ASK ME ABOUT WOMEN’S & GENDER STUDIES
Feminist Voices: Famous Women and Our Students
Janielle Rodriguez: During the time I spent in Introduction to Women’s Studies, I acquired a deeper understanding of women’s struggles throughout history to overcome oppression and subordination. Because of learning about past women who fought for our right to vote, equality at the workplace, and legal protection from domestic violence and abuse, I now appreciate the liberation I enjoy as a young woman in the 21st century. If it were not for these very important women we would not have the luxuries that we take for granted today. For this reason, we must study about their contributions and challenges. . Due to my knowledge of Women’s history acquired through this course, and my heightened ability to analyze the effects of gender on the world around me, I now can defend and assert myself in an educated manner in discussions about gender issues–with friends and in other classes. I now have a stronger leg to stand on when I confront and oppose society’s still persistent demand that I act according to traditional roles for women and men by being submissive. Although we have come a long way from 18th, 19th centuries and even the 1950’s and 60’s, for example, we must not forget that there is still a lot more to accomplish in women’s quest for equality. I give thanks to this course because taking it has made me proud of being an independent and liberated woman, a “feminist.”
I had the opportunity to take “Women in Literature” with Professor Jerilyn Fisher. In her class, I was able to explore several themes such as gender, race, class, women’s empowerment, and women’s independence. The current struggles of women-as literary artists and in life-have continued well beyond the time when women were invisible or disrespected, or submissive to their male counterparts. For many centuries before our era, women have been fighting and still are, for their equality with men. I was fascinated with Women in Literature class because it allowed me to develop intellectually as a person who now has greater insight into how women writers have represented their struggles through their female characters. Now, as a woman, I increasingly view women as having important roles in society. Many women writers who have been seen as rebellious are really just expressing their wish for and right to equality.
I highly recommend this course or other courses in the Women’s Studies Program to those who want to expand their knowledge and understanding of the important roles women play in society and in literature, both in the past and in the present.
Hi, my name is Safiya Blair. Introduction to Women’s Studies is a very interesting and educational class. It’s also fun. From Grimm’s fairy tales to slavery and sexuality, we discussed topics concerning gender roles and in particular, women’s lives. Before taking this class, I never realized that women played such a significant role in history. I learned how society in general and men in particular have perceived women and how much torture and abuse many women have had to endure in order to achieve the respect they wanted. In fact, in this course, I myself gained a lot of respect for women in our own time, and I now look at the history of women in a new way. Introduction to Women’s Studies empowered me as a black woman. It inspired me to fight for what I believe in and to never let any man think that he is superior to me just because I am female. I am sure that students who want to gain, personally and intellectually, what I describe here will be not regret taking this course!
Carla Mercado: Introduction to Women’s Studies was an eye-opening experience as well as a life-changing one. Through it, my family and I immersed ourselves in events we otherwise would not have had the opportunity to attend. These events, outside of class, are added bonuses to an already enriching class. I was delighted to have had one of my assignments nominated (done collaboratively in response to A Shining Thread of Hope: The History of Black Women in America by Darlene Clark Hine and Kathleen Thompson) for its excellence at the first CUNY Women’s/Gender Studies Recognition Ceremony in May 2009 where I presented my work. Having my family present, especially six-year-old, Christopher Johnson, helped me put into practice one of the class lessons—influencing the next generation to work toward increased gender equality. Another highpoint for me was interviewing and writing a biography about my mother who considered my essay the best gift I could ever give her. All the assignments for this class encouraged us to examine our lives and challenge the stereotypes that surround and mold us, as women and as men. The result, for me, was a strengthening of my analytical skills and of my ability to think hard about my values (and pass them on to my children). In the words of the black feminist scholar/activist bell hooks–and as six year old Christopher would now attest–“Feminism is for Everybody.”
Norberto Taveras: Deciding to take Introduction to Women Studies class at Hostos Community College was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Before going to the class I was totally blind when it came to women’s/gender issues. I did not know the history of women; the challenges they faced and continue facing, the impact of the society’s portrayal of women on women, girls and men; and what women have done to pursue gender equality. The reading materials, discussions in class, online communication and videos helped me understand now how hard women have worked to minimize gender inequality throughout many, many centuries of unequal treatment One of my favorite readings was A Shining Thread of Hopewritten by Hine and Thompson. This book illustrates the lives of African American women in the United States from the time of their arrival here on slave ships. It documents the oppression, sexism, racism and injustice they faced in different eras and places in this country.The class exposed me to research, analyze and express my feelings about a topic I as a man do not talk much about: men’s issues and the pressures they face in society. “Tough Guise”, a documentary that centralizes its attention on the relationship between masculinity and violence, helped me to understand how masculinity is constructed in the media and society. One of the most exciting assignments was to interview my mother. This exercise helped me to see my mother-for the first time in my life–not only as my mother, but also a woman. This interview showed me the challenges many women, such as my mother, face while deciding who they will be. This interview also gave me the opportunity to participate in the 2009 Award for Academic Excellence in Women’s Studies, an annual competition in which my essay won the first prize.
I strongly recommend Introduction to Women’s Studies with Professor Fisher. It is an exciting, challenging and rewarding class that you will never forget in your life!
A 19th Century Voice
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper; Herland) defines the feminist this way:
“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off her pedestal; chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”
Two Contemporary Voices
Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple and Possessing the Secret of Joy has coined the following definitions:
Womanist : “…opposite of ‘girlish,’ i.e., frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.”
Black feminist or feminist of color “…usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered ‘good’ for one….responsible. In charge. Serious. “
Paula Gunn Allen (Native American writer and feminist) reflects, in Where I Come from is Like This:
“The tribes.never portray women as mindless, helpless, simple, or oppressed.As a half-breed American Indian woman, [I cast about in my mind for negative images of Indian women, and I find none that are directed to Indian women alone.]my ideas of womanhood, passed on largely by my mother and grandmothers, Laguna Pueblo women, are about practicality, strength, reasonableness, intelligence, wit, and competence.”