Women’s Studies department appoints male chair

The University of Washington Women’s Studies department has a new chair: Professor David Allen.

The first male chair of the department
, Allen has taught women’s studies classes for 15 years at the university. Qualifications aside, some are not too pleased about his appointment. Allen is the first to admit that it’s a “risky venture.”
“It’s not so much risky for me individually as it is politically. One way to interpret this is, ‘Here’s yet another white guy claiming to have expertise over women,’” he said. “Another position is that relatively few women hold administrative positions, so why on earth would the university make it worse by appointing a man to a women-studies program?”
I’m glad that Allen recognizes the problems that people will have with his new position, but his self-awareness isn’t enough to quell other professors’ fears.
…But Nancy Kenney, an associate professor in the department, said most people are stunned.
“It’s a little hard to understand how it’s going to work out,” she said. “Some people are disappointed.”
Kenney said she respects Allen as an individual and colleague. She even finds that her own aversion to a male leader doesn’t sit well with the politics she has been teaching at the UW for nearly 30 years.
“I think I’m being sexist in my interpretation,” she said. “Why should I critique a person because of his sex when I fight sexism at all times?”

I’m torn on this one; I can see both points of view. I think the sentiment of associate professor Priti Ramamurthy is right on, however: “The idea that women’s studies is only for and about women is no longer the case…It’s moved to a focus on social construction, not just of women but also of masculinity, and the changing relationships between men and women, women and women, and men and men.”
Any thoughts?

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