Student looks back on Women's Studies classesI didn’t really want to take a Women’s Studies class.
I was at school when the Women’s Studies department was founded, and I didn’t care. It seemed rather silly. Study women? What for? What is there to be taught? I thought, surely, everyone knows that the sexes are different but equal. I knew that, in the past, women couldn’t vote and they were underprivileged, but I thought that we had pretty much fixed that. My parents had never told me I couldn’t do something because I was female.
I also suspected that they were there to push a subjective agenda. I figured that the classes would give biased information on controversial issues and be rife with male-bashing. I didn’t want a teacher telling me what to believe.
In short, I dismissed Women’s Studies without much thought. Then in Spring of 2000, my best friend called me up and asked if I’d like to go with her to her Women’s Studies class. They were opening class to the public that day to garner interest in the program. My friend told me that the class was ‘awesome’ and that I should go. So, I went.
The class sat in a circle, which was a bit unusual for me. Dr. Janet Allured was the instructor, and she asked her students to tell the visitors how they felt about the course. All comments were very positive and most of the students said that the course was very eye-opening and sometimes startling. I remember one woman’s comment, “I didn’t know that people even thought about some of this stuff!”
When the class proceeded to discuss the day’s reading, a short article on rape, I was fascinated. Dr. Allured guided the discussion, but her students were just as important to the class as she was. Everyone’s questions and opinions and personal experiences mattered. I decided that maybe Women’s Studies deserved more credit than I had originally given, so I registered for the introductory course that Fall, this time taught by Dr. Susan Kelso.
It was wonderful.
We weren’t bashing men. We weren’t given black and white answers. We weren’t forced to think a certain way. We read articles, essays, poems, stories, plays, studies, and song lyrics. We re-wrote Mother Goose rhymes from a feminist perspective, re-designed sexist advertisements, and held a Día de los muertos celebration to honor beloved and heroic dead women.
I finally understood why we have Women’s Studies. It sifts through history and rediscovers great women, giving modern women a “usable past” that we can identify with and take pride in. It studies the impact that language and gender roles have on our lives. It questions why we all know Salvador Dalí, but not Remedios Varo.
I have taken six classes altogether to complete my Women’s Studies concentration, delving deeper into religion, law, the arts, the family, and sexuality, and thinking about what it all means to me. I can’t come close to explaining everything that these studies have taught me, because they haven’t just “taught” me, they have revolutionized me.
Women’s Studies has shown me that our society has been shaped by white heterosexual Christian males. This is problematic because an institution built without the input of every gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity cannot purport to represent them. Women’s Studies works to make sure that we all get the representation we deserve.
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