Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: October 2017

11 - Are we changing paradigms? The impact of feminism upon the world of scholarship

from Part II - Women's Studies: Introduction


This paper was first presented to the Women's Studies section of the annual congress of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, Monash University, August 1985. It has not been published before.

Feminist research and Women's Studies courses have become a flourishing growth in Australia's academic jungle. This has occurred during a period of financial contraction and fierce competition for resources in universities. They probably owe something to the enactment of legislation outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sex, even if that something is no more than a few token gestures. They certainly owe a great deal, as does that legislation, to the continuing vitality and diversification of the Women's Movement throughout Australia. As they would suggest that the academic arm of the Women's Movement is making at least some impact on the world of knowledge.

There is other evidence that would support such a view, even if only negatively. The new science of socio-biology, scarcely ten years old, can be seen as having developed in reaction against questions raised by feminism; Janet Sayer's book Biological Politics has contributed to that perception. Among psychologists, attention to gender differences and to questions about how gender is inscribed in individuals now occupies a place in teaching and research undreamed of twenty years ago. There is revived debate around psychoanalytic theory, and theories of gender formation; Juliet Mitchell's Psychoanalysis and Feminism and Nancy Chodorow's The Reproduction of Mothering are only two in those rapidly growing fields. Scholars in disciplines as apparently distinct as Anthropology, Demography, History, Law, Sociology and Urban Planning have been exploring changes in the shapes, sizes and impetus towards coherence or disintegration of domestic units — households and families — and the connections between those changes and others in the social order that they constitute. The collection called Families in Colonial Australia edited by Patricia Grimshaw and her colleagues, Kerreen Reiger's book, The Disenchantment of the Home, and the papers given at the national Women and Housing conference held in March 1985 all add Australian examples to a field of enquiry already burgeoning in other places.