Photo: WGSS Anniversaries Gathering, April 17, 2010 (Photo by Savannah Kleinlein)

Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Newsletter

Volume 1, Issue 1

Editorial Board
Geetanjali Chanda

John-Albert Moseley
Managing Editor

Jessica Svendsen, BA '09 MFA '13


Fall Letter from WGSS Chair

This fall as I begin chairing WGSS, I look forward to working with the WGSS community to keep it an exciting and important space at Yale. Our courses are popular and our faculty, staff, fellows, and students continue to generate enthusiasm for the study of women, gender and sexuality. We have a terrific colloquium, seminar and speakers series generating excellent research conversations. A new Shana Alexander fellowship for our undergraduate students provides support for research and we hope to build on this for future programming. We partner with other departments and programs and research clusters on campus for these events and for our courses; such collaborations enable us to create a greater level of curricular and research outreach. Our partners include the LGBT Committee ,Women's Faculty Forum, Anthropology, American Studies, South Asian Studies Council, Middle East Council, Religious Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Program and the English department-among others.
     Our path to making the Program more international and transnational in direction continues, as well as our interest in new topics and fields. Our pedagogical work expands research and curriculum at Yale - a thought that came to mind one evening when I listened to the Coca Cola CEO discuss, in his 2010 Coca Cola World Fund Lecture, the importance of women as leaders (and as consumers) across the world. To understand, in all its complexity, how he might come to these ideas is critical for our students to live in and lead in this transnational world.
     What is also clear to me is that the work we do benefits Yale in so many other ways. For instance, many of you may have heard about the recent, infamous incident when one night "brothers" of a fraternity chanted hateful and offensive slurs on Old Campus. But the response of the Yale community, led by the Women's Center (and WGSS's Melanie Boyd is advisor to the Center) and by Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Dean of Students, Marichal Gentry, was heartening. Our students found this both an outrageous event as well as something they needed to address through campus activism that would bring the Yale community together. The Women's Center generated a broad conversation on questions of values, respect and inclusion that will benefit the entire community. The Women's Faculty Forum (with WGSS Professor Laura Wexler as co-director) helped shape the new Yale policy on sexual misconduct that will create strict mechanisms to clarify these questions. It is so clear to us that the increasing numbers of Yale students taking our courses are learning to think about activism and policy at the university as important pedagogical experiences.
    We noted that the studies of popular culture, and media in relation to gender, sexuality, race and nationalism that we provide in our courses enabled us to understand this chant in contemporary and historical contexts. What I saw from my work in postcolonial studies and transnational feminist cultural studies was that the chant was producing an exclusionary and problematic "brotherhood" over and against the proliferating genders and sexualities, races and religions that we see around, especially as the US has become more linked to innumerable transnational empires, processes and networks. It was important not to see the chant simply as a reflection of a society, but to understand it as an attempt - opposed by many of us-to produce a nationalist identity that excluded women, Muslims, and LGBT communities. We saw Yale culture as a space of struggle in which we could participate and be heard.
     Gender and sexuality are so much a part of the political and social discourse of our time that our work in research and teaching is critical as we participate in Yale's projects of creating global and national leaders. That is why so many in the Yale community, from the Yale Administration to former and current members of the WGSS and LGBT communities have contributed to making the Program strong. The Anniversary events this past spring reminded us of this history and it was impressive to see the scholars and students who emerged from the Program and who changed the future of feminist and LGBT research nationally and internationally. We met leaders in so many other professions who have made a difference to the world and who began their careers in the program at Yale.
    We hope to continue this work and invite you to become part of this community as we move into a new phase of the WGSS Program. We hope that this newsletter will enable you to be connected to us and we look forward to hearing from you as we move into a new phase of the program.

