Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies is an academic discipline that emerged out of the ferment of the women’s movement and “second wave” feminism in the 1960s and 1970s, in an effort to recognize women as both the subjects and makers of knowledge in a traditionally male-dominated sphere.

As the feminist movement has evolved over the past few decades, so, too, have Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies programs. Changes in curriculum in recent years reflect a broader, more inclusive approach to programming. The program at the University of Maine spotlights one such effort.

However, like feminism, myths about the discipline have persisted:

  1. Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies is ideological — not a “real” discipline. WGS uniquely brings together theory, vision and action in its examination of the role of gender in all facets of society and resulting inequalities and differences in power. WGS provides a framework for students to address real-life issues in areas such as the workplace, home and family life, politics, the media, gender-based violence and globalization.
  2. WGS is about and for women. WGS is a broad area of inquiry that seeks to understand the significance of gender in the ordering of society, exploring questions of what it means to be a woman, man and/or transgender person. Upcoming course offerings at the University of Maine include Gender in a Digital World, Men and Masculinities in Society and Intro to LGBTQ Studies.
  3. WGS is a white, middle-class, western thing. WGS courses examine the meaning of “difference” through the intersection of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, age, ability and nation, through an array of diverse perspectives and experiences.
  4. You have to be a feminist to be a student in WGS. Though feminism is the prime “lens” utilized in a WGS classroom, students aren’t required to be feminists to take WGS classes. As one University of Maine WGS instructor states, “They just need to learn to think like one.”
  5. Students will never get a job with a WGS degree. Graduates of the WGS program at the University of Maine are working in such diverse fields as the law, domestic violence advocacy work, media production, the conservation field and education, to name a few. WGS students develop valuable skills around critical thinking, fluency in gender-related issues and understanding diverse perspectives; these are all assets in today’s marketplace and applicable to multiple career paths.

Some of these myths are addressed in a new video campaign from the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at the University of Maine entitled, “This is what a UMaine Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Student Looks Like.”

The campaign will launch 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21, in the Bangor Room of the Memorial Union on the University of Maine campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Several of the campaign videos will be screened, with themes such as “What is WGS?” and “What can you do with a WGS degree?” A discussion will follow with WGS faculty and staff. Several students will be sharing selections of original works of poetry. Refreshments will be served.

Nicolle Littrell is a filmmaker and instructor in the WGS program at the University of Maine. Her production company is Woman in the Moon Films. For more information about the new video campaign contact her at wmninthemoon@gmail.com.