I took gender and sexuality studies as a minor in college, which is what my school offered instead of “women’s studies.” I assumed at first that they were just being PC with the name. But then when I took the first class, an introduction to the discipline, I realized it truly wasn’t just about women. We learned about constructs like gender and sexuality, yes, but we also devoted a lot of attention to the intersectionality of race, class, religion and able-bodiedness. That introductory instructor encouraged us not to assume gender was what individuals identified with first and cautioned us against ignoring other ways people are oppressed by focusing solely on gender. Gender studies was actually the hip new term for the discipline; “women’s studies,” on the other hand, sounded hopelessly old-school. I took four gender and sexuality studies classes and only one — “Women and The Media” — focused on women almost exclusively (that class was about media depictions). The other courses, however, were far more intersectional and examined all the different ways people can be oppressed; for example, “The History of Prostitution” talked a lot about how female sex workers flourished during Victorian times in part because men felt they had no other outlet.
I never took a “men’s studies” class that focused primarily on men. But if I could go back in time, I might have majored in G&SS instead of minored and taken a course strictly about masculinity. After all, gender is so intersectional and I do want to learn more about that particular construct. Approximately, 100 colleges around the country offer “men’s studies” courses — one would assume in the gender studies, sociology or anthropology departments — and though it’s not offered as a major anywhere yet, the proliferation of these courses is a good sign that in the coming years, masculinity will be critiqued and evaluated just as much as femininity has been by “women’s studies.”
So if G&SS is now incorporating the study of women’s and men’s experiences together, then what the heck is “male studies” about? Keep reading »