“People saying it’s ideological, it’s not scientific.”
Now that Hungary has given gender studies the boot, others are starting to question the field’s legitimacy.
Inside Higher Ed reports:
Global Attack on Gender Studies
The decision by the Hungarian government earlier this fall to withdraw accreditation from gender studies programs — a full-frontal governmental assault on an academic discipline — sent shock waves through the field.
Gender studies “has no business [being taught] in universities,” because it is “an ideology not a science,” a deputy to Hungary’s prime minister, Zsolt Semjen, told the international news agency Agence France-Presse.
Semjen also said labor market demand for the field was “close to zero.”
“No one wants to employ a gender-ologist,” Semjen said.
Yet even if the scale of the assault on gender studies in Hungary was shocking, the rhetoric was not. Gender studies scholars say what happened in Hungary is the most extreme manifestation of what seem to be growing attacks on the discipline as right-wing populist parties gain power or influence in many countries around the globe.
The attacks take many different forms, including blacklists and harassment of individual scholars, the proposal of legislative measures to police classroom speech, and attempts to censor academic events. In Brazil the pioneering gender studies scholar Judith Butler was burned in effigy and accosted by protestors at the airport last year after far-right Christian groups objected to her visit to the country for a conference she’d helped to organize.
As Butler told Inside Higher Ed in an interview at the time, her sense was that the protesters “who engaged this frenzy of effigy burning, stalking and harassment want to defend ‘Brazil’ as a place where LGBTQ people are not welcome, where the family remains heterosexual (so no gay marriage), where abortion is illegal and reproductive freedom does not exist. They want boys to be boys, and girls to be girls, and for there to be no complexity in questions such as these.”
David Paternotte, an associate professor in sociology at the Free University of Brussels (ULB) and co-editor of the book Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), said less extreme attacks on gender studies often take the form of press articles criticizing the discipline. “People saying it’s ideological, it’s not scientific. This is what we hear the most — that it’s a waste of public money, it shouldn’t be a part of what is taught at universities.”
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