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Alia Al Hazami: Women Studies — An Integral Part of Educational System
May 25, 2017
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Adding subjects like Women Studies to school curriculums can refute negative views on feminism, and create a generation that is more aware of what is going on in the world.

Exclusive to The Gulf Today

If you have been part of debates on gender equality, I am sure that you have come across the statement, “Women have all their rights now, what more do they want?”. While it may seem that women have acquired their basic human rights, reality proves otherwise. The back story behind attaining those rights is so dense. It showcases the struggle and the need for the world to learn the history of discriminating against women in order to understand why the fight for gender equality is far from over. As such, women have developed different mechanisms to raise feminist consciousness, and to spread awareness. Some of those ways are activism, grassroots organisations, protests, boycotts and education. The last mechanism was made especially visible after the second-wave of feminism, where the discipline of Women Studies was created and implemented in universities, highlighting the difference present in the experiences of genders. This discipline can be found in several universities; however, it is time that it is added to school curriculums.

I am currently minoring in women studies, and with every course I take, my mindset changes. My minor has been an eye-opening experience that made it clear that sometimes, we take things for granted. As such, women studies courses are extremely important to showcase that the development in today’s world is a reflection of centuries of overcoming discrimination, oppression and abuse. While women’s several attempts for attaining equality may seem successful today, they were not at first. Those women have faced imprisonment and deprivation of basic human rights. They got their families taken away and were forced into confinement. However, such women paid a sacrifice to women in today’s world. They paved the way for freedom of speech, and encouraged generations to pursue equality due to the outcomes they have achieved despite the struggle.

In addition, women who have fought against discrimination created an idea that women are not submissive groups that will be silenced. On the contrary, they are powerful individuals who will create a change in the social order of the world. The fire within them for equality created a global network of women coming together to fight for another. That can be seen in the Women’s March this year, where women around the world came together to demand women’s reproductive rights about many other issues. Still, women have a long way ahead of them, but there is no denying that through those strategies, women have become architects of culture, refusing to fit women in a mould.

Moreover, by teaching younger generations about the history of women, it can be made apparent that while women can come together in one group, they could also be the ones to cause discrimination between one another. Concepts such as class and race have been barriers through other women. While the aforementioned concepts are mere social constructs, they manage to have severe impacts on women.

One of the biggest criticisms of feminism is that it is not inclusive as it encompasses white middle-class women and neglects people of other races and classes. African-American activist bell hooks writes that there is too much emphasis on the differences, to the extent where women simply became torn apart and the greater goal of gender equality became distorted and blurred. hooks stated that instead of fighting for equality of all women, those white women not only neglected women of other colours and social strata, but also exploited them. In a sense, oppressed group have managed to deploy the oppression they face to other groups. Therefore, making the oppressed the oppressive. As such, today, many feminists call for intersectional feminism. In which, feminism serves its actual purpose of representing all women, and not just the privileged. Intersectional feminism calls for the attention of all women and the inequalities they face despite their differences.

Modern day media has created a negative view on feminism and labels it as extremism. Adding subjects like women studies to school curriculums can refute such claims, and create a generation that is more aware of what is going on in the world.

The United Arab Emirates is committed to gender equality but sadly, the general public is not aware of the reason behind it, nor the challenges women face in their everyday lives. Awareness and equality can only be achieved through education, and women studies is the first step.
The author is the writer of “Alatash,” a columnist, and an
International Studies and English Literature student at AUS.

Twitter: @aliaalhazami 

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