What is Women s Studies?
Women s Studies explores a wide assortment of issues. Since the scope of topics that Women s Studies covers is so broad, it is difficult to come up with a solid definition that fully explains this subject.
I believe that the central category of analysis in Women's Studies is gender. This subject examines the historically constructed understanding of what it means to be a "woman" or a "man." Women s Studies courses examine gender and women, drawing on a wide variety of experiences from women s perspectives.
Not only does Women s Studies explore gender; it also takes a good look at the issues of race, class and sexual orientation and how they impact the development of women in a variety of cultural, social, and economic contexts. Because it is the norm that white, middle class, straight, able-bodied women of a certain age have considerably more access to power and resources than women of color, poor women, lesbians, the disabled, the very young or very old, incorporating the life stories and views of these minority women is a crucial part of Women s Studies. Women of color who are involved in Women s Studies have and still are making great strides in eliminating the stereotypes that not only involve their sex, but their race and culture as well. The text Women: Images and Realities written by Amy Kesselman et. al. includes Black feminist Alice Walker s definition of womanism : Black feminism, or womanism, draws on the historical strength of black women in their families and communities and the rich African-American tradition of resistance, persistence, and survival (12).
Women s Studies also takes a in depth look at feminism. Kesselman s et. al. defines feminism as The belief that women have been historically subordinate to men, as well as to the commitment to working for freedom for women in all aspects of social life (9). Women s Studies classes often focus on the early feminists, the struggles they endured, and the impact they have had in getting women as far as they are in society today. I believe Women s Studies owes a big part of its existence to the movement for the liberation of women; the feminist movement exists because women are oppressed.
Kesselman s et. al. text, describes Women s Studies as a course which Is an important and exciting experience that introduces new ways of seeing both the world and oneself (8).
As our society becomes increasingly diverse, I believe students who study Women s Studies develop an awareness and understanding of diversity that makes an important contribution to any endeavor.
Kesselman, Amy et. al. Women: Images and Realities California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1999.