Women's Studies: Women's Lives
by Judith Grant
Women's Studies Program's, now presently taught in many universities across Canada, provide an alternative way of knowing for students. As a researcher interested in the growth of this discipline, I wished to know the following: If women's studies is new knowledge, how is it affecting the women students within the program's? Is this new knowledge making an impact in terms of the re-definition of their roles in society? How do they integrate such knowledge into their lives?
Ten students between the ages of 23 and 48 were interviewed for my M.A. thesis. The interview schedule consisted of four open- ended questions that queried the respondents regarding their experiences while in women's studies program's. The questions asked were then organized into four main categories, and the following is a summary of the students' responses.
Decision To Take Women's Studies Courses
One student stressed that from the beginning, she believed her past experiences were valid and that she could connect them to the relevant women's studies curriculum. She purposely took the courses because, as she said, "I understood what was being taught was my experiences. ... I wanted my experiences. I knew my experiences were valid because it worked. It worked from the day I was born. ... So I never questioned that it (women's studies) wasn't valid."
An interesting finding was that the younger students tended, as a group, to take the feminist courses without being aware that they were part of the women's studies program. Only after they had completed some of the courses did they consider enrolling in the program as a minor. The older students tended to enroll more out of intellectual curiosity and a belief that what they were learning in traditional courses neither validated their lives nor their experiences. One student admitted she had been criticized as "too subjective" in her regular courses, which made her realize that she needed feminist teaching and a place where she could "speak."