This week has been pretty stressful: I had to submit my final assignment to validate the second course of my semester. It was a 3.000 words essay about a topic I was free to choose. I decided to write about “Discrimination against veiled Muslim women in the French labour market”. I have always been curious about the origins of inequalities between people. Where do sexism, racism and all other types of discrimination stem from ? That is what “Gender Studies” are all about.
What do Gender Studies consist in?
First, “Gender Studies” claims to be a transdiscplinary academic field: its aim is to apply a gendered framework to whatever other existing academic field. When I am reading scientific literature for my classes, I can be reading sociological and psychological experiments, as well as linguistic or medical papers – I must admit, being from a social sciences background these lasts are sometimes complicated for me to understand.
Studying Gender Studies originally means studying the roots of inequalities between genders. In order to do that, “Gender
Studies” traditionally analyze gendered representations and power dynamics in society and their influence on human behavior and psychology.
But, more recently, Gender Studies went further and extended their way of understanding inequalities beyond gender. They included other parts of human identity, such as social class, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age etc. Nowadays, studying Gender Studies means studying all oppressions – sexism but also racism or homophobia for instance – and working on deconstructing what we think is “the social norm” when it comes to identity.
Gender Studies are not all about gender
In 1989, American jurist Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the concept of “Intersectionality”. According to her research analyzing the social position of Black women in the United States, she demonstrated they were undergoing a “double discrimination”: not only as women or as Black persons, but as Black women altogether.
Since then, intersectionality has been widely used in Gender studies and applied to analyse the social position of different populations such as disabled women – intersection between ableism (discrimination against disabled people) and sexism – or even white middle-class men (intersection between male, class and white privileges).
Gender is of course still a cornerstone of Gender Studies, but it is now often analyzed in relation to other oppressions and types of discrimination.
If you are looking for a Gender Studies program for complete “beginners” LiU’s online master is not the right one.
So far I’ve had two courses: “Introduction to Intersectionality” and
“Exploring Intersectionality”. Both were very interesting and being already familiar with Crenshaw’s concept, it allowed be to go further in my reflection.
What I liked about the LiU Gender Studies master program was that it was very specific. Indeed, its full title is “Gender, Intersectionality and Change“. This means, I was not going to study basic Gender Studies courses but deepening my understanding about gender and other inequalities. If you are looking for a Gender Studies program for complete “beginners” LiU’s online master is not the right one.
However, if you are looking for a program to keep studying or working with gender, identity and inequality issues, this can be a good way to go further into these topics. Many of my classmates are studying this master along with a full-time job – which can be difficult – and are doing it in order to specialize in gender, while remaining in their field. And since it is online, it’s very practical: you can organize your study and work times as you want.