Message from the Chair and Director
The Women’s and Gender Studies department opened a Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center in Fall 2019 to accompany some of the curricular revisions we are undertaking. These changes, which will re/imagine how the major and minor operate, as well as what is taught in the introductory class and capstone, will reflect current trends in the field and current offerings at our benchmark schools. It is our hope, and the hope of the Women’s and Gender Studies advisory committee, and the hope of former Provost Linda Strong Leek, that together, these changes—the introduction of a new center as well as new course offerings—will attract the burgeoning number of gay, trans, queer, and non-binary students who have flocked to Berea College in recent years but who routinely report that they do not feel represented on campus.
To be sure, our work on behalf of these students will not obviate or obscure the important work that is still needed and which we are still doing to think about women. Indeed, as a department, we are under no illusions about a post-women moment, not least of all because there are still structural inequities in place that circumscribe women’s lives and the lives of their children and families. Women (especially, women of color) still experience a pay gap and the glass ceiling, and they still experience sexism and assault, to say nothing of the intersectional ways in which women experience oppression.
As part of the changes we are undertaking, we are re-branding the co-curricular programming—like the Peanut Butter and Gender series, now named “Gender Talk”—that previously transpired through the department, but which will now be hosted through the center. When thinking about the series, we wanted a name that would communicate some gravitas and which reflects the heavy lifting that our invited guests are doing to re/imagine gender. At the same time, we hoped that the name change would forge some ‘common-unity’ with similar identity studies programming on campus, like the “Truth Talk” series hosted through the Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education.
Some of the scholars that we brought to campus in Fall 2019 for the Gender Talk series include: Appalachian poet of queer sexuality Savannah Sipple (September 2019); scholars of black queer genders and sexualities Marquis Bey and Tabias Olajuawon Wilson (October 2019); scholar of Latinx travesti culture Pedro DiPietro (November 2019); and scholar of gender-based violence in South Africa Tiffany Willoughby-Herard (December 2019). In Spring 2020, we hosted Mark Rifkin (February 2020), who spoke about queer indigenous kinship. Unfortunately, we were unable to host other Spring 2020 Gender Talk speakers due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This Fall 2020, we (virtually) hosted Judy Tzu-Chun Wu (August 2020), who spoke about how Asian American women can forge political coalitions with other women of color; trans historian and filmmaker Susan Stryker (September 2020), whose talk addressed the relationship between histories of trans resistance, structural police violence, the criminalization of trans lives, and incarceration; and scholar-activist Che Gossett (November 2020), who elaborated black queer and trans aesthetics as a radically abolitionist antidote to racial capitalism. Next Spring 2021, we will host Jasmine Syedullah (March 2020), who will address the fugitive feminism of Harriet Jacobs; Amy Brandzel, who will intervene in white supremacist claims of making America great again (again); and Glen Coultard (April 2020), who will speak about indigenous feminisms.
In addition, and in an effort to engage the robust scholarship that is already underway at Berea College, the Gender Talk series will host a respondent for each talk. During the 2019-2020 academic year, Dr. Meredith Lee (Women’s and Gender Studies), Dr. Gwendolyn Ferreti (Latinx Studies), Dr. Gale Greenlee (English), and Dr. Broughton Anderson (Art/Art History) responded to the generative remarks that our speakers prepared. This year, Dr. Lauren McKee (Asian Studies/Political Science) Dr. Jessica Klanderud (African and African American Studies), Dr. Jakeya Caruthers (African and African American Studies/Women’s and Gender Studies), and Dr. Mireille Pardon (History) will be among the Berea College faculty to respond to speaker remarks.
You can view last year’s and this year’s Gender Talk calendars, as well as videos of past Gender Talk events by navigating the panel to the right (or by clicking this link).
Some of the other programming that the center hosted during Fall 2019 semester include: a “coming out” door on Draper quad, in collaboration with Gender Inclusive Housing, for National Coming Out Day, (October 2019); a photo series about inclusive pronoun usage for Mountain Day (October 2019); a workshop series for faculty and staff about inclusive pronoun usage (October 2019); a teach-in and panel discussion to think about how sex, gender, and the movement for black life intersect (November 2019); and an ‘open house’ to inaugurate the launch of our center (November 2019). In Spring 2020, the Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center introduced a new series, which we are affectionately calling “Evening with an Activist,” in which student activists share their stories and strategies with the campus community. You can view the Evening with an Activist series’ calendar and event descriptions by navigating the panel to the right (or by clicking this link). Please note that the Evening with an Activist series is paused for the Fall 2020 semester due to COVID-19 restrictions for gathering on campus. This Fall 2020, the Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center introduced a new series to celebrate PRIDE month in October, featuring workshops on how to collect and tell LGBTQPIA+ oral histories, as well as on how to forge queer community between the college and the community, and the aesthetics of LGBTQPIA+ protest and organizing.
You can also expect some programming from the department. The Women’s and Gender Studies department relaunched its monthly colloquium series in Spring 2020. Our February 2020 colloquium event featured a timely conversation about pending changes to the WGS curriculum. Unfortunately, the other Spring 2020 colloquium events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Future colloquium events will feature WGS 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 WGS 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 firstname.lastname@example.org) to stay up to date with our programming and curricular revisions!
Warmly, and with enthusiasm,
Dr. M. Shadee Malaklou
Chair, Women’s and Gender Studies
Founding Director, Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center