The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Gender dynamics affect every part of our lives; everything from what we wear to how we interact with others reflects our individual perception of gender in society. And yet the vast majority of us never receive any type of formal education on gender. How does that make any sense?
I took my first gender studies course last quarter, and ever since then, I’ve been thinking about how the world would be a much better place if everybody took a class on gender during high school. That way, people would go to college or enter the workforce already equipped with the tools they need to understand themselves and others around them.
The class wouldn’t need to deal with complex ideas or confusing theories. It would just need to cover the basic concepts that come up in everyday life, like the distinction between sex and gender. Many people make transphobic comments based on the incorrect assumption that there are only two sexes or that gender is something that you’re born with. But any student of gender studies could tell you that there are many individuals who don’t have strictly XX or XY chromosomes, so it’s a biological fact that there aren’t only two distinct sexes. Plus, gender isn’t tied to our genetics; it’s socially constructed, and our own actions continually reinforce gender norms.
The course could also teach young people about how some standards of masculinity are harmful to men as well as women. So many people write off gender studies as a useless field that just focuses on finding creative ways to hate on men, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, it’s about analyzing the ways in which gender impacts the experience of every person.
In fact, liberal feminism, the dominant form of feminism among gender scholars, emphasizes the fact that all people — regardless of sex or gender — are hurt by the constraints that gender norms place upon them. For example, one of the cultural expectations associated with masculinity is that “real men” avoid anything that could be perceived as feminine. Not only does this breed a lot of misogyny and homophobia, but it also limits men and what they feel they’re able to do. And other norms — like the belief that men should be stoic and completely self-reliant — place a massive burden on men’s mental health and their ability to form healthy relationships.
Sure, one gender studies class isn’t going to magically solve all of the gender issues we experience in society. But it’ll definitely help. We can’t effectively combat social problems like rape culture and the wage gap when most people don’t even understand what those terms actually mean. A universal gender studies course could bridge this knowledge gap, and it would bring us one step closer to a more tolerant and equitable world. So, what are we waiting for?