The 14 Words

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Gender Theory: Beyond Parody

Breanna Fahs

Breanna Fahs is a feminist, but you probably already guessed that, right?
Breanne Fahs is an associate professor of women and gender studies at Arizona State University, where she specializes in studying women’s sexuality, critical embodiment studies, radical feminism, and political activism. She has a B.A. in women’s studies/gender studies and psychology from Occidental College and a Ph.D. in women’s studies and clinical psychology from the University of Michigan. . . . She is the director of the Feminist Research on Gender and Sexuality Group at Arizona State University, a group that engages students and faculty to fuse activism and rabble-rousing scholarship . . .
Professor Fahs is the author of a new biography of Valerie Solanas, the radical lesbian feminist and paranoid schizophrenic who shot Andy Warhol in 1968. But it is her teaching at Arizona State that has now landed Professor Fahs in the headlines:
Female students at an Arizona university have been offered the chance to earn extra credit by not shaving their armpit hair for a whole semester.
The unconventional offer was made by women and gender studies professor Breanne Fahs as a way to get her students to challenge social norms.
Male students on the Arizona State University course are also able to apply for extra credit, but to qualify they have to shave all their hair from the neck down.
Fahs . . . encourages her students to document their experiences in a journal for the 10-week semester.
She said the social experiment helps students analyze society’s attitude to genders, with female students facing ridicule for having hairy armpits, and the men gaining insight into how much pressure is put on women to stay hair free.
‘There’s no better way to learn about societal norms than to violate them and see how people react,’ Fahs told ASU News.
‘There’s really no reason why the choice to shave, or not, should be a big deal. But it is, as the students tend to find out quickly.’
You want to see pictures of this “social experiment,” just to prove I’m not making this up? Maybe I should go back to school, get a Ph.D., and become a Women’s Studies professor. The girls in my classes would get extra credit for making sandwiches, and the boys would get extra credit for eating them — the sandwiches, I mean.


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