Intro to Women's and Gender Studies

Jun 2014

I think the course was pretty good. This was the first time I ever interacted or even read academic feminist texts. I was familiar with a lot of the ideas presented -- intersectionality (probably the biggest one emphasized) -- but being able to read what the authors said in their own words was refreshing. However, I'm not sure how to actually *feel* about the course itself. Women's and gender studies is a very broad topic, of course, and there is a lot you can say about it, and I feel that Professor Ciolkowski and Professor Nelson really did try to cover the breadth of what they thought their primary audience would find interesting. I'll get back to this later. A lot of the people in the lecture and discussion were very financially well-off white women, also presumably cisgender and heterosexual (though I may totally be wrong). While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, I agree with the May 23 reviewer, that it was rather sad to sit in a room with white women and discuss the issues in Push, a book that deals very intimately with the experiences of a Black woman. Though my group seemed to have more diversity, there was *still* whiteness that came through. I remember very clearly hearing a white woman use the term "colored people" in the 11th or 12th week -- seriously!? Thankfully someone called her out right away (though that person was not white) but I was very surprised my TA did not pick up on that. Getting back to the material -- most of it was related to women and women of color. While that doesn't sound bad for a Women's studies course, I would have appreciated to see discussion on trans or non-binary issues (we read one article and a book chapter that dealt with this in depth, the rest usually did not even mention trans or non-binary) especially considering that this course is "Intro to Women's and GENDER studies". To highlight the cis woman centric approach taken, we had a week called "Women's health". In no part did it mention trans women and the health issues they face. Instead, it was focused on the fight for abortion or the paternalism women faced while making choices about their own bodies. I repeat --- YES, these are important, but there really is no "Intro to Gender Studies" in this course at all. In addition, I'd have liked to see more stuff relating to queer theory. Although I know that this course is not for sexuality/queer studies, the department is now called "The Institute for Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies," and I think their intro course should reflect that. We had one week (which I thought was absolutely fabulous) dedicated to queer theory, but ideally I'd like to see the course take on more sexuality and gender studies, and less women's studies. Don't get me wrong. Women's issues ARE important. But the way this course is set up, we read a ton of stuff about intersectionality/double jeopardy/etc. While this is great, it only created an **illusion** of depth. Thinking back, hardly any of the articles really expanded on another. Instead, they repeated gave the same superficial (I thought) view of what Black/Latina women's issues are. This was especially prominent in the first few weeks, where we would read several articles on the same topic. While I could forgive this if each one took a different approach, or revealed something different, but what we got was a lot of the same material repeated over and over. Thus, I would propose to the professor that she sacrifice some of this artificial depth for actual breadth. Even if it was just one week talking about trans women/non-binary genders, I'd be delighted. Though really it should be more. Don't get me wrong, there were some fabulous readings (the ones about visual culture, and Discipline and Punish were great) and if you've never encountered any of the topics presented, the syllabus will be elucidating. Now, about the professors. Professor Ciolkowski is a nice woman. She is very enthusiastic and this is clear in her lectures. However, like they syllabus, she always tries to cover too much, sacrificing deep analysis for superficial summary and a few nuggets here and there. If she slowed down and tried to cover less -- seriously, the class is the exact same amount of time every time! -- then she'd be a fantastic lecturer. She obviously loves lecturing and always has a smile, but her lectures are just too fast and there is no way we could ask her to slow down, unless we want to miss half the lecture she planned!! Professor Nelson on the other hand, is a great lecturer. Her powerpoints are clear and follow her lecture, and give us a way to take in the information visually. She doesn't speak obscenely fast, and she almost always finishes the material planned. Her voice doesn't come across as enthusiastic, and (from what I gathered from her section and lecture) she is often out or not lecturing, but she is a fabulous lecturer when she DOES lecture. I also appreciated that she would often deliver the lectures about Black women's issues. My TA, Mina Khanlazardeh, was so sweet. She is a very easy grader but facilitates discussion very well. She often picks an issue she likes (though I think in the future she'll base her discussion choices off of the response analysis) and usually tries to not dominate the conversation. However, there are the times where she does. I remember she spent half of discussion reading something about Foucault and his discourses. But, aside from a few duds, I often looked forward to her discussion leading. She's obviously a very smart woman and it was pleasure to learn from her. She also has a lot of book recommendations, so try to write them down (if you can!). All in all, this course was pretty good. Would I take it again? Maybe. Depends on the syllabus. However, I would really recommend you re-consider taking this if you want an easy A, or even if you've read a decent amount of academic feminist texts. That being said, if you're interested in reading these feminist texts and interacting with them, the course isn't bad. Just be aware there are a lot of them.

