Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Like It or Not: Feminist Critical Policy Analysis Matters. (Discussion: Reply)

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Like It or Not: Feminist Critical Policy Analysis Matters. (Discussion: Reply)

Article excerpt

Haithe Anderson, in reviewing our chapter, instructs us to (1) recognize we are using the master's tools of academic debate, and (2) back off from the demand that feminist critical policy analysis be applied to all aspects of postsecondary education. It is true, we are, indeed, carrying on academic debate with academic tools; however, we do move beyond academic debate by providing a roadmap for application to actual policy with an array of concrete examples where feminist critical policy analysis will uncover patriarchal practices. But no, we will not accept her instruction to back off. We do not believe the battles are won and we do not believe that being nice, talking the master's language only, accepting gradual loosening of patriarchal structures, is good enough. Are women leaders, of the students or faculty, supported and viewed as fantastic leaders, if they spend more time nurturing collaboration and empowering democratic decision making? Do women's studies majors have lucrative and powerful careers? Ca n a policy analyst get a government contract if she/he asserts that all policy analysis is value laden and so let's just go ahead and admit that we want to place more value on "women's issues" since they've been neglected in the past? Does the woman scholar feel comfortable knowing that her accomplishments are being assessed, not her breasts? Until the answers are yeses, postsecondary institutions have not incorporated the policy implications from feminism's insights.

The purpose of our response is to elaborate on the reasons why the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. We do so by discussing the opposing meanings of "master," "gender," "tools," and "the purpose of policy analysis" and showing why the master's, i.e., conventional policy analysis, is incapable of undoing the power asymmetries that characterize relations between male and female academics. The insurrection of subjected knowledges represents a challenge to the authority and power of the master's narrative. The master will not be pleased by this. The displeasure may be disguised, as it is by Anderson, but the threat to authority and power provokes emotional responses--antagonism, fear, disapproval, hostility--which are masked by the rhetoric of indirectness, provisos, qualifiers, feigned alliance. Such alliances, while asserting they embrace feminist causes, undermine our progress toward creating and validating women's knowledges and spaces in postsecondary institutions. Instead, feminist cri tical policy analysis tools empower institutions to be transformed, to be able to support thought and policy action beyond the constrained and distorted thinking and behavior of academic and policy analysis traditions. Leaders who are serious about transforming postsecondary education to eliminate patriarchal trappings need these tools.

What is Feminist and Critical Policy Analysis?

We assume that not all readers will be familiar with the book chapter that inspired Anderson's critique, therefore, to place this response in context, we start off with a brief summary of the main points. Our chapter consisted of two sections. In the first we laid out the theoretical foundations underpinning feminist and critical perspectives and provided a feminist critique of conventional policy analysis. In the second part we discussed selected higher education studies whose conceptual design, analysis and interpretive methods exemplify feminist critical policy studies.

Thus, we said:

1. Gender is a fundamental category, and policy analysis that proceeds from a feminist critical perspective is alert to the gendering that goes on both in gender-explicit arid gender-neutral practices which may advantage men and disadvantage women, even if not intendedly.

2. Feminist critical policy analysis is gender-conscious, not genderblind. To do away with power asymmetries and domination that structure relationships between men and women in the academy requires gender-based appraisals of academic structures, practices, and policies. …

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