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Looking from the angle of mainstream education, studies, textbooks, and masterpieces were almost all authored by white men. It was not uncommon for college students to complete entire courses reading only the work of white men in their fields.
Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies (WGSS) is an interdisciplinary field that challenges the androcentric production of knowledge. Androcentrism is the privileging of male- and masculine-centered ways of understanding the world.
Alison Bechdel, a lesbian feminist comics artist, described what has come to be known as “the Bechdel Test,” which demonstrates the androcentric perspective of a majority of feature-length films. Films only pass the Bechdel Test if they 1) Feature two women characters, 2) Those two women characters talk to each other, and 3) They talk to each other about something other than a man. Many people might be surprised to learn that a majority of films do not pass this test! This demonstrates how androcentrism is pervasive in the film industry and results in male-centered films.
Feminist frequency. (2009, December 7). The bechdel test for women in movies. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLF6sAAMb4s .
More than a series of topics, Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies offers a way of seeing the world differently. Scholars in this field make connections across institutional contexts (work, family, media, law, the state), value the knowledge that comes from lived experiences, and attend to, rather than ignore, marginalized identities and groups. Thanks to the important critiques of transnational, post-colonial, queer, trans and feminists of color, most contemporary WGSS scholars strive to see the world through the lens of intersectionality. That is, they see systems of oppression working in concert rather than separately. For instance, the way sexism is experienced depends not only on a person’s gender but also on how the person experiences racism, economic inequality, ageism, and other forms of marginalization within particular historical and cultural contexts.
Intersectionality can be challenging to understand. This video explains the intersectionality framework using some examples:
- Equal pay
- Birth control and abortion access
- Street harassment
Can you think of any additional ways to approach these topics intersectionally, that were not discussed in the video?
MTV braless. (2015, August 14). WTF is intersectional feminism???. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-nmxnmt_XU.
By recognizing the complexity of the social world, Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies advocates for social change and provides insight into how this can be accomplished.