Some have called them “feminazis” or suggested they are not real scholars. But these false impressions only inspired Bonnie Morris to tell what women’s studies professors have to offer academia.
Morris, a GW women’s studies professor, recently published “Revenge of the Women’s Studies Professor” to combat the myths surrounding the discipline. Formed around 10 of the “juiciest” moments Morris has experienced while teaching, the book is based on a play of the same name that Morris has performed at universities in the United States and around the world.
In her latest work, Morris offers a humorous exploration of the misconceptions about women’s studies courses, the professors who teach them and why some students are afraid of taking them.
The inspiration to write the book came as Morris took her one-woman play around the globe, she said. When it came to the negative image that surrounds women’s studies, she found that it was a small world.
“There are a lot of stereotypes. I learned this was a global suspicion – every country feels the same,” Morris said. “I hope that the book will make people see that there is no need to be afraid of taking a women’s studies class.”
For Morris, who grew up when women’s studies programs did not exist, becoming a scholar of the female experience was always a serious ambition. In the 1970s when the second wave of feminism began to grip the country, Morris soon realized she could teach the history her own education skipped over.
“My adolescence took place during the 1970s, and it became clear to me that women’s studies was a real major,” she said.
After earning her Ph.D. in women’s studies from SUNY Binghamton, she went on to publish eight books, including her most recent. But she said she did not write her newest work solely to advance her own career. Her motive was also personal: to take women’s experiences back to women.
“The play got audiences to open up about why women are belittled for wanting to know more about their own history,” Morris said. “After 15 years of this I decided to write a book about what I learned on the road.”
Despite the book’s title, Morris said she had no vengeful motives behind writing it. Instead, she hopes that the book will give people a glimpse into how it feels to teach an underappreciated subject. As for revenge, Morris may have already gotten hers.
“You deal with a lot of insults, sarcasm and inappropriate remarks – people don’t see it as a ‘real’ class,” she said. “In this climate of disrespect you, you have to have a good sense of humor . This was my revenge against people who suggest these things.”
Clarification (April 9, 2009)
The Hatchet stated that professor Bonnie Morris grew up when “women’s studies programs did not exist.” Women’s studies courses started taking hold in colleges in the late 1960s, when Morris was entering the third grade.