Why I Majored in Gender and Women's Studies

A. Ja'Nea James ’21

I am a pre-health student at Pomona. I have been studying the life sciences since high school. And after I graduate from Pomona, I will continue to study and explore the life sciences in medical school. I felt that I should spend my undergraduate years studying something that interested me and that would help me better understand the types of backgrounds my patients would come from. I chose to major in GWS because we learn about the various struggles that many marginalized communities face, as well as how gender plays a role in these struggles. We also examine the theories behind how these struggles manifest themselves, as well as why they exist to begin with, and if these theories are reflective of lived experiences. This would help me understand aspects of being a physician, like why patients do or don’t show up for appointments or why they choose a specific treatment plan, which would in turn help me find the best way to treat them that works with their situations. Overall, I believe that this major will prepare me for the social aspects of becoming a physician by keeping me more aware of the reality of my patients lives outside of the clinic or hospital and how that impacts their decisions, as well as advocate for other patients who feel that their physicians do not listen to them.

I enjoy the elective requirements and the GWS+ track option because they give students in the major a chance to study specific aspects of GWS that they enjoy. I choose to complete many of my electives with classes that pertain to Black feminism and womanism because it is the area of study within this major that I am most interested in. I plan to work closely with Black communities as well as continue to advocate for Black women’s reproductive rights from a physician’s perspective. I believe that these classes teach me about aspects of Black womanhood that I was never very conscious of, and now that I am conscious of it, I have more tools to better help my future patients.  

I am currently working on a project that examines Black motherhood in America. I plan on examining how it is viewed within the Black community as well as how media outlets, older articles, and political campaigns have portrayed it to the rest of America. I also plan on examining how inaccessible femininity is to Black women compared to white women, and how this impacts how black motherhood is portrayed to the rest of America. For my thesis, I hope to explore a similar topic, or how this topic impacts the reproductive rights of Black women.

Calder Hollond ’21

During the first semester of my freshman year, I took Language and Gender as my ID1 [Critical Inquiry seminar] and was introduced to the field of gender studies. This motivated me to start taking more GWS classes, and as I explored the field and loved all my classes, I decided to major. Throughout my Intro to GWS class, I enjoyed learning about foundational theories of the field and applying these theories to issues I am passionate about, like reproductive justice. I love how the foundations that I learn in my GWS classes can be combined with so many other studies, from critical Indigenous studies to environmental justice, to explore and understand different issues. I plan to work in women’s health, so I have focused on the way that GWS helps me consider the interactions of gender, sex, and sexuality with healthcare.

The amazing, tight-knit GWS community has made my major experience thoroughly enjoyable. Students often are concentrating in various other disciplines, and so each student brings a different focus that heightens classes’ exploration of different topics. The faculty is absolutely wonderful, and all the professors are genuinely interested both in the field and in forging connections with students. The department also brings in many important professors and researchers in the field to speak each year, and it’s common to be able to go to a talk by a guest speaker whose articles you have studied in class.

Through my GWS studies, I have had the opportunity to learn about broad topics in the field as well as hone in on certain topics for my papers and research. Last semester in my Queer & Feminist Theory course, I did my final project over creating a syllabus for a hypothetical course on reproductive justice. In doing so, I extensively researched different aspects of the topic, from environmental reproductive justice to reproductive technologies to motherhood and incarceration. As I hope to someday to work in the field of reproductive justice, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to research the topic, and I hope for my thesis to center around reproductive justice.