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Is it appropriate for a man to chair an women’s studies department? The University of Washingston thinks so, because they’ve just appointed David G Allen to exactly that role.

As Inside Higher Ed reports, the move has received a mixed reaction – not least from Allen himself, who considered passing up the promotion.

When he found out he was being considered for the job, he emailed facalty members and graduate students to petition their views on whether he should keep his name in the running. The response was positive enough to pursuade him to go ahead.

And why not? Although this obviously is a counter-intuitive move – in the cut throat, male dominated world of higher education, at least female scholars should expect to be able to win the job of head of women’s studies.

But on the other hand, men can be feminists too. That’s an important message, and a male appointment might break through the – whatever it might be – that means women’s studies students are generally women.

I wonder if we should even be questioning this. But then, as Allen said: “When we have a level playing field, then it will become a non-issue.”

Nancy J. Kenney, an associate professor of women\x92s studies at Washington said: "I think David is a wonderful person and can be a really good administrator. At the same time, I am disappointed that there are no women who are seen as qualified to move into this position. Why not? Where are they?"