By Claire Goldberg
Full disclosure: I hate talking in class. I always have, and it is always such a struggle for me to speak up. But for some reason, during the Women’s History class I took last semester, it was so easy to say what I wanted. And I never felt like the point I made was stupid or unnecessary like I had in previous classes. So why did this happen all of a sudden? It definitely wasn’t some newfound college confidence, because I still had trouble talking in my other classes. And then I figured it out. In a class filled with women, taught by a woman, with materials written by women, I could finally feel included and supported in a classroom environment.
The truth behind this country’s education system is that it is overly white and male. Especially in history classes, where the content is almost entirely based off of white culture and society, and where white men write most of the materials. The most egregious culprit is US History, where the only people of color you learn about are Indians who were displaced and blacks who were enslaved. And you never really learn about women, unless someone brings up a president’s wife. So when I took Women’s History last semester, I could not wait to finally learn about the part of history that was apparently not important enough for all of my previous history classes.
The course was focused on post-Civil War women in America, and we learned about women of all races, religions, and sexualities. Not only was this the most interesting class I had ever taken, but also the least whitewashed. We read Anne Moody’s autobiography, which centered on a black woman growing up in the south. We had two women from the military, one of whom was transgender, come and speak to us about sexism in America’s armed forced. But most importantly, we had a diversity of opinions from a wide spectrum of backgrounds like no other class I had ever taken.
In this group of roughly 50 people, only five were male. So being able to speak to and about women definitely made it a lot easier for me to feel like I could talk openly. And even when someone didn’t agree with what I had to say, it was rebutted in a respectful and acknowledging way. In classes taught by men, I always feel like the teacher calls on the male students first and prioritizes their comments and opinions. Additionally, when I do get the opportunity to talk in mostly-male classes, I feel like my fellow students will be more judgmental of what I have to say. I feel restrained. Obviously, this is not always the case, and there are plenty of guys who would support and be respectful of a female’s comments, but this experience exposed me to the differences between engaging in a male-dominated class and engaging in a female-dominated one.
So the next time you are looking for a course to sign up for, try taking something that will challenge you to think differently about a well-known topic, like American history. Learning about something in an atypical point of view is not only edifying, but also extremely self-fulfilling. By learning more about other types of people and cultures, you yourself will become more cultured, and maybe even more confident in your opinions.