Department of Gender Studies

Department of Gender Studies
Department of Gender Studies

Department of Gender Studies at Queen's University

Department of Gender Studies Strategic Plan (PDF, 9 MB)

Gender Studies department logoThe Department of Gender Studies graphic element is a symbol of our mission, as articulated in the 2019-22 Department Strategic Plan.

Colored stripes are arranged in stylistic reference to LGBTQ+ pride flags, with the six colors coming from the Queen’s University coat of arms.  The circle represents inclusion, togetherness, and that all of us – students, staff, faculty, administration – have a role in enacting the department’s mission.  The Queen’s Q centred on this background reminds us that our work begins here on campus.


History of Women's and Gender Studies at Queen's

The idea of creating a Women’s Studies Program took root in the early 1980s when the Principal’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women at Queen’s established a Women’s Studies Sub-Committee chaired by Mary Maxwell in Sociology. One of the major objectives of this Sub-Committee was to investigate the feasibility of establishing an interdisciplinary women’s studies course. Both faculty and students served on this Sub-Committee and its work included presenting to the Principal a petition signed by 1000 supportive students, procuring an $8,000 grant from the Principal’s Development Fund, and corresponding with every Faculty and department in the University to solicit their support for and contributions to making this proposed interdisciplinary Women’s Studies course a reality.

The sticking point of course was not where to locate this course, the Faculty of Arts & Science being its logical home, but rather where to find the funding to pay the instructors. In the end, the first course, known as IDIS 200 - Introduction to Women’s Studies, was presented by two paid coordinators, Elizabeth Greene (English) and Katherine McKenna (History), and a roster of 16 professors who volunteered to give lectures, assign readings, grade essays and advise students. The faculty were drawn from Film (Lianne McLarty), Music (Bev Cavanagh), Philosophy (Lorraine Code), English (Susan Dick, Catherine Harland), Law (me, Bev Baines), History (Roberta Hamilton, Joan  Sherwood, Rosalie Stott), Nursing (Lynn Kirkwood, Rita Maloney, Sandra Rutenberg), Geography (Suzanne MacKenzie by then at Carleton), Sociology (Mary Maxwell), Psychology (Betty Solomon), and one community member, poet and filmmaker Bronwen Wallace.

First Women’s Studies course, IDIS 200 Introduction to Women's Studies, Fall 1985.

Finally in the summer of 1985 one last committee – the Ad Hoc Semi-Spontaneous Committee on the Future of Women’s Studies at Queen’s – was formed with the purpose of designing and establishing a Special Field Concentration in Women’s Studies. The draft was prepared by Mary Morton (Sociology) and Mary Maxwell (Sociology). By October this Committee consisted of 32 women faculty from across the campus. Three of their number – Susan Dick (English), Joy Parr (History), and Marie Surridge (French) – met with the Dean and received his support for the Special Field Concentration proposal, including funding of a course release for the coordinator, one-third secretarial time and $500 to prepare the proposal. The proposal was presented to the Arts & Science Faculty Board November 8, 1985 by Susan, Joy, Marie and Bev Cavanaugh (Music); it was shepherded through the Curriculum Committee by Bev, Susan and Joy (with Marie there in spirit) and went back to the Arts & Science Faculty Board December 13, 1985 where it was presented by Joy, Marie, Susan, and Roberta Hamilton (History).

Despite some opposition, Women’s Studies carried the day; a packed Faculty Board approved the Special Field Concentration which began in the 1986-87 academic year under the able leadership of the first coordinator, Roberta Hamilton (Sociology). That year Katherine McKenna and Joan Sherwood (History) coordinated IDIS 200 with a roster of 18 faculty members still volunteering to teach on an overload basis: Drama (Tracy Davis), Law (myself, Sheila McIntyre), English (Susan Dick, Catherine Harland, Bronwen Wallace), Sociology (Roberta Hamilton, Mary Morton), Nursing (Lynn Kirkwood, Rita Maloney, Sandra Rutenberg), Film (Brenda Longfellow), History (Joy Parr), Classics (Lucia Nixon), Economics (Nancy Olewiler), Philosophy (Christine Overall), Psychology (Betty Solomon), and Religion (Pamela Young).

In 1988-89, the Special Field Concentration was augmented by Minor and Medial programs; and a new course, WMNS 100 - Introduction to Women’s Studies, was added to the curriculum and taught by Katherine McKenna. WMNS 200 was renamed Topics in Women’s Studies and continued to be taught by a roster of many volunteer faculty lecturers for at least a decade after its inauguration, including among its coordinators Haideh Moghissi (Political Studies), and then Karen Weisbaum.

1989 was a very important year because it was the first year that we awarded the first Kathleen A. Herman Prize, a prize that has been awarded annually since that time. Also in 1989 Joy Parr became the new coordinator of Women’s Studies. Joy regrets she cannot be here tonight but she asked that we recognize what a treasure Terrie Easter Sheen was, is, and will be to the Women’s Studies enterprise. Terrie joined Women’s Studies in 1986 and as Administrative Assistant to the Department over the intervening years has been an invaluable and irreplaceable source of support and encouragement to students, faculty, heads and staff.

In 1990 Mary Morton became the third coordinator of the Program and was instrumental in the addition of two fourth year courses – a special topics course and the Race, Class and Gender in Comparative Perspective course. In 1991 the members of the Women’s Studies Special Arts & Science Task Force were persuaded to regularize the Women’s Studies Program into an entity with base budget funding and its own faculty. In 1994 Audrey Kobayashi (Geography) became the first Director of the newly named Institute of Women’s Studies.

