Women and Gender Studies: Trailblazing Daily at SF State Since the 1970s

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Photo of Women and Gender Studies students celebrating their graduation
Photo courtesy of the Women and Gender Studies Department

San Francisco State is home to one of the first women studies programs in the nation. The Women and Gender Studies Department has long resisted labels even commonly used in the feminist community.

“It is on purpose that we do not make ‘women’ possessive,” Professor and Chair Julietta Hua says. “Rather, we are ‘women’ in the plural, and not women in the possessive that other departments tend to use. The use of ‘women’ signals that different people have made claim to, and also experienced the category in different ways,” Hua says.

In spring 1972, Women in College started a series of SF State courses with a special focus on women. In January 1974 work started to develop a holistic Bachelor of Arts program in women’s studies, which launched in 1977.

In 2008, the department changed its name to Women and Gender Studies, reflective of research that is inclusive of all genders, including transgender and nonbinary. The department teaches critical thinking and writing. All issues are feminist issues, whether or not they specifically name gender or sexuality.

The department was established in 1976. Forged out of transformative activism and scholarship, the Women and Gender Studies Department uses interdisciplinary approaches and foregrounds transnational and intersectional relationships among gender, race, sexuality, nation, labor, technologies and globalization. Students engage in challenging academics, work closely with professors and lead community initiatives.

Famous scholars including Angela Davis, bell hooks and Ericka Huggins have taught in the department. Notable alumni include Teen Vogue Executive Editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay (M.A., ’09), Asian American and Pacific Islander Women Lead Connie Wun (M.A., ’04) and Denia Perez (B.A., ’12), the first DACA recipient to be admitted to the Connecticut Bar.

Women’s History Month shines a light on the research and activist tradition that makes the department a great choice for students. Professor Hua, however, isn’t a big fan of the annual month-long celebration.

“Politically we believe that designating an ‘X history month’ just tokenizes and segregates that issue mattering to a fixed time of the year,” she says. “Instead, we believe that the critical analyses of gender and sexuality should be happening everywhere, all the time.”

— Ufuoma Umusu

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Women and Gender Studies Department

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