By FIONA NALEPA
Out of the variety of majors that are offered at the University of Mary Washington, one of the most overlooked is the women and gender studies major. This major studies how gender influences society and how intersectionality plays an even bigger role.
Introduction to Women’s Studies, one of the foundational courses of the major, details all of the basics and introduces concepts that every student no matter his or her major, should know. It introduces concepts and issues concerning privilege, intersectionality, sexism and homophobia.
Classes such as this are incredibly important due to the fact that it helps start a conversation about these concepts and issues. Privilege, intersectionality, sexism and homophobia have become increasingly important topics of discussion in today’s world. So it is beneficial for young people to become acquainted with them.
Junior political science major Colleen Sullivan said, “Gender studies offers the ability to expand upon the importance of gender equality and the way in which it impacts our everyday life.”
Another way that the women and gender studies major is useful to students is that it promotes gender equality and sparks an open, academic conversation amongst students. Like Sullivan said, the major lets students expand and think about gender equality. More importantly, they can not only reflect on how it impacts them in their daily lives, but how their actions and words affect those around them.
While this major and all that it entails is obviously vital in understanding the biases of our current social system, it still lacks the support it needs on the UMW campus.
Perhaps the biggest (and frankly, offensive) argument that many make against the value of the major is that there are no careers to pursue with the major–though this view is largely misleading. The women and gender studies major applies to several careers. One path to a well-paying job is deciding to work within the government as a human rights advocate, social worker, or even as a writer. So to say that this major would not be useful is wrong.
Some students argue that women and gender studies classes would not be useful to them or their majors. This is simply not true. Classes that fall under the women and gender studies umbrella can be found across all majors. So even if you are not a part of the major itself, you can still benefit from it.
Classes that incorporate elements of women and gender studies can be found in several majors. Classes like United States women’s history, early modern European women’s history, and the history of sexuality in the United States are all history classes that greatly incorporate gender and sexuality into their teachings. Along with history, political science, English and sociology serve as as a few examples that also require women and gender studies courses.
The fact that several popular majors require courses that include women and gender studies elements really shows progress amongst campus. It is crucial that experiences from both women and minorities are incorporated into an academic setting. This is really rebalancing the curriculum in action. If we take history as an example, the addition of classes that focus on women or minorities rebalances the curriculum since it is usually focused on the experience of white men.
One of the most important aspects of the women and gender studies major is that it is interdisciplinary. This lets students from all over campus take part in it, even if they are not officially a part of the major. “I did my independent study on intersectionality and I presented at the women and gender studies symposium. I was impressed with how they included different disciplines and were relevant to different areas of study,” said senior art history major Caitlin Kelly.
Simply having classes that focus on the experiences of other groups of people gives students are more well rounded education, and it is noted.
Overall, the major plays an important role on campus and it is beneficial to all students. It shows how the world is perceived through a different lens and fosters a greater appreciation for the struggles and triumphs of minorities and women. With that, it should not be written off as less important when compared to other majors, but should be considered a necessity.