Why major in Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies? Current Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies students account for their decisions to major in GWSS as well as their future plans:
Class of 2013
Leslie Bean '13
I'm Leslie Bean, a double major in Biology and GWSS from New Orleans, LA. When I first arrived at Grinnell, I did not consider myself a feminist, even though I espoused feminist values in my everyday life. After taking my first Biology class, I knew I wanted to major in Biology and thought that would be the only major I would want. During my second year, I took Intro GWSS and a number of feminist issues I'd struggled with over the years came up in class and I realized I wasn't the only one with these views and challenges. The areas of Biology and GWSS that I'm specifically interested in (ecology and masculinity studies, respectively) haven't yet overlapped in my college career yet, but I appreciate the opportunity that I have here at Grinnell to explore multiple areas of interest instead of being forced to choose one over the other. As of right now, I have only vague notions of what my post-graduation life might entail, but I do know that I'll use the perspectives gained in my GWSS studies to live my life in such a way to stay true to my feminist and anti-oppression values.
Liana Eisman '13
While a native New Yorker at heart, in 2009 I traded the sidewalks of Manhattan for the silos of Iowa to attend Grinnell. Upon beginning my education in GWSS, with Introduction to GWSS my freshman year, my interest was focused on feminist activism and on grassroots feminist communities. Through Introduction to GWSS, I examined different social movements and studied how they have shaped feminist identities, however, I also gained a heightened awareness of the relationship between gender, race and class, of the role that the media plays in perpetuating identity roles. After taking Theories and Methods my sophomore year, a course that provided me with the tools to translate my social feminist interests into academic language, I decided to declare a GWSS major. An indecisive person, I have enjoyed the academic freedom that an interdisciplinary major permits. The GWSS program does not only encourage me to take courses within different departments but, rather, requires that I do so. Because of its interdisciplinary framework, GWSS has allowed me to foster a range of academic, personal and professional interests, while simultaneously connecting my varied coursework with the overlying threads of gender, social inequality, and social justice. Due to this variation, GWSS has led me to critically challenge why things appear as they do within all of my coursework and daily experiences, instead of simply taking information at face value. As gender and sexuality continue to permeate all facets of culture and society so, too, does GWSS and I am enthusiastic to continue to explore new aspects and applications of this discipline.
Claire Fleckenstein '13
I'm a GWSS/French double major from Olympia, Washington and taking "Theory and Methodology in GWSS" my second year convinced me that I needed to major in GWSS. My GWSS education at Grinnell taught me to tie together my personal life and my scholarship. Classes like "Foundations of LGBTQ Studies" and "Feminist Memoirs" showed me the theory that has always affected my personal life, and revealed how the relationship between theory and practice is a two-way street. In the future, I want to teach and wish to share feminism with my students through a feminist/queer pedagogy. I want to make feminism and queer theory accessible to younger people, so they have more lenses through which to see the world. My love of the French language has also inspired me to take on a little side project and read texts by French feminists and theorists in the original French.
Elena Lynch '13
A degree in Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies is my license to think and act constructively, empathetically, and passionately while navigating personal and professional realities. As I try to make sense of political, social, geographic, and economic intersections of humanness throughout my work and my life, Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies facilitates my overall awareness and intention of what I do and who I am. Having chosen this interdisciplinary area of study, I have allowed myself to develop tools and skills which I can use to bridge conceptual gaps and solve problems. These skills, rooted in cultural critique and performance as well as historical, biological, and social analysis enhance my ability to absorb, contemplate, and interact with myself and other individuals.
