By Dr. M. Shadee Malaklou, Assistant Professor and Chair, Women’s and Gender Studies; Director of the Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center
This year, the Women’s and Gender Studies department opened a new Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center to complement the curricular revisions we are undertaking to advance Berea College’s great, historical commitment to gender equity. Both the new curriculum and the Center’s programming will re/imagine sex and gender as categories of difference, hence making room for all articulations of sex and gender, beyond the binary of male/man and female/woman, to be represented at Berea College. Further, both the addition of the new center and our curricular changes will emphasize that sex and gender are social constructs that intersect with a wide range of other experiences, like race and dis/ability.
It is my hope and the hope of my new colleagues—Dr. Meredith Lee and Dr. Jakeya Caruthers—as well as the hope of the Women’s and Gender Studies advisory committee that met biweekly during the Fall 2019 semester, and the hope of Provost Linda Strong-Leek, that together, these change will attract the burgeoning number of gay, trans, queer, and non-binary students who have flocked to Berea’s campus in recent years but who routinely report that they do not feel represented at the College.
As part of the changes we are undertaking, we are rebranding the flagship Peanut Butter and Gender series, now named “Gender Talk.” When thinking about the series, we wanted a name that would communicate some gravitas, to reflect the heavy lifting that our invited guests are doing to re/imagine sex, gender, and sexuality. At the same time, we hoped that the name change would forge some—what feminist theorist Karen Barad describes as—“common-unity” with similar programs on campus, like the “Truth Talk” series hosted through the Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education.
We are also introducing new programming. Last fall, the center hosted a “coming out” door on Draper quad, in collaboration with Gender Inclusive Housing, for National Coming Out Day; a photo series about inclusive pronoun usage for Mountain Day; a workshop series for faculty and staff about inclusive pronoun usage; a teach-in and panel discussion to think about how sex, gender, and the movement for black life intersect; and an ‘open house’ to inaugurate the launch of our center. This semester, the Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center will introduce a new series called “Evening with an Activist,” in which student activists share their stories and strategies with the campus community.
You can also expect some programming from the department. This semester, we relaunched our monthly colloquium series. Our February colloquium event featured a timely conversation about upcoming changes to the curriculum. Other colloquium events this semester and next will feature Women’s and Gender Studies alumni; feminists who merge creative business practices with social justice activism; and present and former faculty who can speak about the history of gender equity at the college, as well as the history of the Women’s and Gender Studies department specifically.
I hope you will agree that we have some exciting changes in store. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram (@wgsberea) or subscribe to our monthly newsletter (email email@example.com) to stay up to date with our programming and curricular revisions!