Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Power of WMST - Reflection by WMST 202 student Faith Benson

I have always been interested in women's studies and issues, so taking the class was a no brainer. And it's true, most people who set foot in the center are people who are already feminists or aware of women's studies. However, taking WMST 202 last year with Prof Loe really changed me so I can't imagine what kind of effect the class can have on someone totally indifferent to the subject. So I asked Prof Loe to refer a student in her class this semester who experienced just that:

I enrolled in Women's Studies this semester largely because it was the only class I could get into during registration. My attitude towards feminism has always been passive at least, if not strongly anti-feminist. I was dreading a semester full of man-hating women telling me to burn my bras, stop listening to Beyonce and (God forbid) chop off all of my hair. I did not want to talk about how men are the evil race or how my actions perpetuate sexism. As a matter of fact, I did not want to address that sexism existed at all.
However, as the semester progressed, Women's Studies quickly became my favorite class. I was able to candidly share my thoughts about what it means to be a woman, especially at Colgate, without feeling like I would be labled a man-hating feminist. I began working events at the Women's Studies Center into my weekly schedule, and they were often what I looked forward to the most during the week.
One of the major turning points for me during the semester happened around midterms in a different class of mine. The class was having a discussion about the role of a woman in one of the texts we read, and I was very outspoken (as I always am) about the ways in which she was oppressed by the patriarchal society that was present in the storyline. After class, one of my classmates approached me and said, "Wow, Faith, I didn't know that you were such a feminist until now." I had a minor mental breakdown after that - what was happening to me?! Was I really stepping to the bad side and standing with the feminists?
After this experience, I was home for Thanksgiving break and spending time with my six best friends from home, all of whom are male. I told them what my classmate said to me and how I was terrified that I was being converted to feminism. I thought that they, of all people, would be able to feel my pain. However, they all seemed extremely confused. They told me that they had all thought of me as not only a feminist, but an OUTSPOKEN one since second grade when I made them read the chapter in our history book about women's suffrage. They then proceeded to recount every incident in our lives that proved me to be a feminist. How could these six men know more about what feminism truly is at the heart than I as a woman did? They made me understand that I had been so blinded by all of the stereotypes surrounding feminism that I couldn't see how I was defining it for myself. Taking a class in Women's Studies made me realize that it isn't feminists who are wrong, but instead their false portrayals; most people would sympathize with the feminist fight if they only knew what it was.
I am now proud to say that I can call myself a feminist without feeling at all guilty or ashamed, and I am working on building a Center for Women's Empowerment in South Sudan through my non-profit called The Women's Worth Project. Taking Women's Studies at Colgate has truly changed my life.

by Faith Benson

- posted by Catherine Yeh

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