Ashley Lebesco: Women’s studies program symbolically stiffened

Ashley Lebesco is a senior history major. This is an op-ed submission and does not reflect the views of The Temple News. I am a feminist. For a long time, I did not know this

Ashley Lebesco is a senior history major. This is an op-ed submission and does not reflect the views of The Temple News.

I am a feminist. For a long time, I did not know this part of myself, and for a shorter time, I would not admit it openly. As a history major and women’s studies minor, I often joke with people that admitting you are a feminist today is at times akin to admitting you were a communist during McCarthyism.

Feminism is not even accepted as a necessary social movement by some people, so admitting you have become so involved with the movement that you identify yourself by it, quite frankly, befuddles people.

People become even more befuddled when I tell them I am a women’s studies minor. Many people question me, “What could you possibly do with that?”

After all, it is not a core program that is offered at other colleges and does not have as many students enrolled compared to other majors, such as business or criminal justice.

Even with all of this reasoning for the collapse, the women’s studies program is crucial to the diverse liberal arts education that Temple prides itself on.

When I first started my pursuit in higher education four years ago, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. By luck or by fate, I ended up in an Intro to Women’s Studies course.

The way that I viewed the world was forever changed.

I cannot explain everything that I have learned and discovered since that first class, but let me attempt to convey to you how much I have changed for the better because of the classes I’ve taken.

For current women’s studies majors and minors, all of the logistics of the program will stay the same, such as requirements, degrees and advisers. However, we will no longer have a home.

The program will be included in the sociology department. Space is crucial in being recognized as a legitimate academic discipline. Having an official space where we can all congregate and feel like we belong is imperative in maintaining our academic community.

Symbolically, the women’s studies community is being splintered apart. Without a director as representation, we are figuratively less important than other academic disciplines. By not being recognized as a separate program, we are left to feel like our classes are not encompassing enough to be recognized as a separate entity.

Let me assure you that women’s studies is an encompassing, diverse, challenging and a life changing program that has affected me for the better.

Many believe the goal of college is simply to obtain your degree and get a high-paying job. For me, college is about expanding myself as a human being, and feminism has been the tool I have used to accomplish that goal.

I no longer look at people and see them for their gender, race, nationality, sexuality, religion or ethnicity. Feminism has enabled me to look past the outside categories that everyone is forced to learn growing up in this society, and I actually see people now for who they really are.

I no longer “tolerate” people. I accept them, and furthermore, appreciate them for all of their differences and similarities.

Feminism has enabled me to become more vested in this world, and therefore, more charitable. I care about this world, and I actively want to improve it. This has resulted in me donating to more charities and keeping myself more informed on current events in the world.

Every day when I wake up now, I want to challenge myself to be a better person than the day before when I went to bed.

What worries me about this recent women’s studies program cut is that future students of Temple will never have the opportunity to reap the benefits of feminism that I have.

I am a feminist. I am a GLBT ally. I am an advocate for reproductive rights. I am pro-choice. I am seeking to destroy the rape culture we live in. I am comfortable and unapologetic about my sexual desires. I am working to move beyond any pre-conceived notions or bias. I am aware of racism, and I work to analyze and move forward from it. I am a social activist. I am an optimist. I am a realist. I am a rationalist. I am a dreamer. I am unafraid to speak the truth.

I have also found the courage to speak up about the program cut even though I could face repercussion for it. I could not claim any of this without the women’s studies program.