Inderpal Grewal, Chair
Program in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Photo: Abbe Smith '78 speaking at the Anniversaries Opening Reception (Photo by John-Albert Moseley)

Remarks on the Celebration of the Founding of Women's Studies at Yale

I am very much the product of my Women's Studies experience at Yale.  It was my intellectual and political coming of age. I came to college a card-carrying (well, ERA-bracelet wearing) feminist. But I was a political science major, bound for law school and didn't really have a concrete idea about "Women's Studies" -except for having read Robin Morgan's Sisterhood is Powerful when I was 14.
     I was drawn to classes having to do with women partly because of my feminist identity and perhaps also because Yale was such a male place. I found faculty I liked and took their classes.  For example, I took every course taught by Nancy Cott! I came to know pretty much all the feminist faculty and took courses from them or asked them to create courses. Gradually I realized that I had enough courses to double-major in Political Science and Women's Studies. [Abbe Smith graduated as a 'Special Divisional Major' in 1978-the first women's studies major at Yale.] As far as I can recall, there was no resistance to the major. But I admit I might have been more reluctant if women's studies was my only major. I might have felt pigeon-holed.
     I was motivated to create the special major for many reasons.  Although I was not explicitly aware of a "national movement" in women's studies, I knew that feminist theory, women's literature, and women's history were part of the curriculum at many colleges and universities. My academic interest in women's studies was a natural companion to my political activism at Yale. I had been involved in organizing  a Title IX complaint against Yale for sex discrimination in athletics and an EEOC complaint and lawsuit against Yale for sexual harassment by male professors of women students. Pursuing women's studies was in keeping with my general intellectual and political goals, and was also in step with efforts to create such programs across the country: Women's Studies, Black Studies, and so on.
     Women's Studies classes were different from other classes. They were invariably more personal than other classes. These intellectually rigorous courses were also truly interdisciplinary - something I have increasingly grown to appreciate as a legal academic. My only regret is that there wasn't a clear path for further study-graduate school and beyond.  I wasn't a historian or a philosopher and there wasn't much political theory at Yale, feminist or otherwise. My time at Yale was the most intellectually rich experience I ever had and I credit much of my intellectual growth to the Women's Studies classes I took or created.  I grew in more ways than I can articulate.

Looking back, I feel proud of these early efforts and those first Women's Studies classes.

Abbe Smith
April 16, 2010

Gender and Sexuality in Media and Popular Culture

How does Facebook alter the way we conceive of identity? Do pictures of Michele Obama in Ladies Home Journal mean anything about the state of feminism? There are definitions of beauty gleaned from Barbie, but are there implications of imperialism in an "Indian Barbie?"
    Our class, " Gender and Sexuality in Media and Popular Culture," offers an in-depth look at the ways in which cultural productions create and propagate meaning.  The seminar, taught by Professors Wexler and Grewal, help students learn the terms and concepts necessary to explore how the images and spectacles we interact with influence our perception of structures, stereotypes, and normal conduct in our everyday lives.
   Each week students lead discussions to deconstruct and assess articles and essays by influential academicians.  We use our class blog, a form of new media, to respond to each other's questions on these readings.  The class culminates with the creation of an art piece representing a "street."  The streets we are making must be spaces and places from another historical time and area.  In looking at such streets as "Main Street" in Tokyo Disney in 1983, Pontocho Street in Kyoto (a center for geisha culture) in 1948, and a descent into The London Tube in 1966, we are trying to understand and present a visual representation of how culture affects and interacts with societies in history.
   Everyday we are inundated with noises and images that tell stories of our society; in this class we are learning to decode these ideas and what they imply so that we have the tools to understand our culture in the present. 

