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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Blog: Diversity requirement simply not enough to cover problems of gender

The UA currently requires three units of the very broadly defined “diversity requirement” for graduation. This is a great first step, but it does not go far enough in rounding students and preparing them to enter the adult world.

There are a few ways the university could go about expanding this requirement, but the method that would have the greatest utility — that is, that would make the greatest difference in the lives and educations of each individual student and also in improving the overall learning environment on campus — would be to mandate that students take at least one, three-unit class on gender.

While the sociological approach is the most convincing, encouraging everyone to take a sociology of sex and gender course at some point in their lives is difficult. However, there are many different ways to study gender that would allow the requirement to be filled in several different ways.

A gender course requirement could be filled by, for instance, a psychology of gender course, an intro gender and women’s studies course, or some intro-level philosophy courses that would work.

Of course, some will argue that one cannot meaningfully separate gender from race, and especially from class, and that to teach gender without considering influences on race would be counterproductive. Some preeminent gender scholars like Patricia Hill Collins and Joan Acker take a Marxist-feminist approach that situates race and gender as elements of a larger class struggle, emphasizing the importance of intersectionality.

Louise Roth, the self-described “gender person” of the School of Sociology who teaches graduate level gender classes like Gender and Society, opines, “Most of the scholars that I know, and most that have written about race, class, and gender since at least the 1980s, acknowledge that race, class, and gender are inseparable in people’s lives.”

“When a woman of color experiences discrimination,” she continues, “she cannot separate out whether that discrimination is caused by her race, her gender, her class, or possibly specific stereotypes about women of her race. When a gay man of color experiences discrimination, he may not be able to tell if it is discrimination based on race or on sexual orientation or on both at once.”

While this is true, and intersectionality is incredibly important given the current sociocultural climate, and given the full-blown epidemic of rape on college campuses, including our own, it would be worthwhile to mandate a class that focuses on gender. Doing so does not have to imply that gender can be separated theoretically and experientially from other types of oppression that go hand-in-hand with institutionalized sexism and gender inequity. The class would provide a highly beneficial experience to students.

College men tend to be in even more dire need for this knowledge that is so crucial to a safe campus and to their learning to be productive citizens in an increasingly progressive American society. The proof that we have a long way to go is shocking; in one study, one in three college men surveyed said that, if they knew that they could get away with it (and the vast majority of rapists do), they would “act on ‘intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse.’”

If adopted, it would be in addition to the current, more flexible diversity emphasis courses. In fact, considering the previous argument, another way of going about it might be to simply make the diversity emphasis requirement for six units instead of three. That would surely be less controversial among the anti-feminist crowd, and maybe some of them are so set in their ways they wouldn’t benefit from a gender class anyway.

A gender-specific class would be the best thing for the university and, again, for individual students’ education. Anecdotally, the vast majority of the people I know took a race/ethnicity-based diversity emphasis course, and most students seem to be in greater need of a gender class than the alternative. Either way, the UA could not lose by adding to its meager three-unit diversity requirement.

Follow Martin Forstrom on Twitter.

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