Bridging the gender gap

Rebecca Thomas

Photo By David Robert

Once the director of the Temporary Protection Order Office at the Washoe County Courthouse, Rebecca Thomas is now a University of Nevada instructor in women’s studies and a graduate student in social psychology.

Is women’s studies a popular field of study?

It’s a popular field of study among women. It’s becoming much more popular among men because of masculinity studies, which are very often part of women’s studies department.

Is there a difference in the way men react in class from women?

Yes, and it’s not what people might think. The males in the class tend to be quite shy at the beginning. I think people would imagine that they would be very reactionary and object to some of the things that are being said, but they tend to be quite shy and not have a lot to say. But, towards the middle, the end of the semester, they get involved in what’s going on.

In a Women’s Studies 101 class, what would someone learn?

For instance, you would learn about women’s contributions to history that perhaps have been overlooked or not incorporated into traditional studies of history. You would look very specifically at some of the history of women—for instance, the suffrage movement. It’s unfortunate, but most freshmen in college have very little knowledge about that movement. You would learn about issues involving women such as the pay gap, the gender gap in pay, social construction of roles such as mothers and wives, issues that affect women, such as how women are portrayed in the media.

When you get The Question—"If there’s women’s studies, why shouldn’t there be men’s studies?"—what do you say?

That’s a great question, and the answer is, there is. It’s called Masculinities, and the Women’s Studies Department at UNR offers a masculinity course. And, … I’m teaching Gender and Society this fall and that’s all-gender, not just women.

But that’s not the same thing, is it? I mean, you’re talking about a women’s studies curriculum. There isn’t a men’s studies curriculum, is there?

Sure there is. It’s called the core curriculum.

All studies are men’s studies.

Come on—yes. Most studies in science and history, very much from a man’s point of view, which is why people don’t know about the suffrage movement. I mean, that’s 70 years in the history of this country that nobody learns about. So, yes, history is traditionally very much from a male point of view. You might want to put in what was said on Meet the Press on Sunday. [Former CIA analyst Reuel Marc Gerecht, commenting on the drafting of an Iraq constitution, said, “I mean, women’s social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy."] If that’s not an example of there being a huge male perspective in politics, I don’t know what is.