Ariana Berkowitz


Fall Letter from LGBTS Chair

I start by thanking Professor Inderpal Grewal, chair of WGSS and fellow LGBT Studies Committee member, for inviting me to contribute this letter to your first issue. As the new chair of the LGBT Studies Committee, I am gratified at all the good will at Yale that has been shown the Committee and the work that it does.
    Just what is that work? With the help of Yale and its generous alumni/ae and their families, we are able to support research in LGBT Studies by both faculty and students. We organize and subsidize conferences, workshops, lectures, film series and special performances. This year, for example, we are particularly pleased to have a year-long program on Global Queer Cinema. We assist Yale libraries in acquiring new materials of interest to the LGBT community and beyond.  We award annually what is arguably the most prestigious honor in LGBT Studies, the Brudner Prize. (In 2010 it will go to Mary Bonauto of GLAD, who has worked tirelessly for the cause of marriage equality.) And perhaps most importantly, we supply Yale with a prominent LGBT presence on campus, reminding students, faculty and staff that our field exists, is vibrant, and of increasing value to work across the disciplines.
    Of special interest to readers may be the search, currently underway, for Yale's first LGBT Studies tenure-track faculty member. Resident in WGSS, this new addition to the faculty will guarantee us a regular, stable curriculum in LGBT Studies. I hope by the time of the next newsletter to be able to give you more details on just who will be joining us.
    With the support of our staff administrators, John-Albert Moseley and Linda Hase, LGBT Studies is now entering a particularly vigorous stage of its development.  Never have more faculty on campus been affiliated with our work, and the numbers will surely grow.  I invite you to visit our website at to learn just what we're up to, or, if you visit New Haven, to drop by my office in Room 307 HGS for a personal update on our activities.

John Treat
Chair, LGBT Studies Committee
Professor, East Asian Languages and Literatures


Anniversary Celebration

We celebrated two milestones in the lives of WGSS and LGBTS with a joint conference. Last year - 2009 - was the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Program in Women's Studies and this year is the 25th anniversary of the Lesbian and Gay Studies Center at Yale. We invited our far-flung community: former undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty who had worked together over many decades to create and sustain these critical scholarly spaces.  It was a wonderful time of reunions and new connections!  Our delighted thanks to the 125 people who participated in the conference itself, and also to the many more who reconnected with us even though they were unable to attend. There were so many highlights that it's hard to pick just a few: the new Women's Walking Tour at Yale; The Student Body, a film made by some of our undergrads; the small group discussions about feminist and queer activism outside the academy; the provocative panelists who pushed us all to think harder about the grounding and aspirations of our work.  Visit the WGSS website for more details, including links to the tour and the film online. 

Melanie Boyd


Photo: Professor Laura Wexler

What's in a name

When one agrees to give a public talk situating the current situation of Women's Studies, one immediately places oneself by the name one chooses. As an interdisciplinary inquiry, Women's Studies began by acknowledging that the perspective of no single field would sufficiently illuminate its object of study, which was to be found rather in the interstices, the overlaps, and the silences found in the aggregate of existing disciplines. The study of women cannot be approached by the study of women alone.  It must always locate its object of inquiry in dialectical relationship with the pressing issues of its time, which change with time. 
     Scholars of Women's Studies in the U.S. recognized these shifts in principle by supplying a parade of titles.  Most programs and departments that were established as Women's Studies in the 1970s, in consequence of the second wave feminist movement, changed their names in the early 1990s to Women's and Gender Studies, and then again at the start of the new millennium to Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. But the initial principle remains the same:  the definition of this field is not to be found in any one static noun but in the inter-relations among shifting key terms.  No women without men, no masculinity without femininity, no gender without race, no race without class, no class without gender, no gender without sex, no sex without nation, no nation without power, no power without bodies.  It is these robust and changing relationships that we call intersectionality-NOT the nouns that imperfectly designate them-that are, and always have been, the important arena of Women's Studies. Masculinity, femininity, race, class, sex, nation, power and bodies are the tools of epistemic force. The object of inquiry has moved beyond the experience of women to the cultural construction of gender to the study of the power involved in constructing and maintaining normative hierarchies of sexuality in the first place.  It is not that women have been left behind, but that "woman" as a category has been disaggregated into its component parts, so that now it is increasingly asked, "woman as defined in relation to what kind of sexuality?"
     The definition of the field of Women's Studies has shifted.  But,-and this is the key point-its intersectional, interdisciplinary methodology has not changed. Women's Studies in all its iterations is still one of the most important analytical platforms in the academy for extracting recognition of the social consequences of difference left out of public consciousness and power.

