Taking Back the Academy! History of Activism, History as Activism

By Jim Downs; Jennifer Manion | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11

Calling All Liberals: Connecting Feminist Theory, Activism, and History

JENNIFER MANION

What happens when politically conscious historians do not take gender or sexuality seriously as intellectual inquiries? Does it matter if historians of women and gender are not cognizant of the ways gender or sexuality function in their lives? Why have the fields of women's history and queer theory grown so far apart when some of the earliest works on sexuality and gay and lesbian lives came from historians? What follows is both a critique of and an impassioned plea to liberal faculty and graduate students to be aware of the political and personal impact of homophobia and heterosexism in the classroom on all students. This chapter aims to identify an experience that many gay and lesbian students share but few have the opportunity to articulate within the academy.

This erasure of gay experience and the perpetuation of heterosexism occurs on multiple levels, including individual, disciplinary, and institutional; in the production of scholarship, the selection of course material, and the classroom dynamic itself. Along with all of their credentials and experiences, scholars bring their personal biases to work. Homophobia is still pervasive in the United States. A study by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) states that 84 percent of gay and lesbian teens reported verbal harassment at school because of their sexual orientation and 82.9 percent report that faculty "never or rarely intervene when present" for such harassment. 1 Conservative politicians and religious leaders challenge

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