Gender matters

The messages from these women are unmistakable: gender matters

UQ's gender studies course has had a profound effect on the students who take it, and the teachers who deliver it.

From life-changing moments to the right mix of love and intellect, 10 voices describe how Gender Matters (GEND1010) has turned their notions of gender upside down.

Laura Roberts, Gender Matters lecturer and course coordinator

I feel exceptionally lucky to have had the opportunity to teach gender studies at UQ and I’ll always be eternally grateful to the senior women academics that entrusted me with this job.

Gender studies is a discipline that stretches across many research areas, which means that I get to work with colleagues and friends across the University who make the gender studies courses truly interdisciplinary and intellectually diverse. Perhaps the best part, however, is getting to know the students who shuffle and stroll into class each week, and come from all over the globe to study various degrees.

The conversations are sometimes difficult and uncomfortable and sometimes sad; but often the classrooms are filled with laughter and are always founded upon genuine care and concern for one another.

The students explore why and how gender, sexuality, race and class matter and each person contributes to the discussions starting from their own experiences and contexts.

Seeing how everyone, including myself, grows through these engagements with one another is a life-changing experience and so much more than a simple ‘transmission of information’ from student to teacher. We create supportive communities and friendships which I have no doubt will survive across the oceans and will last a lifetime.

It is these relationships and friendships that emerge from the courses which I think enhance each student’s experience of university.

When we are in these classes, even if it’s only for an hour a week, it is easy to imagine socially just and feminist futures.

What an honour it is to teach the future global leaders of this world. It leaves me excited for what these futures hold!

Fabiane Ramos, Lecturer in gender studies and linguistics

Last year, I was invited to be part of the gender studies teaching team and that was a turning point for me.

Being part of this program has profoundly moved me as a scholar and person because it truly made me question so many deeply taken-for-granted mind frames. This was different to other university courses I had been exposed to – because of the right mix of love and intellect (not in opposition but as entangled elements) that goes into this program.

Each week, I get to engage with incredible thinkers through our readings and classes. Each week I get to engage with incredible students and their diverse perspectives. Each week I learn, I am inspired and I am touched by what gender studies has to offer.

For me, this is no ordinary work: this is work that brings together hearts and minds while learning, teaching and learning again about feminisms; diversity; community; privilege; oppression; and about questioning our places in the world.

Being part of the teaching team in gender studies has changed me forever and I'm immensely grateful for this.

Samara Vassiliou, BA/Science

As an 18-year-old woman in 2018, I have never been prouder and more hopeful for my fellow girls around the world.

My name is Samara Vassiliou and I am a second year UQ student studying a Bachelor of Arts and Science.

Gender studies is a course that truly bridges the divide between lecturer and student. It develops a community between forward-thinking members from all different national backgrounds, based on the foundations of equality and support.

This course has made me more confident in voicing my opinion when I see injustice happening and cemented the idea that there is no better time to be a female in this world.

As Helen Reddy famously sang, “I am woman, hear me roar”.

I am ready to roar, and the world better be ready to hear it.

Archana Nathan, BA (Psychology and Literature)

As I stepped into my first ever gender studies tutorial, I kept my head down, profusely apologised for being late and scuttled across the classroom to an empty chair in the corner.

I was an international student lost in the ‘sea of whiteness’. Today, I’d like to introduce myself as Archana, a young Singaporean-Indian woman who has moved to Australia to study psychology with a minor in literature.

No, these labels don’t necessarily define me but I also no longer find the need to overlook or simplify the narrative of my difference for the convenience of others.

Gender studies has taught me that I should not be ashamed of the space I or my thoughts occupy in this world. Especially given what we know to be our reality is in fact a self-serving construct of the patriarchy.

Yes, you’ll learn what I mean in class. But also, please note that you are going to leave with more questions than answers.

That’s what is special about this course, you are going to question everything you knew, your upbringing, your identity and, for once, it won’t be a bad thing. 

Mikeala Wyngard, BA/ Political Science and International Relations

I am a coloured woman from South Africa that has been extremely lucky to have access to education. 

I have been at UQ for three years now and throughout this time, the one course that has truly helped me grow has been gender studies. To put it simply, gender studies has changed my life. 

