Doctors need to know the differences between blokes and sheilas – so what else is there to gender studies?

One has a willy, the other hasn't - so what's to be studied?

Alf can’t get too excited about the axing of New Zealand’s first gender studies programme at Victoria University.

Yes, he has heard the wailings from feminist Sandra Coney who says there are still gains to be made in feminist movements where work was “not complete by any stretch of the imagination”.

It was a shame Victoria University was removing courses that catered to a diverse range of people, she said. “You’re really undermining … the concept of what a university is.”

But Alf can’t get too excited.

Indeed, he approves the axing of the course if – as he understands – it extends to something called Queer Studies.

Beginning with a broad study of the invention of sexual identities and the emergence of multiple discourses on sexuality in the 19th and 20th centuries, the course focuses on the development of lesbian, gay, bisexual and minority sexual identities and communities. The effects of gender, class and culture on sexualities are considered from a variety of feminist theoretical perspectives, leading to a discussion of current developments in Queer Theory and gay/lesbian postmodernism.

So this improves the human condition – how exactly???

Alf notes it was not a bloke who announced the closure of the course.

Victoria University Pro Vice-Chancellor Deborah Willis said a review found the programme was “unsustainable in its current form”, before the decision was made. Other faculties would offer similar courses instead.

“The university has developed considerable strength in gender studies across a number of faculties and programmes.”

The course had 21 students enrolled in 2010, but only seven students and one staff member would be affected in 2011.

That number – 21 students – makes nonsense of the utterances of Victoria University Students Association president Max Hardy, who said there was a big community of students, alumni and academic staff who wanted the programme retained.

Mind you, 21 might be “big” for him (which suggests girls should exercise caution if he brags to them about generously endowed in the willy department).

He is bleating that because fewer resources had gone into the programme, it had become less attractive for new students.

But the university said there had been no long-term plan to scrap the programme.

Tertiary Education Union president Tom Ryan reckons what’s happening in Wellington reflects a national trend.

“Gender studies is an example of the pressure that’s being put on the liberal arts areas [which are] seen as less deserving of support than science and technology.”


Gender studies will continue – but maybe not under that name – where they belong.

And where they belong is not in the liberal arts area.

Gender studies is strictly the stuff for our medical schools.

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