I had many different openings for this blog and couldn’t decide on one, so I’m going to let you choose.
Here are your options.
“We watched a BEYONCÉ video IN CLASS…”
“I never called myself a feminist in high school, but…”
“So, scheduling is coming around the corner, and if you’re looking to change your life AND get a GE (general education) credit…”
“You’re trying to decide if you want to go to Ohio State and you want to hear about my best college experiences…”
“Y’all, I’m WOKE…”
Alright. I think I covered all of them.
The reason I’m having so much difficulty starting this is because I’ve thought about writing about this (feminism) and a certain class I am taking many times. I mean, I now low-key introduce myself as a feminist and I don’t think a single blog can explain this drastic change from high school. Also, earlier this year I wrote about powerful women, and I feel like I didn’t explain all my thoughts behind it very well. So I had a lot of different ideas swimming around. But the whole point of this blog is that I want you to experience what I experienced, and one of the best ways you can do that is signing up for WGSST 2230: Women, Gender, and Race in the Media next fall. It’s the class that taught me to be an indefatigable feminist.
This is our Carmen homepage. Convinced?
So, let’s start with this.
In high school, I was always a mellow sort of gal. But near the end of my senior year, I started to realize that so many of my worries were intimately entwined with my identity of being female. And I started to notice disparities in the ways men and women were regarded. They were little things at first: girls treated as though they were a little more stupid even if they were a little bit smarter, boys being a little louder.
But then I realized it was so much more. It was the wage gap. It was the lack of opportunities for women’s education in undeveloped countries. It was the fact that less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs last year were women. It was women being treated as sexual objects, and men being some kind of dominating beings. It was high rates of rape and domestic violence and genital mutilation around the world. I feel like it’s unfair to summarize these things in little sentences when I’ve written pages and pages about each single aspect, but for the sake of making my point, I’m moving fast.
So, coming into college, I knew I wanted to take a class in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department. A friend recommended WGSST 2230. It counts as my visual and performing arts General Education credit and is a 3 credit hour course.
The class is, essentially, a pop culture class. We watch all sorts of pop culture videos: Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Fifth Harmony, Glee, the Captain America trailer, Disney trailers, slam poetry, etc. We also read articles related to the videos, discussing ideas like feminism, male hegemony, race, sexuality, class, ableism, and their intersectionality.
I started this class around the time I started calling myself a true, hardcore feminist, and this class opened my eyes to new dimensions of both oppression and capability. We talked about the big, obvious gaps I mentioned before. But I also realized that the little things weren’t just little things; they were effects of a culture of patriarchy and pervaded so many different aspects of girls’ lives.
For example, I might have previously said it isn’t a big deal that boys typically raise their hand in class a little bit more than girls do. But girls aren’t speaking up for so many reasons: they have been raised to be quiet, they have been disrespected before, they have been conditioned to fear that they are wrong. They don’t want to speak up and seem too aggressive: a 2010 study shows that when women outperform (in this case, out-speak) men, they are often viewed as unlikable. However, when women performed similarly to men, they are often viewed as less competent. This paradoxical nature makes girls afraid to be too much, afraid to even speak in class. So girls get quieter, and they stop saying and achieving as much as they can. Their ideas stop being spread. And slowly, men take higher positions and demand more respect, while girls continue keeping their hand down.
And once I recognized this, I started putting my hand up in class more often, even when I was in an economics class that girls hardly talked in.
More than anything, this class and feminism taught me to be whole in myself. The idea that warmth need not come from an external source shook my world and made me realize my own power. And after feeling that, I think that it’s something every girl should feel.
So does that mean that this is just a class for girls? I would say heck no . In fact, I think guys should be encouraged to take this class (we even spent a whole class tackling the ideal of masculinity). Whoever you are, it’ll open your eyes, and this is so critical because gender equality requires the cooperation of all genders. Also, one of my (mostly) white, straight, male friends took a class similar to this one and now comes with me to feminist plays because he understands the oppression women and other minority groups face. He is so woke. It’s super cool.
GE credit, liberation, one of the best parts of my Ohio State experience. I guess you can pick your ending here, too.