“Before getting involved with GWS, I never thought about gender, I never thought about women’s struggle for equality, and I certainly never thought that women still struggled today. The classes I have taken here have broadened my perspective on society and our culture in ways I could have never imagined. I feel that GWS has deeply been woven into the person that I have grown into over the years and the passions that I have developed. I know for a fact I would be a very different person had I not decided to minor in GWS.” -- Megan Backus, GWS minor, Class of 2012
“The diversity and interdisciplinary nature of the GWS program is its greatest strength, (Rachel Friedman, GWS minor, Class of 2012
“The diversity and interdisciplinary nature of the GWS program is its greatest strength. I found it incredibly easy to fit in a minor just by fulfilling my core requirements, which not many other programs can do. I have had some of my best professors for my GWS classes, which was just an affirmation that I was in the right program. … The GWS minor has given me tangible knowledge that I could discuss in everyday life. It is a field where students are able to take the things they learn in the classroom and apply them outside academia.” – Rachel Friedman, GWS minor, Class of 2012
"I think we all have that “Ah ha” moment when we take our first Gender and Women’s Studies class." (Madeline Reynolds '12 Communication and GWS Double Major)
I think we all have that “Ah ha” moment when we take our first Gender and Women’s Studies class. Maybe it was when you learned about Judith Butler and gender, or, one of my personal favorites, Peggy McIntosh’s Invisible Knapsack. In the end, there is that concept that strikes a chord with you, and makes you more aware of the world.
When I was younger I wanted to be Gwen Stefani, or maybe for a brief period of time I thought I was her at age seven. She was the lead singer of the band No Doubt, and she not only had flowing platinum hair, but she was the lead singer of an all male group. And I think that even at age seven, I was really aware of her powerful presence. After that it became idolizing C.J Craig as a character on the West Wing. And since then, I have always felt this connection and wanting to become this strong female in some way. And through taking gender classes at Villanova, I feel as though all of those who I interact with- whether it be faculty or students -have this quality that emulates power, compassion, and mindful change.
In choosing to attend to Villanova, I was able to be a part of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Honors Program, which lead me to Dr. Rose, and so began my journey within GWS.
I am one of those students that secretly loves making their schedule for next semester, so I immediately decided second semester freshmen year to take Philosophy of Women with Dr. Sally Scholz, with all juniors and seniors. It was life changing. And you can probably talk to some of my friends that year, because I would meet them for lunch and just be rambling on about how Aristotle talks about women, and what do you think about these issues. I really started to nag all of them when it became time for them to register saying, you need to take this class, and you need to take Gender Classes. I knew from then on that this program is where I felt most at home.
I kept saying that it would be so easy if GWS would just be a major, and then I would be taking all of these classes that I love. And that is exactly what happened, and I feel very lucky to be here at Villanova to witness those changes. These were always the classes I felt safe in, which I find ironic when you think about many of the issues we delve into as GWS students.
As a GWS major I feel well rounded in my pursuits and understanding of what it means to interact with the world around us. These classes are what I have gotten the most out of in stretching myself to understand and to have those difficult conversations. I always would think that my views about how I felt as a woman, or my irritation that sex and gender have become interchangeable, where just inward opinions I held. It has been great to realize that these are shared beliefs.
What I have learned here I will be able to bring to any profession. Our society has a long way to go. Not only for women finding equality, but also for us to break down those stereotypes that play hand in hand with masculinity. That is where I have found education to be key. When I look back on my time here at Villanova, it is my GWS classes that I know I have gotten the most out of, and confirmed to be that Villanova was where (and it may sound cliché) I was suppose to be. And, as I was able to put forth in the GWS newsletter, I have had the real life Gwen Stefani and C.J Kreig rock stars all around me- my professors and wonderful students who have shaped my learning it such profound ways. Studying gender still has people from the outside wondering what it’s all about. I am never deterred by this, because I believe these words by Elizabeth Cady Station herself, can be applied to us “be sure that some day in the future Americans (I will insert Villanovans) will ask how these things could ever have been done otherwise” Thank you, and thank you GWS.
I almost did not minor in Gender and Women’s Studies, let alone become a major. During my first year at college, a friend of mine informed me that a) I was scaring away potential boyfriends by taking GWS classes, and b) it wasn’t necessary or useful to study women and gender because we live in a post-patriarchal society. Thankfully, I wasn’t persuaded by his argument to abandon the area of inquiry that has so thoroughly enriched my studies and my life.
As a graduating senior, I can look back and say that the Gender and Women’s Studies department grew right along with me. After an exhilarating Introduction to Women’s Studies class with Dr. Jean Lutes in 2008, I was determined to take advantage of all the department had to offer. And more I found. From studying the history of prostitution in Japan to reading major works of feminist philosophers, I was able to quench my intellectual thirst with a proliferating list of courses that continued to expand far past the room I had in my schedule to take them all!
