Women's Studies: Bra Burning 101?

edit:Some of you ask how this relates to body positivity and self-love. Good question! 
I can only hope that people, when the time comes to choose their career field, are confident enough to choose a career path that will make them happy, not others around them. 
However, if your friends and family still aren't taking your women's studies major seriously, I'll do the best I can to spread the feminist love:) 

I’m sitting at my dining room table during Spring Break, listening to my brother, a freshman in college, rage against the “useless liberal arts” majors infecting his school’s scientific prestige. When I asked him what he thought was the greatest waste of college funds, the most useless major of all, he paused, rolled his eyes and grunted:

“Women’s studies”
…Anyone surprised by such an answer from a cisgendered heterosexual white male? No one? Thought so.

Unfortunately, the mentality that majoring, minoring or even walking into a women’s studies class, means you are a bitter, bra burning, men-hating woman, is still widespread.

Now I must confess, I once thought like this as well. But I can see clearly now, the close-minded rain has gone, so I can walk you through my former, and the current critic’s, thought process. Here are the 3 main arguments women’s studies skeptics like to use, and why they are not valid:

1.    It’s Useless
Why invest in a women’s studies program? We’re in the 21th century now! Men and women and all other humans are equal!
Now, this, this is why the study of “politics, society, media, and history from women's and/or feminist perspectives “, as defined by Wikipedia, is not only far from useless, but down right necessary.

For example, in 1997, “Vision 2000”, a call to New England Land Grant Universities Presidents and Chancellors to ensure full and equitable participation by women, was dismissed, even ridiculed by many, including women themselves. Daphne Patai, in “Chronicle of Higher Education”, questioned Vision 2000’s recommendation on the importance of sexual violence and harassment education in universities, calling it “inflammatory rhetoric”. She even went as far as to ask: “Are rape and sexual assault indeed routine occurrences at universities? Is harassment really widespread?”.

Just in that statement, mrs. Patai made a case for women’s studies. 
Is it really widespread, she asks?
What about the fact that in a typical academic year, only 3% of college women report surviving rape or attempted rape, which demonstrates an incredible flaw in the justice system.

This isn’t an attack on the writer herself; it’s an attack on the omnipresent ignorance that led to these brutally misinformed comments, which can only be remedied with critical thinking, problem solving and lots of information. What a coincidence, that’s actually what a women’s studies class is for!

2.    Hating Men Gets You An “A”

Another widespread misconception regarding a typical women’s studies class is that you walk in, b*tch about men for a few hours, write a paper about how men are evil beings that should burn at the stake, and get an A: all for the thrifty price of 50 000 $ a year!
The great thing about women’s studies, as Hilary Watchler put it so eloquently, is “that it makes you think about layers of identity and explore how oppressions like racism, sexism, and ableism are comparable and intertwined”. This has nothing to do with hating men, and everything to do with critically thinking about important equality issues that can be resolved in a variety of fields.

Yes, sometimes there is talk of a male-dominant society, but it’s not to diminish men and to make them feel like monsters. It’s about making women feel just as important and powerful as men. To put it simply, there have been 44 presidents of the United States, and all of them have been men. This is not to say that Woodrow Wilson or Andrew Jackson were bad presidents, or even bad people, but it is necessary to point out the lack of female presence in politics.  

3.    You Can’t Get A Job with A WS Major!

Well, my dear critics, many people can’t get a job regardless of their major, but that’s not even the argument I will use to debunk this myth.

As I’ve mentioned previously, women’s studies isn’t simply a man-hating suffragette history. It’s about a certain set of skills developed over time, through critical thinking and analysis. Ms. Magazine lists a few of these skills, such as “empowerment, self-confidence, critical thinking, building community, and understanding differences and intersections among racism, homophobia, sexism, classism, ableism, anti-Semitism and other types of oppression.”

Phew, that’s a lot, and that’s really what matters. With any major, you probably won’t remember the specific year this atom was discovered, or the specific name of Tolstoy’s 23rd short story, but you’ll remember the skills you learned along the way. You’ll remember how to read critically, how to fund research, how to interact with others, and by gosh that’s what makes someone employable. Not the fine print on the paper diploma, but the skills you amassed through your studies.

Need some examples? Ms. Magazine collected letters of women “telling their stories about how they are using or plan to use their women’s studies degree”. It’s insightful, empowering, and a big eff you to the women’s studies antagonists. Read it and weep, haters.

            The world is in desperate need of smart, educated, critical thinkers, so why deprive ourselves of their gifts? Maybe it’s not as instantly profitable as an accounting or engineering degree, but I can promise you this: you can do anything and everything with a major you love, in a field that ignites your passion, if you work hard and get creative.

Have a wonderful day, babes!


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