Department of Gender Studies

Department of Gender Studies
Department of Gender Studies

Gender Studies/Women's Studies Alumni Stories

Anisha Phillips GNDS BAH 201

Over the course of my time at Queen’s, Gender Studies has become so much more than my academic major. It has become the essence of who I am. This program destroyed and shook up my life, yet rebuilt me to feel whole. However, it wouldn’t be fair to say it has simply rebuilt me, but it is a commitment to a constant rebuilding and a dedication to living amongst an uncompleted project.

This is what Gender Studies provides: a full time project that goes beyond the demands and possibilities of a course, and towards a narrative that fills your papers with passion for shaking up the structures under which we operate. If you choose Gender Studies know you are signing up for a transformative way of thinking and conducting your life. Every day we engage with topics, issues, and ways of thinking that strip you bare only to construct a new self that cannot be erased. If you truly delve and commit yourself to its politics, sinking back into ignorance is no longer an option.

Sometimes people ask if it is exhausting to constantly analyze and critique the world around you. However I wouldn’t describe exhaustion in that way. Exhaustion comes from being silenced by people who are unwilling to face the exhaustion that comes with critique. When you believe in something so strongly this kind of exhaustion does not push you down, but pushes you forward. In the academic and non-academic environment at times it is lonely and isolating. However, it is in these moments of feeling so misunderstood, that I know how necessary it is to continue forward.

Within the Gender Studies program frustration can challenge your thinking, as you realize that the problems and opportunities are larger than you. But when this feeling surrounds you, you step back and there is an entire class and department all dedicated to fighting the same battle. And at once, when things feel unbearable you have peers standing beside you, feeling the same pain and frustration. From department emails condemning discriminatory actions on campus and in world politics, to having a space to mourn, this program provided support the university will not.

Although I do not know who I am without Gender Studies, I have come to realize that the entire time this was the goal. Not only has Gender Studies given me the desire to study difficult topics but also the willingness to be vulnerable and to be dedicated to understanding my own life and other people’s lives. Although I will no longer be placed within the walls of this academic program, I am forever grateful for the person those walls built.

Laura Hughes GNDS BAH 2013

Becoming Feminist: My Experience as a Gender Studies Major

Looking back on my Queen’s experience, my immediate memories are not of moving day, football games in tricolour, or of the sunny afternoons spent by Lake Ontario. When I think of my time at Queen’s what I remember most is feeling a sense of acceptance and belonging in my first Gender Studies class.

Starting as a Concurrent Education student and English major, I switched my focus to Gender Studies in my third year of study. Prior to this degree change, I had struggled to keep my average above a 65%, I didn’t feel a sense of belonging at Queen’s, and I hadn’t found an accepting space to openly discuss my Queer identity or develop my feminist politics. Taking a few Women’s Studies classes (as our program was previously named) in my first two years at Queen’s introduced me to a discipline that combined academics with activism, passion with purpose, and took an intersectional approach to discussing axis of identity and oppression. I had found my space; I felt at home.

Being a part of this Gender Studies family introduced me to community work with Sexual Assaulted Centre Kingston and Kingston Interval House, inspired me to join my classmates at Take Back the Night and SlutWalk, and gave me the tools to develop my feminist politics inside and outside of the classroom.

Along with growing as a feminist and activist, my experiences in the Gender Studies classroom and in the Kingston community helped me grow as an individual and find who I am. This program gave me a place to fit in and a place to push boundaries.

As a Gender Studies alumnus, now residing in Toronto and enrolled in the Assaulted Women’s and Children’s Counsellor/Advocate diploma program at George Brown, my feminist work focuses on community education and development for youth. I am currently working on creating a series of workshops educating youth on rape culture and consent. I am so thankful to Gender Studies professors, administrative staff, fellow students, and Kingston community members for creating such a dynamic, safe, and engaging space to grow as a feminist, student, and person.

Kaleigh Alkenbrack: WMNS BAH 2010, SXGD Certificate; MA GNDS 2012

Although I am now headed in a new direction – medical school at McMaster University – both my MA thesis and my decision to pursue the study of medicine have been inspired and made possible by my education in feminist, anti-racist, and anti-colonial theory and activism. I am truly grateful for my experiences as a member of the welcoming and highly motivating learning community that is Gender Studies at Queen’s. My dedicated professors, brilliant peers, and thoughtful students challenged me to think differently every day and shaped not only my education and resulting research project in beautiful ways, but also encouraged me to think of new and interdisciplinary ways to create and apply knowledge for social justice. I now plan to continue the lines of thinking developed during my politicized education in Gender Studies and am excited to have further opportunities to gain experience doing advocacy work and giving primary care to communities.

Elamin Abdelmahmoud: GNDS/PHIL 2011

It's a shaky and unpredictable atmosphere in the media world these days, and I think the reason I've succeeded in finding stability in it has a lot to do with my gender studies background. I've worked for national flagship television programs. The people who hired me were much less interested in my experience or my directly relevant university degree. They were much more interested in my ability to think critically, communicate clearly, and connect themes in a fresh and compelling way. I had those skills because of my education in Gender Studies. (Online Producer for The Agenda with Steve Paikin, TVO). Elamin's interviewed  Terry Crews about being a feminist.

Update on Elamin: Queen's University Alumni Association Award winner 2017 – One to Watch Award: Mr. Abdelmahmoud has come a long way since his days as news director at CFRC and has emerged as a rising Canadian media star. He is currently the curation editor at Buzzfeed News Canada and is a regular panelist and contributor on CBC’s The National and CBC Radio Sunday Edition and "q" as an online columnist.

Kathryn LeBlanc: WMNS/DEVS BAH 2006

After graduating with a Women’s Studies/Development Studies degree from Queen’s I spent time working in remote Northern Cree communities doing mental health/addiction assessments and research. It was during this time I was able to see tangible examples of the too often unchallenged disparities in our society that I was encouraged to explore as a student in Women’s Studies. It was also during this time, that I saw the unrelenting resilience of First Nations women, who are leaders and advocates/agents of change in their communities. In order to continue working with First Nations people in the mental health and addictions field I decided to complete a Masters of Social Work at The University of Toronto. My degree in Women’s Studies provided an invaluable foundation for a career in Social Work.

Currently I’m working at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in their Aboriginal Services Program. In this position I’m able to do addictions counselling as well as larger social justice initiatives. There are many aspects of my clinical work that are inextricably linked to my Women’s Studies degree. For instance, I often work with clients to acknowledge the effects of inter-generational trauma and explore internalized oppression/colonialism as a factor that perpetuates substance abuse. In this role I’m often called upon to facilitate workshops about Aboriginal issues with other CAMH staff. During these workshops it is my hope that health professionals will challenge assumptions that perpetuate privilege and work to reframe health/wellness in a way that honours First Nations worldviews; it’s in these instances that I most clearly see my Women’s Studies degree shine through. I often think of my time as an undergrad student in Women’s Studies and am deeply thankful. With the support of faculty and my fellow students I was able to find the language and knowledge to challenge inequalities that I so strongly opposed. As a student of Aboriginal decent, I feel as though I had found refuge in the Women’s Studies department where my experiences and contributions were seen as an essential part of the Queen’s community.