Women deserve study

Women deserve study

by Jasmynne Sloan

Last year I made the momentous decision to add a minor to my double major.

There wasn’t a lot of logic involved. The bottom line was that “I’m majoring in journalism/mass communication and English” just wasn’t enough of a mouthful. At least not with a roommate who needed more than one hand to count the majors and minors she was planning on graduating with.

So, I decided I was going to be a women’s studies scholar. It was perfect for me – I’d already taken several classes that addressed women’s status and I found the subject far more accessible than, say, accounting or German.

Five minutes later I had abandoned the idea and gone in search of some Oreos to make myself feel better.

Really, I’d have loved to do the minor. It’s certainly not a daunting program. In fact, a women’s studies minor has only 18 required hours – a manageable number of courses compared to many other minors that require 21 hours.

Unfortunately, there was no way to fit the women’s studies courses into my schedule and still graduate on time. They aren’t offered every semester and it was too late to take them along with the required classes for my majors.

I’m not the only one who couldn’t make it work. In last year’s graduating class there were two students with a women’s studies minor.

Sadly, it’s not a very popular field of study.

In today’s patriarchal society, women’s studies are more important than ever. While women’s status has increased in recent years, progress is slow.

For example, according to the Des Moines Register on Aug. 31, women in Iowa made 73.7 percent of men’s median earnings in 2004. Across the nation, women with graduate and professional degrees earn only 67 percent of what men with similar degrees do.

Here’s another example: while Simpson is a liberal school compared to many of Iowa’s private colleges, the faculty’s gender breakdown is pretty old-fashioned. There are 54 full-time male faculty members and only 33 full-time female faculty members.

Lower pay and fewer high-level jobs are just two examples of how well Americans ignore women’s status in our nation.

Not everyone is ignorant though. While there is a distinct lack of interest in the women’s studies program at Simpson, there are many classes in other programs that specifically cover women’s issues.

Students in Feminist Ethics – a class not listed in the women’s studies curriculum – are taught four tenets about women’s status. First, women as a group are oppressed. Second, this oppression isn’t natural. Third, no one deserves to be oppressed. Fourth, we can change it.

That last one is the kicker. If students today are taught that change is possible, they have more power than ever to combat women’s low status. Therefore, as a function of education, the women’s studies minor plays a crucial role in the future of American women.

However, not enough students at Simpson know about the minor. The department doesn’t have a specific physical home, nor does it have a designated faculty.

And with only nine students on campus this semester who have declared a women’s studies minor, word of mouth won’t get the program very far.

Until it gains numbers, women’s studies at Simpson won’t get its own offices or professors no matter how important scholars think the field is.

The college needs to focus on making sure students know about the women’s studies minor. Really, any section of any course that touches on women’s status is a perfectly acceptable time to mention the program. Until Simpson does a better job of advocating for it, the college is only perpetuating the problem by barely speaking about it.

I don’t care if students hear about it once a day for four years – it’s time for us to realize how important these courses are. With luck, there will be fewer students like myself who missed the boat.