How Wellesley Inspired Me to Be a Male WGST Major

By: Viraj Puri, 2017 Summer Term Student

After long hours of Google searches, texting friends, and asking my parents about possible ideas for summer plans, I still could not find something to occupy my time for the summer. Being the summer before my senior year of high school, I knew that I wanted to do something at a college to get me used to college life. But, I also wanted to do something completely out of my comfort zone, as it may be one of my last opportunities to do something atypical before college (aka the real world) hits.

Living next to the DC area, and having been to the Women’s March on Washington just a week prior, I was fascinated by the concept of “feminism” and was curious to learn more. Through a quick google search, I discovered there was an entire major dedicated to this field at my state university, sometimes titled “Women’s Studies,” or “Gender Studies,” or even as long as “Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.” I was shocked to find out that nearly every single university I looked up offered a major, minor, or at least some full length semester courses on this field. I was hooked!

I knew this journey was for me, and all that was left was finding a pathway there. I decided to challenge myself by taking an “Intro to Women’s Studies” course at a college over the summer to get a rigorous introduction to this field. I then decided to make the experience even more interesting, by taking the course at an all-women’s college: Wellesley! I was ready to grow both intellectually and socially.

The first day of the class, I was shocked to find out that, out of the 15 students there, I was the only male, let alone only high school student. I thought to myself, “These students here are college kids actually majoring in the field…I’m going to look like a fool in comparison.” This, however, turned out to be the course’s strong point: I was used to being in a public, high-school class setting of 40-50 students in a class, often comprised of mostly male students.

Now, however, I could enjoy a small round-table style class about this new topic with Professor Creef and 14 other academically-driven women.

The first topic, to me, was likely the biggest takeaway I had in the course: The underlying historical, political, and cultural context of the term “feminism.” The simplest definition of this term, is simply “the equality of all people, no matter their background.” This may dispel, as it did for me, the assumptions some of you out there carry about feminism and those who champion it.  From then on, my view on gender studies had completely changed, for the better.

What made my Summer at Wellesley experience even more amazing was the fact that Professor Elena Creef was, quite simply, a GOD. Professor Creef is the head of the Women’s Studies department at Wellesley, which already ensured she was super knowledgeable. However, she taught every class with such passion and enthusiasm, almost always making the topics relevant to us in some way, even if she was talking about 17th century sexism. She also gave us full autonomy on the projects/research papers we did, treating us like mature adults.

The course ran about two and a half hours, three times a week, and in a traditional social science class you may get bored really quickly. I can assure you, however, that the WGST 120 course was not only exciting and informative for all 150 minutes of it, but Professor Creef also did her very best to get every student involved.

We talked about a wide variety of topics from the underlying sociological factors as to why and how women have been sexualized over the years, such as magazines, simple slang, or the inherent sexism behind the marketing and implementation of action figures/dolls. Luckily, the movie, Wonder Woman, came out during the summer of 2017 (when I took WGST 120!) so Wellesley chartered a bus for us, and even paid for our tickets to go see the show! Afterward, we discussed the counter-role of a woman as the front-and-center of the movie, and the cultural factors behind it. Where else can you get a course like that?!

I would highly recommend taking an Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies course during Wellesley’s Summer Term program, no matter your age, gender, or academic experience. Taking a course at Wellesley, specifically a WGST course, will challenge you on so many different levels, and really push you in ways you would not expect. First, it introduces you to an entirely new outlook on life, and teaches you how women view the world in which they constantly face discrimnation, abuse, and objectification. Second, the experience of an extremely small classroom setting at a women’s liberal arts college is unbeatable. The discussions and opinions of learning from a group of students who were not only older than me, but grew up with an entirely different identity changed my outlook on the littlest of details, like ads on TVs. And finally, being one of the only males in a predominately women’s college means extremely clean men’s bathrooms! Taking a course through Wellesley's Summer Term program has not only changed my perspective of the world, but it has also made me want to pursue it in college. I assure you-- it will do the same for you.

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