Last year, I had the immense privilege of taking a women’s studies class at my university. The reason I’d chosen it was to satisfy the humanities requirement for my gen-eds, but from the moment I sat down in that cramped yet extremely buoyant classroom, I realized that I had signed myself up for so much more. Looking back, here are six things I learned beyond the curriculum that was taught to me.
1. A feminist can take many forms.
Coming into class every Tuesday and Thursday, I was surrounded by a vast array of people. There were students from all different years, races, creeds, gender identities and so much more. And not only that, but through working with them all semester, I learned that there is no one definition to feminism. Feminists come in all different forms, with varying beliefs and ways of expression. There has always been a certain stereotype associated with feminists, but that could not be further from the truth.
2. Intersectional feminism is a thing and should be recognized.
I always knew that there was more to feminism than basic women’s rights, but I never recognized the intensity of the need for intersectional feminism until I took women’s studies. Plainly put, intersectional feminism is the desire for equal rights by those who are not only women, but also those who have another identity as a minority, whether that be their race, creed, sexuality or social class. These women are often put on the back burner as feminism turns to “white feminism,” that is discounting these women’s struggles unique to their intersectional identity, but they deserve to be recognized and fought for, too.
3. We need to lift each other up.
My women’s studies class was treated much like an open discussion, and sometimes it was difficult for my classmates to share their stories. However, it was also extremely inspiring to everyone in the room, and no matter what anyone had to share, we were always very supportive of each other. And that’s something that is so important — that we hear each other out and affirm one another’s experiences, as they are all valid.
4. We all have a story to tell.
Going along with that last point, taking women’s studies helped me realize how complex each individual person is. In college, we’re constantly meeting new people all of the time, and it’s easy to forget that each person has his or her own identity and set of experiences that are carried out. Before we judge people, it is essential that we really get to know them as a person, because a lot of the times, people will surprise you with what they have to say. You just have to be open and give them a chance.
5. Unintentional discrimination is real.
There are so many little things that we brush off that really shouldn’t be brushed off and can be offensive. Whether it’s a product, something someone said or even an aisle at Target, we are constantly bombarded with things that just don’t feel right, and we shouldn’t pass them off as right. It’s important to point out what’s wrong and stand up for what’s right.
6. I am more privileged than I notice.
I’m sure you’ve heard of white privilege. But privilege goes much deeper than that. For every aspect of our identities comes either privilege or disadvantage, and I am so much more privileged than I realize on a day-to-day basis. My discovery of this came through the “privilege project” that we had to do towards the end of the semester. Making a list of all the aspects of my identity that gave me a one-up in this world made me realize how good I have it, and how since I have it good, I need to use that advantage to help others.
Taking a women’s studies class was by far one of the most incredible and empowering experiences of my freshman year. It allowed me to discover myself and others so much more, and inspired me to be the strong, independent change-maker that our society needs. I encourage all those who are able to, to take a women's studies class, as it is unbelievably impactful. It instills confidence and strength in all who are willing to come together to hear each other's stories. And in today's society, I think that is what we most need.
Lead Image Credit: Andrew Robles via Unsplash