Per my experience, it doesn’t seem that Women’s Studies is one of the most respected programs outside of the university environment. I’ve been told many times how stupid it is, how it isn’t marketable, how it’s sexist by design. I feel like I shouldn’t even have to explain the ridiculousness of that last one. But for incoming freshman, or current students, if you have time in your schedule (we all know how packed pre-med majors are) you should definitely consider your university’s intro-level Women’s Studies Course. And yes, even if you’re a male. Almost especially so.
In my opinion, Women’s Studies is a dated term for the field and is now a bit misrepresentative. It’s rooted in the study of women’s history exclusively, so the origin of the title makes sense. However, it has evolved in coincidence with the social movements in our society. Regardless of if you specifically want to study women (which, if you don’t, you’re missing out on hundreds of years of some of the greatest parts of American history) or not, these courses, even just a simple intro class, will open your mind to events you’d never study in an average history project. You’ll meet unforgettable characters who were snubbed under the white-male eraser of history. You’ll be introduced to identities you’d never even imagined possible.
As a decently well-off white woman, I recognize the amount of privilege I have due to my race and socioeconomic status. Women’s Studies courses exposed me to a multitude of identities that I couldn’t possibly understand because of this privilege. There’s no way I couldn’t understand the experiences of a woman of color, but these classes can give me some sort of insight. I take them to better understand the women, men, and non-binary-identified friends I stand alongside in the fight for social equality.
Let me be clear: I’m not telling you to take this class to inspire you to join a movement. Activism isn’t for everyone, I get it. But when the world is shrinking by the minute, to be successful in any field you’re going to have to be sensitive to the identities of others. Commonplace micro-aggressions (small, usually subconscious actions against a minority group) are now being recognized and taught out of practice. We as a society have to consciously unlearn the racism, sexism, and other –isms that were implanted in us as children. Teaching our society these ideals will lead to a more respectful, peaceful and overall better world. A Women’s Studies class is a great starting-block for anyone to learn respectability politics, regardless of their views or experience in social justice.
Whether you want to go into activism or not, you have to learn to respect those you don’t understand. The people that can work together with those unlike them are the ones who lead and change the world. Women’s Studies will teach you to be a better employer, employee, and overall a better person.