Basically ‘Autonomy vs. Integration Debate’ in Gender Studies is a debate on; whether Women’s Studies or Gender Studies should be established or studied as an autonomous field or separate subject; or should be merged into other subjects; for example, as a separate chapter about women contribution in politics in Political Science.
The Autonomy vs Integration debate was born out of alarm on the part of some Women’s Studies scholars about the increase of curriculum integration projects for their subject. In other words, there was an increased effort to connect women’s studies to other subjects. This alarmed some Women Studies scholars.
A related discussion also surfaced in 1982 at the annual National Women’s Suffrage Association (NWSA) and in the Women’s Studies Quarterly about strategies for Women’s Studies in higher education.
Basic Concern of the Autonomy vs Integration Debate in Gender Studies
The main concern of the debate was; whether the limited funding and time available to feminist academics should be utilized in the revision of the mainstream curriculum, or in the development of autonomous women’s studies programs.
Views of Autonomy as well as Integration Supporters
The supporters of the autonomy of Gender Studies believed that feminists should work in isolation. They should focus on the problems of women particularly.
According to them, women-related issues should not be treated as part of the bigger picture; i.e. as a chapter in a different subject.
They believed integration within other academic fields would divert feminists from their main goal; i.e. addressing or highlighting women’s oppression and problems in society.
On the other hand, those who supported the integration of the subject within other academic fields maintained that; integration would help reach the people who can influence society. Ultimately, they would change things for women.
Furthermore, they believed that through integration, this subject will have greater outreach. With integration into other subjects, it would appeal to a wide audience. This way, students of different academic fields would have exposure to women’s issues.
Hence, feminist scholars would require little effort in achieving greater goals.