By Rachneet Randhawa, April 14 2021—
Effective July 1, 2021, the University of Calgary’s Women’s Studies program, under the Department of Philosophy, will officially be renamed Gender and Sexuality Studies.
This change was officially declared on March 8 during the International Women’s Day panel which celebrated the Gender and Sexuality Studies program and the continued importance of advancing gender and sexuality scholarship alongside equity, diversity and inclusion across the university. The panelists included UCalgary’s Women Studies program professors Dr. Joe Kadi, Dr. Safaneh Mohaghegh Neyshabouri and Dr. Rebecca Sullivan. They spoke on various topics relating to gender and sexuality, and how it is influenced by factors like society, race and religion.
At the end of the event, Kadi briefly discussed the recent name change of the Women’s Studies program, and how the introduction to the Gender and Sexuality Studies program is a positive step forward.
“We did a curricular review three years ago that we hadn’t done in several years, and we kind of went through things very carefully and took a look at where we were at, where our strengths were and how we wanted to build off what was happening. We had a number of student focus groups happen during that time so we could hear from students,” Kadi explained. “So the name change was part of this ongoing work around our curriculum, around our pedagogy, around the student focus groups and I found that to be a really great moment for us because it really helped us think about ‘Who are we? What do we care about? How are we moving forward? And what are the tangible things we want to keep building on and bring in as we move forward?’”
This change reflects the ongoing commitment to an intersectional, decolonial and anti-oppression framework for fully inclusive gender and sexual justice. One of the core components of Women’s Studies courses is the foundational concept of “intersectionality,” a term coined by American activist and civil rights lawyer Kimberly W. Crenshaw. Defined as the multiple and overlapping identities an individual has, such as sex, gender, race and socioeconomic class, intersectionality aims to address the interconnected systems of oppression.
The gender binary is often seen by scholars as outdated and fails to address the sexual orientation spectrum, sexual health and sexual rights across the divide of 2LGBTQIA+. Renaming Women’s Studies to Gender and Sexuality Studies is more accountable, transparent and relevant to the gender spectrum as “it’s a good moment for the program and I think that there’s a lot of positive things happening right now,” concluded Kadi.
The course codes will transition from WMST to GSXS for the 2021-2022 UCalgary Academic Calendar following the Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 semesters. Current Women Studies undergraduate students can opt for either the BA in Women’s Studies or have the option to change their program to a BA in Gender & Sexuality Studies beginning in Fall 2021. Students who have applied to graduate for this academic term will receive the conventional naming standard of Women’s Studies as indicated on their diploma and transcript record.