Women's Studies should be a requirement

“How many cents to every man’s dollar do women earn? Seventy-seven. In what year were women granted the right to vote? 1920. Approximately how many college-aged women are victims of sexual assault? One in four. Why do women engage in disordered eating patterns in order to attain unrealistic beauty ideals? Why do women get labeled ‘slut’ when they engage in casual sex, while men are only labeled ‘players’? So, how did you do? Are you surprised that you weren’t aware of these facts or had never considered these questions before now? This answer is simple.”

How many cents to every man’s dollar do women earn? Seventy-seven.

In what year were women granted the right to vote? 1920.

Approximately how many college-aged women are victims of sexual assault? One in four.

Why do women engage in disordered eating patterns in order to attain unrealistic beauty ideals?

Why do women get labeled ‘slut’ when they engage in casual sex, while men are only labeled ‘players’?

So, how did you do?

Are you surprised that you weren’t aware of these facts or had never considered these questions before now? This answer is simple.

Girls are typically not taught about these types of things (women’s history, healthy body image and self-esteem, or sex and/or violence) in traditional elementary or high-school settings. If they are, it’s without depth.

Certainly there are one or two health classes, which addresses general sex-ed, but we skip over an array of other women focused issues. Early educational experiences fail to have courses that are specific to the experience of being female.

By the time these girls are heading to college some are starving themselves, desperately trying to conform to unrealistic cultural standards of beauty and femininity. Some have already been in at least one abusive relationship or have been raped.

Without prior education that focuses and explains these types of women’s issues and experiences, women’s studies courses/programs can be beneficial for women in higher educational settings.

Women’s studies courses approach these very topics and create open and safe environments for students to enter into conversations about these issues. As a result of these classes, students begin to understand how their gender as well as their race, class, and sexual orientation impacts their lives in all aspects: personal, political, academic and professional. In other words, students begin to understand themselves.

Here at the University of Akron, Introduction to Women’s Studies fulfills a diversity requirement

for graduation. Unfortunately, this often means many students who enroll in this course do not do so because they have a prior interest or awareness of this kind of interdisciplinary study.

Most of my students walk in on the first day of class still unsure what the course is about. ‘What issues could women possibly have that could fill an entire semester? Aren’t we liberated already?’ they ask.

However, within the first few weeks, many have awakenings. Students realize how absent women’s lives and experiences, historically and contemporary, have been throughout their academic careers. They realize how much they didn’t know and how much they hadn’t considered.

Many find women’s studies as courses to be excellent forums to bring up issues they’ve always silently wondered about. And many, at the end of the fifteen-week semester, still wish to further investigate topics they are interested in.

Students, both women and men, learn to recognize their own experiences as political ones and also begin to understand the world through a more critical lens with an eye for privilege and equality. In addition, they develop strength and conviction in their individual identities.

Nearly all of them wonder why there’s been an absence of this kind of education previously and come to feel that their prior education has done them a disservice by leaving women’s lives and experiences out of the bigger picture.

Most of my students would argue that all students should take a course in women’s studies, not as an elective, but as a requirement. I couldn’t agree with them more. Your gender is an everyday part of your life. You should understand how you’re experiencing it.

For information on the University of Akron’s women’s studies program visit www.uakron.edu/ws.

How many cents to every man’s dollar do women earn? Seventy-seven.

In what year were women granted the right to vote? 1920.

Approximately how many college-aged women are victims of sexual assault? One in four.

Why do women engage in disordered eating patterns in order to attain unrealistic beauty ideals?

Why do women get labeled ‘slut’ when they engage in casual sex, while men are only labeled ‘players’?

So, how did you do?

Are you surprised that you weren’t aware of these facts or had never considered these questions before now? This answer is simple.

Girls are typically not taught about these types of things (women’s history, healthy body image and self-esteem, or sex and/or violence) in traditional elementary or high-school settings. If they are, it’s without depth.

Certainly there are one or two health classes, which addresses general sex-ed, but we skip over an array of other women focused issues. Early educational experiences fail to have courses that are specific to the experience of being female.

By the time these girls are heading to college some are starving themselves, desperately trying to conform to unrealistic cultural standards of beauty and femininity. Some have already been in at least one abusive relationship or have been raped.

Without prior education that focuses and explains these types of women’s issues and experiences, women’s studies courses/programs can be beneficial for women in higher educational settings.

Women’s studies courses approach these very topics and create open and safe environments for students to enter into conversations about these issues. As a result of these classes, students begin to understand how their gender as well as their race, class, and sexual orientation impacts their lives in all aspects: personal, political, academic and professional. In other words, students begin to understand themselves.

Here at the University of Akron, Introduction to Women’s Studies fulfills a diversity requirement

for graduation. Unfortunately, this often means many students who enroll in this course do not do so because they have a prior interest or awareness of this kind of interdisciplinary study.

Most of my students walk in on the first day of class still unsure what the course is about. ‘What issues could women possibly have that could fill an entire semester? Aren’t we liberated already?’ they ask.

However, within the first few weeks, many have awakenings. Students realize how absent women’s lives and experiences, historically and contemporary, have been throughout their academic careers. They realize how much they didn’t know and how much they hadn’t considered.

Many find women’s studies as courses to be excellent forums to bring up issues they’ve always silently wondered about. And many, at the end of the fifteen-week semester, still wish to further investigate topics they are interested in.

Students, both women and men, learn to recognize their own experiences as political ones and also begin to understand the world through a more critical lens with an eye for privilege and equality. In addition, they develop strength and conviction in their individual identities.

Nearly all of them wonder why there’s been an absence of this kind of education previously and come to feel that their prior education has done t
hem a disservice by leaving women’s lives and experiences out of the bigger picture.

Most of my students would argue that all students should take a course in women’s studies, not as an elective, but as a requirement. I couldn’t agree with them more. Your gender is an everyday part of your life. You should understand how you’re experiencing it.

For information on the University of Akron’s women’s studies program visit www.uakron.edu/ws.