A Case For Women And Gender Studies
By Kayleigh Colford
“What are you going to do with that?” is a common response I get when I proudly declare that I am minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies. Although this remark is often accompanied by an eye roll and a scoff, I have learned not to take it personally for I am not the one who fears change. Instead, I embrace it, unlike the person who ignorantly asks, “What about men’s studies?” Newsflash, that is called history.
Women’s and Gender studies opens the minds of those who chose to even listen to what the subject has to say. Hell, you do not even have to be a feminist to understand that everyone, regardless of their gender or sexuality deserves equal rights. Women’s and Gender Studies addresses many issues including racism, sexism, ableism, classism, elitism, homophobia, and transphobia. Exercising the notion that intersectionality includes all women; not just those who fit inside the gender binary or stereotype. Therefore, it can be used to make the world a better place by discussing issues that are often overlooked by mainstream society. Promoting critical thinking skills as well as aiding people in becoming well versed on issues that not only affect that past, but also the future in regards to equal rights.
I was in my second year of university before I had even taken a Women’s and Gender Studies course. As a result, I was completely floored at my own ignorance. How had I gone almost two decades without connecting the dots between not only my own person life but the outside world? Growing up in a single parent household, and watching my mom struggle to make ends meet was my normal. That is until I realized it may have been due to the gender related wage gap; making financial security a challenge.
Hearing that Indigenous women often go missing and are seemingly disregarded by national news outlets did not click with me until I realized that a young girl from a local reservation went missing years prior—yet I had not seen her on national news once during her disappearance.
Being both - First Nations and a woman - made life a bit harder for me. First Nation’s history is often erased from the discourse of Canada as a whole. Being a full-time university student, I have decided to exercise my right to education and take as many courses, in as many different fields as possibly. However, I couldn’t be the only one realizing that issues covered throughout my Women’s and Gender class hit a bit too close to home, could I?
Most definitely not.
As we dug further and further into the course material, the ignorance that I once felt surrounding Women’s and Gender Studies was replaced with enthusiasm for the topic. By learning about issues that people have faced, regardless of their gender, sex, background or ethnicity I discovered that the subject of Women’s and Gender Studies is needed. No, I am not a lesbian, and yes, I do shave my legs. (Although probably not as often as I should; blame that on chronic laziness), I realized that I am a living, breathing, person who is capable of change. Society sets ideas and stereotypes around what a woman should and should not be. Smart but docile. Skinny but big breasted. A caretaker. A mom. A submissive sex zombie. With that being said, I am more than willing to break down any stereotype that I am associated with, whether that be associated with being female or not. In fact, the discourse of Women’s Studies encourages that notion too.
However, in order to be capable of change, we must step outside of what we know. Changing the idea that Women’s Studies is nothing but a bird course is a challenge. The only way to overcome the bias is to use our knowledge as a foundation.The critical thinking skills that Women’s and Gender Studies teaches is the perfect opportunity to adhere to such right. The general consensus surrounding the topic of Women’s and Gender studies may be filled with logical fallacies and stereotypes, but in truth, the subject is about breaking those down.
So, next time you’re asked what you’re studying, or even interested in, tell your Uncle Larry, or whomever else might be asking, “Women’s Studies” with a smile. For Women’s and Gender studies fosters two of the most important skills a person can achieve: critical thinking and openness.