Wednesday Feminist Love: Women’s and Gender Studies

When you’re a feminist blogger, it sometimes feels like you’re constantly writing about one horrific story after another. And while we try to include inspiring stories of feminists doing great work – it still often seems like the bad outweighs the good. I’m on a bit of a positive-thinking kick at the moment, so I just wanted to take a second to throw some feminist love out there to Women’s and Gender Studies departments.
Like a lot of other people, I didn’t really start identifying as a feminist until I took a Women’s Studies class at SUNY Albany. It literally changed my life. SUNY Albany’s Women’s Studies department not only gave me the opportunity to pursue classes that were the first in my college experience to actually excite me – but also made me part of this awesome teaching collective. Having this kind of leadership experience available at the undergrad level completely changed me and the way I thought about myself. (It also brought me and Samhita together!) And, of course, my beloved Rutgers brought to the next level when I got my Masters degree at their Women’s and Gender Studies department.
I’ve been critical of academic feminism in the past – writing that it’s not as accessible as it should be, and that it makes feminism something that only folks who are fortunate enough to go to college can take part in. While I think those criticisms do hold water, I also think we often don’t give enough love to the amazing teachers and students in these departments – the way the organize, the way they teach and the way they change people’s lives. So, much love to all of the teachers I’ve had and to all of the departments out there making a difference every day – you are all amazing.
Leave your Women’s and Gender Studies stories in comments!

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38 Comments

  1. dj_sex_ed
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I took a women’s history (women’s intellectual history, to be la-dee-da about it) course my sophomore year and it was indeed life-changing. By the end of that year (and after taking a human sexuality course) I had a new mission in life. And now here I am doing a senior thesis on sex education and empowerment.
    Thank you Women’s and Gender Studies!

  2. Nurse_PhD
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    When I was finishing my nursing bachelor’s degree, my eyes were opened wide, and my heart excited, when I got to do a presentation on nursing and feminism. A single presentation was the only mention of feminism, and since then I have heard of feminism in my professional education only as a philosophical approach to research; no mention of how oppressed our profession is and how that may have a little something to do with its over 90% female constituents.
    So, yeah, women’s studies profs – we need you here, in the nursing schools. Please come on over to the nursing school and let us learn from you.

  3. kmbbc
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    My undergraduate degree is in Gender & Women’s Studies and I’m now pursuing my graduate degree in Public Administration. I plan to work in the field of women’s health.
    I fell into women’s studies on accident when I was a freshman registering for classes, it was open and I needed to fill a spot, and as it turns out that was my destiny. My professor was beyond inspiring and I never looked back. Without my strong academic background in feminism I wouldn’t nearly be the person I am today, a graduate student trying to conquer the world!
    Thanks, Women’s Studies departments everywhere, shoved in the corner of a dark building and lacking funding and respect, I love you all and thank you!

  4. Karine
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I am doing a certificate (1 year undergrad program) in Women’s Studies and 2 women in my program are nurses and they plan to change the whole profession with their ‘new’ knowledge especially all we saw in our health issues class!

