WGST program aims to change gender perception

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    TCU’s Women and Gender Studies program (WGST) has an undeniable gender gap in enrollment and faculty, but its mission aims to change the perception of gender in society.

    The program will screen a new documentary about the damaging effects of America’s social pressures surrounding masculinity on April 23 in Sid Richardson lecture hall three at 6:30 p.m.

    “’Mask You Live In’ follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity,” said Kaleigh Wyrick, a WGST graduate assistant.

    The idea that the program is only concerned with women’s issues is the result of social perception, said Wyrick.

    “Men see ‘women’ in the title and think that they’re excluded or not welcome or not part of the target audience when, of course, none of that is true. Or they aren’t interested because they don’t know what learning about women or gender is about,” said Wyrick.

    The program’s numbers reflect this reluctance. There’s a 38:1 female to male undergraduate enrollment ratio. At the graduate level there are 49 female to 13 male students. Similarly there are 67 female to seven male faculty.

    Undergraduate Mandy Hendry, communication studies major with a WGST emphasis, said that before she began taking WGST classes, she thought the program was merely about feminism.

    “But the program goes so far beyond women’s equality in the United States,” said Hendry. “It looks at the myriad of women’s issues around the globe. I don’t think that men realize that they are involved in these issues as well.”

    Graduate student Wilton Wright of the English department, who is working towards a WGST certificate, doesn’t see why more men aren’t interested in the program. “TCU is fairly conservative, but you don’t have to be liberal to be interested in Women’s and Gender Studies,” said Wright.

    The lack of men perpetuates that WGST is aimed toward women, said Wyrick, which just continues the cycle.

    Students involved in the WGST program have several ideas for possible solutions.

    Hendry suggested including images and text about men in WGST promotional materials to increase male involvement. She also said highlighting a male involved in the program on student media may help diminish the stigma that the program is only for women.

    On the individual level, Wright talks about gender studies, the WGST program and the classes he teaches. 

    “I hope that talking openly about issues related to gender studies such as gender norms, gender identity and sexuality at least helps students feel more comfortable addressing these important topics,” said Wright.

    On the program level, Wright suggested working directly with fraternities in order to make it clear that the WGST program is for everyone.

    “It takes courage to work against the norm. I think a lot of men, especially but not exclusively undergraduate men, just don’t think of WGST as a possibility. When I was younger, I would have probably felt the same way. So we have to change the norm,” said Wright.

    Although it’s not an overnight process, Wright said he believes the university is on the right track.