Gender and Cultural Studies

You can find the final papers from my two Gender and Culture Studies classes here:

Some reflections on my experience with Gender and Culture Studies

Gender and Cultural Studies (GCS) was/is a Master's degree program offered at an institution where I used to work.  I took two courses in the program and really enjoyed them.  I connected with a number of the faculty and students, and for years I meant to apply to the program.  But I never did.

I think that was for a number of reasons.  I was busy with personal and professional issues, and investing a lot of energy into both.  I felt ambivalent and nervous about starting a graduate program.  It also felt like there was no hurry, that I could always get to it later.

But the biggest reason was that something was missing, something I'm still not sure how to describe.  The easiest way would be to say that the program was too theoretical, too abstract.  In general, that's true about culture studies; it is often far removed from day to day existence.  But that's too simplistic in this case.  I knew many students who found ways to apply their studies to real world issues, and a number of the faculty were quite supportive of their efforts.

I think the best way to say it is that the GCS lens was too narrow and too removed from the world for me.  It's not that it couldn't be applied to real life, but that it felt like a stretch to apply it to real life, and there was always a sense that the foundational theories were based in an academic universe only tangentally related to lived human experience.

But I don't think that description is quite right, either.  I found GCS very enlightening, and the two classes I took informed my ideas and perspectives in a lot of ways.  I feel like any education would be deepened by including some foundational ideas in cultural studies.  The ability to step back and critically examine even the most established social structures and dynamics is powerful, and something we should all do more often.  I felt like GCS really helped me improve my critical thinking skills.  In that way it shares a lot in common with the Master's I finally decided to pursue, Critical and Creative Thinking.

Maybe the best way to think about what was missing from GCS is to think about what I find so exciting about CCT.  Where GCS offered a powerful chance to develop critical thinking skills, the process seemed largely without context, existing in a realm separate from "real" life.  CCT, on the other hand, focuses on critical thinking skills, but even though they are informed by theory and academics, they are also directly connected to both complex social issues and individual life experiences.  Similarly, GCS had a very narrow lens for looking at the world, overwhelmingly emphasizing theoretical and critical analysis for deconstructing issues.  CCT includes that critical thinking focus, but broadens it by including creativity, reflection and community.

In many ways, I see my experience with GCS as a bridge to finding CCT.  I enjoyed the thoughtful, critical analysis of GCS, and the way it challenged us to examine our assumptions, which I also enjoy about CCT.  But CCT combines that perspective with discussions and insights about the human condition and real world social conditions, which rounds out the picture and enriches the critical analysis.

All that said, I really got a lot out of my GCS courses, and am grateful for the opportunity to have taken them.