I know, you’ve probably heard it a million times already: the greatest thing about a liberal arts education is the opportunity to explore all different sorts of subjects and fields of study, just out of pure curiosity. No one says you have to stick with science for the rest of your four years, but hey, if you want to try out that one genetics class, go for it!
Which brings me to the topic at hand: women’s studies. Whenever I talk about my experiences taking a women’s studies course here at CNU, a lot of people always respond that either a) you have to be a woman to take a women’s studies course, or that b) women’s studies is all about angry women attacking those helpless men. Of course women’s studies is none of those things, as you will find out if you keep on reading. But even more importantly, knowledge is the key to everything: if you never try new things—no matter how foreign it may seem—you’ll never know anything more than what you did yesterday, and learning should always be dynamic.
Further, people shouldn’t be entitled to their opinions if they talk straight from the mouth without understanding what exactly it is they are talking about—don’t be a parrot mimicking what others say, find out what women’s studies is about for yourself!
It’s relevant and relates to absolutely everything.
When you take the women’s studies course at CNU, you learn about politics, history, economics, sociology and even some international relations. But even when you’re not in class, just pick up the nearest tabloid or “women’s” magazine to see how women are stereotyped and portrayed within society—I put women’s in quotations because you’d be surprised (but not really) to see how much these magazines that are marketed toward empowerment actually reinforce disparaging images of women.
And if you’ve got a newspaper next to your tabloid magazine, take a quick scan of that, too. Whether it’s the-war-on-women or birth-control-violates-our-religious-freedom, women’s health is at the crux of politics at this very moment. It’s getting harder to dismiss these topics as “unimportant social issues”—especially when these issues construct the very heart of societal attitudes and values.
You learn about diversity.
The awesome thing about women’s studies is that it’s not just about subverting sexism. I’ll refer to this as an intersectional approach, which is a concept used to explain how oppressive systems of racism, classism, ageism, along with sexism, are all interconnected and cannot be understood separately from each other. It’s a serious crash course in diversity—you learn about different people’s experiences that might not be the same as your own. My personal experience as a middle-class Asian-American woman, for instance, will be considerably different from that of an upper-class Caucasian man. If we recognize the variety of differences in the world, acceptance, not just passive tolerance, will be possible.
You learn about yourself.
Your self—probably the last thing you think you should be learning about. I mean, you’ve known your self for at least 18 or 19 years by now, what else could there be to know? A lot, as it happens. Taking the women’s studies course at CNU really forces yourself to take a hard look at how you see the world and those who live in it. Not all of it is easy, and sometimes it can be downright uncomfortable. Like when I learned about the white feminism movement that basically ignored the perspectives of minority women? Yeah, super uncomfortable because no one wants to think of themselves as being an oppressor, but knowing is better than not knowing.
It’s about equality, not the hatred of men.
One of my favorite writers, bell hooks, wrote in “Feminism is for Everybody” that feminism needed to be redefined as the movement to end sexism, exploitations and oppression. Isn’t that great? This definition is so great because it makes clear that the problem is sexism (not men), and the goal is equality. If you think about it, the persistence of the media and other institutions to position men and women against each other in a constant battle actually fuels stereotypes of feminists as being angry man-haters. It would be deeply counter-productive for the feminist movement to maintain a hatred of all men who walk the planet; not only would it be harmful to suppress men’s own experiences, but hooks goes even further to say that the movement needs men as allies and friends. (Want to learn more? Read bell hooks’ “Feminism is for Everybody.”)