I also bore witness to history when Women’s Studies was re-named Gender and Women’s Studies in 2009, a change that reflected a more accurate, inclusive curriculum. Upon my return to campus in 2010, I discovered that GWS offered a major and I declared (without hesitation) my major in GWS.
Even at the conclusion of my undergraduate work, I continue to find myself in situations similar to the one I faced at the very beginning. Many people have advised me to leave my GWS degree off of my resume because it may discourage employers from hiring me. Luckily, I had already come face to face with that issue in my GWS senior seminar with Dr. Catherine Kerrison and felt confident enough to answer: “I’m exactly the kind of person they need to hire!”
What I’ve gained from my GWS classes is the insightful ability to detect how sexism and other forms of oppression have persisted over time, through our day-to-day interactions and throughout history. I’ve come to think of sexist oppression as a disease that will continue to mutate into different, subtler forms to ensure its survival unless we work to change the very fabric of society. This is why we need GWS at Villanova, and this is why I’m proud to be a major.
"Unlike some other courses I’ve taken during my undergraduate years, the effects of my GWS courses have never been confined to the classroom. The theories I’ve learned, the books and articles I’ve read, the debates I’ve participated in, and the original work I’ve written have prompted me to look at the world I live in with a discerning eye, and to question things I think I already know.
"As a result, the world no longer appears as black and white as it once did. Instead, I now see many gradations and nuances which were once invisible to me, and this has prompted me to be much more open minded person. Although there is a tiny piece of me that believes the maxim that “ignorance is bliss,” the truth of the matter is that if I had the option to unlearn all that I have gleaned from my involvement in GWS, I would unequivocally decline. This education has become part of who I am, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because, as Socrates said as he stood trial for heresy, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
"Now, as a second semester senior, I realize that my college education really began when I entered the Gender and Women’s Studies Program. After all, college is supposed to be a time for intellectual and personal growth, and that’s exactly what the GWS program has given me." (from her ECS award speech)
"My Gender and Women’s Studies classes engage my life outside the classroom. What I have learned affects my everyday life. It has been a very transformative experience. I learned to ask the hard questions. No longer do I read newspapers or scholarly articles and accept it as fact. Now, I look for the deeper meaning. I have faith in my ability to discern the author’s argument, but I trust my own opinion and ability to develop it.
"The GWS curriculum has prepared me to confidently discuss a variety of topics, but it has also provided me with an education that goes beyond the books. More socially, culturally and politically aware, I understand that every day is history in the making. Through this program of study, I have also come to recognize how gender manifests itself in my life, aside from the obvious. My gender does affect how I think, how I read the newspaper, and how I understand the world." (from her ECS award speech)
"Education needs to transcend the classroom walls. It not only needs to shape your views, but alter the way you live your life. It is safe for me to say that only my women’s studies classes have provided me with knowledge and wisdom that affected the way I lead my life day to day. These classes create this new lens for you to observe the world around you. Some of the lenses slightly shift what you see, some turn your world upside down, and some just allow you to see a picture more clearly. I never completed a women’s studies course at this school unchanged." (from her ECS award speech)
"What began as a mandatory diversity requirement flourished into a minor and also into a determination that I did not know I had inside of me. By using gender as a lens, I was able to construct a more comprehensive view of academics. The missing links that had gone unexamined before suddenly had answers; real answers that were often overlooked, forgotten, or dismissed. I now had the opportunity to read and discuss, or in my favorite case, debate, what was usually glossed over. I leave Villanova University with more than fond memories of Women’s Studies. I leave with confidence in myself. I recognize that as a woman I do have a place in the world." (from a survey of Women's Studies minors)
"Four years ago I stepped into an institution being very unsure of myself and afraid of what lay ahead. Today I am still nervous about what the future holds, but I am confident in myself and my identity to not only fight battles, but to also pursue and defend my beliefs. Women ’s studies has opened my eyes as well as my heart to possibilities of different schools of thought and action. It has helped me to further understand myself and relationships to others. It is so much more than a mere field of study, it is my constant companion, challenging me at every turn and supporting me through the many confrontations of adversity. My passion for this subject runs deeper than a simple enjoyment of its contents; it’s more connected to my survival as a strong woman, feminist, and advocate of change in society today and for generations to come." (from her ECS award speech)
"[...] this program has forced us to look, and look hard, at our lives. We can no longer sit in class and talk about feminist theories, only to turn off that switch when we step outside of class. More than any other minor, I believe, Women’s Studies has impacted our lives – we are changed and challenged on a daily basis, and not just in the classroom.” (from her ECS award speech)