  5. Mollie
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Well, I have quite a women’s studies story. I’ve been reading feministing and other feminist blogs/books/etc since at least my sophomore year in high school. When I got to college this year, I decided that I wanted to be a women’s studies major. The school I’m attending (CUNY City College) only offers a WS minor, but I figured that’d be okay.
    I took Intro to Women’s Studies in my first semester (it’s the only class offered by the women’s studies department) to satisfy the requirement and possibly learn something.
    I did not learn a thing. Sorry for the drama, but that was the worst class ever.
    There was no feminist analysis on anything. We only learned sociological terms such as ascribed status, extended family, etc. My professor asked us, what is a woman? And continued to give the medial, biological definition that a woman is someone who is able to reproduce…. This definition doesn’t even apply to all female-bodied persons! Let alone MTF trans people, etc. I called her out on it, and she said that she had never thought to consider transgender issues.
    We watched five films: The Murder of Emmett Till, The Stolen Eye, A Class Divided, Rabbit Proof Fence, and an Eva Peron documentary that severely slut-shamed her and minimized every one of her accomplishments. At the end, my professor proclaimed how great a film it was. The other four films were entertaining, sure, but in no way explicitly related to women/gender/feminism/etc. If they were, my professor failed to mention how.
    We had a series of in-class guests. A 93-year-old retired physician and friend of my professor’s who ended with a pro-abstinence rant. A poet and friend of my professor’s who read poems that were about and/or written by women about being women, told us what they meant from a literary perspective, and moved on… There was no feminist analysis whatsoever. The college’s mandatory sexual harassment presentation that was compassionate and comprehensive, but the presenter and professor failed to effectively call out the young man in the back who thought it was funny to victim-blame. He actually used the phrase “they’re asking for it”… I honestly think this boy might have been just trying to get a rise out of the class (he likes to play dumb), but like I said, no one called him out on it.
    Our final featured lots of people we had never learned about, such as the female presidents of the college, or certain philosophers who “had positive things to say about women”. When I asked WHAT exactly did they say, my professor responded with, “it won’t be on the exam, if you want to know, look it up.”
    I’m not paying $600 to use google.
    I’m sorry for the looooong loooooong ranty post… No one seems to sympathize with me because this class was AWFUL. It was a waste of money, and insult to my intelligence, and a terrible introduction to “women’s studies” for the students who had never ventured into the world of feminism before.
    The WS program at my school is very weak. The gender-related classes (such as a course I’m taking next semester called Black Masculinities) somehow don’t apply or count towards the minor…
    Needless to say, I’m transferring to Hunter. They have an awesome Women and Gender Studies program. If Hunter doesn’t work out, even John Jay has a law-focused gender studies program.
    Prospective City College students, beware: DON’T STUDY WOMEN’S STUDIES HERE.

  6. josieandseb.wordpress.com
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    My first foray into Women’s & Gender Studies (besides being raised by an unapologetic feminist) came from a Catholic nun in a Theology class. I didn’t learn she was a nun until much later (she had originally studied biology), but she was a great lady. She would frequently, in reading passages from the Bible, amend what was written to be inclusive and it was in her classes that I first learned to be comfortable with calling myself a feminist. I was dating a terrible controlling misogynist at the time and was depressed a lot, which she recognized. I remember on the last day of that class, she told me I had so much potential and I just had to believe in myself – “and kick those negative feelings to the curb! Tell them just to go to hell!”
    I really loved her. She had an enormous impact on my life in college – and today, to be honest.

  7. linny
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Louisiana Tech University just got a Gender Studies minor program! I already had “Intro to Gender Studies” and right now I’m taking “History of Women”, it’s already really fun and interesting. I have a paper on Lysistrata due on Thursday :D

  8. Geneva
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I took my first official Women’s Studies course (Sexualities) this past quarter, after considering myself a feminist for few years already and being an avid Feministing reader, and it was an amazing experience. I learned so much more than I can wrap my head around and had some awesome discussions with classmates that ranged from encouraging to mind-blowing. It was also fun to consistently hear from another Feministing reader (Amanda if you’re reading this- you rock!) in the class.
    I’m a little concerned about taking Intro to Women’s Studies next quarter with my roommate and a handful of her male friends who tend to spew sexist and anti-feminist babble (including already disparaging the teacher based on sexist comments on ratemyproffessor.com- ie. the professor is “ranty” etc) but at the same time I’m hopeful that they might actually learn something and have their eyes opened just a little. I love that these classes count as GE credit a lot of the time, so people who otherwise would not have considered taking one are encouraged to take the class, and I think they do a lot of good. I know a lot of the students in my Sexualities class had never really thought about feminism, or didn’t identify with feminism, and it was amazing to see how much everyone’s views changed by the end of the course.
    *crossing fingers*
    Yay for UCD Women’s Studies!

