It’s a misconception that the women’s studies program at Northern Kentucky University is only for women.
Through taking women’s studies courses, men can better understand how life is different through a women’s perspective while earning general education credit, according to Mary Bucklin, women’s studies instructor.
“I would love to see a women’s studies course full of men,” Bucklin said.
She said it can help men better understand why women react certain ways, different from how they might react.
“Anytime you can see someone else’s life, the way it is, it helps you understand them. It helps to be a better friend, or person, or partner or whatever. The more you know about others, the more you know about yourself as well,” Bucklin said.
She added that looking through someone else’s perspective can lead to good communication.
“If I’m wired one-way and your wired another way, whether it’s because of biology or because of culture, we need to figure out a way that we can communicate,” she said.
Nancy Hancock, interim director of the women’s studies program, said women’s studies is a different lens to look through.
“It’s interdisciplinary because it’s not restricted to any one subject. It’s a way of looking at and approaching a subject,” she said.
Michelle Eversole, a sociology major with a women’s studies area of concentration said, “I think a lot of what the women’s studies courses offer is stuff that is conveniently left out in other courses…It fills in the gaps. And it also brings attention to women’s issues that may have been left out because women were not always written about or deemed as important.”
She said she likes the classroom atmosphere. Often times, rather than listen to the teacher lecturer, the class participates in discussion.
According to Hancock, students in women’s studies classes are not passive observers. Rather than just retain information from lectures, students are expected to engage in the conversation.
“This enables the student to not just acquire objective knowledge…but subjective knowledge,” Hancock said.
Bucklin said she tries to lead the class where the students need to go.
“Many times I try to include the personal end with it,” she said. “I try to make sure that the student does some reflection…it’s more student centered in some ways. There’s a lot less lecturing in women’s studies…there’s more discussion groups.”
She said she also tries to teach women how to stand up for themselves. And teach men how to stand up for women; to differentiate when they need to be helped and when they don’t.
She said, “Women don’t necessarily need to have the door opened for them. But they might need to have someone to come along and be a mentor. Help them when it really matters, not when it really doesn’t matter. Even though opening the door for anyone is a nice gesture.”
It is another misconception that discussing women’s issues means putting men down, or male bashing, according to Hancock.
“Men themselves are not being attacked or criticized,” she said. “Putting that (negative) label on women’s studies classes is an easy way to dismiss them and not have to worry about or reflect on your own behaviors and how they affect the people around you, men and women alike. It’s a way of not engaging in dialog across genders. It’s a way of avoiding the topic by just throwing a nice neat negative label on it so you just don’t have to think about it.”
Instead, women’s studies opens up dialog between the sexes and promotes understanding, she said.
And students are catching on. According to Hancock, in the fall of 1999, 54 students were enrolled in women’s studies courses. In the fall of 2000, the number jumped to 155 students. This semester after open enrollment, over 200 students registered in women’s studies courses.
The number of students with women’s studies as a minor has doubled since last year, according to Hancock.
“In just the first two weeks of class we picked up an additional four minors,” she said.
She also said the women’s studies department is under-funded. It is run by a part-time director, a part-time secretary and work-study students.
“We pretty much go bankrupt well before the end of the fiscal year,” Hancock said. “We are always scrounging. We’re pretty much the dumpster divers of programs on the campus…There’s just no money for us.”
She said the women’s studies department uses furniture and computers other departments have thrown away. The computers are so old they have stamps on the front which say they can no longer be serviced.
New this year, NKU has temporarily appointed a full-time women’s studies instructor.
“It’s only year-to-year, so it’s not stable, yet,” Hancock said. “But we have a full-time instructor. In the past, women’s studies has relied entirely on other departments to allow their faculty to cross list courses for women’s studies, or to lend us a faculty member.”
She said, “This is a really strong program that is currently under-funded, but were making strides…It is still in its fledgling stages, but is growing by leaps and bounds.”
Some new courses offered this semester are: punk rock and women’s protest music, the psychology of human sexuality, women and madness, and women, pornography and power. The Women’s Studies program is sponsoring a writing and art contest open to all students enrolled in the fall 2001 or spring 2002 semesters. Each of four categories (creative writing, essay, researcher term paper, and art or other form of creative expression) will award $100 at a banquet to be held March 27th. Entries must be received by March 1st at 4 p.m. in Steely Library, room 203.