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Why You Should Take a Gender Studies Class Regardless of Your Major

Yes, I’m one of the infamous “STEM Majors” everyone talks about. Sometimes I’m the butt of a joke (or a widespread meme). Other times I’m showered with people’s praises. But regardless, I’m majoring in Metallurgical Engineering, and I love it. Even through all the math and chemistry classes I’ve had to take, I love learning about metals and alloys and how they work. Believe it or not, after four long years, it’s fascinating to me. But as much as I’ve learned in those classes, there is another subject from which I’ve learned some far more important things. Gender Studies classes have changed my life and way of thinking, and I invite everyone to take a class in Gender Studies, if they can.

I’ve taken gender studies classes since my first year in college. I’ve been jokingly asked “What are you doing here?” after introducing myself in these classes, and I’m sometimes the only STEM major in the course. I don’t mind that at all, but I still wish more STEM majors would take Gender Studies classes. In fact, given the authority, I’d require all students to take at least one.

Gender Studies is a very important field, and it’s actually made me a much better person. It’s taught me critical thinking skills and writing skills, I’d never received from previous classes. I’ve learned about the world, and why things happen the way they do. I’ve learned why people act differently, I’ve learned to see through bullshit, and I’ve learned how to interact better with the people around me. For example, Gender Studies taught me how trauma can affect people, why feminism is necessary and important, and exactly how toxic masculinity has affected my mental health. I’ve become more respectful and kinder, because I understand how different the world is for others, I’ve learned why certain actions can be offensive and how to handle that when I’m a bystander. Gender Studies revealed to me the prevalence of rape culture, and taught me how to fight it.

No matter how far you get into jobs or classes, no matter how far into math or engineering you go, you’re always going to be working with other people. You’re always going to have to interact with others and effectively communicate. Yet, sadly, the value of these skills are often overlooked in STEM fields. But how invaluable is it to learn to understand your family, your coworkers, or your superiors? How helpful would it be to understand yourself, and the bias of the media you consume? Unfortunately, It’s very possible to get a degree in STEM without having any critical thinking skills whatsoever, and that’s a shame. Gender Studies helps you learn about people, and how to talk to them. These courses can even offer insight on how to see where others coming from. Gender Studies helps you compromise and communicate. Pro tip: it’s much easier to communicate when you can get to the root of why someone is angry. Not only that, but it’s easier to manage your own anger when you know it’s coming from toxic masculinity.

Gender Studies teaches that no one, and therefore no research or science, is truly without bias. And this is absolutely true! The way one sees the world has a great effect on how they research the world. This is part of why illnesses that primarily affect women have less research and effort put into them. This is why the Stanford Prison Experiment’s results are so biased. For example, they took volunteers to be guards, who were all men, and when this experiment has been replicated with women, the results are drastically different. Surprise: even curricula for STEM classes are biased.

Despite popular belief, society often splits all fields into Liberal Arts and Science. Art and science is not a dichotomy, and can happily coexist in one field, in fact, that’s almost always the case. Our observations of the world are not objective. We all see things differently, and it’s important to know how others might see things, and why. Gender Studies classes are often very helpful in learning that, and in learning critical thinking and self-reflection.

So with that being said, STEM majors, when you’re searching for electives and classes to fulfill diversity credits, consider a Gender Studies course. You’ll be glad you did.

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Jacob Westwood is a senior at the University of Utah, who loves animals, the outdoors, and hands-on work.
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