A-Level Coursework: Women

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Women

Prior to taking this course, I assumed, naturally, that women's studies were mainly about women. It turned out that women's studies is actually about all human beings. The goal of women's studies is in part to expose and rectify the problems with patriarchy, including the tendency for sociologists to presume masculine identities and points-of-view as normative. Feminism and women's studies offers balance. Furthermore, we have learned that because women have been systematically oppressed almost universally, women's studies are about human rights and social justice. Women's studies are about race, class, and power as well as gender. In fact, we have learned that women of color were ironically excluded from scholarly discourse on gender until the third wave of feminism (Hurdis). A cross-disciplinary investigation of multiple types of oppression and the means by which to transform society should not be limited to women's studies but should become part of the core curriculum.

By far the most powerful and influential reading for me related to identity was Tzintzun's "Colonize This!" In this essay, Tzintzun talks about the dual nature of oppression for women of color. White men symbolically colonize non-white women, in a brash display of white male hegemony. It is up to all women to resist white male hegemony by making conscientious choices as Tzintzun does. However, this is easier said than done. Tzintzun has an incredibly strong spirit and became aware of systematic oppression and the sociology of patriarchy on her own. As Luna points out in "HIV and Me," women are often complicit in perpetuating patriarchy by not becoming aware of their choices, and passing on their subjugation to their daughters. Yet her contracting HIV and inadvertently becoming pregnant before she was aware of the fact is symbolic of a greater type of oppression. Luna's story reveals the intimate link between race, class, gender, and power. As a woman, she had to fight to assert her strength in overcoming a terrible disease and its social stigmas. The disease -- which is typically something very person -- becomes political. Luna uses her diagnosis and her experience with her relationships as a catalyst for social change. Perhaps one of the strongest messages of women's studies is that the personal is always political, and vice-versa. When it comes to issues of race, class, gender, and power, it is impossible to ignore how the different aspects of social oppression interact.

All of the topics addressed throughout the course are important to me and have altered my perspective on issues related to social justice. However, a few of the concepts and readings have stood out, and may make a difference in my career choice and future academic endeavors. I am interested in promoting women's empowerment all over the world and believe women's rights to be the last bastion of civil rights worldwide. One of the most important forums for expressing women's rights is in the realm of reproductive rights. Although there are some right-wing anti-choice cohorts in the United States, women in America remain confident that their rights will be preserved. Women in Europe feel the same. However, the vast majority of women around the world live under patriarchal systems far more oppressive than ours. Even in wealthy nations like the United States, women of color have differential access to reproductive information and technologies (Silliman, Fried, Ross & Gutierrez, 2004). This is not something that comes as any surprise to women of color, but may to white women who have always enjoyed white privilege.

It is not just reproductive rights that women around the world need access to, but also social justice in their daily lives. After Ijeoma A. went to the United States, she was introduced to a whole new paradigm of gender relations. The United States is far from ideal, but it was far more egalitarian than Nigeria. The conflict between her desire to remain true to her heritage, and the recognition that moral relativism is no excuse for sexism, is one that plagues many women. When women in Saudi Arabia fight for their rights, they must do so while also respecting their culture. It is a difficult road ahead for women who fight for social justice within societies that are especially repressive and rigid. However, Ijeoma's writing reminds women in Western Europe and the United States how far we have come. She reminds us that even when we worry about income inequity in the workplace or the continued lack of female representation in Congress, or the fact that we have not yet had a female president, that the situation is better for women than it is in other countries.

Another important concept gleaned from the course and which is linked to issues of social justice is that of income inequity and the new "enlightened sexism" that Douglas (2010) discusses. The failure of the Equal Rights Amendment was in part linked to anti-feminist women's groups and the Christian Right. Enlightened sexism refers to the media portrayal of women in positions of power in order to belie the reality that women do not have access to positions of power. The glass ceiling exists. As Douglas (2010) points out, there is a great discrepancy between the daily lives of women and what women see on television. Perhaps their role models on television and the movies might lead to appreciable changes in the workplace, but that has yet to happen. Images of women in power in the media are forms of "escapism," preventing many women from fighting for genuine parity (Douglas, 2010, p. 480). Enlightened sexism is a concept that is also linked with media studies. Because women's studies is an interdisciplinary area of research, it is necessary and possible to integrate media studies and media criticism into our discussions. The media reflects and perpetuates gender stereotypes. While it is important to promote images of women in positions of power in the media, it is far preferable to promote the advancement of women by altering the social norms and making sexism unacceptable. The media is taking a greater responsibility for promoting feminist ideals, which is why I am more optimistic than Douglas (2010) in her assessment of the new sexism.

Heterosexism is a topic that students and scholars of women's studies understand fully, but which the general public has yet to fully grasp. When I hear people comment about it being okay to be gay as long as people "keep it to themselves" or "keep it in the bedroom," I want to remind them that they walk down the street holding hands with a heterosexual partner, and maybe even kiss that partner in public. To have a double standard is obviously biased and prejudicial, but homophobes do not see it this way. Homophobia and heterosexism are ugly on this level of social norms, and equally as ugly at the institutional level. Institutionalized heterosexism is like institutionalized racism. In the document "Examples of Institutional Heterosexism," we see a thorough list of examples of how heterosexual couples receive benefits, rights, and privileges that are systematically denied to homosexual couples for no reason. Heterosexism is one of those topics that proves women's studies is not just about women: it is about institutionalized oppression in general. Women's studies shows that sociology, anthropology, literary criticism, economics, and political science are only some of the ways that we can review the effect of patriarchy.

Women's studies addresses concepts that are considered radical or taboo in other classes, which proves the need for the integration of women's studies in the broader curriculum. The social discourse needs to change so that all people think about issues related to race, class, gender and power. These issues impact all people, including white men. Women's studies addresses white privilege as well as patriarchy; heterosexism as well as classism. We learn about terms like social and cultural capital, which reveal the reasons why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As Pittelman and the Resource Generation (n.d.) point out, class privilege means that people born into rich families don't just have more money at their fingertips; they also have a strong social network that allows them access to positions of power and people in positions of power. A child in an upper class family receives letters of recommendation from elites, which override bad grades. A child from a disadvantaged background with straight A's in school, but with no such letter of recommendation, is systematically disadvantaged. This is why income gaps and achievement gaps are passed on from generation to generation. Class privilege impacts the way a person is perceived, which has a bearing on job interviews. The American Dream is harder to achieve for persons who are disadvantaged due to their social class.

Body image is by necessity a topic of discussion in a women's studies course. The media and social norms create double standards for women and men related to body image. As Bergman (2009) points out, "A man can be much, much fatter than a woman and still be viewed as comfortably… [END OF PREVIEW]

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https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/women-prior-taking-course/515589.