  9. Posted December 16, 2009 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    My undergrad program did not have a Women’s Studies major and in the end, I designed my own major, called “Marginal Perspectives and Social Change” which encompassed race, class and gender analysis.
    My junior seminar in Feminist Studies with Jackie Litt was substantive, challenging, and life changing, influencing both how I live my life and my career path.
    In September, I joined the staff of the National Women’s Studies Association and in November I attended my first NWSA conference, and had an incredible moment of sitting next to Angela Davis before her keynote address. Almost 20 years ago I had read her book Women Race and Class in one of my classes for her major. Sitting next to her was crazy.
    One of the greatest things that she said to her audience of women’s and gender studies professors, students, administrators, and women’s centers staff was “Do research that makes a difference”
    For those interested– her speech is up at the NWSA website– http://www.nwsa.org

  10. Mollie
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Oh, one last thing. The class was full when the semester started. There’s this thing where if you go to the class on the first day and ask the professor to sign your schedule thing, you’ll be enrolled in the class. The professor explicitly stated that she would only be allowing men to do this, because they’re the ones who really need to know women’s studies since all of us women already know what being a woman means….

  11. Ashiashay
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    As an undergrad, I was really uncertain about my major for about as long as a person can be before being forced to pick something. In the spring of my Sophomore year I took my first Gender and Women’s Studies class. It was Women in History in Europe. I loved it-even though it was very difficult and challenged me to think outside the box much more than I had been asked to do before in my college career.
    But then, as I continued through my career, I realized that the way of thinking that was expected of me through my Gender and Women’s Studies major was not only an excellent way for me to think-but it would compliment my personal goals and academic agenda greatly.
    My experience at the University of Wisconsin in the Gender and Women’s studies program was on of the greatest in my life so far.
    Thanks for helping me to reflect on that really positive part of my life!

  12. Lilith Luffles
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I was so close to a GWS minor, but one of the classes I needed for my major was at the same time as a class I need for the GWS minor… and I’ve already applied to graduate so it’s too late. : (

  13. Stephen A
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Although the women in my life have been fundamental in shaping my feminist consciousness, I doubt I would be doing any sort of anti-violence or pro-feminist work if it wasn’t for my experience with my schools Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) program. My partner urged me to take some GWS classes, and I finally did. It was in that first class, which was GWS/Sociology 224: Gender and Society, where I was challenged on my male and white privileges. I initially was defensive, and guilty, but if it hadn’t been for that professor – who gave me resources like the White Ribbon campaign and showed me Jackson Katz’ “Tough Guise” – I would still feel alone and out of place as a man. As odd as it sounds for a man to say, I never felt comfortable living around other men. I grew up feeling threatened and constrained by the masculinity I saw in my every day life.
    Academically, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I entered college. I knew I wanted to be in social services at some aspect, but I honestly never would have thought I would become a GWS major. But, I am intensely glad, and proud, that I did. GWS gave me a home at the University of Illinois-Chicago and helped me find what I had inside of me all along – a masculinity that is loving, helpful, and strong or vulnerable when the time is right.
    Politically, GWS taught me that my feelings were ones that had a political movement, and ones that many other men share. This drove me to engage other men in conversations around masculinity and its relation to violence. GWS helped me realize the events that had taken place in my personal life had political meaning, and that I couldn’t sit idly by while men continued their domination and subjugation of women. Thanks in part to GWS, I plan to make my life’s work eradicating all forms of men’s violence against women. Being a GWS student is an empowering and liberating experience.

  14. Hugo Schwyzer
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this, Jessica. As someone who’s been teaching women’s studies for fifteen years or so now, I think that there’s much to criticize — and much to celebrate — about academic feminism and its role in the broader movement. At our best, we who teach this open new doors, inspire a new way of thinking about gender and sexuality and identity, and — in at least a few instances — turn some folks who would never have thought of themselves as “the activist type” into just that.

  15. Marisa
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Aw this is so great! I have been a feminist/feministing reader for a couple years, and this semester I took Intro To Women and Gender Studies which helped me expand and learn SO much. It was also so great to see the girls in my class talk about how there lives have entirely changed after taking the class. I am transferring next semester and had been sort of hesitant to to Women’s Studies but finally decided that there was no avoiding it and I’m so glad that I’m doing it! At UMass you can take classes at any of the 5 colleges in the area (UMass, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Amherst, Hampshire) and I am SO excited to get started with the program! UMass even has a great Women’s center ON CAMPUS where students can do a practicum and do 70 hours of training the first semester then you actually get to volunteer/get credit for being rape crisis advocate or a community educator. It’s so inspiring!

