GWS 202: Sexualities prepares students for life

By Jenni Kallenback, Staff Writer

Students with majors unrelated to Gender and Women’s Studies and Sociology may not consider taking courses in these disciplines. Taking classes like GWS/SOC 202: Sexualities, though, can equip students with the knowledge to better understand the world around them, whether in the context of society as a whole or in day-to-day interactions at school and work.

Megan Gargiulo, graduate student in the department of Spanish and Portuguese with a minor in GWS, works as a teaching assistant for GWS 202. She said she finds that the study of GWS naturally intersects with her research, examining prisons for women who were accused of sexual or moral crimes in Mexico in the 1700s.

“There’s intersections of gender, race and class in the crimes that were punished by these institutions, and they were institutions that were for women exclusively, so a study of sexuality is sort of inherently part of looking into the institutions I’m researching,” Gargiulo said.

She said the study of any GWS topic involves looking critically at ideologies put forth by religion, public education and other institutions in society. 

“We don’t question heterosexuality, it’s just sort of taken as the norm, or we don’t question these sort of identities,” Gargiulo said.

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Kaizha King, senior in LAS, made GWS her third major in addition to history and political science after taking courses in those areas that were cross-listed with GWS and SOC. She is also the undergraduate representative for GWS.

GWS 202 was one of the first courses King took after declaring her GWS major. She said she felt that the course was very eye-opening.

“It’s a course I think should be required for every adult, not just because you’re into GWS or into sociology, but because you learn so much in that course about relearning what you think is normal,” King said.

She took the course with professor Ghassan Moussawi and engaged with topics such as hierarchy, oppression, and heteronormativity.

“Knowing that knowledge can help you unlearn some of the toxicity from the patriarchy, which you should, but also just learning how to be a person and learning how to navigate the world as either a person who doesn’t identity on the (gender) spectrum or someone who does identify on the gender-normative spectrum,” King said.

Tosin Olowu, junior in Education, also took the course with Moussawi and appreciated how students felt comfortable disagreeing with one another.

“We even talked about this idea of the echo chamber and how some classrooms and some spaces are literal echo chambers where everyone is just repeating the same thing and that can happen so much in social justice-y areas too,” Olowu said.

Olowu has always been interested in social sciences because as an education major she said she feels she needs to be aware of social and political conditions that can affect the classroom environment. She said people in STEM majors or non-humanities majors should take courses like GWS 202 too.

“Whether it’s physics or business, most people are training to interact with some sort of greater population, and in order for you to successfully interact with that population you have to recognize the ways in which they’ve been left out of certain conversations,” Olowu said.

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Editor’s Note: This story previously misattributed a quote from Kaizha King to Ghassan Moussawi which has since been corrected. The Daily Illini regrets this error.