Women’s studies department gets new name as part of changes

Kathryn Nelson

One of the longest-standing women’s studies programs in the nation revealed a new identity this week.

The University’s department of gender, women and sexuality studies, formally the department of women’s studies, has a new name to be more inclusive of students who don’t identify with a gender.

Department academic adviser Judith Katz said the original purpose of the women’s studies department in 1973 was to engage women in an academic movement for their gender rights.

As the idea progressed, questions arose about the concept of gender and sexuality, particularly what it meant to be a woman and to be involved in a female-focused department, she said.

Katz said those who considered themselves outside the traditional framework of female or male might have found it difficult to fit into a department whose title was seen as “limiting.”

The name change had been considered for almost a decade, but Amy Kaminsky, a professor in the new department, said the addition of GLBT studies this summer prompted the name correction.

“We decided to move on the change when the GLBT minor chose us as their home,” Kaminsky said.

Katz and Kaminsky said their department welcomes all students, but the new title more aptly describes the program.

Kaminsky said she was surprised by a lack of resistance from the administration, students and staff. Still, it took more than a year to approve the new department title.

The opposition that remained was mostly out of “nostalgia” for the women’s rights movement of the 1970s, Kaminsky said.

She added that some feared the new name lacked a “political edge” but said the department would continue to be politically progressive.

Anna Brauch, gender, women and sexuality studies junior and Women’s Student Activist Collective officer, said she was “really excited about the new name” and “it was a long time coming.”

Britta Odgren, political science senior and a gender, women and sexuality studies minor, said she was glad the new name encompassed more of the topics she was learning in class that went beyond traditional women’s issues.

Kaminsky said the department is very happy with the end result.

The change is “an affirmation of our department in the eyes of the University,” she said.