The Benefits of Women and Gender Studies Classes in College

Photo of Nicole Hayashida during her Women and Gender studies class taken by Lauren Piraro with permission

Photo of Nicole Hayashida during her Women and Gender studies class taken by Lauren Piraro with permission

As I briefly referenced in my multimedia slideshow “10 Things A Feminist Should Do In College,” enrolling in a Women and Gender Studies course in college is a great way to really understand the elements of feminist scholasticism and theory in a collegiate environment, as oppose to renegade lessons via YouTube. Don’t get me wrong, YouTube videos are very informative and are the next best thing to acquire information on topics such as the aforementioned, but it definitely is not the most academic source for information.

Women and Gender Studies courses are the answer!

Both first timers and seasoned veterans of Women and Gender Studies (WGS) classes are able to understand the universal importance of WGS classes and how they can impact your currently held ideals.

“Honestly, I though it was going to be about feminism and that women should be powerful,” said Nicole Hayashida, a first year Sociology major at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. “How women are expanding and branching out from being housewives – the history behind all this.”

A common misconception about WGS classes is that they are seminars in which feminist professors preach why women need to be more powerful and empowered. This is often times not the case. WGS classes are presented like any other subject course on a college campus. There are scholastic texts for reference and reading, as well as subjective information that requires both critical and analytic skills to comprehend.

“One specific issue that impacted me the most was learning about the reproductive rights issues during the 1960s,” said Hayashida.

Hayashida is referencing the legally forced sterilizations that occurred in the early 1960s in the United States angled toward minority women that continued all the way up to the late 1980s. Click here and here for more information on a topic that has never received the sufficient amount of attention it deserves.

“I never realized how big of an affect it had in the United States. You hear about stories like this globally, but never here. The realization it is happening in our borders was really eye opening to me,” said Hayashida.

Photo of Ria Zelada taken with permission by Lauren Piraro

Photo of Ria Zelada taken with permission by Lauren Piraro

Often times, taking a WGS class ignites a spark of interest in a student that alters their college and career goals. Ria Zelada, a third year Journalism major at Cal Poly, is a Women and Gender Studies minor along with French, Ethnic Studies, and Religious Studies minors.

“I’ve always just been passionate about women’s rights,” said Zelada.

She took her first WGS class the fall quarter of her sophomore year in college and soon after, she declared WGS as one of her minors.

“WGS encompasses a lot more than just studies of women,” said Zelada. “A lot of people just assume that the study of women equals feminist thinking in the negative sense, but we learn about oppression of all types. You don’t have to be a feminist to take the classes.”

Oppression is the foundation of WGS course work, as well as a prominent issue in our society, world, and culture.  What women and gender studies classes do is widen the perspectives of students and the goal is to showcase just how close an issue is to everyone, whether someone has noticed it or not.

“If there is one thing that I have learned, it’s that I live in a very privileged manner,” said Zelada. “My world is perfect, but that doesn’t mean the whole world is perfect.”

Not yet convinced?

Here is a condensed list of why you should take a WGS class at your school ASAP:

  • You learn gratitude and an appreciation for the world you were born into as an American because no matter the circumstances, it can be exceedingly worse somewhere else in the world
  • Thought you knew all there was about oppression? Think again! From the injustices of The Trail of Tears to the secrecy of forced sterilizations of poor, minority women, WGS classes and professors are not afraid to start a discussion revolving around controversial topics
  • You sharpen your critical thinking skills, as well as understand just how vital it is to question the world, society, and culture around you. Individualistic thinking is crucial to becoming your best self.
  • A lot of WGS minor curriculum have creative writing workshops which I have found to be half-writing class and half-therapy session. What an inexpensive and effective way to work through your issues!
  • As Jenell Navarro, a WGS and Ethnic Studies professor at Cal Poly, pointed out, there is not one type of feminism and college students should strive to learn how it pertains to societal norms. “Taking a WGS class can open up the world around you by slowly breaking down barriers,” said Navarro.
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