Professors discuss future of women's studies minor

By ERICA MELINE
On November 1, 2017

The women’s and gender studies minor is a valuable asset for students looking to gain an insight of the implications gender has had and continues to have on society. The field of women’s and gender studies, though, is perpetually growing. Its progressive nature, therefore, has led conveners of the minor to propose new alterations be made to the program.

At a panel held this past Thursday in the Alumni Lounges, professors and students were able to discuss the proposed changes to the women’s and gender studies minor as well as explore in depth what the minor has to offer.

The panel was made up of two Ramapo professors, associate professor Leah Warner and assistant professor Seon-Mi Kim. The chairs were set up in an intimate circle so that students would feel like they were part of the conversation as well. Those in attendance included both students interested in the minor and those who had already declared the minor and wanted to learn more about it.

Warner, who is also the convener for the women’s and gender studies program, began by talking about the proposed changes to the minor. The first proposed change Warner discussed was the changing the name of the minor from women’s and gender studies to women’s, gender and sexuality studies.

The second proposed change will have students taking two required courses, the first being Feminist Theories and the second being a choice between Women in Contemporary Society or Development of Sexual Identities. The decision between which of the latter courses students take will introduce a “track” for them to pursue in the minor: the women’s and gender track or the gender and sexualities track. In addition to the two required courses, students will have to take, as per usual, three electives in the minor. The Women Writers course will no longer be a requirement for the minor, but students are welcome to take it.

Warner hopes that, with these new proposed changes, the minor will have a heavier focus on theory.

“The theory part is so important because people need to understand,” said Warner. This understanding is fundamental in exploring all the issues that this minor explores.

Kim then took over the discussion, speaking about who she is and what careers the minor presents. She first talked about her personal journey with women’s issues and feminism.

“I used to think ‘I’m such a confident women, I will not be discriminated against,’” said Kim. Her viewpoint changed, however, when her friend was sexually harassed while working for a seemingly progressive company.

“I had internalized patriarchal norms,” said Kim. “The thought that I was a liberated woman was kind of an illusion.”

This led to Kim becoming involved in women’s organizations, where she would organize and orchestrate protests and petitions, and was in charge of public policy, advocacy, lobbying and communications. Kim explained that the work she did helped her to feel fulfilled.

“There was no separation between myself and the movement,” she said.

Kim then discussed the vast amount of options the minor will present for students. She stated that students could work for organizations like she did but there were still many more options. Corporations, for example, will hire people to help understand gender issues. Also, in psychology, there are gender specialist therapists.

“All kinds of professions require a women’s perspective,” Kim said.

After Kim had finished speaking, students were able to ask questions or give feedback to the professors. One of the major issues brought up in the discussion was the need for intersectionality in the courses.

Warner agreed, stating, “Intersectionality needs to be more prominent at Ramapo.”

Other issues raised at this time were the need for a focus on women’s issues abroad outside the western world, as well as the desire to get more majors and departments to offer gender studies courses.

The panel was a helpful resource for both the students and the professors. Senior Berly Rivera, the student women’s outreach coordinator, had organized the event, hoping to educate students in the program already as well as inform students who were considering it.

“I felt it was important to establish this connection,” Rivera said. “I hope more people consider the minor regardless of their major because it is such an important component of any profession.”

emeline@ramapo.edu

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