I was once a young student entering my first year at the U of M with no idea which direction I was heading. However, if there is one thing that I am absolutely certain about now, it is my choice to major in women’s and gender studies (WGS). This department has many myths and misconceptions that surround it, ranging from the content you learn to the applicability of the degrees it issues. I would like to clear that up for anyone who thinks that this department is solely about women and gender.
I am now in my fourth year of this degree and it has changed me as a person. In WGS, we learn about the history of race, racism , gender, gender equality, culture, politics, sexuality, violence against women, and so much more.
In WGS, you learn about important historical issues and issues that we currently face in society. In fact, this includes several of the issues we face on campus every day, such as the debate around implementing reserved hours at the Active Living Centre and the recently resolved faculty strike.
Not only has the WGS curriculum made me a better person, it has humbled me. It has made me recognize the privilege I have, the privileges that I do not have, the oppression that I face, and that which I do not. Most importantly, you learn to respect one another the way we should given everyone’s uniquely lived social realities.
The WGS department at the U of M not only has some of the most welcoming professors that provide a warm and accepting educational setting – the students in these classes also become family. In class, we learn each other’s identities, and we learn to fight against the systems of oppression operating throughout the world. I’ve come to the conclusion that taking a WGS course should be mandatory for all students, considering how important the curriculum is to our future as a society and our futures as individuals.
Had I not taken one of these courses, my life and perception of life would be completely different. It is a step to humble the hearts and minds of the future students going forward with their education. WGS curricula has an abundance of meaningful material on many of the issues students face on and beyond campus, like racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, and so on.
Instituting a WGS course requirement for all students would be an important step towards ending the harmful manifestations of systemic oppression on our campus. This may also give students an enlightened conscious of who they are and who they want to be moving forward.
Taking a WGS course is truly an eye-opening experience. All students should be privy to that. In fact, should we truly care about making society a more inclusive place, the first step is to bolster voices and perspectives that are currently crowded out by mainstream discourse. This is what WGS does, and that is why it should be a course requirement.