  16. Nurse_PhD
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    “a masculinity that is loving, helpful, and strong or vulnerable when the time is right.”
    That is a very wise statement.

  17. 94.Rowland
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    The Women’s & Gender Studies department at my university was in a state of flux while I was there, which limited the number of courses that were available. I took a few, all of which were absolutely fascinating and inspiring. But for me, the truly life-changing moments came from the Women’s House, a themed living space that we were fortunate enough to have on our campus. The women I met and lived with there changed my life more than any class I could have taken. I’d never lived in a place where feminism and women’s rights were more than just daily topics of conversation– which is awesome enough on its own– but actual ways of life. I speak differently, read differently, and interact with people differently because of my time in that house. It was a beautiful experience and I send much love to the residents, past and present, of the Women’s House at Ohio Wesleyan University.

  18. klw42
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Our Women and Gender Studies program would *love* to work with the Nursing program, but Nursing has such strict rules about classes and prerequisites that the Nursing students are basically prohibited from taking Women’s Studies. Please help your Nursing program see how valuable Women and Gender studies courses can be in this field!
    In general, I’ve adored my Women and Gender Studies classes at William and Mary as an undergraduate, and George Mason University as a grad student. They have been so influential in my life, I can’t imagine who I would be without them.

  19. Fiona
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I completed my Women’s Studies minor at McGill University. My Intro to Women’s Studies class was taught by two awesome and unapologetic feminist graduate students. It was an amazing experience to sit in a university class and talk about things I had been thinking about and feeling for years in an acknowledged academic setting. While some of my other gender classes were mediocre, others were spectacular (especially a senior-level history seminar called “Gender, Sexuality, and Medicine”). As a Biomedical Sciences major, I loved my Women’s Studies classes because I was challenged to think critically, completely expand and challenge my understanding of this world, debate difficult / depressing realities and ideas, and increase my feminist consciousness. I LOVED these classes because I was being intellectually engaged and challenged on ideas and issues I was, or would become, passionate about. It was exciting to want to better the world in ways that just hit home and made sense.
    I think university-level gender and women’ studies programs / classes and really important because they give people the chance to explore feminism in academic settings that (should) encourage exposure to new theories and ideas.
    Looking back at all the papers I wrote in my varied gender-related classes (on topics such as menstrual suppression, modern female sexual empowerment, the development of the male contraceptive pill, the notion of “choice” in articles about moms opting out of work, the social construction of PMS, etc) I realized that almost every single one happened to centre around sexual and reproductive issues. I am now committed to work in the field of women’s (and men’s) sexual and reproductive health, because I profoundly believe women’s systemic sexual oppression (sexual violence, lack of value for women’s sexual pleasure, sexual objectification, lack of acknowledgment regarding the reasons women have difficulty positively creating their sexual selves) fuels sexism in such a pervasive, hidden, and powerful way.

  20. Fiona
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I completed my Women’s Studies minor at McGill University. My Intro to Women’s Studies class was taught by two awesome and unapologetic feminist graduate students. It was an amazing experience to sit in a university class and talk about things I had been thinking about and feeling for years in an acknowledged academic setting. While some of my other gender classes were mediocre, others were spectacular (especially a senior-level history seminar called “Gender, Sexuality, and Medicine”). As a Biomedical Sciences major, I loved my Women’s Studies classes because I was challenged to think critically, completely expand and challenge my understanding of this world, debate difficult / depressing realities and ideas, and increase my feminist consciousness. I LOVED these classes because I was being intellectually engaged and challenged on ideas and issues I was, or would become, passionate about. It was exciting to want to better the world in ways that just hit home and made sense.
    I think university-level gender and women’ studies programs / classes and really important because they give people the chance to explore feminism in academic settings that (should) encourage exposure to new theories and ideas.
    Looking back at all the papers I wrote in my varied gender-related classes (on topics such as menstrual suppression, modern female sexual empowerment, the development of the male contraceptive pill, the notion of “choice” in articles about moms opting out of work, the social construction of PMS, etc) I realized that almost every single one happened to centre around sexual and reproductive issues. I am now committed to work in the field of women’s (and men’s) sexual and reproductive health, because I profoundly believe women’s systemic sexual oppression (sexual violence, lack of value for women’s sexual pleasure, sexual objectification, lack of acknowledgment regarding the reasons women have difficulty positively creating their sexual selves) fuels sexism in such a pervasive, hidden, and powerful way.
    Yay Women’s Studies!!!!!