May 2014

I'm a bit conflicted on how to review this course. On the one hand, this class more or less accomplished what its title suggests in introducing students to the major concepts and ideas within women's and gender studies. However, it all felt a bit shallow and artificial. We were forcefed buzzwords but never really dissected what they meant, and told half a billion times that intersectionality is the most important thing to ever happen to us but spent too little time thinking about why most of the people in our lecture hall were white, financially-privileged cisgender women (while I'm channelling my frustration, there was also very little talk of trans issues... in a gender studies class? what?). Readings were certainly informative, but they felt a bit long and excessive for an introductory level class. Further, it felt a bit like all the things I've been reading on social media (twitter and tumblr in particular) related to feminism were put in an academic package via 100 page articles and lectures. We sped through the material and just didn't really dig that deep into things I've learned from snippets I've read on the internet. The focus on intersectionality felt a little forced, ingenuine, and defensive. By this I mean that it seemed like this emphasis was more out of a fear of being branded as racist than a legitimate, honest care for antiracist politics. It was extremely ironic and tragic, I thought, to be sitting in a room filled entirely with white women on Columbia's campus discussing the major issues in Sapphire's PUSH. The course is certainly shortsighted in many ways which I'm certain are unpacked in higher-level WGS courses, but the majority of students who take this class won't go on to those classes so I am left disappointed and frustrated. Overall, I don't think I'd recommend this course unless you have to take it for the major or really just have not had any exposure whatsoever to feminism from your friends, which is certainly possible. Alternatively, I'd recommend spending time on tumblr and twitter to learn the basics of feminism and then taking Critical Approaches with Professor Tadiar.

May 2014

take this class, it'll make you a much better critical thinker and make you see the world in a really different way. the readings are all interesting and rewarding, i felt like i was learning things that were important to life in this class. one day a week it's lecture (in which no one really pays attention, to be honest...) and the other day is discussion section, which is really fascinating. we had a lot of really great (sometimes tense) discussions in my section.

Dec 2011

Professor Ciolkowski is fantastic!!! She has so much energy and passion for teaching, and she really cares about her students. I really liked the way she lectured. While she could have just summarized the readings for us, she instead added a level of depth to the readings by giving the class the context of each piece and then asking thought-provoking questions about the text and what sorts of structures of inequality it raises. I appreciated how much time, thought, and research she put into her lectures. I would highly recommend attending her office hours too. Professor Ciolkowski is very personable, and she loves getting to know her students. If you are struggling with writing a paper, she will take the time to help you sort out and clarify your ideas. As for Intro to Women's and Gender Studies, this was a great course. I definitely find myself thinking about gender, race, class, etc. in a different way then I did before. This is not simply a class about gender; Professors Ciolkowski and Jordan-Young make it very clear in the first lecture that the course is about intersectionality, or the merging of gender, racial, religious, socio-economic, etc. identities. This makes for a much more interesting course than a course that gives the general overview of famous feminist works and whatnot.

Oct 2010

I had Professor Ciolkowski for both Intro to Women and Gender Studies (Fall 2009) and for Women and Culture II FYS (Spring 2010). In the lecture format for the intro course, she taught with Professor Valenze as well. I'm not a bra-burning feminist in any sense of the word, but that's not what this class was about. It was a great intro course that covered not only women's rights, but also other ethnic, social, and cultural norms that are extremely problematic. Professor Ciolkowski is very intelligent and her train of thought is sometimes difficult to follow, but if you can extrapolate her main point you'll learn to really enjoy her lectures. I definitely learned a lot, and I learned to question everything around me. The class is extremely informative to say the least, and Professor Ciolkowski is very kind and understanding to her students, always willing to coordinate your schedule with hers if her office hours do not coincide with your availability. For FYS, it was obviously a smaller format, and the discussion was to be mainly held by the students. However, Professor Ciolkowski definitely had an idea of where she wanted the class to go with our discussion and tried to keep us on track. She does tend to talk a lot, but that's because she's obviously very passionate about the subject matter. Needless to say, I would recommend her to anyone!

Feb 2008

Professor Tadiar co-taught this course with Professor Alice Kessler-Harris and two TA's, but she was by far the most interesting, engaging, and articulate lecturer of the four. She has a knack for presenting complicated material in a very clear, succinct, and yet nuanced way. She is also a very nice and very approachable person outside of class, if you can get over your initial awe at her brilliance. She is easily one of my favorite professors at Columbia.

