By Amanda Castillo
The last decade has been defined by a rising understanding of the harmful implicit attitudes present in society. More recently, and most visibly, the issues that have taken center stage in the media are related to racial and gender discrimination. Movements that address these issues are widely heard about and both are heavily misconstrued. When it comes to critiques surrounding the implicit and casual racism in the United States, opponents of these ideas misdirect these conversations so that what was originally a conversation surrounding the police brutality directed towards people of color becomes a conversation about how #AllLivesMatter.
Something very similar happens when it comes to the conversations related to the study and critique of attitudes surrounding gender.
More often than not gender studies as a field of academic study and activism is passed off as something that is exclusive to women or synonymous with feminism. At their worst, these critiques bash on women who advocate for equal rights and escalate to online ridicule, hostility and sometimes-even violence. However, what is often misunderstood is that gender studies, while often intersecting with feminist works and activism, is the study of gender at large and not just of women.
Certainly a lot of scholarship in gender studies surrounds the treatment of women but these studies also often look at how the harmful attitudes that disempower women also disenfranchise men. Not only do they look at how they disenfranchise men as well ,but they also look at how this widespread disempowerment present in society lends to increased racial tensions, rampant poverty, and rape culture. The ideas and attitudes surrounding gender are not simple either and often require a multidisciplinary approach in order to fully deconstruct and understand how, when, and why we as a society subscribe to ideas like traditional gender roles. It is only through this comprehensive understanding that we as a society can progress and begin to remedy the injustices that toxic gender expectations create.
Furthermore, and much more harmful to the field, there is this idea that gender studies centers around misandry (prejudice against men). This is simply not the case and arises from the fact that gender studies often look at the power structures that arise in society through gendered identities. While it is true that men do hold a place of privilege in most ,if not in all, societies, this privilege is not pointed out with the intent to engender prejudice but rather to raise awareness. If we, as a society, are aware of the power structures and attitudes that shape the way that we treat and think about others, then we as a society can work to better understand those attitudes and ultimately change them for the better. As was mentioned earlier, this is not only to better the place of women in society but also to erase the harmful gender expectations that often work to constrain men, as well.
Ultimately, the field of gender studies is an ever-evolving one that becomes increasingly complicated as more research is done into the attitudes present in our society. It cannot be ignored that the work done in this field is incredibly valuable, especially if, as a society, we hope to become more open, compassionate and understanding of our differences from one another whether that difference be in race, gender, or sexuality. However, one thing is for certain: gender studies is not work only to be done by women for women and is definitely so much more than blatant misandry.