Feminism and women’s rights have been hot topics to examine in the workplace and in the classroom. This might explain the rise of many Gender Studies programs all over the world. However, if your goal in to be a women’s rights advocate on the global stage, maybe you should consider a Master of International Relations instead.
The Value of Gender Studies
Gender Studies are critical to understand the different trajectories and power relations of men and women in our societies. These kind of Master’s programs are often interdisciplinary, combining several scholars and practices from sociology, psychology, cultural studies, literature, etc., which means they give you access to a much wider way of understanding the world.
Lately, Gender Studies have also started to analyze gender through an intersectional approach, considering how different social roles can affect a woman’s or a man’s place in society. Many programs incorporate authors and concepts from African-American and Queer Studies, for example, in order for students to understand that nobody fits neatly in just one identity box.
Indeed, in a world where women’s rights are once again being attacked, Gender Studies are a much-needed area of studies for reflection and for action. Why then is a Master’s of Gender Studies often the wrong choice for international women’s rights advocates?
A Masters of International Relations fille the gaps in learning for practitioners
If you want to be a women’s rights advocate, you aim to be a practitioner. That means you want to get your hands dirty, be on the ground, talk to decision-makers, and carve out a space in the global stage for your agenda. In order to do that, you will need many skills. Critical thinking is obviously one of them, and a Gender Studies program will enhance that particular skill.
However, many rights advocates will also need to familiarize themselves with international law, UN and regional mechanisms, key policy documents – such as the Beijing Platform for Action and the CEDAW – as well as learn how to lobby decision-makers. Although many Gender Studies offers in-depth analysis of gender roles, power relations and resistance movements in our societies, such programs do not often devote entire curriculum to learning about international human rights tribunals and the intricacies of international law devoted to women’s rights.
Oftentimes, Gender Studies programs are also not where key women’s rights advocates teach or guest-lecture classes. You might find more of them in International Development programs, for example, since that more closely relates to their work on the ground.
What is the best option?
In order to become a women’s rights advocate, you need both the skills that International Relations offer you and the theoretical knowledge of Gender Studies. There are many Master’s programs now that allow you to specialize in gender, while at the same time providing you with the necessary knowledge to work at the international level. If possible, such a Master’s program will always prove to be the best option.
In case you are unable to find such a program, always consider a Master’s of International Relations. At the same time, try to volunteer at a local women’s rights organization, join a feminist reading club, and go through the syllabus of Gender Studies subjects to find important references. Try to incorporate what you learn into your Master’s level coursework and contact professors that might help to incorporate that kind of interdisciplinary approach.
That way, by the time you graduate, you will be ready to undertake an advocacy role in women’s rights at a local and international stage