by Emma Shuster ‘18
In this day and age, the United States remains a place in which men as a whole have more power than women in society. As a result of male dominance, many women and young girls face acts of sexism and routinely feel discouraged and powerless. To help them feel empowered, worthy, and confident in the work they do in society, social studies teacher Beth Shevitz created the Women’s Studies elective, which began in the fall of 2016.
“Women’s Studies has made an impact on me because it has helped me understand a bunch of women’s issues that are not talked about a lot in everyday life,” said senior Caroline Hill. “The class has expanded on a lot of issues like the tampon tax and assault on college campuses that I think should be discussed more in the media.”
Shevitz bases her lessons on current events in the media and issues that women have been facing throughout history. The class has discussed a wide array of topics, including, health issues, stereotypes, self esteem, sexual harassment, and the workforce. “I like to stress to my students that women are not held to the same standards as men,” said Shevitz. “No one would tell a man ‘You don’t smile enough,’ or ‘Your pants are too tight, you know you want it,’ or ‘Your tank top is too revealing, therefore you must want sex.’” To address these prominent issues, Shevitz provides her class with articles, movies, songs, and discussions.
Aside from her teaching, Shevitz is the sponsor of EmpowHER, a club which encourages students to become activists in solving current women’s issues. Women’s Studies is more about education and raising awareness for issues, while EmpowHER allows students to take what they know and what they have experienced and do something about it. For example, Shevitz hopes to raise awareness about women’s issues and implement a teach-in for the International Day of the Woman in March.
Because sexual harassment and discrimination has always been a challenge in women’s lives, the hashtag #MeToo was created, inspiring women to know that they are not alone. Shevitz hopes that women will stop blaming themselves for these incidents and that they will be taken seriously.
Shevitz believes sexual harassment is an issue at Sherwood, and she encourages students to report any incidents of harassment on the school bullying form. Some students do not know that catcalling is a form of harassment, so informing boys and girls on this issue and what it looks like teaches people that they can prevent it and not be silent bystanders. Such issues and examples have been brought to Shevitz’s attention, and she believes that because of Women’s Studies and EmpowHER, female students are becoming more comfortable in presenting their stories to her.
“If students could take away one thing from Women’s Studies and EmpowHER, I would tell them to not accept the status quo. Change can be made that will bring equality for women. I hope that men too can develop a sense of pride to call themselves feminists. Society does not have to be the way it is. Women can be equal without taking away power from men or threatening men. Men and women can help make gender equality,” said Shevitz.