  21. Laura
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Yay! Gender and Women’s studies classes sound like so much fun!! I’m going to college in two years, and am definitely going to take a few gender studies classes. While I’m not planning to be a Women’s Studies major, I feel that I can contribute to feminism by being what I want to be (a gynecologist), and help women in that way!

  22. emigree
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    So happy for this post!
    I think I’ve always been a feminist, even when I was a kid. Growing up around an abusive and rigidly-Catholic father, a lot of the time my only solace was in books and daydreams about growing up and doing everything I always wanted. My mom bought me all those young adult books on ‘girl power’ and feminism in the late 90s, and I totally latched onto the idea. I wrote zines where I talked a lot about women as equals and reviewed my favorite female-fronted bands and women’s magazines. I never thought I would (or could) major in it in college, though.
    When I was attending a community college, I took an intro class out of curiosity and completely fell in love. My professor was amazing and challenging and it was almost like realizing a passion I hadn’t acknowledged before. When I transferred to Columbia, it almost seemed instinctual that I would major in Women and Gender Studies. I too have had my issues, as Jessica points out, with academic feminism–but I’ve personally found that on some levels, the difficulty it presents also challenges students to reimagine the world and find ways to make it possible to create.
    I’ve been asked why I hadn’t chosen to major in a discipline like sociology or poli-sci and concentrate in women and gender studies. The thing about a program like women and gender studies is that it’s so open and you come into contact with so many majors who have different plans for their degrees. Everyone from future doctors, human rights attorneys, corporate leaders, and public servants to anthropologists and psychologists and writers. Gaining insight on how the world is affected by the operation of gender, sad and infuriating as it is a lot of the time, is also really empowering. It’s given me a new way to evaluate the world I live in, and ultimately helped me direct my energies to something that I really believe in. So much love for Women and Gender studies departments. Yay, Barnard/Columbia!

  23. little_me
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    The Centre for Women’s Studies, University of York, UK is celebrating 25 years in 2009.
    My MA there changed my life and I met some totally ace and amazing women who continue to inspire me everyday.
    Thank you CWS!

  24. Jessica Lee
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I recently decided to do an International Affairs/Women’s Studies double major at Florida State University. I haven’t taken any WS courses yet, but hopefully something will open up during drop/add week.
    I don’t know what I want to do with grad school, or even after college in general. I’d love to help women all over the world, and maybe in the field of sex education. I don’t know what kind of degree I’d need for that though, since I don’t have anything scientific.

  25. Comrade Kevin
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I came to feminism based on my sister, who took women’s studies classes at the university where we both attended. As a man, at first I was resistant to the message, for all of the reasons we talk about here on Feministing quite frequently.
    I never took a class in my life and was largely self-taught, though I did have the luxury of borrowing the assigned texts left behind by my sister. A link posted here talked about most of the messages inherent in feminism revolve around ideas of love and trust. I couldn’t agree more. I was able to see intersection between lots of ideas tumbling around in my head and especially link it to my faith, and it is that point when I recognized the power of what I had been studying.

  26. aleks
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    As part of my personal preparation to be a teacher when I finish grad school, I’m going to audit a WGS class at my undergrad university next semester.

