One only need take a brief glance at the headlines that dominated the political news of 2008 to see the relevance of Women’s and Gender Studies to life outside the academy. Whether it was consideration of the 18 million cracks that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign left in the proverbial glass ceiling, the debate leading up to and following California’s Proposition 8, assumptions about motherhood and women’s work that swirled around Sarah Palin, or the racism and sexism that surfaced during the Presidential campaigns and the varied responses to it, much of the year’s national news addressed issues that go to the heart of how we understand gender, men’s and women’s roles in society, marriage, family and the intersections of race, class, and gender.
The Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Wake Forest is an exciting and vibrant interdisciplinary minor. It provides our students a means of engaging many of the key issues and conditions that have shaped human history and continue to drive the world today. It also gives students a way to examine the big issues that the day’s headlines capture, as well as the everyday social constructions that give rise to our assumptions and inform our daily lives. In short, students in Women’s and Gender Studies delve into a host of questions and study matters that impact all of us. They may examine, for instance, not only the ways in which the lives of men and women are similar or different, but how it is that societies understand, define, promote, and challenge precisely what it is to be a woman or a man in the first place. Alternatively, students may study the ways in which popular culture and various media construct beauty, the body, and sexuality, or they may query how social and political discourse promotes particular notions of gender. In these and many more areas, students critically and carefully probe matters that shape their lives.
Women’s and Gender Studies plays a vital role in a liberal arts education that is pro humanitate as the program facilitates important connections between the classroom and communities both across and beyond the Wake Forest campus. It not only offers cross-disciplinary courses that place students in every corner of the University, it also promotes attendance at campus and community events, supports internships, fosters original student research, nurtures student leadership, and encourages service learning.
Women’s and Gender Studies both challenges students and enables them to recognize how the study of gender and women’s lives, histories, social conditions, cultural, religious and political contexts affects the world. To engage in Women’s and Gender Studies is not only to be concerned about the lives of women and the construction and function of gender, but also to take on a path of learning that allows men and women alike to achieve an interdisciplinary understanding of various cultural constructs and participate in the world that cares about and benefits all of humanity.