Thursday, March 14, 2013

ABC-CLIO Online Solutions Gets Us Thinking About Women's History Month

Did the protective legislation passed to aid women early in the 20th century help or hurt the cause of women's rights?

As we celebrate Women's History Month, ABC-CLIO has added a new Enduring Question to its American History online resource to present engaging arguments and stimulate critical thinking on a unique issue in women's history.

Late in the 20th century, a debate emerged in American higher education about what became known as consensual relationship policies. Colleges, universities, and their governing bodies began writing and passing—or imposing—rules on whether professors and students could date. Few would disagree that they should avoid that kind of personal relationship when functioning as teacher and pupil because that would create the possibility of the professor using power over students for the wrong purposes. But it prompted other questions: whether adults should be regulated in that manner, and whether the need to report such relationships violated their right to privacy.

But scholars noted an interesting oddity in the debate. The language used in the discussion almost always referred to the professor as him and the student as her, as opposed to the increasingly common he or she or s/he. Why?  Defenders of these policies argued that women students required protection from predatory male professors. One male professor asked his class about this, and a young woman in the class burst out laughing and said, "Who would think I need protection from you?"

A century before that conversation, the answer to that question would have been: progressives and those who believed in what seemed like enlightened public opinion. During the Progressive Era of the first two decades of the 20th century, legislators tried to enact protection for women workers based on a sincere desire to improve society, but also on a belief that because women differed physically from men, they required special treatment. However well-intentioned they may have been, did these laws help or hurt the cause of women's rights?

Three experts on women's history address this question on ABC-CLIO's American History.
If you are not already a subscriber, click here for a free 30-day trial and receive instant access to ABC-CLIO's entire collection of online resources.

No comments:

Post a Comment