Ashley Lebesco can be reached at


  1. This comment is in regards to the piece “Ashley Lebesco: Women’s studies program symbolically stiffened.” I just wanted to point out that although the women’s studies program will no longer be its own, it makes perfect sense to encompass it within the sociology department. I am a sociology major, and sociology gender courses often overlap with women’s studies courses. Furthermore, everything Ms. Lebesco has learned from women’s studies I have learned from sociology. Sociology has inspired me to be a feminist, to advocate reproductive rights, and to help destroy the rape culture we live in. Sociology has taught me to become aware of racism and inspired me to become a social advocate. Although I’m sure many women’s studies majors are distraught by their program being incorporated into the sociology department, I think it is important to realize that the reason for doing so is because the two fields are so intertwined. Just as well, there are many sociology professors whose specific concentration is in gender studies. Sociology professors concentrate in various topics, such as poverty, race, or research. There are sociology professors who are passionate and dedicated to the topic of women’s studies, and in no way will this transition inhibit anyone from learning about feminism and social advocacy! I’m actually quite happy that my major is acquiring more women’s studies courses, as I am eager to take them and have them count towards my degree!

  2. No one really cares. While you’re worrying about representation and writing crap like “I am working to move beyond any pre-conceived notions or bias,” the students studying for practical degrees will be making money.

  3. Doesn’t Chris just wonderfully sum up why Women’s Study should be given its own space?

    Because it’s actually Humanity Study. When Chris is up to his neck in cash and needs someone to love rather than to use to make money, s/he might remember that.

  4. @Rachael I do agree that many aspects of sociology and women’s studies intertwine. I am estatic that you have found your way to feminism and activism through your study of sociology. However the issue here is that the women’s studies/lgbt studies students have no choice in this decision. We are being enfolded into a department. While you might be estatic to now have these classes count towards your degree, we are simply being marginalized within a department. While there are sociological aspects that overlap the studies, women’s studies covers so much more than sociology. To now determine that we are just an aspect of sociology is quite frankly heart breaking to all involved with this program.
    @Chris You are certainly entitled to your opinion. I am not asking that everyone support the women’s studies program or take classes within the program, I am simply asking that everyone respect that ALL students at Temple University have the right to study what they want for whatever reason they want. If your goal is to get a degree and make money then no one should try to challenge that. My goal for college is to become a better person and expand my horizons. Since we both pay tuition we should be able to get exactly what we want from Temple. I do not believe it is fair for me to pay just as much tuition as someone who has a program or department or building dediciated to their area of study while mine is being enfolded into a department in a marginal way.
    @clare we are sociology, history, humanities, anthropology, science, political science, law, and so many more areas of academics! This is why we need to be seperate, there are too many different aspects covered within our program to simply be put into one encompassing program. Thank you for your support:D
    Thank you to all of you for taking the time to comment on this.

  5. Ashley,

    While I appreciate you informing people how much you have grown, there are some issues I have with this. First and most importantly, I totally disagree with your stand on Pro Choice. Work in our office for 6 months and see the horrible excuses for females who get pregnant multiple times and use abortion as damn birth control! Sickening how these females, who are supposed to be nurturing by instinct, don’t blink an eye when killing a baby. Abortion should only be used in strict cases when a female is raped and the mental trauma is too much for one to bare. It’s especially sickening to someone in my medical situation who is having trouble conceiving a child and yet these women literally kill theirs. If you are grown enough to lay down with a man, you’re grown enough to give birth to the child resulting it that act. If you can’t afford it, there are millions like me who want the love of a child and have trouble or can not have a child altogether. Sign the child away to an adoption agency. You talk about changing the world, well one of those millions of abortions could have grown to be a person to help change this world. As for your bit about seeing past categories, you seem to have only placed people into a new one: Feminists and Non-Feminists. I think the fact that you learned something about Women in the classroom is ok, but those sort of things should be Electives and not a Core Program. You should live life and not depend on a textbook to formulate your stand on being a woman.

