One of the oldest gender studies programs in the nation, the Women’s Studies Program has existed at the University of New Mexico since 1972. In 1999 a major was added, and in 2019 the name was changed from Women’s Studies to Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Last week, the first public university in the nation cut its gender studies department.
The New College of Florida did away with its Women’s Studies department – a decision supported by Ron Desantis, the Republican Gov. of Florida. The University is now “shifting gears” to a new athletics program.
I am in my final year of the program here at UNM and I could not be more grateful for my education in WGGS.
A gender studies degree may seem pointless to some. It’s not like there are many advertised career paths that require a degree in feminism. However, to say a degree is pointless is rooted in the idea that if you leave college without a career in your field of study, it was a waste. But this happens to 27% of university students regardless of major.
Post-grad, I plan to continue reporting and working in journalism. I am getting a minor in journalism, but my WGSS degree has been the most influential to my reporting and editing practices.
The classes I have taken for my WGGS degree have covered topics of gender, sexuality, race, pop-culture, politics, history, art and science. They have taught me how to approach a single topic from all of those angles and have discussions about how each experience can impact another.
This, in a lot of ways, is how I think about journalism now. When I begin working on a story, I take the pitch and I break it down – thinking about how all of these various life experiences could be impacting what I am covering.
By no means is this revolutionary. I think that’s the point. The concepts aren’t outlandish or complicated, or some scary agenda by the left-wing to terrorize children. But this doesn’t mean the classes or concepts are simple either.
As white person raised in a predominantly white area, the lessons and lectures in my WGGS classes have constantly challenged me to reckon and address the ways I am inherently racist as a white person. It is not easy. It can be uncomfortable, but it is not radical.
So what makes a degree worth something?
I would argue it is how often you can apply the concepts you learned in daily life. No matter what profession you wind up in, being able to reflect critically on how gender, race and sexuality are impacting the work environment, or work itself, is instrumental. Having a broader understanding of the lived experiences of those around you facilitates accessibility and creates safe spaces.
The abolishment of the women’s studies department at the university in Florida is terrifying. It says that education that isn’t overtly profitable doesn’t have value. Banning books, cutting departments and regulating what can be taught in schools reflects values of control and facism. It sets a dangerous precedent that those across the nation will feel the repercussions of.
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Maddie Pukite is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at editorinchief @dailylobo.com on Twitter @maddogpukite