  27. Hypatia
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Its so nice reading these comments. As someone who’s heading off to college in a few months (!), I’m looking forward to taking my first WGS class (I’m thinking about a WGS minor)!
    The other day, however, I read something a bit unsettling on a college forum that I’ve been going on regularly for a while. A pre-med student was asking advice about a certain college’s WGS program. The responses were horrible: “the last thing we need is another feminist”, “waste of time and money”, “women’s studies = far-left indoctrination”, “wgs perceived as a ‘joke’ among post-graduate programs”, “the average philosophy class is probably more intellectually challenging than a wgs course”. Is this how WGS is perceived outside of the feminist community? It really makes me angry and sad…

  28. Lisa
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    John Jays gender studies program just got started this year. They have had the minor in gender studies for awhile but I am not sure how strong their new gender studies program is. If you are not interested in Criminal Justice, I do not recommend going to John Jay if you are going to apply for just their gender studies program.
    My Story:
    I saw a poster for women’s studies classes outside the women’s bathroom at my college. The class looked interesting so I signed up for intro to women’s studies. I also signed up for Women’s American History up until 1880 because I needed a history credit. Women’s history looked interesting since I knew nothing about it. I absolutely fell in love with both classes and switched my major from Criminal Justice to Women’s Studies and Sociology (I took intro to sociology and was hooked plus I could still focus on Criminal Justice. UMBC doesn’t have a Crim program). I absolutely love the Gender & Women’s Studies program at UMBC. They have multiple classes on sexuality and LGBT studies classes. I came out after I took women’s studies classes because they did give me a voice I didn’t think I had before hand. I can also focus on sociology in the G&WS program because a lot of the classes are cross overs between sociology and G&WS.

  29. Lisa
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I know people who have taken women’s studies classes who were majoring in everything from computer science to psychology, who absolutely loved the classes. Some people will view women’s studies as far-left indoctrination because they took a class and it went against everything they were taught. Women’s Studies is not for everyone, I would not put much thought into those comments. Take the classes and see what you think of them.

  30. Katrin Elaine
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    I just finished a semester in an intro to Women’s Studies class at Bowling Green State University. Although it was an intro level course, the class was awesome. We read selections from No Turning Back, Full Frontal Feminism (Valenti’s book!), The Vagina Monologues, and The Bluest Eye. Plus, we read so many other articles and examined various media pieces. I am really inspired to start sharing the knowledge and encouraging friends to re-evaluate how we are viewed as women in society (the often hyprsexualized image), and decide to take control of who we are, and how we are seen. I have a lot of confidence we can be who want to be, and not who we are told be (as corny as that sounds). I am also a martial arts instructor, and I can see that so many young girls I work with lack the self confidence they need, and need to see more women out there setting a strong example. I am sure if they learned some of the things I did in Women’s Studies, they would realize how amazing they already are! Once people take Women’s Studies, they can start sharing the knowledge outside the classroom!

  31. Jen
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    YES! Do volunteer with the Everywoman’s Center at UMass. They do great work.
    And definitely take some SWG (study of women & gender) classes over at Smith. We have one of the best undergrad women’s studies programs in the country, and you’ll love classes over there. Particularly strong are queer studies and feminist theory classes.
    Plus, Smithies are some of the most brilliant students you’ll ever meet. Not that I’m biased or anything.
    -an enthusiastic Smith SWG alum

  32. Elyse M
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    My journey into Women’s and Gender Studies is a bit different. For a large part of my high school and university life I suffered from eating disorders and depression… the only thing that saved my life was feminism – something I discovered outside of the classroom as I was a Classical Archaeology major and never took many courses outside that major. Feminism helped me recognize that this intense anxiety and sadness I felt wasn’t my brain going crazy it was patriarchy, it was power, it was living in a world that has been hostile to me. Feminism literally saved my life. And now I am doing ANOTHER undergrad and finally I had the opportunity to take a Women’s Studies class, and of course I loved it… I plan on taking more and have changed my major to reflect my passion and interest. Too bad my current university has closed the Women’s Studies program and my year will be the final year to have the option to major or minor in Women’s Studies, which is absolutely enraging. They will then most likely phase out most of the WMST courses. I am currently applying to transfer to a place that hopefully values the voices and thought included in WGST.

