A Closer Look: Men in Women’s and Gender Studies (Part 2)

As introed last week, Women’s and Gender Studies classes have a very obvious lack of male students. The question I want to ask and highlight in this piece, however, is why does this even matter? It’s a logical question to ask – a question that should be asked by male students, faculty, female students, feminists, and bystanders alike. So, in the this article I will be exploring why. Why we should care, why it matters and why it doesn’t really matter that much to begin with.

How do you go about changing the world, you ask? You leave the comfort and safety that you have grown accustomed to and actually take action in the world. Kristi Brian (as stated last week, an Adjunct Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program as well as Interim Director for the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center) expresses, “I think it’s really good for men to be the minority in the class… but I think in a class that’s focused on feminism – it is out of their comfort zone, usually, and I think that that’s really beneficial… for all of us to get out of our comfort zones.” Most can agree that there is an automatic discomfort when you become the minority in a situation. Women walking into a sports bar on a big game day feel this discomfort. Women working in “male jobs” like construction, mechanical occupations, STEM professions, etc. feel this discomfort. Women in most situations feel this discomfort.

Men, on the other hand, very very very (can I emphasize this enough?) rarely feel this discomfort. So, I bet you did a double take when you saw “men” and “minority” in the same quote – I don’t blame you, it is quite unimaginable, but this is just another reason why WGST classes are so great. Men are the minority. To have them feel what it’s like, even if only for a minimal time, to be in the shoes of a woman, who is constantly outnumbered by men, is refreshing in a way. “Because of how [the] patriarchy, male privilege and male domination work, men are very accustomed to being the authoritative voice in the room,” Brian states, “and I think in gender studies classes they aren’t [the authoritative voice] necessarily… there’s a certain kind of dynamic or culture that emerges in gender studies classes that allows men to kind of check that entitlement to authority.” And I’m sorry (or am I?) but fellas, you need to check that privilege of yours. The first step is by listening, the second is to get out of your comfort zone, push boundaries and challenge yourself and then do something about it. Take action whether that be by enrolling in a WGST class, standing by the women in the feminist movement, or just raising awareness by helping to inform your friends and other peers of the issues in society. Just do something and quit letting issues like sexual assault, inequality, belittlement, catcalling, offensive language, abuse and so much more go unnoticed.

Let me be clear, however, we don’t need men in these classes. As Brian points out, “We’re fine without them… it’s not as though the programs are going to suffer without men.” But, as Brian continues, “it might offer more opportunities for men to be educated by women and feminists fuse and, so… it would benefit society in general.” Having men in these classes, though not a necessity, is beneficial for a multitude of reasons: it finally gives women the authority in the room, it allows men to think of society through a different lens – a feminist lens, it provides a community of open-minded individuals, and it starts the conversation of what’s really going on in society — both behind the curtain and what’s blatantly in front of people’s faces but is refusing to be looked at and addressed. The feminist movement is doing fine without men – obviously we’ve accomplished miles and miles of achievements over the years – but we will never turn down support and allies as we continue to develop our society and world into a more equal and inclusive community.

I could go on for days about how beneficial WGST classes are to the individual and society as a whole. I could go on for hours about how I personally have transformed from the WGST courses I’ve taken. I could go on for pages about stories and experiences others have had in the WGST Department. So… why don’t I?! Keep posted for more articles on thoughts, experiences, stories, and conversations about and related to the Women’s and Gender Studies department, feminism and the amazing women of the world to come.

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