Pursuing Perspectives in Gender Studies


Chris Ayers

(Photo by Chris Ayers)

(Photo by Chris Ayers)
(Photo by Chris Ayers)

Jai Hamid Bashir began her studies at the U with a vision to create positive social change.
“I believe deeply in the unique power of a few individuals,” she said. “[I] would like to be part of the emerging forefront of a movement.”
Bashir, a senior in gender studies, environmental and sustainability studies and English literature, hopes she can use her degrees to shift power, specifically to empower women.
Susie Porter, director of the U’s gender studies department and a history professor, teaches historical classes on gender and feminism, such as her class “Gender and Power in Latin America.” She said since the professors within the gender studies department have expertise in a wide range of disciplines, including history, film, political science, sociology and psychology, the major is well-rounded.
A new introduction course in the department called “Finding Out” is open to all students and discusses questions of sexuality. Another class, “Documenting Gender,” taught by Anamika Bandopadhyay, an activist and film maker, is designed for students who desire to document their own stories.
Porter said she finds the students pursuing the gender studies major or minor, currently about 100 undergraduates, to be committed and “vibrant,” a diverse group with many perspectives.
Kim Hackford-Peer, associate director of the department, teaches an intro course, “Here I Stand.” In this class, students think about their identities and write their own narratives. She said due to the small size of the department, professors can be flexible in teaching students what they want to learn.
“We are more focused on being responsive to student’s needs,” Hackford-Peer said. “This is a priority for us.”
She said the best part of her time at the U has been watching students develop friendships from these classes.
The gender studies major is 30 credits, and the minor is 21 credits. Hackford-Peer said the department is structured so students can easily add this major or minor to their schedule.
The major began at the U in 1979 but was called the women’s studies major and progressed into gender studies in 2002. Porter said this was to make the program more inclusive.
“Shifting meant to maintain focus and broaden it,” she said.
Currently, the major focuses on the interaction of gender with race, class, sexual orientation and nationality, as well as the history of women and masculinity.
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