Women, Gender, Difference

GNDS 120/3.0

This course explores women, gender, and difference from feminist and anti-racist perspectives. It identifies the ways in which women’s activism, politics, and experiences intersect with other gendered identifications such as race, location, class, (dis)ability, and sexuality. Lessons and texts will introduce feminism, the body, colonialism, gender performance, and strategies of resistance.


This course explores women, gender, and difference from feminist and anti-racist perspectives. Essentially, it is an introduction to topics and perspectives in gender studies, and students will examine the ways women's activism, politics, and experiences intersect with other gendered identifications such as race, location, class, (dis)ability, and sexuality. Topics considered include intersectional identities and social relations; men and masculinities; feminisms; gender performance; power and privilege; gender in a racialized, globalized world; embodied experience; sexuality; representations of gender in media and popular culture; and, strategies of resistance. No previous courses or experience in Gender Studies is required. GNDS 120 serves as an introduction to the Gender Studies program at Queen's University.


Reflection Paper15%
Midterm Project:
Part 1 (Discussion)
Part 2 (Paper) 


Online Debate25%
Final Assignment (essay)20%

NOTE: Students must submit all assessments (Reflection Paper, Midterm Project, Debate, and Final Assignment) in order to pass the course.


Learning Outcomes:

The general objectives of this course are for you to:

  • Engage with key questions and issues in the field of gender studies;
  • Explore diverse interdisciplinary approaches used in gender studies;
  • Develop a capacity for feminist and anti-racist agency;
  • Develop your critical thinking skills and reflective communication skills;
  • Consider the role to be played by gender studies in your own education;
  • Develop an appreciation for the field of gender studies and diverse feminist perspectives


Unit 1What is Gender Studies?
Unit 2Power and Privilege
Unit 3Difference and Identity
Unit 4Resisting Inequalities
Unit 5Embodied Experiences
Unit 6Sexualities
Unit 7Representation


Welcome to Gender Studies!  My name is Jill Smith and I am very happy to be your instructor for the Winter Term in GNDS 120. Many people know little about Gender Studies except that it was born from Women’s Studies and, therefore, it may be dangerous! Our GNDS 120 study is, in fact, feminist. Oh, the dreaded “F” word! But rather than being something scary, Gender Studies is a transformational and a unique area of concern connecting – over and over again – with your daily life and the lives of other people around you. You will probably be amazed at how much this course will change your thinking in the very short time we have together. You may also be amazed at the ways in which GNDS 120 will help to clarify some issues which might have puzzled you in the past. Gender Studies addresses issues of structural inequality and intersectionality as they pertain to gender. In the best case scenario, you will learn to wear a new pair of glasses for looking at life, the world, and Queen’s University.  Not every course at university is transformational but we think GNDS 120 will be for you if you have an open mind. If you are curious and willing to learn, you will probably find yourself engaged and challenged this term. 

What’s my story? I grew up in the so-called Second Wave of the Women’s Movement in Montreal, Quebec. I cut my feminist teeth in Consciousness Raising (CR), a technique adopted by the women’s movement from the Maoist practice of “speaking bitterness”. At the time, the late sixties and early seventies, university campuses especially were alive with ideas of change and challenge. They were harbours for activist groups like the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, the student movement (Students for a Democratic Society - the SDS- the Weathermen), the radical black movement (Black Panthers), and the women’s movement.  As a child of these revolutionary days, I experienced women talking to one another about the problems in their lives in ways that I had never heard before. We were young and, yes, mostly white women whose mothers matured in the post Second World War glory days when many middle class women were expected to stay at home and find satisfaction in mothering and caring for their husbands. That’s how it was. And in North America, stay at home mothering became a goal for those who could not afford it and a problem for many who could not find fulfillment in being at home. In the rooms where women gathered, I learned about sexism, about sexual assault, and about the lack of birth control information for both men and women among many other complaints.

I became active in the women’s movement. I was an artist and with other women we set-up the first all-women’s art gallery in Canada, Powerhouse Gallery, a gallery that is still operational today as La Centrale. We did this because we recognized that women’s art, like women’s music, did not get as much attention as men’s art. So we did something about it. Women's issues became central to my life and, because of this long-standing commitment, I started teaching Women's Studies at Queen's in the late 1990s.

Back in the sixties, I did not know I was becoming a "feminist." In fact, I didn't know what a "feminist" was. I suppose, if I really tried to visualize the word "feminist" then, I thought of angry women. This was not an accurate picture.  However, I saw injustice everywhere and especially directed toward women, and so I continued my journey in the women's movement despite my doubts. When I attended Queen’s University as a graduate student in the 1990s, I saw women, people who were not white, people with disabilities, gays, and lesbians marginalized and silenced. I could not turn away from the opportunity to work toward breaking the silence. I have never regretted my choice.

My life, and the lives of many men and women, have been and continue to be positively transformed because of encounters with feminist thought, the women's movement and women's studies.

Gender Studies takes a bigger step.

I feel certain you stand a good chance of changing your thinking, and possibly your life, as a result of your study of gender issues.  I know many students' lives have been transformed because of their connection with the emancipatory study of gender and the interplay of gendered power relations.

Warm wishes for a brilliant and satisfying learning journey.

Jill Sherrill Smith

PS I am available by e-mail for any questions you may have or through pre-arranged online appointments.

Warm wishes for a brilliant learning journey.

Jill Sherrill Smith
Email: js26@queensu.ca

Time Commitment

To complete the readings, assignments, and course activities, students can expect to spend, on average, about 10 - 12 hours per week on the course.

Course Resources


SOLUS is Queen’s Student On-Line University System. You’ll have access to a SOLUS account once you become a Queen’s student. You’ll use SOLUS to register for courses, add and drop courses, update your contact information, view financial and academic information, and pay your tuition.


Moodle is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into Moodle to access your course. All materials related to your course—notes, readings, videos, recordings, discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, groupwork, tutorials, and help—will be on the Moodle site.

About Credit Units

Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

To take an online course, you’ll need a good-quality computer (Windows XP/Vista/7, Pentium III, or Mac OS X 10.5, G4 or G5 processor, 256 MB RAM) with a high-speed internet connection, soundcard, speakers, and microphone, and up-to-date versions of free software (Explorer/Firefox, Java, Flash, Adobe Reader). See also Preparing For Your Course.


The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are in our Dates and Deadlines section.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for 2014-15 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Canadian students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $605.31; for a 6.0-unit course, $1210.62. See also Tuition and Payment.

Grading Scheme

The information below is intended for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Academic Regulations in other Faculties may differ.

Letter Grade Grade Point

GPA Calculators
Have your SOLUS grade report handy and then follow the link to the Arts and Science GPA calculators.

How does this affect my academics?
See the GPA and Academic Standing page.

Follow the link above for an explanation of how the GPA system affects such things as the Dean’s Honour List, requirements to graduate, and academic progression.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Grading Scheme
Please follow this link to the FAQ's

Campus Bookstore

All textbooks can be purchased at Queen’s Campus Bookstore.

Non-Queen’s Students

All Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are open to students at other universities. Before applying as a visiting student, request a Letter of Permission from your home university that states that you have permission to take the course and apply it to your degree. See also Apply.

Academic Integrity

Please see Queen’s policy statement on academic integrity for information on how to complete an online course honestly.