Cathy Li | Studying toward a world with and for women

Stay plugged into Penn with this daily newsletter rounding up all of the top headlines from the DP, 34th Street, and Under the Button. Free.

34th Street Magazine's "Toast" to dear old Penn is a Sunday morning newsletter with the latest on Penn's campus culture and arts scene. Free.

"Penn, Unbuttoned" is Penn's only intentionally satirical newsletter, giving you your weekly dose of comedy from Under the Button. Free.

The week's top stories from the DP and beyond, meticulously curated for parents and alumni, and delivered into your inbox every Sunday morning. $

Quaker Nation is the Daily Pennsylvanian’s weekly sports newsletter that keeps you up-to-date on all things Penn sports. Get it in your inbox every Friday. Free.

Recruiter’s Row is the Daily Pennsylvanian’s biweekly recruitment newsletter that keeps you up-to-date on all things employment related. Get it in your inbox every other Wednesday. Free.

Subscribe to get the week's top stories from The DP and beyond, meticulously curated for parents and alumni, delivered directly to your inbox.

Tales and Takes | Penn should encourage its students to take a Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies class

Can you feel it? The wash of admiration that fills the room when an M&T student announces what they are studying, or the approved nods of their peers when a Whartonite proclaims he is studying finance? And of course, since dual degrees are especially lauded, triple points for those who have ever even considered transferring into one. 

Penn hyperfixates on certain schools and majors. The emphasis on Big Tech or the desire to go into consulting after graduation is nothing new. In the most recent , consulting is listed as one of the top two industries students go into after college. 

On one hand, Penn’s student body’s gender demographics are becoming more equal. Last year, Wharton surpassed a  

So, yes, Penn was one of the firsts to admit, but let’s not forget that the reason why we have the Penn Women's Center is not because of the University’s moral imperative, but due to the impressive work of student activists requesting for a safer space for women on this campus. So as we celebrate our victories, we must also deeply analyze what we can be doing more. 

This field of study opens a door for students to critique this integral part of Penn’s culture and history, and it provides us with a lens to better scrutinize the salient political, social, and economic issues of our time. 

Moreover, because the patriarchy precedes the existence of colonialism and capitalism, studying it is vital to understanding the sociopolitical context of today. 

The field of study can also be cross-referenced with other fields of study, for example, international affairs. Being a marginalized gender identity in one country does not mean that they would have the same experience in another. And like with most majors in the humanities, we can examine human relationships and how they evolved over time. 

Perhaps society could benefit from students making more active, collective approaches to understanding women and marginalized identities. Fueled by this notion, we could reach more profound conclusions and solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues. Then, we could commit to reforming our systems: How would we provide women with better medical treatment, when we do not disregard their pain as hysteria? 

Perhaps we would also then have more empathy for all marginalized identities in the workplace, or advocate better for victims of assault and battery. How do we reconcile the individual roles of marginalized identities with the roles of the institutionalized systems that perpetuate oppression and discrimination? 

Get our newsletter, The Daily Pennsylvanian, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

I concede that there are feminist thinkers that alarm others when it comes to studying gender — but the exceptional thought is that feminism is and has consistently evolved to ground itself in its present reality. There exists consensus that the movement leans left; often taking gender and women's classes is conflated with pushing a particular political agenda. But I refute this — instead I am advocating for students to examine the deep history of the patriarchy, and decide for themselves what they make of it. Students investing themselves in this field of study could benefit from the bulk of theory necessary to deeply analyze the way they interact with the systems that dominate their worlds. Reading Judith Butler, Angela Davis, bell hooks, and the rest of the dubbed “feminist canon” could provide students with the right tools to upend long-established bigotry and make them better activists and leaders. 

Compiled masses of literature, creative nonfiction, and cultural theory can point to and help us dissect the complicated history of what being a marginalized gender identity is like in America and the worlds beyond the United States. Partaking in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Department, even if it means taking just one class, will lead us to recognize the restraints of our patriarchy, what it perpetuates, and how we can strive to be a better society by uplifting our marginalized communities. All we have to do is step up and sign up. 

is a College sophomore studying English and design from Brooklyn, N.Y. Her email address is