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Women have always been instrumental in various development activities in our societies yet very little is known about them. Until the second half of the 20th century, many scholars never bothered to talk about women in their writings. The few scholars that wrote about women simply mentioned them in passing, but they never gave them a critical analysis.
“Women’s studies were first conceived in the late 1970s, as the second wave of feminism gained political influence in the academic circles, through students and faculty activism” (Austen and Pearce 12).
Women studies became part of ethnic studies in the United States. The scholars who became interested in studying women had to endure myriad challenges. This paper therefore seeks to discuss women studies and its effect on our perception of women.
Lack of evidence on women activities was a serious challenge in women scholarship. This is because many people who wrote the ancient history of their societies never mentioned anything to do with women. For example, many scholars only gravitated on men’s superiority and their writings mostly portrayed women as house helps.
Therefore it was not easy to get information especially on women’s engagement in economic and political activities, which were predominantly men’s domain. Oral tradition and interviews were therefore used at large by the scholars that studied women. These sources failed to give a complete analysis of women.
Many Europeans were really affected by the problem of racism and this was manifested in their historical writings about other races. For example, African history was mainly reconstructed by scholars from Europe and other countries, who had a negative feeling on African women.
They therefore gave a biased account of women. Scholars who started women studies had to rely on European documents to study women in different places. This was met by many challenges since they could not distinguish between genuine and biased information from those sources.
Scholars who studied the activities of women always received much criticism from gender biased people who never so the importance of those studies. They saw women studies as a competition against their history. Scholarship requires a lot of resources especially when one gets involved in a new academic field which is unpopular. It was therefore difficult for the women scholars to get funding because of lack of interest by some people.
Women scholarship has really changed our understanding of the past in many ways. First, we have been able to get a better understanding of the political activities that happened in the past. Before women studies began, it was generally believed that men were the only people that engaged in politics.
This perception was changed. Women indeed participated in politics at various levels. In some communities they had a complete control of their territories, while in some societies women took leadership positions in the government.
Economic history has been reconstructed by the help of women studies which also reveals that economic activities in the past were partly developed by women. Such studies have indicated that women were part off trading and agricultural activities. Even during the colonial America, women went a head and engaged in black smith trade that was believed to be a men’s activity.
Women studies have generally revolutionized our perception and attitude toward women. Through these studies we have been able to engage more women in politics (Kerber 189). This has enabled us to improve our governments since the decisions made by women politicians have proved to be equally important as those of men.
Democracy has therefore been enhanced through women studies. Gender equality has been promoted by women studies which have reveled that women still remain largely marginalized in many ways. This has led to formation of interest groups that now fight for women empowerment and gender equality.
Gender equality has enhanced efficiency in our societies because decision making and distribution of resources has become better due to women participation in politics. “Susan Antony ones said that women bring a new perspective in politics”. This statement has been adopted by many leaders and they have changed their attitudes toward leadership roles.
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Information about women remained obscure for a long duration, but it has now changed since the introduction of women studies in the academic circles. Today many scholars acknowledge the fact that women were important in the developments that took place in our communities. “John Edward Philips, in his book ‘Writing African History,’ mentioned that his ignorance of women in his writing of African history gave him an incomplete picture of the African situation” (Philips 120).
Women studies has also brought paradigm shift from male dominated politics to equal political representation in many countries today. For example, “Ellen Joseph Sir leaf who was appointed as the first female president in Africa greatly changed our perception of women” (Austen and Pearce 204).
With this change in perception about women, we therefore envisage a better future free from gender discrimination. We also hope that women will be empowered even more in all spheres of life.
Austen, Jane and Joseph Pearce. Pride and prejudice. Berkley: Ignatius Press, 2008 .
Kerber, Linda. Women’s America: refocusing the past. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Philips, John. Writing African history. New York: University of Rochester Press, 2005.