While walking through the commons the other day I overheard two guys discussing what they thought about the University of Idaho’s Women’s and Gender Studies program. The snippets I heard were “why should we have to study women and more than we already do on a daily basis?” along with “why isn’t there a men’s gender studies program?” Both of these statements first made me giggle, and then made me wonder why there is a lack of knowledge about what the Women’s and Gender Studies program really is. First of all, if these men could actually have intelligent conversations with women, they wouldn’t have to “study” them creepily from across the room. And second, there is a “men’s studies” program…it’s called history. It doesn’t take more than a simple Google search to see that this field is dedicated to both men and women, gender and sexuality, social history, health, and so much more. I can see why some wouldn’t find these topics especially compelling or important, and that they might see them as a waste of time since they may not completely align with their major, but what happened to being well rounded?
I am a STEM major, and because I started college with 40+ credits in general studies and humanities I have been taking strictly science courses for 3 semesters. Not that I don’t absolutely love science, but I do find it interesting to explore other courses outside of my degree requirements.
It should be apparent that not every intelligent conversation one has in their adult life is going to be about one specific area. That being said, how is it a hindrance to be well educated in the molecular bonding structure of heteroatoms in a molecule as well as the changing demographics of men and women worldwide? Studying gender is a great way to stay informed. All people should be able to understand the effect of social contexts and historical influences on contemporary issues and be able to think critically about policy arguments. This doesn’t go to say that we all should be able to write political policies related to gender issues, but we should be able to formulate arguments based on facts rather than our emotional beliefs on these situations. It’s wonderful to be passionate about topics that interest you, but there is a major difference between being emotionally invested in a topic, and actually being educated on the facts behind the discussion. Women’s and Gender Studies isn’t just an easy A course, it’s an entire program dedicated to thinking about layers of identity and exploring how oppressions like racism, sexism, and ableism are comparable and intertwined. One of the biggest points behind the program is intersectionality, (no that isn’t some dirty sexual term) a theory that examines how different forms of identity like race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability intersect and interact on multiple levels.
Being a student pursuing a path that will lead to medical school and becoming a physician, I have been asked on several occasions why I don’t want to be a nurse? Or why I would want to live in a world of paperwork where policies decide my every move? Clearly those who asked me those questions haven’t taken enough time to look into gender studies. I wouldn’t think that in 2015 I would still be questioned as to why a woman should want to be a doctor or choose a STEM major as if we are still stuck in the past. I also don’t think students should be questioned as to why they are majoring in electrical engineering, but also minoring in music as if it’s not important. College shouldn’t be about learning one skill or only educating yourself in one department. Those who choose to have widely diverse majors and minors are the ones who will not only be successful in their careers, but also when it comes to living life in general. The next time you see a flier around campus for a seminar on women in society or have the opportunity to take a women’s studies course, TAKE IT! You will thank me later, even if you only take away one or two little points, those will stick with you broadening your horizon. College course are meant to challenge our preconceptions and the frameworks through which we see the world and I guarantee any gender studies course will do just that.