To the Editors of The Crimson:
Hesitant as I am to intrude into the battle between the sexes, pitting Cynthia V. Hooper against Craig S. Lerner ("Women's Studies," March 23 and March 16, respectively), I will nonetheless venture into this dangerous territory. I do so only reluctantly, compelled by the strength of Miss Hooper's unladylike indignation and by the boldness of her ambitious design.
She maintains, in an angry denunciation of Lerner, that Women's Studies is a legitimate "developing discipline," "not intending to work as a particular propaganda," and not "a vapid political concession" by Harvard's faculty. Women's studies is not motivated by a petty political passion, and therefore the works on its reading list are not shallow, or "yipping pups." Her example of greatness is Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex.
This is rather questionable, since Beauvoir herself claims the work is designed to "abolish the slavery of half of humanity," to "emancipate women." That is, the work has a primarily political purpose, and a politically passionate one at that.
Hooper is sure that Women's Studies is not just a political faction, however. To prove it, she concedes that "feminist theory is too limited to support" Women's Studies. Instead, we need to have Women's Studies "incorporated into a variety of concentrations."
There is certainly a "women's studies" in courses in other departments already. In the Government Department, Plato, Marx and Nietzsche present rather extensive "women's studies" of their own.
What Miss Hooper means is to have a feminist presentation of women's studies. And she wants her feminists in many departments, rather than in just one. This returns us to the question, does the feminist approach deserve recognition as a powerful new body of knowledge of use of reason?
Despite Hooper's protest that a feminist Women's Studies rises above propaganda and politicking, she herself tells us. "The aim of Women's Studies is to initiate controversy and change, forcing the reexamination of constraining social structures." I have considerable misgivings about department whose goal is "to initiate change," and whose reading list has the stamp of approval of the N.O.W.
The new questions are all how to effect more egalitarianism, how to effect a political agenda. The old questions, which Hooper assumes answered, examine the agenda itself, an agenda unquestioned by the "new questions." What is the natural basis of conventional inequalities between men and women? Miss Hooper knows the answer is none. I'm not so smart. I just don't know that sex roles are simply Evil and wholly the result of some malevolent, oppressive "social structure." Questions that challenge Miss Hooper's Gospel become unexaminable when an entire concentration devotes itself to a mission. Preaching replaces teaching. And the priests are infallible.
I'm not. Because of my ignorance. I am not majoring in Women's Studies. Manuel Lopez '88