Academic Absurdity of the Week: You Want Fries with That Gender?

The European Journal of Gender Studies has published an unintentionally hilarious article about whether gender studies majors can get jobs. The study examined gender studies majors in Sweden, and reported the happy statistic that 97 percent of recent gender studies majors in Sweden were gainfully employed. Still, the article dwells on the fact that the whole employment thing represents a “dilemma” for genderists.

Let’s start with the abstract:

Gender jobs: Dilemmas of Gender Studies education and employability in Sweden

Ann Werner,  Anna Lundberg

Abstract

In the past decades a large number of students have taken courses and degrees in Gender Studies around Europe and proceeded to find employment. This article is based on a quantitative and qualitative study carried out in 2012 of Gender Studies students in Sweden, their education and employment. The design of the study was inspired by a large European research project investigating Women’s Studies in Europe and concerned with the motives for doing Gender Studies among Swedish students, as well as who the students were, how they evaluated their Gender Studies education and what work they proceeded to after they left the university. In this article the results are discussed in terms of dilemmas: between Gender Studies’ critique of neoliberalism, employability and the former students’ wishes to be employed, and their evaluation of their studies and employment. The Swedish study is also compared with previous research in order to understand general and particular traits in Swedish Gender Studies education and employment. Analysis points to interesting contradictions within Gender Studies in relation to the labor market, student groups and employability.

Now, unlike most journal articles, the complete article isn’t behind an absurd paywall, so you can read the whole thing (PDF link) if you’re a glutton. It doesn’t improve much on the abstract; to the contrary, it is highly repetitive, and contains the full train wreck of identity politics jargon.

Beyond the buzzwords, however, this article was mostly written in reasonably plain English. (Perhaps it’s an advantage that the authors were Swedish, and were writing in a second language. If they were American or British, likely the prose would have been incomprehensible.) Here’s some of the straight-face comedy:

We understand this as a clash between two discourses: in which the participants’ ways of assessing and appreciating their education in Gender Studies, and their wish to fulfill the expectations of the labor market in order to land a job, do not seem compatible. From a critical perspective they learned by studying Gender Studies, they could not see themselves simultaneously as feminist critical subjects and employable on the labor market, which they obviously were. They were worried about not getting work because of the association of Gender Studies with feminist political perspectives on society, but, at the same time, they were self-aware, reflecting about wanting to succeed in the very labor market they critiqued. Despite the fact that so few were unemployed, and many worked in areas for which they were educated, the focus groups’ participants did not feel safe on the labor market, and Gender Studies education was even perceived as an obstacle to their finding employment. As a result, former students often found themselves self-censoring with respect to their degrees.

The study doesn’t offer any detail on what kind of jobs the gender studies majors hold (though one telling detail is that more than half have volunteered with an NGO), or how that compares with other Swedish university graduates. Nor are any data on comparative income levels reported. Seems the survey instruments were pretty limited.

The conclusion gives away the whole game:

Ultimately, the high employability of the former students presents an ideological dilemma: they come to work within, and strive to be employed by, a labor market that is not feminist, but rather has implemented certain feminist issues: economic independence and labor force participation for individual women (Larner 2000). In their discussions about studies and work, this dilemma is present throughout: they want to get a good job, a job with a proper title, and at the same time they want to change the world and the very (capitalist) logics and mechanisms they strive to work within.

Translation: We hate the economic system that we want to employ us. Memo to employers: DO NOT hire any of these people.

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