Women & Gender Studies Student Testimonies

From my illiterate grandmother to my widowed mother and my emotionally crippled father and maternal uncle, I realized, while growing up in an orthodox patriarchal Indian family, how sexist patriarchal ideologies compel people to blindly adhere to distinctly defined unnatural gender roles and restrain them from achieving self-actualization and embracing individualism. Since then, I have developed an inexhaustible commitment to consistently challenge sexist oppression by adapting new ways of thinking, seeing and being in this world. Hence, my zealous desire to eradicate abysmal and inhumane prejudices related to gender norms motivated me to minor in women and gender studies. My background in feminist and gender theory has significantly helped me to discern the right suited academic and professional choices in life. As a WGS minor, I read feminist literature from formerly colonized nations of Asia, Africa, and South-America and gained an in-depth understanding of women’s role and status in African history. After taking these two courses, I realized that we can’t understand complex gender issues from a simplistic first-world feminist perspective because varying levels of socio-political, economic, and mythological forces either undermine or reinforce seclusion and ill-treatment of women across five continents. Therefore, for the final paper of my English senior seminar class, through the feminist readings of Mahasweta Devi’s “Draupadi” (India) and J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace (South Africa), I highlighted how we need a comprehensive understanding of the historical and cultural legacy of the sexist ideologies in order to understand the experiences, treatment, and sufferings of the women in so-called third world nations. Also, last February, I shared my research on postcolonial feminism with other presenters at the LVAIC Women and Gender Studies Conference and was also given the honorable mention award for the best academic paper. In my last semester, I concluded that even today women belonging to non-western countries lack agency and their condition continues to degrade while they are helplessly and unjustly misrepresented in patriarchal, neo-colonial, and first-world feminist discourses. Therefore, though initially I intended to become a teacher, I realized that as an academician I wouldn’t be able to reach the larger population, especially the illiterate and impoverished people of rural India.Thus, I decided that working in the nonprofit sector and focusing on human rights activism will be a better suited professional goal for me. In future, I also intend to advocate for the inclusion of non-western feminist literature and theory in the mainstream curriculum, instead of just women and gender studies classes, of schools and colleges across the western hemisphere. I hope to eventually find employment in either international organizations like Women’s Refugee Commission, Amnesty International and UN Women or national organizations like Sarvajal, Women on Wings, and SayFty that advocate for women’s empowerment by supporting education and employment opportunities while fighting against physical, mental, and sexual violence against women.

–Shubham

 

Like many first year students, I wasn’t the most aware of the opportunities that my university provided. I knew I didn’t want to simply obtain a Psychology degree with some random general education credits – I wanted to learn about topics that interested me and would help me enjoy my educational experience here at Kutztown. I enrolled in a Women in the Arts class with Dr. Wunder, and quickly realized that I was a hardcore feminist. Unlike so many other classes I have taken, I enjoyed doing the homework, and I looked forward to sitting in class for the next lesson. I realized this is what my experience should be like, and thankfully Dr. Wunder suggested I declare a minor in Women and Gender Studies. Once I declared my minor, I was excited to finally take courses that meant more to me than a typically gen. ed. course. The more classes I took for the minor, the more I could feel my feminism growing and becoming what it is today. I saw myself as more aware of not only women’s struggles, but the struggles of other groups such as people of color, Muslims, and the differently abled. I focused my Psychology research on the perception of women, and was fortunate enough to present that research at the LVAIC conference last year. The WGS minor gave more meaning to my education here at KU, and it made me proud to be the student that I am. I always suggest to others to declare a minor because it truly make the educational experience here more meaningful. Focusing a large part of my education on women and gender studies has inspired me currently, and it has impacted my anticipated future plans as well. I made the decision to work in the field of Substance Abuse during my Freshman year at KU, and as passionate I am about working in that field, I gained an interest in working with survivors of domestic and sexual abuse/violence. I completed an advocacy training program through Safe Berks last year, and the education I received through this program has changed where I see my career going tremendously. I give some credit to the minor for encouraging me to complete the program, be it from what I learned in lecture, the support from Dr. Clemens and Dr. Van Ens, and the whole idea of learning about social issues I may not directly be affected by. My learning experiences from my WGS classes definitely taught me outside of the classroom as well as inside of it, and that is a priceless experience I hope the rest of my peers have had as well.

–Morgan

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