About a week ago the National Post published an article about how many women’s studies programs in Canada are changing their names, and then followed it up with an editorial claiming that a “goodbye and good riddance” to women’s studies would be, regrettably, premature. The original article includes this gem:
Even the punctuation has deeper meaning: “The apostrophe can imply that the discipline belongs to women rather than has women as its object of study,” says Simon Fraser University’s recent proposal to change the name. “The program at SFSU chose to identify women as our object of study, not as the owners of the field.”
I call this quote a gem because it demonstrates the painfully deficient level of journalism that fills the pages of the Post. They attribute this statement about the punctuation to SFU, even though the statement itself refers to SFSU, a somewhat far-removed analogue located in San Francisco. Perhaps the Post is stricken by that same lack of copy editors, proofreaders and fact checkers that plagues most print media these days, but it took me all of ten seconds to google the quote and determine its correct source, which is presumably what Kathryn Blaze Carlson was paid to do in the first place. Their inability to distinguish Simon Fraser University from San Francisco State University belies the quality of reporting that informed their editorial, which is chock-full of easily falsifiable claims and unattributed scare quotes:
feminist legal scholars convinced the Supreme Court to permit preferential treatment for “traditionally disadvantaged groups”
Women’s Studies scholars have argued all heterosexual sex is oppression because its “penetrative nature” amounts to “occupation.”
They have…even put forward the notion that the only differences between males and females are “relatively insignificant, external features.”
Interestingly, but not particularly surprisingly, this last unattributed quote regarding the differences between men and women comes from a letter James C. Dobson wrote in response to the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women that was held in Beijing. Dr. Dobson is founder of the evangelical non-profit organization Focus on the Family, which is unequivocally anti-abortion, anti-evolution, anti-homosexuality, anti-pornography, anti-feminism, anti-Palestine, and all those other antis that American conservative Christians seem to be about. Focus on the Family supported the McCain-Palin ticket, but only after Palin was brought on board; they funded ads equating the United States under Obama and the Democrats to Nazi Germany; and they spent two and a half million dollars to run a pro-life television ad during the upcoming Superbowl. In the letter, Dr. Dobson refers to the Beijing conference as the “most radical, atheistic and anti-family crusade in the history of the world”; he claims that China serves human fetuses in restaurants; and he claims that the conference’s mandate is to “do away with family, impose 50/50 quotas on all activities, eliminate motherhood, and institute polymorphous perversity.” See here for the actual mandate, which includes such radical ideas such as ensuring women access to health care, education, political representation, and employment.
Not only does the Post use this man, of all people, as an authority on women’s studies, but they couch his quote as if it originated from an actual women’s studies scholar. If ever there was an example of embarrassingly, shockingly piss-poor journalism, this is it. Get a grip, National Post.