“We focused our attention on the center as well as the margin. We understood both. This mode of seeing reminded us of the existence of a whole universe, a main body made up of both margin and center.”
- Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, by: bell hooks
After a long, collaborative effort, N.C. Central University has become the state’s first public HBCU to offer a minor in women’s and gender studies. While some courses are already available, students can declare the minor starting this fall.
“I’m new to N.C. Central,” said political science professor, Yaba Blay with an enthusiastic smile.
“but it does strike me as interesting that with a long history of having a predominantly women student body that it has taken so long to get a women’s & gender and gender studies minor.”
On March 29, Blay delivered the inaugural lecture for the new minor entitled “Unforgivable Blackness: Skin Bleaching & the Politics of Skin Color.”
Blay is the Dan Blue endowed chair in the department of political science, where this fall she will be offering courses that question issues of white supremacy, patriarchy, and the black body politic as a part of the new women’s and gender studies minor.
According to the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Carlton Wilson, in the summer of 2013 a planning committee, including mass communication professor Shauntae White, was convened to discuss the possibilities of offering a women’s and gender studies program through the college.
After an initially productive meeting, followed by several years of stagnation, White assumed leadership as the coordinator and completed the proposal for the interdisciplinary minor.
Students must complete 18 credit hours in any of the special courses available in political science, history, english, theatre, health, and mass communication to secure the minor. The only two required courses are “Introduction to Women’s & Gender Studies” and “Black Feminist & Feminist Thought.”
Texts like “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center” by: bell hooks, will introduce students to language and ideas that place women at the center.
History professor, Baiyina Muhammad, was also a part of the committee and has been instrumental in the progress of the program. Muhammad said the quest for women’s studies goes back even further than 2013.
As early as 1979, there is documentation of substantial efforts to develop an interdisciplinary undergraduate degree in women’s studies here at NCCU.
It’s unclear what exactly has prevented, for decades, the establishment of a program.
Last fall, undergraduate women outnumbered men at NCCU two to one, according to collegeportraits.org. Some have expressed concerns that maybe because women make up the majority of the student body, a special focus on women just hasn’t been a priority.
“There is a question about the value of women’s & gender studies,” said Blay. “Just because you have a lot of women here doesn’t mean that they see themselves reflected in the classroom. That you can get an entire degree and never see the application of your degree to women, and be a woman, is a problem. So, while I think it is interesting, and perhaps even unfortunate, that it has taken this long, I’m excited that it’s finally here.”