There has been a great deal of discussion over the Feminist & Gender Studies Program changing its name to Gender & Sexuality. The basis of this debate is over the exclusion of the word "feminist" from the title. It is important to question how this modification will affect the direction of the program and the feminist movement as a whole. The categorization of this area of study must be sensitive to the complex social issues it represents. Bringing the term "gender" to the fore-front, and focusing less on women, is a necessary "part of the attempt by contemporary feminists to stake claim to a certain definitional ground, to insist on the inadequacies of existing bodies of men" (Scott, 166). This new spotlight on gender and sexuality does not detract from feminism at all; rather it represents the next step in the evolution of the feminist movement.
As Lacqueur stated, categorization "is an inescapable consequence of our biological makeup" (Lacqueur, 18). This is especially true in any college, where categories are institutionalized in order to help guide students along their academic path. It is hard to imagine academics as "a purely uncategorized and unconceptualized experience" (Lacqueur, 19). However, categories have a way of excluding some people, since people are diverse and do not fit into neat containers.
This holds especially true with the Feminist & Gender Studies Program. The term "feminist" is a category that many students do not identify with because of its history of race, class, and sex. Some female students are not comfortable with its overtly confrontational ideas and do not want to be associated with the "man-hating" stereotype that is portrayed in society. African-American students can feel alienated by this term, since past the waves of feminism did not include the plight of minority women for the most part. Men may not want to be identified as a feminist, and students who question their own gender may not think this movement really relates to their lives. This leaves a large population of the student body feeling outside the borders of the feminism, which directly relates to their lack of participation of the movement outside of the classroom.
On the surface, the exclusion of the term from the department's name is an effort to invite a more diverse group of students into the program. This change in the title also represents a change in feminism, one that seeks to focus less on women and more broadly on gender.
The history of feminists challenging the constructed norm for women has pushed the movement itself to the outside of society. It is crucial for the movement to retreat from the outside by being more inclusive of all the players in society, including men. Fuss asked the important question, "does one compromise oneself by working on the inside, or does one shortchange oneself by holding tenaciously to the outside?" (Fuss, 237) It is evident by where women stand in society today that feminists are...