Moving Women's Studies past 'Hi girls!'
· February 1, 2006, 5:00 am
According to the Women's Studies Program, I am the only male Women's Studies minor at Penn. They're fairly certain that there are no sperm-producing majors, either, despite the fact that many Penn men in previous years blazed this trail before me.
By the way, I'm straight.
As I said on the first day of class for each of my two Women's Studies courses this semester, "I'm not exactly sure how I came to be here, but I am." Most of my female friends don't believe me when I speak of my minor, so I end up bringing up my transcript the maximum three times per day to prove them all wrong.
Also, the Dec. 12 listserv e-mail from Women's Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board representative Catherine Zamoiski starts off:
I'm pretty sure I'm not a girl.
But, in all seriousness, in the past few days controversy has surrounded the program because administrators have proposed changing the name of the major and minor.
Women's Studies would become Gender, Culture and Society.
I wholeheartedly support this initiative.
At the moment, there are no concentrations within the Women's Studies program. The four proposed concentrations -- women's studies, global gender studies, gender and health and sexuality studies -- give students a better idea of what they can learn and show employers a better picture of what students have actually studied.
It could show on a pre-med's transcript that he/she/it (political correctness regardless of program name is key) specifically studied health and societies.
Also, the interdisciplinary ethos stressed by program instructors would be strengthened by changing the name of the program to something that more accurately reflects its multifaceted nature.
In reality, only my current Contemporary Feminist Thought course should fall directly under the Women's Studies umbrella.
I never really was a fan of the letters "(W)STD" on my transcript anyway.
The other courses that I used to fulfill my minor -- History of Sexuality in the America, Manhood and Masculinity in the United States, and The Family, Gender, Sexuality, and Literature --would fit much more accurately into the Gender, Culture and Society genre.
With the new curriculum being introduced by the College, students in the class of 2010 will have to meet a Cross Cultural Analysis requirement.
This is a step in the right direction -- ensuring that students learn about topics and cultures that they otherwise would not have studied.
"Women have often been excluded from other fields like history or sociology. It is important that all students learn more about women's contributions to and influences on society," said College junior and fellow Women's Studies minor Lauren Tetenbaum.
Perhaps a Gender, Culture, and Society course could be the next addition to a more well rounded education. There are already so many options for students that fulfilling this requirement shouldn't be arduous.
However, I think a name change has the potential to redefine the image for this program.
The proposed name changes for the Women's Studies Program are still only proposals. I urge the Curriculum Committee and faculty to approve these changes so the Program is more accurately represented and more students take advantage of its great interdisciplinary opportunities.
What I've learned in Women's Studies is applicable to the real world, whereas I sometimes question whether my English degree will have such relevance.
The name change will undoubtedly diversify the program's students and its topics of study. Students will be able to learn about other often-ignored cultures and people.
And hopefully, Catherine Zamoiski will have to change the greeting on her e-mail.
Stephen Morse is a junior English and history major from Oceanside, N.Y. Morsels of Wisdom appears on Wednesdays.