Laura Wexler

LGBT Studies Honors Mary Bonauto, This Years Brudner Lecture Recipient


Mary Bonauto delivered the 2010-2011 James Robert Brudner '83 Memorial Prize and Lecture on December 1st 2010 at the Yale Law School, and again on December 2nd at The Yale Club of New York City.  Bonauto has been the Civil Rights Project Director for GLAD since 1990 and has played a key role in making New England's laws, regulations, and policies the most gay-friendly in the nation. Her talk "Perry, Gill, and the Right Wing Challenges to Defeat us," was well received both on campus and in New York. For more information about the Brudner Lecture, and a list of past recipients visit,

Yalie Honored for Work with Girls Education and Human Rights

Yale undergraduate, Jordana Confino (along with her sister, Arielle) was among 20 young women being recognized at the 2010 Glamour Magazine Women of the Year Award. Jordana was honored for the work in Girls Learn International on behalf of universal girls' education and human rights.  In honor of its twentieth anniversary, Glamour's Women of the Year staged a special tribute to 20 young women who are changing the world. Jordana was one of three Yalies honored at the event.

Shana Alexander Research Fellowship in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

The first ever Shana Alexander Research Fellowship in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies was awarded in 2010. The award is made possible through the generosity of the Shana Alexander Foundation, in honor of Ms. Alexander's pioneering work in journalism and her commitment to feminist ideals. It provides a limited number of fellowships to support original undergraduate research projects in women's, gender, and sexuality studies.


Photo: Silis De Filippis, Zachary Enumah, and Kendall Wilson (Photo by John-Albert Moseley)

Congratulations to our first batch of Fellows - Silis De Filippis, Kendall Wilson and Zackary Enumah.

Silis De Filippis (Calhoon 2011) Research on Female Intercollegiate varsity Athletes
In my junior year I became very interested in the perceptions of body image among female varsity athletes at Yale. I wondered if and how this could relate to the frequencies of injuries and eating disorders, which are more common in the female athlete population. Since cultural standards of athleticism and femininity are often at odds with one another, these physical disabilities can be reflections of social tensions. This project has been informed by my experiences as a member of the Yale Women's Varsity Tennis Team. This summer, I conducted a survey that was distributed to many Yale female athletes. Fifty-nine percent of the ninety-nine respondents had an injury that kept them out of practice or competition for more than three weeks. Of this fifty-nine percent, forty-seven percent believed their injuries could have been prevented. In addition, many of these women had felt pressures to play through their pain, often exacerbating their injuries and delaying recovery times. Many of these athletes felt similar pressures to eat more or less by teammates or coaches. Some had met with nutritionists or coaches who told them they needed to lose weight in order to enhance their athletic performance. Others observed what their teammates eat and adjusted what they ate themselves. I hope to use these survey results as a way to make coaches and administrators aware of how we can effectively deal with these issues. I am grateful to the Shana Alexander Research Fellowship for allowing me to explore this topic. 

Kendall Wilson (Saybrook 2011) Research at the Society for Women's Health Research.
The Shana Alexander Fellowship enabled me to spend the summer in Washington, D.C., working directly under the Vice President of Public Policy for the Society for Women's Health Research.  I familiarized myself with the inner workings of the government and gained knowledge about the health care challenges currently facing our country.  I attended congressional briefings and hearings pertaining to the recent Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; various aspects of the health care and insurance industry; medical innovations; and current research being conducted by the National Institute of Health and private and academic institutions.  In addition to attending, I was able to research, write and propose briefings relating to women's health, specifically bladder incontinence, obesity and birth control pills.  I also spent a significant amount of time working on current pieces of legislation, which included the Heart for Women Act and the Safe Cosmetics of 2010.  One of the most rewarding projects I worked on was in conjunction with the Veterans Administration.  I contributed research and writing to the VA as they work on addressing women veterans' health issues, notably military sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. Finally, I gathered research on the environmental factors that affect women's health throughout their lifespan.  I focused particularly on factors that adversely affect women during puberty, pregnancy and post-menopause, as at these times hormone levels affect how the body deals with anything with high chemical or pollutant concentrations.  Currently I'm building upon this research for my senior thesis.

