Public University Creates ‘Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies’ Department

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 8:24 am, May 3, 2017

A New York College has abandoned its women’s studies department in favor of a broader name and mission, saying its earlier focus on women and feminism alone was off-putting to many on campus.

“I think women’s studies is a fabulous discipline, and it has some perception problems: that women’s studies excludes people who aren’t women,” said Jena Nicols Curtis, coordinator of SUNY Cortland’s new Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. “That’s certainly not anyone’s intention. But by broadening it to include sexuality and gender, I think that we open the discourse and open the conversation to everyone.”

In an interview with the college news department, Curtis said that interacting with real, live men has helped change her own stereotypes about them.

For instance, she “had this picture of Marines in my head from some news articles and a few John Wayne movies,” she said, but after visiting the National Marine Headquarters at Quantico and meeting actual male members of the military, she discovered that “they weren’t that.” She’s also recently dined with a fraternity president.

“Everybody is more complex than we give them credit for. … I wanted to have a conversation about how I think that gender stereotypes hurt men, too,” Curtis said.

SUNY Cortland’s new course offerings include a class on men’s sexuality. And the first enrollee to the broader program was “a cis-man,” according to the SUNY Cortland write-up.

Students who participate in the new Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department can also minor in social justice.