Women’s studies name change to be more ‘inclusive’

By changing its name from women’s studies to women’s, gender and sexuality studies in fall 2009, the department hopes to change its reputation some students commonly associate with feminism and women’s health.

“[The new name] reflects who we are and where our discipline is going,” said Wendy Griffin, professor emeritus of the women’s studies department.

Griffin said the department had requested to change its name at the end of last summer and that, after almost a year, the process went by very quickly. She also said the department did not come across any internal conflicts and that “the vote was unanimous.”

“People have been very supportive,” Griffin said.

Women’s studies associate professor Maythee Rojas said the department’s new name will give students a better idea of its field and specializations.

“[The new name] speaks more to what we do,” Rojas said. “It also helps reflect society better.”

Rojas said that another reason the change took place was to accommodate a wider range of classes next semester. Some of the newer courses that will be offered next fall are Men and Masculinity, Queer and Gender studies, Hollywood and Beyond, and Sex in Chicano Literature.

“It’s only natural to offer these types of courses,” Griffin said. “[Women’s, gender, and sexuality studies] are three related fields. They all interact and affect each other.”

According to Griffin, other universities, such as Yale, Harvard and UC Berkeley, have changed the names of their women’s studies departments to either gender studies or women and gender studies.

“[Changing the name of our department and degree] reflects a deeper, intellectual understanding of the dynamics of gender in multiple contexts,” Griffin said.

Jennifer Kwan, a senior communications major, said she agrees with the department’s name change because “it sounds more inclusive.”

“People think that women’s studies classes are only for women, but they benefit everybody,” Kwan said.

Kwan said that although there was only one male in her previous women’s studies class, he seemed to be engaged in the class’s female-focused discussions.

“It was nice to see he enjoyed the class,” Kwan said.

Candice Brennan, a senior anthropology major, said that although she is not very familiar with the courses offered by the women’s studies department, “it sounds like it is more equal [now].”

“It seems more open to other students, not [limited] to just to feminism, but open to students of all majors,” Brennan said.

Rojas said the main drive of the department’s decision to change its name was not necessarily affected by today’s politics, but rather from the support of students and faculty who felt that the women’s studies department needed to recognize concerns about gender and sexuality.

“These issues have always existed, but only recently have they been talked about publicly,” Rojas said.

She also mentioned that the department’s courses are offered not only to educate students about women’s health and the feminist movement, but ultimately for discovering and understanding oneself.

Rojas said “the department name is important so people, especially men, will feel more comfortable taking these courses.”

However, Rojas also said that the term “women’s” would still be included in the department’s name because the department overall will still have women’s studies as its main focus.

“We will still place a strong emphasis on exploring the social and political dynamics that affect women’s lives,” Rojas said.

Griffin said the three fields of study are interrelated and to figure out where one field ends and the other begins would be very complex.

“Although gender is probably in everything we do, everything we do is not gender,” Griffin said.

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