Zackary Enumah (Berkeley 2011) Attitudes and Intersections of Healthcare: Gender Issues around Traditional, Spiritual, and Biomedical Healing among Muslims in Old Town, Mombasea, Kenya.

It is with great enthusiasm that I report on my summer research findings, as made possible by the Shana Alexander Research Fellowship. The fellowship enabled me to examine in-depth the relationships between individual and networks of waganga (a KiSwahili word for traditional healers and other state and non-state actors (e.g. government, non-governmental organizations, religious institutions). The methodology consisted of qualitative data acquisition, through key informant interviews and focus group discussions. I recorded (video and audio) over sixty hours of interview footage, which is currently being transformed into an ethnographic film. Some preliminary results pointed to contentious relationships between these healers and the government, especially regarding their efforts to recognize and support these healers both monetarily and materially. This experience allowed me to delve deeper into the ways in which these waganga perceive themselves in a therapeutic bionetwork-that is in a network of collaborations between different healthcare providers. These self-perceptions are directly related to both institutional representations, as well as the tradition of healthcare knowledge dissemination through generations.  Folklore and oral tradition are at the heart of their practice, and these phenomenological realities speak to the larger issue of legitimacy in that many western, biomedical institutions fail to acknowledge or appreciate this mode of knowledge dissemination. The role of waganga is thus undervalued and they are often simply seen as "murderers". These preliminary findings emerge from my current research and suggest areas of further inquiry and study.

LGBTS Welcomes Serena Dankwa as the Third Sarah Pettit Fellow, 2010-11

Serena is the current Sarah Pettit Fellow. She is exploring female same-sex friendships and intimacies in postcolonial Ghana, as a doctoral student in Social Anthropology and Gender Studies at the University of Berne. Her fieldwork has involved interviews and conversations with working-class women of all age groups, from the capital city to smaller market towns in southern Ghana. Since there is very little material about formations of same sex practice in West Africa, part of her project is to create an historical archive by looking at school reports, court records, cultural texts like newspapers, video films, religious pamphlets and oral histories.

Serena' s story begins in Switzerland where her father, one of the first Ghanaian students to get a scholarship met her Swiss mother who was a nurse. They moved to Accra, the bustling capital of Ghana, but relocated back to a village in German speaking Switzerland when Serena was seven years old.

At 19 Serena was admitted to a conservatory where she received a degree in teaching and performing classical guitar. But her political, journalist and intellectual engagements led her to conjoin her different interests. Besides her studies in classical music, she conceived and developed a first radio feature on popular music in colonial Ghana. After graduating from the conservatory Serena freelanced as a radio and TV broadcaster, specializing in popular music and performing arts in West Africa and other parts of the world. She went on to get her Master's degree from School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. In her Master's thesis she traced the emergence of women's histories, drawing on the writings of an indigenous Ghanaian pastor to the Basel Mission. The path is not as straightforward as it may appear as Serena had to struggle against financial and administrative obstacles.

In  2006 Serena embarked on a doctoral program. She is at Yale to complete writing the dissertation.  She is particularly excited about being at Yale because the WGSS with its focus on LGBT as well as the African Studies Department offer a stimulating experience with a braided understanding of race, gender and sexuality.

