from a political science point of view, which means that some - sometimes central - thoughts and theories of one or the other author remain underexposed. The fourth part deals with feminist and gender-categorical approaches in the history of political ideas, in democracy and state analysis as well as in the research of international relations. The fifth and final chapter deals with current debates on reproductive technologies, globalization and gender mainstreaming.

Of the five theorists presented in the third section, Judith Butler undoubtedly caused the greatest furore, but also the greatest furore, with her book "Gender Trouble". As Krause states, Butler's theses had caused a "discomfort", especially in German-speaking feminism, "which was in stark contrast to the cosiness with which one had established oneself in the distinction between sex and gender". But in the meantime the waves have calmed down. Today, she continues, an "irreconcilable scientific dispute" is neither diagnosed nor suspected "the end of all practice". The fact that Butler's considerations met with such violent rejection among German feminists, particularly of sociological and political provenance, at the beginning of the 1990s, was also due to a fundamental lack of understanding of their philosophical-deconstructive approach. Krause is far from such a lack of understanding, but at least one of Butler's theses is also distorted in the - as she herself says - "abbreviated form" presented by her: "The subject woman is the result of a power discourse". According to Butler, not (only) the subject woman is a result of the power discourse, but subjects par excellence, as she has once more and here particularly detailed in her book "Psyche der Macht", which deals with the "subject of submission" (cf. literaturkritik.de 4/2002). The fact that Krause refrains from referring to this book is all the more astonishing since she has recognized the relevance of subject theory for Butler's approach.

She is also guilty of one or the other vagueness towards some non-feminist scientists. Your assertion, for example, that "the culture" of Lacan "revolves around the male sexual organ" cannot be saved by the remark that Lacan leaves "the biological-material plane" and instead emphasizes "the symbolic meaning". In addition, the author sometimes confuses the terms outside of her specialist area. "To start from an unchangeable nature of men and women" is hardly "ontological", but essentialist, at best ontologizing. What is particularly annoying, however, is that postmodernism, that is, the dedicated attack on all isms, becomes an ism for itself, "postmodernism".

Another shortcoming of the book is that texts from the classics of the history of political ideas are cited from secondary literature (e.g. Hobbes, Rousseau and Hegel) or even only reproduced in paraphrases of secondary literature (e.g. Plato and Aristotle). Although this seems to be only a formal point of criticism, it does not make it much easier to find and read the cited or paraphrased passages in their respective context.

Despite such shortcomings - which are joined by some linguistic or stylistic weaknesses such as the "traditional political traditions" or, more relevant in terms of content, the "abortion", which should be "liberalized" and which apparently means the right to abortion - Krause's book is certainly a useful, if not indispensable, introductory reading for political scientists interested in gender theory.