During the gender debates, there is no doubt that many gender researchers felt that the general public did not understand what gender studies was all about, hence much of the criticism was perceived as highly unfair.
Sometimes discussants in very heated public debates first get constrained by the terms of the debate and then get carried away into directions that no one had foreseen. In my opinion this is what happened this time.
The terms of the debate were highly ideologically charged. This resulted in some rather black-and-white accusations, statements and slogans. Many of the accusations and statements built on a misconception of what “kjønnsforskning” (see first posting) is about. The critique seems to be grounded in the idea that the task of “kjønnsforskning” is to describe what “kjønn” (sex and gender, remember!) really is, and that all gender researchers deny the influence of biology on human “kjønn”. Even if both assumptions are wrong, they still constrained the debate.
Rather than accusing the public of misunderstanding what gender studies is about, one could also probably concede that gender researchers of the post-structuralist bent (myself included) have under-communicated one important aspect of their work.
Sine qua non?
Is there an approach, truth or theory that “kjønnsforskning” cannot manage without? It has become abundantly clear that the notion that gender is “not something you are but something you do” can only be one approach among many in “kjønnsforskning” – not least since “kjønn” is a wider term than “gender.”
Further: “Kjønnsforskning” is not about trying to define what “kjønn” is – at least not for the moment. That would mean that all research on sexed human bodies in the Faculty of Medicine and Natural Sciences would have to be transferred to the Centre for gender studies – which probably will not happen any time soon. And it is not even sure it would be a good idea.
It was stated by an evolutionary biologist that the Research Council’s gender studies programme does not sponsor evolutionary psychological or biological research into what gender is, but it does in theory sponsor research that criticises prevailing psychological or biological notions of what gender is. Within the terms set by the debate this made the Research Council’s programme look very odd. This from the outset sounds very strange.
Critique and criticism is the sine qua non of “kjønnsforskning”, in my opinion. The day when gender studies can no longer offer a critical corrective to the way sex and gender is represented in natural science, social science, humanities; when it is no longer able to critique the scholarly community at large for not living up to its own standards of transparency and accountability also in the area of gender, then in my opinion dedicated university research units for gender studies have become superfluous. But also in my opinion, it is a very long way there. only ends up as a confirmation of status quo, it has lost its legitimacy. Othewise one would have to define all research into men and women as gender studies, something we do not do today, and correctly so.