A woman grappling with mental illness begins to see troubling patterns in the yellow wallpaper in her bedroom. A different woman travels through time to rescue her father from a dark planet. One could find many ways to connect these women and their journeys, but English Lecturer Bethany Shaffer narrows it down succinctly in the title of her English course: “Badass Women.”
“This course is designed to challenge the stereotype of a typical badass,” Shaffer says. “Students quickly learn how the definition can change when the word ‘women’ is added.”
In the beginning of the course, students develop a working definition of what that term means; as their studies progress, the definition evolves.
“This class helped me come into my own as a womanist and taught me how to critique art through a feminist lens,” says Ruba Akkad, who is majoring in English. “Recognizing, amplifying, validating, and celebrating the voices of women through multiple forms of art for a whole semester was refreshing, to say the least.”
While the class population is generally dominated by women, about 30% of Shaffer’s students are male.
“I had never been academically questioned about the intersection of oppression or heard it spoken out loud by other people in general,” says Omar Lazcano, a political science major. “I’ve come to understand that the course is not just an overview of some of literature’s most exceptional female characters, but an analysis of the timeline of women’s liberation told by some of the English language’s most prominent minds.”