Debunking the women’s studies myth

katie
Katie Schmidt

When I graduated high school, my distant relatives and parents’ friends redundantly asked what I planned to study in college.

When I told them I was majoring in journalism, the unanimous response was: “Good for you.” The response to my minor has not been so favorable.

I declared my minor in women’s studies last summer after taking the introductory course. In this class, I had an epiphany – this was the first college class I enjoyed attending and felt comfortable participating in discussions. This class made me feel like a better person. Women’s studies taught me to be more accepting of others in learning about multiculturalism, global feminism and LGBTQ issues.

A year into the program, I have encountered my fair share of backlash.

One response I’ve received: “So, do you all hate men?”

Of course I don’t hate men. Some of my favorite teachers are men. Most of my friendships are with men. I’m very close with my two cousins, who are young men. You would be hard-pressed to find a feminist man-hater. Feminism advocates equality of the sexes. Equality of the sexes cannot be accomplished without men and women working together.

Another question that I’ve been asked is, “Do you just talk about girl problems in class?”

Yeah, we do, if you consider rape culture, the double bind of sexuality and the gender pay gap to be “girl problems.” Men are equal participants in these issues, so girl problems is a bit of a misnomer. Do you really think I’m earning a minor that simply involves relationship advice offered in Seventeen Magazine?

Some have even told me that women’s studies isn’t a real subject.

Sure, women’s studies doesn’t include testing, but writing essays in women’s studies and the related field of ethnic studies is more difficult than a statistics course. Women’s studies requires you to remove a patriarchal lens, which is difficult since men write the history books and govern the country. Women’s studies simply involves more abstract thinking. Women’s studies class concepts are arguably more applicable to real life than other college subjects are.

There’s a catch: all these responses have come from my friends. I haven’t questioned their decisions to study biology or psychology, so I don’t appreciate their sexist jokes. Regardless of how serious or playful the joke may be, it simply proves that the misconceptions of women’s studies are still in the process of being debunked.

People don’t understand that women’s studies discusses the differences in communication between men and women from a biopsychosocial perspective. Women’s studies analyzes how media portray gender and race and reinforce sexism and racism. It explores the legislation that oppresses women, including how much time is allocated for maternity leave.

I hear the argument, “Women have the right to vote. What are you complaining about?”

I’m complaining about being objectified when I go out in public. I’m complaining about old white male politicians dictating women’s reproductive rights. I’m complaining about the potential inability to climb the corporate ladder because of the balance of career and family. Most of all, I’m complaining that sexism has become so latent that people believe sexism is dead.

I notice sexism every time I turn on the TV. I chuckle at the gay jokes made on “The Big Bang Theory.” I roll my eyes at the cliché Axe body spray commercials (anyone who went to public high school knows that excessive Axe spray is a lady repellant, not a chick magnet). Also, I am simply dumbfounded that Marge Simpson and Lois Griffin still put up with their husbands. I don’t expect “The Big Bang Theory” to be politically correct or “The Simpsons” to model the truly perfect American family. I just think there’s a long road of progress ahead.

The majority of college students are women, and it’s time we take them seriously. Is it that hard to accept a field of study involving women?

Collegian Staff Reporter Katie Schmidt isn’t a cliché angry feminist, but she loves “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” marathons. She can be reached at letters@collegian.com.