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5 Questions about Pitt’s New Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Major Answered

“If you have a body these classes are probably important.” – Dr. Julie Beaulieu

You may have heard the buzz going around Pitt about the new Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Major (GSWS for short). Pitt has had a GSWS Certificate for a while, but now, here by popular request, Pitt offers a GSWS Major! Now you can get your Bachelor’s Degree in Gender, Sexuality, and Lena Dunham. #LennyLetter.

I sat down to discuss the major with Dr. Julie Beaulieu, who teaches a bunch of the GSWS classes, including a class I am currently taking called Sex and Sexualities. Yes, that is a class here, and yes, all my friends get very jealous when they are working on calculus homework and I am reading about sex addiction. She is also teaching Pitt’s first class in Transgender Studies next semester! If you are considering the GSWS Major, Certificate, or just want to take some GSWS classes (they fill a bunch of Gen Eds #win), hopefully all of your questions will be answered below!

1. Why do you think the GSWS major is important?

You can’t tell someone’s values or what they care about or are committed to from a resume or CV. Having the GSWS Major or Certificate in your professional background allows people to realize that you have a cultural education that allows you to exist in this world in a critical, meaningful way.

2. How can GSWS material be applied to someone’s daily life?

The material gives you the tools to think critically about gender and sexuality in our historical, cultural moment. Our world is incredibly diverse when it comes to identity and these classes give us the tools to thoughtfully begin to understand that. I hear students (especially those who take GSWS courses as core classes just because “Sex” was in the title) say that this information is more immediately applicable to the world outside the classroom than anything else. And people don’t typically say that about their Gen Ed classes, or so I hear…

3. How would you describe the classroom environment of most GSWS classes?

The GSWS classes typically create an environment of reflection. Everyone who’s in the classroom has an identity, has a sexuality, has experience with embodiment, and therefore, each voice is heard and can bring some kind of unique knowledge to the table. The classes are smaller, political, high rigor, and very much student-led.  These classes allow you to practice articulating your beliefs on GSWS topics so when you encounter these topics in real life, you can prepared to speak. 

4. What are some reasons that Pitt students should consider the GSWS major?

It allows you to develop a comfort with multiple ways of being in the world. You won’t be shocked, surprised or uncomfortable by people and you won’t make other people feel uncomfortable. I hear people tell stories all the time of how they don’t have therapists or doctors with these understandings of others. 

People are ready to be bosses after coming out of these classes.  They help you realize that you shouldn’t discriminate based on someone’s embodiment whether that be their gender, sex, race, class, etc.

For anyone in the social services, I think the GSWS Major offers a vital, fundamental education on how to work with the public.

For anyone in graduate school, the humanities, or sociology, the GSWS classes give you the language to be able to articulate yourself about these topics which relate to all of the humanities fields.  


5. What are some stereotypes of GSWS Majors that you want to set the record straight for?

For one thing, the idea of feminism as it circulates in pop culture is really different than what we talk about in the classroom. You also aren’t required to identify as a feminist to take any of these classes.

We’re not tough on guy students and our classes aren’t just geared toward women. We talk quite a bit about masculinity.

They are in fact political classes, debating laws and rights, but there is no forcing of ideals. There are very open debates.

These classes are not easy, but we hope students engage enough with the work so that it becomes meaningful. Most people get on board and see the value in the curriculum.

Dr. Julie Beaulieu also teaches

  • Sex and Sexualities (Fulfills Historical Change requirement)
  • Intro to GSWS (Fulfills Sociology, sometimes W requirement)
  • Global LGBTQ Lit (Fulfills Lit and Global requirements)
  • Transgender studies (Brand new class to Pitt next semester! No Gen Eds attached yet)

If you have any questions, feel free to email Julie at [email protected].


Image credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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