WOMS 302 - WOMEN IN MUSIC (Evaluation Essay)
In order to examine my time and experience with the Women and Gender Studies major here at UD, I’ll need to discuss how I got to having this major. I originally came to UD to study Neuroscience and Linguistics and I had plans to apply to Medical School after I had graduated. After only 1 semester of my classes, I had already discovered that I needed to switch my major and I was not happy where I was. I couldn’t tell you the main reason but I just knew it didn’t feel right. The curriculum didn’t excite me and I felt a lot of pressure from the idea of always being so closely compared to all of my peers. This comparison didn’t always come from my professors, but rather from my classmates, who had always made up their minds that they would apply to and attend a medical school after graduation. So before my first day of my second semester I had already decided that I would audition for the school of music here at UD and I would study Music Education. That also didn’t work out because at my audition I told them I would prefer to never have to teach young children (honestly looking back on it, I should have lied). They eventually chose to not accept me for the education program but did accept me for the Music Theory B.M., which I accepted. To make a long story short, my time at the music school was also short lived. I was constantly stressed in that program and my mental health always had felt like it was in panic mode. In December of last year, with only three semesters left until I was “supposed” to graduate, I made the final decision to switch my major to Women and Gender Studies and I chose the Global Perspective concentration to focus my studies on.
Before that decision was made, I had only taken one Women and Gender course but it was one of my best class experiences and I had always remembered it fondly. The course was WOMS302: Women in Music taught by Dr. Purciello at the time. The reason why I loved the class so much was because it showed me this whole “secret world” of history that for some reason was withheld from the other history books. In that class we basically started with some of the first ever records of musicians who were women like Hildegard of Bingen and eventually discussed more modern artists like Queen Latifah and Cyndi Lauper. We followed the normal music history curriculum and studied every major period of music but spoke only about the people you never really get to hear about in the “normal” course; the women. Many people know the quote “history is taught by the victors'' but you don’t always have to win a war to have power and write your own version of history. Being born a cisgender, straight, white male has an enormous power in our society and I realized that our teachings of history in America are extremely skewed to reflect the victories of these men and actively exclude the voices of women, people of color, and queer voices. I received this lesson in my first week of WOMS302 and yet every single course I have taken in this major has retaught me the same idea. My concentration in Global Perspective has also contributed to this idea and constantly exposes me to the lives and history of the millions of women who aren’t born in my country and aren’t culturally similar to me. I would name this idea my biggest takeaway from the major and I hope to use my acquired knowledge and curious nature to always seek out the stories and perspectives from people who have had their voices taken away or silenced (for example: women, people of color, and queer people).
In terms of my “strength”, or more specifically what I feel the most confident about because of my Women and Gender Studies major, is my collaborative mindset and people focused perspective. Throughout all of my courses, discussion has been the main activity that my professors and peers have used to learn and communicate and I believe this has shaped the way that I work with people. I always try to make sure that when I’m working on a team that everyone is on the same page and if someone isn’t, it is equally important to let them voice their opinions even if nothing can be done immediately about their concerns or comments. I’m not going to conclude that this collaborative mindset only came from my WOMS education but I think it was definitely strengthened by it and continues to grow as I take more courses like the ones offered in my major. The “people focused perspective” mainly refers to the fact that a lot of the content and information we cover in women and gender studies is about people and their struggles. We are almost taught to be more empathetic in a way and we are constantly posed the question, “is this system/action ethical and if not, why?”. This kind of thinking keeps our minds centered around the human aspect of our studies and ensures we leave with a strong sense of morality.
My greatest area for growth would probably revolve somewhere around foundational theories and what is deemed “common knowledge” for many researchers and scholars within the field of Women and gender studies. This might be more of a personal issue than a gap in the major’s curriculum but nonetheless I do feel a lack of confidence when I am asked about the “foundations” of my studies. I took WOMS201: Intro to Women’s Studies (a core requirement) in my first semester of having the major and it was a very good introduction to the theories and core knowledge but that has been the only course that was like that. The rest of my courses have focused on a less broad topic and we were able to, as a class, deeply explore some interesting topics and discuss them at length. I realized I had this uncertainty in a course I am taking this semester (WOMS313: Theories and Methods in Feminism) when our professor started referencing common terms in our field and “schools of thought” and I sadly had no clue what she was referring to. She has told us we technically didn’t “have” to know those terms yet and people might have learned them in a different course offered but I still felt a little frightened that I didn't know something that she considered basic knowledge.
Overall I have been extremely happy in my new major and I have truly valued the information I have learned and the professors I have met. The program feels much more intimate than any other program on campus and if I had more time on campus without the COVID restrictions, I might have had more opportunities to engage with my peers and professors outside of the classroom. My experience in the program has not been the most traditional pathway but I believe that just makes it all the more special and personalized.