When I first began this course, I had little to no knowledge on topics pertaining to feminism, gender roles, sexuality, and other ideas with women’s studies. But I believe that was a promising start to learning about the multi-faceted, dimensional, and liberal perspectives that prevailed within the realm of women’s studies. Although I had no unrealistic ideals where I believed men and women to be truly equal, I was ignorant in many other areas of study. Common and basic knowledge sometimes covers only the highlights and achievements of women in history. This same knowledge can also create stereotypes and prejudiced perceptions on women who are feminists or active in women movements. In this regard, I must admit my only perception on a feminist was that she was a man-hater, that all women were feminists, and that all feminists believed in the same ideas. I can say with honest appreciation and satisfaction that I have learned to properly critique and analyze issues that I would not have dared to approach before. But exploring these issues within a safe environment like this online course proved to be the most ideal and fruitful for my mind and voice to be heard.
I was particularly enlightened by a select few topics that we covered throughout the course. In Unit 3, the book review I wrote on Eve Ensler’s novel proved to be therapeutic in nature as I had struggled in the past with accepting my own “good body.” Her exploration into the root causes of her discomfort similarly mirrored by own experiences and struggles. I found the utmost encouragement from the perspectives she shared from various women of different cultural backgrounds. But most importantly, the unrealistic beauty ideals of our society were exposed to me in a poignant way. The powerful influence of media and it’s representation of beauty have caused me to truly understand that this struggle does not end in the 21st century. Gendered cultural scripts are constantly transmitted in advertising campaigns. We have a responsibility to stay aware and alert regarding the portrayal of women in the media as this will ultimately affect the next generation to follow us. The study by Lori Baker-Sperry and Liz Grauerholz on the pervasiveness of the feminine beauty ideal in Children’s fairy tales was my favorite reading in the course. As a former preschool assistant teacher, I did not regard the severity and seriousness of this matter. I would overlook little nuances and incidents that I regarded as normal within the social interactions among children. What I can ascertain and observe now after carefully revisiting past memories of these experiences is the adoption of subservient attitudes by these children in my preschool. To see now that these gender-scripts and attitudes reflected broader cultural social constructs is mind-blowing.
I appreciated that we submitted assignments by using a social media website like WordPress. Not only did it afford great facilitation of a wide variety of controversial topics, but we were able to encourage one another through comments to our blog posts. The relative ease of using the tools on WordPress also fostered a sense of creativity. For anyone interested in taking the course, I would advise to come forward with an open heart and mind with no expectations or preconceived notions. Coming with a blank slate allows one to absorb knowledge so that it becomes more relative to your own experiences that you might have gone through already. It also becomes more of a learning process that can be applicable to your day to day living (as opposed to textbook knowledge that you might not retain in the long term). Be prepared for challenging topics that will cause you to think critically and deeper. I was pushed to think even critically about issues that I had only scratched the surface on. Topics such as intersectionality became more to me than just abstract theories on gender and race. Intersectionality is a multifaceted idea that we experience discrimination and benefits based on a number of different identities that we have. Gender discrimination and race can collide but also interrelate in ways that we don’t anticipate and understand in certain experiences in our lives. After I read this particular reading on intersectionality by Helen Luft, I was inspired to seek out these collisions of my various identities in my everyday life. Although it confused me at first, I noticed that the more I sought to make these theories subjective and applicable, the easier it became to identify how these discriminations were occurring to me on multiple levels. I can genuinely say I am satisfied with gaining insight and understanding in this women’s studies course on multiple levels. This course is a class where you truly learn equality is for all genders.
Baker-Sperry, Lori, and Liz Grauerholz. “The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales.” Gender & Society 17.5 (2003): 711-26.
“Framing Intersectionality: Debates on a Multi-Faceted Concept in Gender Studies.” Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews 41.2 (2012): 255-56.