Latest posts by A.P. Scheiderer (see all)
- Sexist Hiring Practices: The Path of Least Resistance - June 9, 2017
- Silly White Lady Nonsense: Critical Thoughts on Some Self-Help ‘Advice’ - April 4, 2017
- Five Reasons Your Women’s Studies Degree (or the Like) is Worth It - February 10, 2017
“So what kind of job can you get with that…?”
“What does that even mean…?”
“What can you even do with that…?”
These are the questions I (and likely many of you) receive when I tell them that I have a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Women’s Studies. I received these same questions from students when I was co-teaching women’s studies introduction courses who were sorta-kinda-maybe-thinking-possibly about becoming a Women’s Studies major. The few students who approached me with cautious inquiry asked those questions in a hushed voice in the lounge at the back of the department office where I sat cross legged drinking coffee out of a mason jar. It was as if they didn’t want anyone to know they were considering declaring a major in something so “useless.”
I mean, I get it. We live in a capitalist world where production and power is king. If you’re not working, you’re lazy. If you’re not in school, you’re stupid. If you are in school and you’re getting a liberal arts degree, it’s fruity and pointless and will bring you no financial success, ever. *rolls eyes*
But here’s the thing: getting my B.A. in Women’s Studies was one of the best things I ever chose to do for myself. I did not choose my degree because it would bring me exceptional fame and a sick flow of never ending cash. I chose my degree because it made me happy. It forced me to engage in conversations I would never have otherwise. It allowed me the room (a literal room) to grow and talk and think and cry (lots of crying) and read and discuss. It has made me the person I am today, and I happen to really like who that person is.
As colleges and universities around the country eliminate and downsize Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, African-American Studies, American Indian Studies, Cultural Studies, etc. programs, it’s important for the Powers that Be know why so many of us have paid lots of invisible dollhairs to be a part of those departments – and I would argue – families.
Five Reasons Your Women’s Studies (or the like) Degree is Worth It
1. It is a public service.
To be able to have conversations that include every voice in the room, recognize injustice and know how to stand up against it, to advocate for your Self and your needs, and to be able to also advocate for others in ways that do not co-opt their experiences for your own personal benefit or image are all skills that make the world a better and safer place for everyone.
2. Connecting to others and building community.
It has been an enormous privilege to become a part of a greater community of people whose passions lie in working toward equity through research, social observations, writing, and dialogue in a (more or less) structured classroom. I have endless respect, love, appreciation, and gratitude for the folks who are takin’ it to the streets. Good for you, not for me. I found out my place is in the classroom, and it took me a long time to be ok with that. Finding others who are good at similar things you are is not only validating to your strengths, but builds a network of support unlike any other.
3. Continuing the tradition of women’s studies.
You are a part of a long line of herstory. Honor those that came before and recognize that you stand on the shoulders of many, many giants. Most unnamed. Make an effort to memorize those we do know of and give credit where credit is due. Goddess knows they deserve it.
4. Using what you know to try and not be a jerk.
Be nice or leave, and then go somewhere and learn how to get with the program. One of the most important things I learned from a dear mentor was to not “treat others how you want to be treated – treat them how they want to be treated.” Just because you prefer a traditionally gendered pronoun doesn’t mean that someone else who looks like you does. Just because you think “African-American” makes ‘more sense,’ or sounds ‘more inclusive’ doesn’t mean that that’s what all people of color identify with. Don’t underestimate the power of kindness in validating identities on each individual basis – it spreads like wildfire, but in a much better way than wildfire, obviously.
5. Because it feeds you.
Quite literally, it feeds you. We always joked about everyone constantly having food in class, but so much of that was based around the encouragement of coming together for a common interest and human necessity – food. At many homes, we gather in the kitchen even though there might be several other rooms decked out to entertain guests in greater comfort than sitting on a cold tile floor or wooden countertop. But it’s not about being comfortable, is it?
On a more serious note, we got Women’s Studies degrees it because it fed our Spirits. Because it made us excited about being alive and surrounding ourselves with people we wanted to be like. Because we never want to stop learning and were excited about gathering the tools and resources to continue doing the work we were meant to do.
I want to name that I am very aware going to college is a privilege not extended to most people, and I will be the first to admit I have been incredibly fortunate to have had the resources and access to do so. There are so many feminists, a significant number in my own life, who have not gone to college who could dialogue circles around me and my fellow graduates. Education is an institution. Learning is for everyone.
However – if you do happen to engage in the [actually very fucked up] world that is higher education, and you do want to pursue a Women’s Studies (or the-like) degree… pay no mind to the haters. They can hate, and you can know why fighting for trans* and POC inclusive-intersectional feminism is the reason to get out of bed in the morning. That, and coffee.