What are the three biggest misconceptions about Gender and Women’s Studies?

1.  That Gender and Women’s Studies is only for people who identify as women.  There is an important political part of the history of the department that has to do with recognizing and fighting for the legal, political, and economic rights of women that the department’s name acknowledges, and the gendered, racialized lives of particular women are the focus of several amazing scholars on this campus.  But gender is a system we all live within, and includes all genders; understanding and changing hierarchies in which gender and sexuality play a part requires the participation of everyone, including straight white men!  Everyone should take at least one gender and sexuality class at Cal to understand the ways masculinities and femininities, desire and sexuality, work as systems of power as well as – potentially – empowerment.

2.  That Gender and Women’s Studies is concerned only with middle class white women.  Again, there is an important part of the history of feminist thought that has been complicit with white privilege and class privilege, and has focused on gender equality as if it could be considered apart from socioeconomic inequality, racializations, citizenship status, decolonization, sexualities, disability, national context in a transnational world.  In our department, we try both to come to grips with that legacy of white privilege – not pretend it never happened and doesn’t haunt us still – and teach all our classes from within a deep commitment to intersectionality (thinking about how different aspects of power are related) and a transnational awareness of the connections across internal borders within our own divided societies and with other parts of the world’s labor, migration restrictions, and natural resources that sustain our global privilege within the United States.

3.  That Gender and Women’s Studies is bad for you on the job market.  Quite to the contrary, majoring in Gender and Women’s Studies, whether as a double major or alone, is extremely attractive to employers and graduate school admissions, from medical school and law school to NGOs, teaching, and business.  Employers like to see students who have taken classes that indicate sustained critical thinking and writing, as well as a commitment to social justice.

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