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 that we are undertaking to make feminism more inclusive at Berea. In Fall 2021, we re/launched as the bell hooks center. These changes re/imagine feminism “for everybody” in order to support gender beyond a binary. The curricular revisions will change how the major and minor operate, as well as what is taught in the introductory class and capstone, and will reflect current trends in the field. Our new curriculum will require, among other things, a class on the Institutionalization of Queer and Trans Studies, a class on Black Feminist Theory, and a class on Feminist and Queer Dis/Ability Studies. It is our hope that 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 as well as a center, 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.
The scholars that we have brought to campus to date are named on the Gender Talk page, available on the bell hooks center website (or by clicking this link). You can also view this year’s Gender Talk calendar and past Gender Talk videos on that page. We are indebted to our many co-sponsors on and off campus who have made this programming possible and who continue to support us. In addition, and in an effort to engage the robust scholarship that is already underway at Berea College, the Gender Talk series now hosts a respondent for each talk. This respondent is usually a junior faculty member at the College.
In Spring 2020, the Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center (now, bell hooks 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 on the bell hooks center website (or by clicking this link). The center also now hosts an annual week of PRIDE programming in October, featuring workshops and activities that will help us forge a stronger queer community at the College and in Berea. You can view our past PRIDE programming and keep up-to-date with future PRIDE events on the bell hooks center website (or by clicking this link).
You can also expect some programming from the department. The Women’s and Gender (and Sexuality) Studies department relaunched its monthly colloquium series in Spring 2020. This Fall 2021 semester, we are thrilled to welcome WGS alumns Katherine Moses, Rebekah Easton-Hogg, and Angela Anderson as colloquium speakers. They will address topics ranging from queer activism, to healthcare, to women’s empowerment.
I hope you will agree that we have some exciting changes in store. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram (@wgsberea), Twitter (@WGSBerea), Tiktok (@wgsberea) or subscribe to our monthly newsletter to stay up to date with our programming and curricular revisions!
Warmly, and with enthusiasm,
Dr. M. Shadee Malaklou
Inaugural Director, the bell hooks center
Chair, Women’s and Gender (and Sexuality) Studies