Calvin College Chimes

Editorial: Why men should take gender studies classes

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As I’ve been working on the last few issues of my Chimes career, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to listen to and amplify voices other than my own. As a news organization, we try to do that by publishing feature stories, letters to the editor and interviews by and about people with different experiences, politics or beliefs than ours.

But I’ve also been thinking about how to do this on a personal level. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of listening to the stories of people from other faith traditions. Many of us, especially at a Christian school like Calvin, can go days or weeks without encountering anyone from a markedly different faith tradition. Depending on how we cultivate our social interactions, it’s even possible to avoid conversing too deeply with someone of a different political persuasion.

With very few exceptions, though, we all interact daily with people of a different gender, and this is one reason it’s so important to learn how to listen to those people’s experiences. We’ve seen this rise to the top of public discourse with the #MeToo movement, but our conceptions of gender also affect how we talk to each other, how we work together and who we listen to.

Because of this, it concerns me a little that the places on campus dedicated to dealing with issues of gender equality, from SAGA to gender studies classes, seem so predominantly female. If we really do need to listen to each other to increase understanding, respect and equality, why does the effort seem so uneven?

It disturbs me that a lot of men don’t see a problem here, and even if we do, we don’t think it’s our problem. Two things here:

First, it is our problem. Sexual harassment and violence destroys relationships of all types. Gender stereotypes teach us to want and not to serve. Toxic masculinity turns pent-up emotion into hate, violence and bitterness. Injustice hurts everyone.

Second, even if you don’t think it’s your personal problem, that’s not an excuse. Our biblical mandate is to seek justice, to honor the image of God in others, to make disciples, to wash each other’s feet, and I don’t think any of that is consistent with behavior that perpetuates gender injustice.

I took Professor Christina Van Dyke’s philosophy of gender class on a bit of a whim — I needed a persons in community core class, I’d enjoyed intro philosophy, I wasn’t about to take political science and I was curious how a night class would go (spoiler alert: not well). Looking back, though, that class challenged more of my blind assumptions than almost any other class I’ve taken at Calvin, and isn’t that one of the primary roles of a liberal arts education?

I didn’t agree with all the readings and lectures or all my fellow students in the class. But I did change my mind about a few things, and I got a whole lot less sure about many others.

And I do think I learned to listen a little bit better than I could before. I think I learned—again, a little bit—to be humble and vulnerable enough to enter these conversations. Because it really can be painful to look and see the ways that women and so many others have been hurt by a system that privileges my body, my gender and my sexual orientation.

I don’t have any grand solutions to offer, but I do have a suggestion: men should take more gender studies classes. It takes courage to choose to listen to voices that might challenge your assumptions, your privilege and your perspective, but I believe Jesus calls us to courageously care for all of our sisters and brothers.

A list of gender studies class offered in the fall of 2018 is provided below. These classes span several disciplines and can satisfy core requirements or fit into many majors and programs, and they can also be contracted for honors credit.

 

ENGL 234: Gender and Literature, ENGL 372: Sociolinguistics and Issues in Language Education, HIST 256: Women and Gender in US History, PHIL 211: Philosophy of Gender, PSYC 222: Human Sexuality and Gender, SOC 250: Diversity and Inequality in the United States.

CORRECTION: The print version of this editorial left out HIST 256: Women and Gender in US History from the list of gender studies classes offered next semester. The course will be taught by professor Kristin Du Mez and will meet from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

3 Comments

3 Responses to “Editorial: Why men should take gender studies classes”

  1. Bob on April 27th, 2018 12:40 pm

    Interesting article. I’m intrigued by the idea of gender analysis, but my understanding of gender studies classes is that they tend to be too political and one-sided for my taste. How is it true that only men can be privileged? I think it’s more useful to identify social constructs and how they shape actions, personalities, and relationships than to simply label one party “privileged”. For example, I’ve never heard anyone talk about “toxic femininity” although I’m sure it would be easy to define such a thing. It would also be interesting to have an analysis of Biblical gender roles, and how Christians should define what it means to be a man or woman.

    [Reply]

    Derrick Reply:

    I wish I could say I’ve taken a gender studies course, but I can only speak for what my close friends have told me. But the classes are about the identification of social constructs and relationships that you talk about. It’s by observing these things that people have realized that there are imbalances in how certain sexes and genders are treated. The “politics” are informed and motivated by these studies; not the other way around.

    If someone who has taken a bunch of gender studies courses at Calvin wants to correct me. please do.

    [Reply]

  2. Anon on May 3rd, 2018 3:37 pm

    While I appreciate you posting this in the opinion section, I personally find this article sexist and offensive. This article promotes a negative and false stereotype of men. If you are wondering why more men don’t take these classes this article is exactly why. It is assertions like privilege based on biological gender that kill diversity. One of the most beautiful things about this country is that we are individuals. Just because you were born a certain gender does not mean you will benefit from privilege or face a life of horrible unfounded discrimination. It is stereotypes like these that promote sexism and prevent the men and women from establishing dialogue.

    Furthermore, many of the privileges that courses like these teach are just false and rude to men. In a study done by the Institute of Women in Science, they found that women in STEM careers are now twice as likely to be hired as equally qualified men. Now as I’ve stated early I don’t believe in privilege on the basis of gender stereotypes but if I did it would appear that females have privilege in hiring processes.

    The wage gap is also false. Constantly people toss around the figure that women make 77 cents on the man’s dollar and while this may be true if you take the median of aggregate wages, this figure is extremely misleading. This is only true if you ignore vital figures such as education, experience, hours worked, maternity leave, location, choice of industry, danger of job, specialization, and much more. In fact, according to Nemko and Census Bureau data, when all of this has been accounted for, women with the same qualifications actually out earn men.

    So to say that their is some sort of gender privilege in the work place is just false. Don’t just take my word for it, after a study done by the U.S. Department of Labor, they concluded, “This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”

    These ideas are detrimental to women as it makes them feel like a victim and does not allow them to have an ambitious/positive outlook on their future. It also encourages distrust and a negative stereotype of men. When a class incorporates political agendas and paints false/negative views of men, of course they’re not going to take it.

    However, this is not my biggest objection. The biggest issue I have with this is that gender studies has the potential to be a very constructive class if it wasn’t about man hating and pushing political ideals. Unlike privilege and the issues listed above there are so many real issues facing women today that men (even our age) can actually do something about. Some of which include poor self/body images, sexual assault/harassment, socialization, and sexualization from a young age just to name a few. In addition to this, just as you probably felt alone in a class of mostly women, many women feel isolated and alone in male dominated professions. There are so many men, especially here at Calvin, that would love to open dialogue, listen, and help. But it is a shame that the curriculum for those courses can’t be about the advancement of gender equality and understanding.

    If you would like to educate yourself more on some of the issues I raised as well as examine the statistics cited you many look at the sites bellow:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/04/14/study-finds-surprisingly-that-women-are-favored-for-jobs-in-stem/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.76b92617a82c

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-gender-pay-gap-is-a-complete-myth/

    [Reply]

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