DePaul students should be required to take women’s and gender studies classes

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A feminist sticker. Requiring students to take women's and gender studies classes may help to end misconceptions about feminism as well as alleviate demeaning behavior towards women. (PK / Creative Commons)

A feminist sticker. Requiring students to take women’s and gender studies classes may help to end
misconceptions about feminism as well as alleviate demeaning behavior towards women. (PK / Creative Commons)

Feminism means that women are going to kill men and take over the world, right? It means that all women will turn into lesbians, right? The primary feminist concern is if their date will go Dutch or not, right? Absolutely wrong.

Feminism is simply the belief that people should be equal politically, socially and economically, without their sex being a determining factor in any of these realms. This misconception about feminism, and other misconceptions about women as a whole, is one of the primary reasons why women’s and gender studies (WGS) classes should be required.

Although it has been proven time and time again that women can be just as successful as men, some DePaul students have witnessed that not everyone believes this to be true.

“I was waiting for the ‘L’ when some guy came up and I think he was trying to hit on me,” DePaul student Jennifer DePoorter said. “When he found out I was double majoring in english and journalism, he started laughing and told me I better marry rich now.”

The idea that women need husbands to support them is so absurd that it becomes almost laughable when these stories are repeated. This evidence that some still believe that social inequalities between men and women are natural and should exist proves that WGS courses need to be taken seriously and required on campus.

Early in high school, when I began to have an understanding of the historical and modern inequalities between men and women, I started to identify as a feminist, and I imagined walking into my WGS 100 class as an expert in everything that was lectured, easily getting an A.

It was one of the most challenging and rewarding classes I have ever taken. It made me question almost everything I had ever thought in my life by teaching me that, although I have been oppressed as a woman, I still am more privileged than many people.

WGS classes teach about the history of feminism, the different movements involved within feminism, and why it is important. Beyond that, they also teach critical thinking, and being able to reflect on one’s self and the ways that we are more privileged than others.

“Confronting our privilege can be terrifying, but it is so important,” WGS major Leeann Hepler said. “We can not create any social change without this step and WGS provides the tools to do so.”

While some students may be intimidated to take a WGS class, the classes pride themselves on being open spaces for people to learn without being judged.

“The classes are set up as seminars with awesome professors, and I have learned more from my peers through discussion in these classes than any textbook,” Hepler said.

WGS classes not only discuss issues of sex and gender inequalities, but also oppression that has been placed upon people of different races and classes, making intersectionality a primary focus in classes.

Intersectionality is the study of intersections between different oppressions, including race, gender and class. WGS classes have been finding a way to discuss all women’s experiences, and taking into account the numerous oppressions they may have faced. They acknowledge that the experience of a white woman and minority woman can be very different, for example.

The things that students learn in these classes are desperately needed on college campuses like DePaul’s. Many students, when asked, can recall numerous instances of sexism they have encountered on campus.

“There was a guy in my class who told me feminists were responsible for the existence of sexual harassment,” DePaul student Jillian Rice said. “He said this was because we didn’t know what being friendly in the workplace actually meant.”

Women’s issues are increasingly relevant on campus, especially after the sexual assault controversy that has happened recently. Sexual assault is an important issue that needs to be discussed on campus, and the fact that the banners in Arts and Letters Hall addressing these issues were taken down so quickly shows that our campus is not having enough of a conversation about sexual assault.

“Dude, after this it’s going to be all freshman girls,” was what one future Resident Advisor overheard another RA saying at their first meeting, implying that the RA was going to have sex with many incoming freshman women on their floor.

A lack of respect for women is a problem throughout DePaul’s campus, and mandatory WGS classes would be an effective measure to hopefully end the disrespect and sexism that female students experience regularly, and hopefully would foster conscientiousness about how we should treat others in general.