Women's Studies (a.k.a. Feminist Studies) programs at colleges and universities across the United States invariably echo the theme that women, by and large, are the oppressed victims of Western culture's inequities -- which are tied most closely to capitalism. One of the oldest and most influential Women's Studies Departments in the U.S. is at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Soon after that department was established, its creators renamed it "Feminist Studies" in order to reflect their real agenda, which was to provide a training center for political radicals.
Since its inception, the chief architect of the UC Santa Cruz program has been the longtime lesbian activist Bettina Aptheker, a former Communist Party comrade of Angela Davis. Aptheker says she overcame her initial reluctance to pursue an academic career when Marge Frantz, a lecturer in American Studies at Santa Cruz -- and, like Aptheker, a Bay Area Communist -- advised her: “It’s your revolutionary duty!” Aptheker soon began to view teaching as "a form of political activism" and a “revolutionary praxis” -- a Marxist term for the art of political organizing. She seeks to inject a “women-centered perspective” into her curriculum, in order to correct what she claims is the “male-centered” bias of traditional university study. Structuring her courses as "overtly political" endeavors, Aptheker immerses students in a one-sided overview of radical feminism, with no critical apparatus and no offering of texts skeptical of its agendas.
Aptheker's colleague at UC Santa Cruz, Nancy Stoller, teaches a course called “Feminist Organizing and Global Realities.” The required text for this class is Women’s Activism and Globalization: Linking Local Struggles and Transnational Politics – a compendium of essays by feminist anti-globalization activists, co-edited by Stoller. There is no evidence to suggest that students in the class are exposed to critiques of feminist theories about globalization. Rather, they are informed that the course is designed to “prepare you more specifically for your activist work in the fields of gender and sexuality.”
Stoller also teaches “Women’s Health Activism,” a course which, according to the professor, emphasizes “activism—making change, especially from the grass roots.” Books assigned in the course are written exclusively from a radical perspective. Representative of these texts is Killing the Black Body, in which author Dorothy Roberts claims that the federal government is waging a racial war against the “reproductive rights” of black women. Another assigned text is The Vagina Monologues by feminist author Eve Ensler. Instead of being asked to examine the work critically, students are required to select a section from the play and perform it in front of the class. A collection of feminist writings is also required; a representative article from the reader is titled, “Not feminist, but not bad: Cuba’s surprisingly pro-woman health system.”
Another noteworthy course at UC Santa Cruz is “Women and the Law,” which contends that complex institutions such as the law should be viewed through the prism of “gender.” The course is also informed by “critical race theory,” a radical legal framework that integrates Marxism with racial politics. Among its chief tenets is the notion that race is a social construct invented by white people in order to oppress racial minorities. Related to this is the course’s underlying theme that “the law” is inherently oppressive. To this end, students are taught that “the law structures rights [unfairly], offers protections [to the privileged], produces hierarchies, and sexualizes power.”
In a UC Santa Cruz course titled “Introduction to Feminist Science Studies,” which examines “a variety of feminist approaches to scientific methods and practices," students are required to read essays like “The Science Question In Feminism And The Privilege Of Partial Perspective,” by the radical feminist Donna Haraway, who claims that science has always been “tied to militarism, capitalism, colonialism, and male supremacy.”
The worldviews and political perspectives advanced in these UC Santa Cruz courses are representative of those in Women's Studies programs all across the United States.
Adapted from "The Worst School in America," by David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin (September 13, 2007).