Anika Manzoor '13
My name is Anika, and I am a GWSS major with a concentration in Global Development Studies (the only one right now!) hailing from Bethesda, Maryland. Growing up near D.C., I have had the great fortune of being involved with advocacy surrounding international girl's rights issues at a young age. Learning about the various awful ways women and girls are devalued around the world instilled within me a passion for female empowerment and when I realized I wanted to make a career out of that passion, I thought the GWSS major would provide me with the best tools to go forward. Pretty soon, I began to discover (and love) that the field is so much more than about "women." I came into the major interested in transnational/postcolonial feminism, but have expanded that interest to include all theorizing that takes nationalism, colonialism, race/ethnicity, and gender/sexuality as variables that complicate the experiences of marginalized groups and people everywhere. I could not be more grateful for my GWSS education, which has critically shaped the way I now view the world and how I approach issues of social justice, inclusion, and empowerment. (By the way, the picture was taken at a rally in Nicaragua for the Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean. The sign reads, "For the sovereignty of my body, I demand the decriminalization of abortion." Wooo, human rights!)
Clara Montague '13
I am a forth-year GWSS/English double-major from Skokie, IL. In addition to my academic work, I am involved in the GWSS department by being a co-chair of the GWSS Student Educational Planning Committee (SEPC) and working as a Writing Fellow in Professor Henry's Intro to GWSS class. I'm also a co-leader of the Feminist Action Coalition (FAC), work at the Career Development Office, and teach American literature classes with the Liberal Arts in Prison Program. Over the summer I took part in the Queer/Feminist Television Studies MAP, focusing on Glee. I decided to be a GWSS major after taking Theory and Methods in GWSS with Prof. Henry because I really love the way that GWSS always challenges me personally and intellectually. This spring I will be studying abroad in Madurai, India. After graduation, I think I'd like to complete a few years of service work before going to graduate school. Someday, I hope to find myself teaching GWSS and/or English classes.
Class of 2014
Linda Beigel '14
I've always been a feminist, and so I was very excited to be able to take the Intro GWSS class with Professor Astrid Henry this semester. I love the field of GWSS even more than I expected I would--it is rich and varied, covering both fascinating theory and real and practical applications. I look forward to exploring it in the rest of my time here at Grinnell and for the rest of my life. I believe that my GWSS major, combined with a double major in French, will put me on the road towards effecting real and lasting change in the world. My current goal is to enter the field of social work after graduation and help to fight against the interlocking forces of oppression that can cause so much pain to young women.
Sapir Blau '14
My name is Sapir and I am a double Economics and GWSS major. I am from Israel and I grew up in Romania for many years. I took my first GWSS course during my second year and was astounded and excited by how much the topics resonated with my world perspective. It was like all my ideals, values and expectations for our society where placed under this word called feminism and guess what you can even get academic acknowledgment for what I have always seen as basic social justice. GWSS became important to me because it was an academic and fun way to explore my social perspective. I think that whatever area of study we are interested in, a part of that involves our view and hopes for the society we live in and what we would like to see manifest. In my economics and political interests GWSS shapes my perspective, providing me with the language to make my arguments and challenging my original opinions about the way my other areas of study are constructed and function in our community. I currently intern for a DC public affairs consulting firm focusing on counterterrorism, energy-security and nonproliferation and my GWSS background provides me a unique understanding of social justice and how our work interlinks to the economic, political and military focus areas of our work.
Allis Conley '14
As a feminist who grew up in conservative Nebraska without a like-minded community, Grinnell's long tradition of social justice and its blossoming Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies program was extremely appealing to me. I immediately fell in love with the department, and by the end of my first year, I declared with Professor Astrid Henry and became the class of 2014's first GWSS major. Although there isn't a facet of the subject I don't like, my Nebraskan roots have made me especially passionate about reproductive justice and red state activism. I am also interested in the media, its portrayal of gender, and the ways it shapes adolescence and body image. I hope my studies with the GWSS department will lead me to work in grass-roots activism and continue Grinnell's legacy of passionate social involvement.
