chapter  29
7 Pages

Comparative Perspectives

ByAlice Kessler-Harris

In the subtext of this rich array of papers lies a crucial message about women's studies: all the authors agree that everywhere the field holds the key to the transformative potential of the current women's movement, capturing its hopes and possibilities as well as its tensions. A shared set of assumptions about the relationship between how women think and what they can do guides their discussions. Rooted in the sense that the production of knowledge about gender has been shaped by historical circumstance and appropriated to affirm and perpetuate inequality, women's studies practitioners share a commitment to demystifying the intellectual and political limits on women's lives. To intervene in that reciprocally confirming process, practitioners of women's studies believe, is necessary to diffuse the use of sexual difference as a weapon in the ongoing battle for power. Broadly conceived as the project of educating women and men to explore the history and uses of gender relations, women's studies forwards the search for gender equity through the creation and dissemination of knowledge. It seeks to do this in the context of academic and political activism framing new knowledge with theoretical and explanatory content that enhances undertanding of how equity might be achieved.