Nowadays, it appears as if women have reached parity with respect to men; women can enter any field of study at virtually any college of their choice. They have reproductive rights (only wicked women need to worry about abortions), and equal representation (provided they look like supermodels).
Isn’t this why Women’s Studies remains just as important as ever, if only because many people (women and men) remain willfully misguided about the facts—the disparities in opportunity, in income, in access to legal recourse, and indeed in political representation? According to Wikipedia, “As of 2011, 17 of the 100 senators are women.” Although the recent figure (and the political representatives themselves) is impressive, only 39 women have served since 1922, thirteen of whom were appointed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_the_United_States_Senate).
Women politicians and leaders tend to highlight issues that males may not raise. Are the handicap handrails too high for women and children to grasp? How can we improve communication through temperance and fair play? Who can forget the champions for causes concerning environmental contamination, such as homeowner association organizer and author Lois Gibbs, who helped bring nationwide attention to the fact that there are poorly designed landfills?
Just as there have been and still are toxic waste dumps around the country which are ticking time-bombs, ultimately costing lives and extra taxpayer money not to mention time for redesign and detoxification (Beck, http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/lovecanal/01.html), so placidity with regard to women’s rights can cause those rights to crumble over time.
Older single minority women still rank among the most impoverished not just in the United States, but around the world. Women lag far behind men in the trades, particularly in construction. Syndicated sports may contribute to the attitude that women are incapable of operating construction machinery. More programs, such as Oregon Tradewomen, Inc. are needed in the U.S. to support female apprenticeships. Women may not possess as much upper body strength as some men, but they compensate with regard to speed, agility, size, and most of all bring to the workplace cheerful work ethics.
Although I have only enrolled in one course, I am grateful that at Fresno City College, Survey of Women’s Studies was a recommended requirement. Learning who early feminist leaders are, such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Jane Adams, and Sojourner Truth not only helped instill understanding and appreciation, but furnishes the basic hermeneutics for re-authoring History, Literature, Sociology, Medicine, the Arts, and many other vital fields in recognition of feminist contributions and perspectives. More importantly, these names stand tall as monuments, taller than the infusion of sexualized media icons.
Women Studies helps to furnish the rhetoric for men who are subject to fantasy figures, and particularly so that women are equipped with the personal determination, more important than the legal recourses in place, to voice their concerns. Personally, I can name many examples where I have had to be assertive. As a solo female traveler, I recall the night before I took the Professional Engineering exam, how the hotel manager placed me in a room where under the mattress, I discovered several porn magazines. Older career women more often face the “so what?” attitude from younger women and uneducated males when challenged about their career qualifications. Finally, solo female travelers have to face off situations such as I did recently, where the manager at my hostel insisted it was okay for the construction workers to come into our all female dorm room to access the bathroom water tap. When I complained that the workers were not bothering to lock the door when they were finished, the manager evicted me.
These kinds of double standards, where single male visitors are more welcome at restaurants and hotels than single women, has improved over the past decades, but not enough. It saddens me that women, unschooled and uneducated in the rhetoric of feminist politics, often contribute to their own demise by failing to discuss the underlying philosophy, content to prate about what they need to buy next to look more photogenic.
Women Studies has done much to raise awareness that rapes should be prosecuted; that women and men deserve family leave; that only through action can there be change; that women have to learn to organize and join women’s groups such as the American Association of University Women to promote awareness in the media; that it is okay to be assertive; moreover, that it is not okay to not be assertive.
To quote Sojourner Truth: “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down, all alone / Together women ought to be able to turn it rightside up again."
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