Javon Garcia '14
I'm Javon Garcia, a third-year from Laurel, Maryland. I will be declaring a major in Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies. I have chosen to declare a major in GWSS because coming into Grinnell, I was very ashamed of my sexuality and thought that I had something wrong with me. After taking Intro to GWSS with Professor Astrid Henry and learning about LBGTQ Studies and Queer Theory, I came to realize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. Through my GWSS classes I gained insight into sexuality and gender and how they're both constructed through societal standards. GWSS has helped spark my immense passion for LBGTQ Studies and Feminist Theory and now I can truly say that I am proud of my sexuality. I aspire to use my GWSS skills in law school after Grinnell; I want to become a Human Rights Lawyer focused on LBGTQ Rights. In my freetime, I write a blog on masculinity studies, which you should check out!
Izzy Leo '14
Hello! My name is Izzy and I'm a third-year Anthropology and Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies double major from Northampton, Massachusetts. Coming to Grinnell, I knew I wanted to major in anthropology because I've always been interested in all four sub-fields of the discipline. I hadn't considered GWSS as a major until I decided to take Intro with Lakesia Johnson. That class has made me examine how my personal history has influenced my decisions. I was raised by a Puerto Rican, Syrian, Irish, and Scottish feminist mother from NYC and pro-feminist father from Wilhelmshaven, Germany. My parents instilled in me a passion for political activism and general agitation, which eventually led me to take a class on the Holocaust in high school. I found that Holocaust and genocide studies was something I was really passionate about and would like to pursue a graduate degree in at some point. I'm particularly intrigued by how these conflicts affect women and the role gender plays in how genocides are perpetrated. GWSS and Anthropology will give me the tools I need to better understand Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
Class of 2015
Anna Banker '15
My name is Anna Banker and I am a second-year GWSS major from the outskirts of Boston, MA. I came to Grinnell to pursue my passions in the world of academia, assuming that I would need to wait at least a year to accurately identify these passions. However, after taking Professor Henry’s Introduction to GWSS course this past fall and supplementing the course with my own subsequent research and engagement, I have found a clear direction for my scholarship. The GWSS major fulfills my educational objectives because its subject matter and interdisciplinary nature both inspire and challenge me. I want to study GWSS because it challenges me to question everything I have been taught about gender and sexuality. GWSS provides me with the perfect academic framework through which I can cultivate a meaningful career of social engagement and activism. Most of all, though, I want to study GWSS because it inspires me each and every day to make a change in my own life, and after that, get out there and change the world.
Briona Butler '15
i'm briona butler, a 2nd yr gwss & religious studies double major . it's hard to put a finger on exactly "when i became a feminist" but i began an internship for Men Can Stop Rape, a non-profit that focuses on creating different ideals of masculinities making men more pro-active in creating cultures free from violence against women, when I was 15 . that organization is where i began learning about how diverse a field of study feminism is and all the forms it takes in individual lives . although, i didn't know many of my peers at home in DC doing work like that so taking my intro to gwsss class 1st yr was pretty much a life-saver; i found people who share my ideals and vision, in many regards . i can articulate myself better--why i feel and believe what i do. i really feel gwss is a self-transformative field of study; we're constantly holding ourselves accountable to our scholarship and that's why i have so much respect for the field . and i like dressing up :)
Scott Olson '15
When I was deciding between different colleges, one of Grinnell's biggest selling points for me was its Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies program. Most of the places I had applied had programs called "Women's Studies" or "Feminist Studies," but Grinnell was among the few that had a program which in its title encompassed sexuality and gender. This to me was important because as a founder of a Gay-Straight Alliance at my high school, I have invested a lot of time into LGBT and Queer activism, and a great deal of my own passion surrounds sexuality and gender. It was important to me that my course of study not limit itself to only women's inequality. What I experienced in Intro to GWSS with Professor Astrid Henry was nothing short of having my entire perception of the world in which I live turned on its head. From the concepts discussed in Intro alone I have gained more tools for understanding and working against inequality than I could have imagined. From an LGBT and queer activist's perspective, this sets GWSS above everything else offered at Grinnell.