Jan 2008

Prof. Tadiar is easily one of the most intelligent and articulate professors at Columbia. She knows her material inside out, but she is good at letting students explain what they think about the material, and engage with each other. Possibly my favorite class at Columbia and I am a senior. I would recommend any class with her. She is an extremely fair grader. She co-taught Women's and Gender Studies with Prof. Kessler-Harris and she definitely outshone Prof. K-H, which is no easy task because she is also quite good. This isn't necessarily an easy class but if you work hard, she will notice.

Dec 2005

Bedford is very considerate and was a great section leader. The class was somewhat disorganized, more a function of it being team-taught than anything else, but Professor Bedford was always well-prepared for class and willing to field questions, even those that are critical of her arguments. Some of the freshmen apparently found her intimidating, but I think that reveals more about their ideas of how a female professor should behave than it does about Professor Bedford. I daresay many of them would benefit from a bit of her self-confidence... The reading load for the class is really quite manageable, much less than you would have for a political science course, and many of the readings are pretty easy to follow. All told the class is a fun diversion from more traditional courses, and it is interesting to see how people write academically about the gender issues we have to deal with every day.

Nov 2005

I can't believe the other reviewer called Prof. Bedford a "feminazi," and I think the fact that this person would use that incredibly offensive term at all really says something about how seriously you should take his or her review. Now, onto my review. Take. This. Class. Even if you are just thinking about it, if you are even just vaguely interested, even if you don't think it's anywhere near your major: this class is life- changing, and Professor Bedford is fabulous. Intro to W&G Studies will change the way you think about not only sex, gender, and identity, but also who you are as a person, how you think about other people, and how you think about the world. Yes, there is a lot of reading, but it's damn well worth it: the reading is absolutely fascating, and let's face it, you don't have to do all of it. The lectures are brilliant, engaging, well-planned and timed (NEVER ran over), and discussion with Prof. Bedford was always interesting and open: I never felt restricted about expressing my opinion. Bedford is very open and honest, but not a pushover; if you are talking nonsense, or not making any kind of salient point, she will let you know. She is a very fair grader, in my opinion. And her English accent is delightful. :> She is a Mellon postdoc, and probably won't be here for too much longer, so take this class while she is still co-teaching it with Hirsch! (who is good as well but not as fun, in my opinion.)

Apr 2005

Honestly, this class changed my life. Granted I already had a strong interest in the topic, but even if you don't I promise you will get so much out of this course. The readings were great, although the load was pretty heavy. The class was taught by Hirsch and Allison Wylie, as well as two TAs, and each of them lead a discussion section. Comparisons among students led most of us to believe that the grading style varied among them. Hirsch was my section leader, and I think she was the hardest grader (she is also a comp lit prof). However, I felt her high expectations encouraged those of us in her section to step up (or at least I felt that way!). Discussion sections were rewarding and extremely helpful because the class was large and there was little time for discussion. Overall, an amazing class, and Hirsch is a great prof.

Jan 2005

TAKE THIS CLASS!! I can't emphasize this enough. I loved this class. The choice of readings is especiall excellent. While there is focus on standard gender issues, the texts go much further and examin other relevent issues such as race and class. This class is team taught and the organization is a little so- so. That would be only grip with the class and it's minor. So I remind you: TAKE THIS CLASS!!

Jan 2005

TAKE THIS CLASS!! I can't emphasize this enough. I loved this class. The choice of readings is especiall excellent. While there is focus on standard gender issues, the texts go much further and examin other relevent issues such as race and class. This class is team taught and the organization is a little so- so. But that would be only grip with the class and it's minor. So I remind you: TAKE THIS CLASS!!

Nov 2003

The articles and topics are incredibly interesting. If you skip a few lectures, don't worry about it- I hardly took notes in them and did fine. However, be sure to read at least a few of the assigned readings each week. You HAVE TO participate in the discussion section for her to like you.. if you do that, you'll for sure get an A. Be warned, she's a bit out there. Her "frazzledness" drove me crazy at times! But just deal, it's an easy and really really good course.

Nov 2003

the course is co-taught with Amanda Swarr and was very interesting... weekly discussion section, too... overall good class... the readings are very interesting, but the lectures can drag on at points... the lectures are given by Lila, Amanda and the 2 TAs

Jan 2003

I agree with the previous reviewer - stay away at ALL costs! Run, don't walk, from this self-important, uninteresting woman! Her entire workload consists of her own writings which rarely relate in any way to the class itself. STAY AWAY!