Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Miriam Slifkin, March 24, 1995. Interview G-0175. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

An anecdote about an early women's studies course in 1973

Slifkin talks about her involvement in developing women's studies curriculum in its early stages. She discusses a course she taught in 1973 which emphasized how gender biases were present in science. She offers a vivid example of this in an anecdote about a scientific study that had linked women's bust size to intelligence. According to Slifkin, the kind of topics covered in women's studies courses has changed little since its inception in the 1970s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Miriam Slifkin, March 24, 1995. Interview G-0175. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

How did this compare to your experiences teaching women's studies back in 1973? What did you want to teach in your course?
I dealt with science. My orientation was to show the biases that were present in science. And also the differences between men and women. You may not be aware of it, but there have been a tremendous number of studies made to prove that women are inferior. Like the brain size. And there was one even made on the bust size. If you have a big bust, you're not as smart as if you have a little bust. At the time, I learned about this, I learned it from a very close friend who was a physicist. She had small breast, I have big ones. She came to me one day and said, "You know why I can study and do research in physics and you're stuck in biology, it's because you have bigger breasts!" I said "Come on Cecelia, knock it off! My brain's in my head!" And she said, "No I'm serious, there was a study that correlated the intelligence of women to their bust size." And I didn't believe her. She brought me an abstract. I mean they have done so much to try to prove that women are inferior. So I brought that up and pointed out that the female's brain mass is heavy as the male's, and when you consider the size, the proportion is about the same, and you know I brought in some of Margaret Mead's studies, which were very good.
[Description of other teacher's subjects in women's studies, including the topics of unequal pay, feminization of work, and how scientific bias was often not dealt with.] It's not too far off what you get today, I think