Looking Back: What Women’s Studies Has Meant to Me

This is a guest post from Kirsten Williamson. Kirsten graduates this May with majors in Studio Art and Film and Media Studies and a minor in Women’s Studies. She started working at the SBAI office in fall of 2011 and has been blogging for us ever since! We will miss her very much and wish her the best in all of her future endeavors.

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I took my first Women’s Studies course kind of by accident. It was spring semester my freshman year and Intro to Visual & Cultural Studies just so happened to be cross-listed in the Film & Media Studies, Art, and Women’s Studies departments. I credit this course as the beginning of the “right path” for me. I came into the University of Rochester as an International Relations major, and while taking Intro to Visual & Cultural Studies I realized how important art was to me and how much I enjoyed engaging with it in a personal and academic setting. The next semester I took two additional Women’s Studies courses, this time on purpose, and before I knew it I had completed my Women’s Studies minor!

I have taken so many different Women’s Studies courses across my four years here. Everything  I learned in these Women’s Studies courses has been applicable to other areas of my academic and personal life. I was often able to incorporate my interests and got to write about Alaska Native female political leaders, representations of lesbian identity in photography, and expressions of minority experience through performative videos, just to name a few!

It is in my Women’s Studies Colloquium that I finally came to peace with the word feminist. Our readings and class discussions helped me break down the mental barriers, misinterpretations, and negative connotations I had with self-identifying as a feminist. I am so glad that I was given the time to learn about the complex, multi-faceted, and truly nuanced nature of feminism, and to figure out where and how my views aligned with different schools of thought.

The courses I took have prompted me to things differently, especially art. The texts I was exposed to have urged me to think critically about literature, power structures, and the way we communicate. I have gotten a greater sense of history in these classes by learning about the experiences of women and other marginalized groups of people. Women’s Studies courses laid a great foundation of critical thinking skills that have carried me through my time at the University. These courses and my time with the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender & Women’s Studies have also made me hungry for change. I feel as though I better understand the current state of things (our successes and our failures) but I do not feel bogged down by the status quo. Taking Women’s Studies courses was one of the best things I did with my time here at UR. I feel like a stronger, more enriched, and more critically engaged human being, and want to thank everyone at SBAI for their hard work and help along the way.

All the best!
Kirsten

About Kaitlin Legg

Former Program Assistant at the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Rochester.
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