It’s that time of year again! College students will be returning home for the holidays for some much needed R&R after weeks of exams and term papers that seemed never to end. Nonetheless, for college seniors approaching graduation, like me, this time of the year brings an ominous sense of dread along with the usual holiday cheer. Our impending graduation always seems to become the center of conversation at the holiday table, and we are bombarded with the same question from uncles, aunts, and grandparents: “what are you going to do after graduation?”
This question not only shakes college seniors to their core because many of us feel like we should know what we want to do by the time we graduate and do not, but also because we hear this question with a twinge of accusation. For those of us who are lucky enough to know what we want to do by the time we have graduated college, we fear that our career choice will not live up to our family’s prescripted list of expectations—lawyer, doctor, engineer.
As a Women’s Studies major, I have always felt like my course of study was not valued by family members, strangers, or society, in general. When I proudly announce my major, people are not shy to let their opinion be known. According to Ms. Magazine, Women’s Studies, as a major, has been around for 40 years, is offered at 700 universities, and is among one of the fastest growing majors in the country. Despite its growth, Women’s Studies still does not get the respect it deserves, and I have constantly had to defend my major from people who say it is not needed anymore or who challenge its validity to academia.
Women’s Studies is still needed because half the population is still restricted by their gender. Although Women’s Studies is predicated on feminism, it is not just the study of women but of all marginalized people who have been oppressed because of their sexuality, race, class, and/or disability. Throughout history, the story of these people was denied, rewritten, and made to be invisible; however, Women’s Studies prioritizes their history and viewpoints in looking at the world and enacting real change. Women’s Studies has not been properly recognized for its contributions to academia, because the knowledge of women and other oppressed people is still subordinated, along with their social status. By defending Women’s Studies, I am not just defending the major, but also the unique knowledge of women and other marginalized people, as well as the equal opportunities we are entitled to in the university and beyond.
People still contend that “Women’s Studies is not a real major.” To this I reply that it is the most real major there is: it is grounded in people’s actual lived experiences and makes visible the systems of inequality that have material effects in their lives. It is also a major that makes you think critically about your own life and engages you in an interdisciplinary field of study that you can actually use to change the world. Women’s Studies students are not just students; they are activists who are engaged with the politics in their communities, nation, and world. Throughout my education, I have been active in various social justice oriented organizations, which has allowed me to bring theory into praxis. According to Ms. Magazine, 72% of Women’s Studies students apply their education in organizational settings. This is proof that if there is any major that prepares their students for “real life,” Women’s Studies is it!
As a Women ’s Studies major, I could be a lawyer or a doctor; my choices are not limited. But I would rather work in a legislative, nonprofit, or social services setting and I know my family will be proud of me. After all, it was the Jewish values they taught me at an early age that inspired me to advocate for others and stay true to my convictions no matter what anyone says.