Women in Politics Added to Government Offerings

The Government Department has announced two new courses focused on women in politics following a student-led campaign that pressured the University to address what they perceived to be a gap in the department’s offerings.

The two courses, both higher-level seminar courses, will both be taught by graduate students in the Government Department and will be limited to twelve students each.

“Without these classes you get caught in what’s called ‘role incongruity’—the idea that women don’t belong in politics,” said Nadia L. Farjood ’13, an inactive Crimson editor and one of the leaders of the campaign. “I’ve been trying to navigate that and I’m writing my thesis on women in politics. I’m really happy that this option is now presenting itself at the College, and will be available for both men and women in the future.”

Farjood, whose thesis is tentatively titled “Gendered Pathways to Power: The Routes of 39 Women to the Senate Chamber,” teamed up with Women’s Initiative in Leadership Chair Victoria E. Wenger ’14 to put together a report that expressed the desire for courses dealing with women in politics and provided evidence for wide-spread student interest.

The pair presented their report to the Government Department as well as the Program in General Education, eventually convincing the department to agree to the creation of two new courses as well as plans for a lecture course to be offered in the 2013-14 academic year.

“They showed a high level of commitment of their interest and dedication,” graduate student Shauna L. Shames said. “I think the department was very impressed; Kudos to the department for responding positively and really encouraging student-led initiative.”

Shames, who studies the role of race and gender in politics, will be teaching one of the new courses in the fall of the next academic year. The course, Government 94ss: Women and U.S. Politics, is being created from scratch and will approach the question of women in politics from a variety of different viewpoints.

“There are so many ways you can attack this,” Shames said. “It’s limited to women and politics in the U.S. but it can mean a number of different things: choosing to run, voting, feminism, differing actions once in political positions, politics in families, abortion. The possibilities are kind of overwhelming.”

The other course, Government 94sh. Feminist Perspectives on Justice and Oppression, taught by Emma Saunders-Hastings, will be offered in the spring. The lecture course will be taught by Kay Schlozman, the J. Joseph Moakley Professor of Political Science at Boston College. Schlozman could not be reached for comment.

“[Schlozman] is an idol of mine and I’m really optimistic about what she will be able to accomplish in making this a lecture course at Harvard,” Shames said. “The ideal outcome of this movement is that women are fully recognized as half of the human race and that the study of them is fully integrated into the mainstream of political science.”

Though similar programs of study exist at other schools and the Kennedy School offers a program on Women and Public Policy, the College has never had a permanent course dealing with the intersection of gender and politics.

“In some ways it’s an admission of a problem that we need a ‘Women in Politics’ course,” Shames said. “It means that we’re not doing enough to integrate the study of women into studies of behavior and other political discussions. There’s something particular about women and gender that is left out of the discussion of politics.”

−Staff writer Alexander Koenig can be reached at akoenig@college.harvard.edu.

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