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Women’s studies is an interdisciplinary academic field that looks at various disciplines, such as history, literature, media, and politics from a feminist perspective. Born during the so-called second wave of feminism in the 1960s, student and faculty activism during the decade led to the creation of women’s studies departments at colleges and universities.
Women's Studies Courses
The very first women’s studies course was held at Cornell University in New York in 1969. Full programs in women’s studies were available the following year at both San Diego State and SUNY-Buffalo. In 1972, Sarah Lawrence College became the first institution to offer a Master’s degree in women’s studies.
While programs vary, most women’s studies courses have several common themes, drawing on feminist pedagogy. Critical reading, writing and oral expressions are vital, stressing the value of texts over the professor in understanding how gender intersects with such issues as race, class, religion, or sexuality that create power structures in American society.
Women's Studies and Activism
Women’s studies has become intertwined with feminist activism, and according to the National Women's Studies Organization, it has stressed such ideas as the following:
- Environmental politics
- Body issues
- Reproductive rights
- Homosexual rights
- The rights of ethnic minorities
Many feminists see participation in women’s studies as the first step in activism, and students are encouraged to continue the process in the wider world. Women’s studies are offered at most major American universities.