The Evolution of Gender Studies and Its Impact on the African Society in the 21st Century

The Evolution of Gender Studies and Its Impact on the African Society in the 21st Century

Jeffrey Kurebwa (Bindura University of Science Education, Zimbabwe)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2815-0.ch001

Abstract

This study traces the evolution of gender studies from the 1970s to the 21st century. The impact of gender studies to the African society is also covered in greater detail. Gender studies includes a method to appreciate the ideologies, social patterns, and descriptions that shape our world and our lives. It raises questions about how and why a gender divide is created or preserved and also many times resisted or weakened. Gender studies explores the multiple interfaces among race, caste, class, and gender. It investigates traditional disciplines through an interdisciplinary perspective that focuses on the significance of sex as a social construct and the importance of gender and gender roles. It also advances the historical and existing portrayal of both women and men in religion, arts, literature, and many other arenas.
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Evolution Of Gender Studies

The origins of gender studies lie in women’s studies. Women’s studies came into existence out of a realization of the absence of women in academia: the lack of empirical knowledge about women, which reflected the specificities of women’s lives; the absence of concepts that women could use to understand their own experiences; the lack of importance given to women’s economic, social and political lives. Women’s studies became an important way of doing away with this invisibility and bringing the lives and experiences of women to the forefront in academia. It provided a wealth of new data about women, and also challenged the theories, concepts and methods of existing disciplines. Gaining and analyzing new knowledge about women is an important part of women’s studies. Many contributions continue to be made to existing disciplines. At the same time, the academic study of women itself has also changed, incorporating new perspectives and positions.

Gender studies appeared, for the first time, in the 1970, in American universities, in a time when the simple fact of saying that women can become an object of study was conceived as a radical act (Boxer, 1998, 10). Initially, the field was called “Female Studies”, but this name was soon abandoned for the more comprehensive “Women’s Studies”, that highlighted the fact that the field contained studies conceived by women, concerning women and belonging to women. For the first time, women were not only learning about themselves, but were actively creating and owning knowledge based on their own personal and political experiences (Ginsberg, 2008, p. 10). Women’s studies were born out of the protest that women in the universities directed against the way academic knowledge was silent about women and their scientific contribution and ignored the power relations in academia and society. From its very inception, Women’s Studies had a very clear purpose and that was to transform the university so that knowledge about women was no longer invisible, marginalized, or made ‘other’ (Ginsberg, 2008, p. 10-11).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Masculinity: A set of attributes, behaviours, and roles associated with boys and men.

Gender Studies: An inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary academic field devoted to various aspects of identity and representation across societies and cultures.

Femininity: Qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of women.

Women’s Studies: An academic field that draws on feminist and interdisciplinary methods in order to place women’s lives and experiences at the centre of study, while examining social and cultural constructs of gender; systems of privilege and oppression; and the relationships between power and gender as they intersect with other identities and social locations such as race, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, and disability.

Gender: Socially constructed differences between men and women, boys, and girls.

Sex: Biological and physiological differences between men and women, boys and girls.

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