During my senior year of high school, I had to do a capstone history project and chose the 60s and 70s Women’s Movement for my topic of research. After doing this project, my eyes opened a bit more to exactly why people considered themselves feminists and the journey of women’s rights throughout United States history. My freshman year of college, I decided to take a Women’s and Gender Studies class for one of my core requirements. I came from a small, Southern town and had never heard much about feminism or Women’s and Gender Studies in general. Yet due to interest sparked from my high school history project, I felt that the Women’s and Gender Studies class would be interesting if nothing else.
In this class, I found a lot more than I ever expected to and realized that there was still much more to learn about, so I declared a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies at Coastal Carolina University. Ever since becoming a Women’s and Gender Studies minor, I have been asked repeatedly: “What is that even for?” “What do you learn about?” “Don’t you know what it’s like to be a woman?” etc. Some of these questions are out of spite and others are from well-intended people. However, I tell most of them the same thing: “Women’s and Gender Studies shouldn’t even exist; it shouldn’t be a thing.”
It is at this point, where most people begin to be confused with my response and I can see it in their body language if not their verbal language. What do you mean? Why are you taking it, then?
Let me explain.
Women’s and Gender Studies should not exist because the people and topics discussed in these courses should be included in general education. For example, in my introductory Women’s and Gender Studies class, I learned about many women who carved the path towards racial equality, women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ equality in the United States. Many of these women, I had never heard of in my life despite taking about 12 years of history in the public education system.
I was infuriated to realize how much of history which impacted me had simply been left off of the books. And it wasn’t just history—it was science and technological development, politics, fashion, popular culture, sports, etc. Minorities and women had been left out of topics that I had learned about for years and the only explanation for this avoidance is discrimination. In Women’s and Gender Studies courses, I began to learn not only about women in society but all different types of people including people of different race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and ability status. These critical conversations were left out of my public education as I largely discussed white men and their accomplishments.
Throughout the public education system, I primarily learned about war, slavery, and Manifest Destiny. Occasionally, we would discuss Rosa Parks or Eleanor Roosevelt, and the school system thought that one or two women was enough to give us the women’s perspective inside of chapters about men’s work. Throughout Women’s and Gender Studies courses, I have recognized and learned of huge human rights movements; I have come to respect protestors as world changers who carved a path for me; I have begun to understand the pivotal change developed by individuals who created a movement much more than public officials in the past; I have seen women and minorities struggle to obtain equality; I have recognized how our overlapping differences and identity markers come to create our lived experience.
To me, the Women’s and Gender Studies minor is a way of filling in multiple gaps that have been left within my education from previous establishments. It hasn’t just taught me about women. It has taught me about: race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, politics, ability status, national origin, immigration, history, sociology, popular culture, and so much more. This minor has helped me to understand the lived experience of other people in the best ways that I can and has helped me to articulate my own lived experience in a productive manner.
The Women’s and Gender Studies minor at Coastal Carolina University is worth registering for and completing. It will uplevel your degree and education but it will also uplevel your understanding of the world and compassion. After obtaining this minor, you can go into the workplace understanding intricate systems and the complexities of humanity. You will be a better team worker and be better at seeing shades of gray rather than black and white.
This minor requires 18 credit hours with the Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies and a Capstone course mandatory. The remaining hours can be selected from any Women’s and Gender Studies offerings and therefore, can be tailored to the interests you hold dear. If you are interested in the Women’s and Gender Studies minor, contact your advisor or the Director of Women’s and Gender Studies, Ina, at [email protected].