Voices from the Early Days – Fran Wasoff on mainstreaming gender in teaching

Fran Wasoff reflects on mainstreaming gender-related teaching in the academy.

Fran Wasoff: One of the things that I raised an objection with my colleagues was, ok, I’m doing a gender course and the unifying theme is gender, and you’re doing law and social policy… I had also taught on law and social policy, but let’s take a different one. Let’s say health policy. So where are you teaching gender in health policy? Do you think you’ve just farmed it out to me and that you don’t have to pay attention to it?

Órla Murray: Did they respond well to that?

FW: No. They didn’t, they went, ‘Oh of course we haven’t’ and I said, ‘Oh really, could you show me where, I don’t quite see it’. So gradually they would bring in a gender dimension. Social policy is essentially a social democratic subject. It is fundamentally about equality and inequality, but the equality and inequality it looks at is income, outcomes in education. And gender wasn’t one of the dimensions of inequality that was originally fundamental to the subject. But it later became much more embedded in the core subject area, it wasn’t just farmed out as ‘oh she does the gender course’.

ÓM: What was that change then over time? Did the course organises start to bring in gender or were there guest lectures…?

FW: Quite a mixture. It was really gradual, and I think it was hard for the boys. But I mean, they did it in the end. I wouldn’t say they did it brilliantly, but they made an effort.