The combination of the material and the people within our classes, created an environment of learning that I have not seen anywhere else or in any other course. The content and the emotions of everyone throughout different courses truly changed the socialised ideals I had believed to be true throughout my life.

To me, gender studies is about the way in which different aspects of people's lives intersect. By understanding that, it makes one realise how naive you are to socialised and ingrained problems that face other people – but also one’s self. I could not recommend gender studies more highly to anyone.

As well as being a course that changed my awareness of the gendered, racialised world, it was also like a therapy session that helped change the perception I had of myself.

Bridget Matthews, BA/Maths

I am Bridget Matthews, a 20-year-old female student from Brisbane and I’m studying a Bachelor of Maths and a Bachelor of Arts.

For me, studying gender studies as a subject transformed so many of the thoughts and feelings that I had about gender inequality into real concepts and theories.

I think so many women feel strongly about sexist encounters that occur within their own lives but may not have the means or understanding to articulate why they may be feeling that way. This is where subjects like gender studies can really provide the platform for open discussion and sharing of ideas, as well as providing theories behind gender issues and sexism.

There were so many times during this course that I would leave a discussion and think, ‘wow, I never realised how many people felt the same way as me and have shared my experiences’

I think that is the most valuable part of subjects like gender studies –the sharing of ideas and opening of minds with both males and females so that we can all move towards gender equality together.

Rani Tesiram, BA English/Professional Writing and Communications

I guess for me, gender studies really sort of broadened my views on a lot of different aspects of gender among other discourses.

I have met some wonderful people and had some incredibly engaging conversations because of this course, and I honestly recommend it to anyone looking for an elective or minor to do.

The conversations are so valuable and the space created by everyone in the course is probably one of the safest and most welcoming spaces I have ever been a part of.

I would like to see more males in the course, because it isn't just feminists talking about a 'feminist agenda', it's real people talking about real issues and how they impact everyone in this society (yes, that includes boys and men!).

Tomomi Furubayashi, exchange student

Studying gender at UQ totally changed my way of seeing the world.

I learned to question the idea of ‘normal’ and that it is okay to be myself. I come from Japan where gender inequality and stereotypes are strongly formed (indeed Japan was placed at 114th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Equality Rankings for 2017).

Before studying gender, I had never doubted the situation in front of me.

I believed that it was 'normal' for women to be required to be 'cute' and 'weak'; to always walk behind men, and give up our career.

I had always felt uncomfortable when someone told me I had to be more 'girly', but I believed that it was my fault. However, gender studies taught me to doubt these ideas perceived to be 'normal' in society and that it is okay to be myself.

Yasmin Larasati, BA Psychology and Gender Studies

My name is Yasmin Larasati. I'm a 22-year-old Muslim Indonesian who moved to the Middle East at age nine to be educated in a British school. That's when I learned English and consequently abandoned my mother tongue and many aspects of my culture.

I currently study psychology at UQ with a minor in gender studies, and this is what I learned from that: no, I did not learn to hate men in gender studies. We had other more pressing agendas to cover.

I walked away with two of the most powerful life-long lessons:

- The courage to question
- Reclaiming my pride in my identity as a woman of colour.

By questioning the legitimacy of the myths that are taught us – that we need to be a certain way – you come to a new-found appreciation for everything about you that does not make you the 'norm'.

Long story short, Gender Matters taught me that I matter.

Natasha Rivera Masso, Journalism/Arts 

I first took a gender studies course out of curiosity; feminist issues have always been a big interest of mine. Little did I know that this course would change me forever – in the best possible way! 

Being a 'mixed baby', both French and Puerto Rican, I always struggled with my identity, feeling like I had to choose between the two. Yet, I never felt completely accepted in either. I never dared to explore these uncomfortable parts of my identity, until I started gender studies.

Not only do we learn about powerful women changing the face of our society, we are also given tools to find out who we are as individuals, and to help us unpack these tough questions we have about ourselves and our place in the world. 

Thanks to the wonderful people I have met through gender studies, I can confidently say that I am a loud and proud European and Caribbean woman, with strong feminist values ready to take on the world!