  33. Dena
    Posted December 17, 2009 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    I absolutely adore the Women and Gender Studies program here at Colgate University. I’ve been taking Women’s Studies courses since my first semester here and am now a declared Women’s Studies/Political Science double major.
    This semester, I completed a course that’s required towards my major. Our Professor was amazing. We took a trip to Brooklyn to a Vulvagraphics event hosted by Leonore Tiefer. We’ve been walkers for women going into abortion clinics in our area, we’ve hosted speakouts on sexual assault with other students, etc. Essentially, we have done a lot. We’ve also done a lot of queer activism.
    The Women’s and Gender Studies program here is really a safe space for students of all identities. The faculty and staff are extremely supportive and helped me become more comfortable being open and being myself here at Colgate. Now that I openly identify as queer, being in such a supportive space has been really imporant for myself and many other queer students. Even non-concentrators of Women’s and Gender Studies feel welcome in our Center and in our loving community.
    It makes me really sad that some people have had bad experiences with Women’s and Gender Studies, but every program is different. I hope everyone gets to one day experience a Women’s and Gender Studies program that is inclusive in nature, with a loving, supportive community filled with extremely passionate, radical, and engaging Professors.
    I

  34. FW
    Posted December 17, 2009 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    Well, I’m a loser who didn’t go to college. Guess that explains my heretic feminism :)

  35. lindslam
    Posted December 17, 2009 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    My first course relating to Women’s/ Gender Studies was my second semester of college (ironically, at American River College in Sacramento, CA, who’s student government voted on behalf of the entire student body to publicly uphold Prop 8). It was a a Human Sexuality class under the Psychology dept. I liked the instructor and it helped me begin to think critically about women’s roles and such, but didn’t seem to offer a challenge.
    Then, I attended another community college nearby called Sacramento City College, nicknamed “Divercity College” and last spring I took Women’s Psych, Sex and Gender (under Sociology), and Social Psych. All really helped me analyze different aspects of women in society and offered a challenge. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to watch a romantic comedy (or almost anything for that matter) without analyzing the hell out of it!
    Then this semester I transferred to Sacramento State and took an Intro to Women’s Studies class and got a different point of view than the others. The instructor focused on global feminism and sometimes compared it to American society. She helped me even more to analyze and think critically not only about women in the U.S., but about other cultures as well. It is in this class that I was required to read Jessica Valenti’s “Full Frontal Feminism” that I completely fe

  36. Bevin
    Posted December 17, 2009 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    I haven’t taken a WGS course, actually, I came to feminism in a more roundabout way. I guess ‘came back to it’ would have been more appropriate. I considered myself a feminist until 7th grade– a teacher asked the class how many of his students considered themselves to be feminists, and all of three of us raised our hands. He then asked us if we really felt like women should be superior to men and we put our hands down.
    It wasn’t until I was 29, returning to college for the third time that I had an amazing professor salvage the word for me. It was a film theory class and we were all grappling with Laura Mulvey’s seminal essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” and the harder I tried to wrap my brain around the ideas in it, the more things started falling into place like tumblers in a lock. We spent an entire week talking about that essay and how films construct gender, and the concept of the binary gender relationship, and the gaze, and dominant and subordinate power dynamics, and every other major concept in feminist film theory– a lot of which is considered general film theory now.
    Learning that I’d been right about feminism when I was younger clicked my sense of self back into alignment and I’ve never looked back since. I stumbled onto Feministing after picking up a copy of Jessica’s book The Purity Myth and I learn more every day here, too.

  37. crazyface8d
    Posted December 17, 2009 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Sorry, but this needs to be said. I attended SUNY Albany and was in training for the collective and the woman who had taken over the program is awful.
    I was removed from the program for being ‘too opinionated’ in an opinion based class and was then compared to the professors dear friend who would try to pick up men at starbucks and had no idea why she wasnt getting any attention.
    The entire program is run like a sorority where the women who have been in the collective for more than one year act like they are above the others.
    It’s a wonderful idea, but the Albany program needs some serious help.

  38. Marisa
    Posted December 17, 2009 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I certainly plan on taking some classes at Smith, if you have any particular suggestions I would love to hear them! I’m transferring next semester so I will be looking into the Women’s center for fall, I couldn’t be happier about it! Sounds so great, and I’m happily surprised that a big state school has such a program, I think the combination of the center and all the great schools in the area will make a wonderful wgs education. I can’t wait to go home to Massachusetts! Oh Northampton you are so beautiful

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