Let me preface with this: I wholeheartedly believe everyone at Georgetown should take a women’s and gender studies course. I wish it were a required course across the board; I think it would do everyone some good. If you are rolling your eyes at that statement, then I hate to tell you this, but you are exactly the kind of person who needs to take a women’s and gender studies course.
I like to consider myself a seasoned feminist, especially considering the regularity with which I find myself arguing and debating women’s issues such as equal pay, the presidential election, intersectionality of the current feminist movement and every topic in between. I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to sign up for “Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies” this semester. But a few days into the course, I found that I was underwhelmed.
After this initial letdown, when people asked me about the course, I responded that it was structured like a high school course. The sort of class in which you arrange the desks in a circle to discuss the readings and each person gets to politely take a turn speaking. I already knew and had talked extensively about everything we read and discussed. For a while, I actually complained about the class to a few of my friends. And then I realized the class was not the problem: I was.
I carried far too many expectations into this class, which is not a pox on the class for not meeting them, but rather a pox on me for expecting everyone who is taking the class to be hardcore, seasoned feminists like myself. And if they were not that, then they were the “dude-bros” in the back of the class rolling their eyes and not taking the topics seriously. There was a middle ground I had somehow managed to forget: People — feminists — who were actually taking the course to learn more about feminism. Over the years, I managed to put myself up on this high horse. I was not letting myself enjoy the course because it did not live up to an unreasonable expectation I had going into it.
Returning to my initial statement: I wholeheartedly believe everyone should take a women’s and gender studies course — especially the intro course. Because not only does it offer you the opportunity to open your eyes to issues and viewpoints you may considered before, but it is a place to learn and let your opinions grow safely. One of the staples of the class is that it is a safe space; you can scoff at the idea all you want, but once I knocked myself down a few pegs, I found it to be one of the most accepting spaces at Georgetown in which I have been so far.
And if you consider yourself a seasoned feminist like me, it is definitely a place to face reality. Not everyone is going to have a fully developed and strong opinion regarding feminism with arguments to back it up like an experienced debater. Not everyone is going to fight your opinion head-on; some people actually want to hear what you have to say and you do not have to aggressively defend yourself against them. Not everyone is going to understand what you are trying to say, and you might have to explain yourself several times before they can finally see your angle. And not everyone is going to agree with you.
I know — an easy concept in theory, but not necessarily an easy one to grasp.
So now, I look forward to Tuesday and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. I enjoy putting the desks in a circle and politely discussing the readings and letting everyone take that rightful turn. And now that I am not on my high horse, I enjoy listening to everyone’s opinions, even if I do not agree with them. A class I initially disliked has reminded me of something of which I am always trying to convince people: Feminism is complex and messy and is not a single concrete, never-changing opinion.
Jesse Goodwin is a freshman in the College.