In 1999 Sue Hendler returned to become Director of the Institute of Women’s Studies and then in 2003 it’s first Head. Sue recognized that it was important for Women’s Studies to become a department within the Faculty of Arts and Science. She oversaw the growth of the Department in terms of courses and concentrators (we had by then added a Major degree program). In addition under Sue’s leadership the LGBT, now Sexual and Gender Diversity (SXGD), Certificate was created; she wrote the first draft proposal for a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies; and she navigated through the departments first Internal Academic Review.

The Department of Women’s Studies continues to grow. We now have four fulltime faculty, and four jointly-appointed faculty members. In addition we have one contract and thirty-four cross-appointed faculty. The 2009-10 academic year marks the beginning of graduate studies in the Department of Women’s Studies as the new M.A. program in Gender Studies begins in September. Women’s Studies has come a long way from its beginnings twenty years ago. In 2008-09 we have 120 concentrators, and in 2009 we had 11 Major and Medial BAH graduates.

Excerpts from speech made by Bev Baines, Head of the Department of Women's Studies on the occasion of the 20+ Anniversary of Women’s Studies, Agnes Etherington Art Gallery, March 6, 2008.

Statement on Professionalism and Appropriate Behaviour

The Department of Gender Studies is circulating the following Statement to all members of the Department, and in particular all those involved in teaching as faculty or teaching assistants.

To maintain appropriate, professional and inclusive standards, it is always inappropriate to:

  • comment, especially negatively, on the physical appearance/attractiveness of students, colleagues, staff or yourself
  • use language, gestures, humour,  sarcasm or innuendo which could be interpreted to suggest that bias, discrimination, preferential treatment, sexual practices, or other non-academic criteria, will be used in evaluating academic work or  professional duties
  • stereotype people, or use gender, racial or classist stereotypes in teaching or interactions with students
  • use humour or sarcasm which, regardless of intent, could be interpreted to be offensive. Issues such as cultural or religious practices; sexual practices or preferences; race, sexual, gender or class identities; political commitments and/or academic projects should not be subjects of jest or sarcasm
  • act in an unprofessional manner, including any of the above, at events organized by and/or for members of the Department; this includes social events, on or off campus.

It is advisable to:

  • remember that there is an expectation not only of fairness, but of the appearance of fairness; ensure that criteria are transparent and expressed clearly
  • reflect on and understand the specificity of your knowledge regarding inclusive/exclusive practices and respect the specificity of the knowledge of others
  • reflect on and understand that oppressive practices involve trauma and violence, and that university classrooms include those who experience such trauma and violence; discussions need to advance learning while being mindful of the risk of triggering such experiences
  • maintain a high level of professionalism and set a positive example of inclusive, respectful conduct at all times, especially at university or departmental events
  • remember that there is an expectation of collegial behaviour; take seriously suggestions or complaints from colleagues or students about behaviour or comments, and consider ways to  improve collegial relations
  • apologize for, and refrain from repeating, any inappropriate or unprofessional behaviour or remarks about which colleagues or students have indicated discomfort
  • refrain from socializing with individual students to avoid an appearance of favouritism and risk to yourself or the student(s)
  • encourage students to write in an inclusive manner including gender and race neutral language
  • educate students on equity issues through your course syllabi, and through introductory lectures and tutorials to set a positive tone
  • avoid financial interactions, provision of gifts, or recruitment of services that could be interpreted to influence academic assessments or professional relationships
  • avoid personal comments in email correspondence
  • keep your office door open when meeting with students, unless confidentiality merits otherwise
  • ensure that you are fully informed about acceptable norms and practices (see brief list of resources below); if you are unsure whether your behaviour or comments could be considered offensive or in violation of university policy, take advantage of the expertise available and get the information
  • avoid wearing fragrances or perfumes that could create an unhealthy atmosphere for those with scent sensitivities

You have a responsibility to:

  • guide classroom discussions to facilitate an inclusive atmosphere, and intervene when discussions turn to issues that may make some students feel unsafe
  • understand that all teaching faculty and teaching assistants are perceived as representative of the Department of Gender Studies, and this extends beyond the classroom to include official events on and off campus
  • appreciate people from diverse backgrounds and/or with diverse capacities; demonstrate your interest to welcome those who are marginalized by class, race, gender, ability and/or sexuality, but do not force public identification as this may increase their marginalization
  • remember that behaviour matters, and that a standard of excellence in teaching, supervision and research requires a similar standard in professional and mature behaviour
  • keep in mind that participation in university-related activities or programs often demands judgment about unexpected situations; every effort should be made to address situations that are perceived to be potentially damaging to the climate of teaching and learning in the department in a prompt and professional manner, respecting the rights of all participants and confidentiality where appropriate
  • remember that silence on the part of colleagues or students should not be interpreted to suggest compliance or comfort; there are risks, or the perception of risks, involved in speaking out when a climate conducive to prejudice or discrimination arises; if in doubt, seek advice
  • create conditions that indicate a willingness to listen and hear concerns from colleagues and students regarding any of the above; let colleagues and students know that these issues are important to you, and that you are willing to be supportive and act accordingly
  • work towards creating an inclusive and anti-oppressive environment in the classroom, the tutorial, the lounge, the office, the hallways and in all other public spaces on campus

This document was passed by the Gender Studies Department Committee in January 2012.