Geentanjali Chanda in conversation with Serena Dankwa

WGSS Launches New Speaker Series

2010-2011 marks the return of the WGSS Speakers Series organized by Professor Inderpal Grewal. The series continues an intellectual dialogue among students, faculty and theoreticians at the cutting edge of feminist research. We have had the privilege to invite and host the following speakers.

September 14, 2010
Professor Jennifer Terry (UC Irvine) 
Nationalist Heteropatriachry and Symptomatic Fixations on Homosexuality in the Military.

September 29, 2010
Professor Anjali Arondeker (UC Santa Cruz)
Archival Attachments: On Sexuality and Historiography in South Asia.

October 5, 2010
Professor Robyn Wiegman (Duke University)
All about Eve.

November 3, 2010
'Reading down' the Sodomy Law in India, Perspectives from Research and Activism, [Panel discussion co-sponsored with LGBT Studies and the South Asian Studies Council]. Vivek Divan (activist with the Lawyer's collective in India), Professor Ratna Kapur (Visiting Professor at Yale Law School), Professor Jyoti Puri (Simmons College), and Professor Svati Shah (UMass-Amherst). Inderpal Grewal - panel moderator.

FORTHCOMING, Spring 2011

February 8, 2011
Professor Caren Kaplan (UC Davis)
The View From Above: Air Power's Visual Culture

March 29, 2011
Professor Laura Hyun-yi Kang (UC Irvine)

April 13, 2011
Professor Sonia Alvarez (U Mass, Amherst),
Sidestreaming Feminisms: Latin American Experiences

Please check the WGSS web site for the updated schedule in January 2011. html.

The WGSS Speakers Series is supported by the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund.

Fall 2010

Wednesday, December 1
Brudner Lecture, Yale Law School 5:00 pm, Room 127
Mary Bonauto, Perry, Gill and the Right Wing Challenges to Defeat Us
Thursday, December 2
Brudner Lecture, Yale Club of New York City, 6pm Reception, 7pm Lecture
Mary Bonauto, Perry, Gill and the Right Wing Challenges to Defeat Us
50 Vanderbilt Ave, New York, NY
Monday, December 6
WGSS Senior Essay Presentations, 11:30 am to 1:00 pm, WLH 309

Spring 2011

Monday, January 24
WGSS Colloquium, 5:30 pm, WLH 309
Sarah Koenig (History/Religious Studies)
Dottie Do-Good's War on Sin: A Woman Mayor's Anti-Vice Campaign in Cold War Portland, Oregon

Tuesday, February 8
Professor Caren Kaplan (UC  Davis)
The View From Above: Air Power's Visual Culture

Thursday, February 10
YRIHS 5:00  pm, HGS 211
Robert Beachy, Goucher College
The Homosexual Rights Movement in Berlin and Beyond:  Influences and Legacies
Monday, February 21
WGSS Colloquium, 5:30 pm, WLH 309
Michelle Morgan (American Studies)
Uncovering the Spirit of Justice: Re-framing Gender in Post 9/11 Iconoclasm
Friday, February 25
Humanitarianism Panel Event
Kamari Clarke, Inderpal Grewal, and Emilie Townes
Friday, February 25 & Saturday, February 26
Global Oprah: Celebrity as Transnational Icon
Luce Hall, a workshop facilitated by Kathryn Lofton
March 29
Professor Laura Hyun-yi Kang (UC  Irvine)

Thursday, March 24
YRIHS 5:00 pm , HGS 211
Naisargi Dave, University of Toronto
Indian and Lesbian: Affect and Commensuration in India's Lesbian Emergence
Monday, April 11
WGSS Colloquium, 5:30 pm, WLH 309
Ana Lara (African American Studies & Anthropology) & Tom Koenigs (Talks TBD)

April 13
Professor Sonia Alvarez (U Mass, Amherst),
Sidestreaming Feminisms: Latin American Experiences

Thursday, April 21
YRIHS, 5:00 pm, HGS 211
Rebecca Jordan-Young, Barnard College
The Desiring Brain: Sex, Hormones, and Hardwiring