  6. @danielle again I will say you are entitled to your opinion. If you personally do not want to be involved with women’s studies classes or programs then I do not believe you should. I am not advocating that any of these classes be required for ALL students as part of the core program or curriculum. What I am saying that as a student who is paying tuition I have a right to have the kind of education I want and to decide the major and minor I am interested in and not have this dictated to me. We need diversity in the academic world and trying to fold everything into a few departments works against that ideal. Just because someone does not want to be involved with the program does not mean it should not exist. Temple is a liberal arts univeristy which means that students should have a wide range of programs to study from, not marginalzied classes within a department. I am not placing people as feminists or non-feminists, in fact if you read my witing carefully you will see I am just advocating that the women’s studies program stay a program and have their own academic recognition and space. I am not asking for anything more than we deserve as students at a liberal arts university.

  7. @Ashley,

    I understand that and I believe you should get the most out of your education. I just don’t personally believe that program is worth being a dedicated program. I just don’t personally see the value of how you can take that and make it into a career. It’s helpful in strengthing your knowledge for other areas of study but that’s nothing an elective can’t achieve as well. If you can find a just cause and make your case then I hope you do so for people in your spot. I just don’t see any career except becoming a teacher of Women’s Studies where this kind of program would be warranted.
    Also Ash said you didn’t understand my focus in my prior reply. The reason I made abortion my first point of focus was not only because of how wrong it is but also you made a point of stating how all your views came from these women studies. My point is textbooks and so called “stats” in a text can only be taken so far. Real world observation is what you should focus on, you may change your views when you see the horror that happens outside.

  8. @danielle while women’s studies, like any academic discipline, does have a focus on text, the program does concretely connect to the real world. The recent uproar over places like Planned Parenthood (that provide many other services besides abortion) possibly being cut off from funding by the government relates to reproductive health. While I understand that you are firm in your pro-life stance as I am firm in my pro-choice stance, I do want you to understand that reproductive health advocacy is about more than just abortion. Reproductive health also concerns accessibility of other health services for every woman such as pap smears, contraception, vaccines, mammograms, pelvic exams, exct. Career wise I believe in doing what you love and hopefully finding a career that fits that passion. Some students come to school with the sole focus of a guaranteed high paying career. As I mentioned earlier they have that right since they are paying tuition. My point is whether you come for a career or simply just to learn, when you are paying tuition you have a right to dissent. Just as others have the right to disagree with my dissent.

  9. Great piece, Ashley! I think you brought up a really important point in acknowledging that space is a key aspect of representation. I am also a women’s studies minor and I’m afraid that taking the space from interdisciplinary programs is really going to strip them symbolically of their legitimacy and end up diminishing their contributions and eventually cause the extinction of the programs.

  10. I enjoyed reading your article (and the comments). I find myself feeling the same way you do about other departements which may also face the same fate of the Women Studies department. It is interesting to read about how people view this issue.

    Higher education is not what it used to be and it is clear that their only concern is the “for profit” industry college has transformed into.

  11. @Kierra I appreciate that you have read the article and have enjoyed the discussion in the comments. I was saddened when I heard that other programs were being cut as well as women’s studies. While some of what I have written here applies to the other programs as well, I really hope that students involved with those programs will have their voice be heard! Profit is important in higher academic institutions, if there’s no money they cease to exist. I do not believe that this was an issue regarding profit, if anything the university might stand to lose tuition from students who decide to transfer or not apply at all. I think the treatment of higher education as simply a means to get a career and make money rather than a focus on learning just to learn speaks to a trend within the world, I do not think it is exclusive just to higher education institutes or students.

  12. Less important than other majors? Absolutely! Compare women studies to math, science, business and computer science. Women studies majors generally come out of college too hypersensitive to survive in a world that’s half male. Most of these women will end up working part-time, become bloggers and complain.

  13. @cabaret voltaire My writing wasn’t to “rank” the different majors and programs. But to simply make a program an aspect of a department is not recognizing that area of study as a legitimate academic area. As I have mentioned in previous comments if you do not personally find value or worthiness in the women’s studies program, I am not arguing that you should. Again my point is if I am attending Temple University for a liberal arts education and paying just as much tuition as everyone else, than I have a right to voice my opinion about the academic programs and I am entitled to the type of education that I want.

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