Bryn Mawr Referendum on the name of the F&GS Program

(December 20, 2003)


To all Bryn Mawr faculty, staff and students--

The Bi-Co Steering committee of the Feminist and Gender Studies Program

has for some time now been deliberating a possible name change for the program. Over the past month, the Haverford community has been engaged in a referendum on this matter; we now invite Bryn Mawr to do the same. Before leaving campus on December 20th, could you let us know your views on this issue on a forum we've established at

You can also access the referendum from our program homepage @


Thank you for letting us know what you think--

Anne Dalke,

for the Bi-College F&GS Steering Committee

(Catherine Conybeare, Yvette Goslin, Alice Lesnick,

Liz McCormack, Debra Rubin, Deborah Sherman and Susanna Wing)


Responding: 75

Faculty: 13

Staff: 10

Students: 46

Not identified: 8


Choices elected:

No preference:  5

Feminist & Gender Studies: 14

Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies: 19

Gender and Sexuality: 5

Gender Studies: 32

[Choices w/ “feminist” in the title: 33]

[Choices w/ “sexuality” in the title: 24]



Feminist & Gender Studies

I would say that I like Gender Studies the best, for its inclusiveness

and equality to both sexes, but I still feel that feminism is a huge part of the

concentration. I think as a women's college, it's important to publicly and

specifically address feminist issues. If the major is called Gender Studies, it

implies an equal exploration of male AND female sexuality, and I just don't

think this is an accurate description of the program. This title, ont he other

hand, acknowledges that not all the courses are based on feminist thought, but still recognizes the importance of feminist thought within the concentration. Good luck making the decision -it's a hard one!


We attend a women's college and a large number of the undersgraduates

here would classify themselves as "feminists".  Why would you change the name of the program most characteristic of the sentiment held by large percentage of the student population? 


Because it shows that one is interested in womens studies and Gender,

not just one or the other, while the word "Sexuality" in the title may turn

people off to the concentration.


Because it is the only indication I see that Bryn Mawr and Feminism

coexist! On top of that, the two topics are different.


The name is fine as is.  Why fix what isn't broken?  The name of the

department should relfect what kind of courses are offered within it.  If the

courses in this concentration deal with topics of feminism and gender, then both terms should be included in the title.


Q. How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. That's not funny!

A grad student was telling me that back in the early nineties she was a

feminist, her friends were feminists, women were feminists and men were

feminists- as a way to meet women. Now "feminist" seems to be a dirty word...but other than the fact that the country is under a more conservative reign than it was ten years ago, nothing has changed. The fact is that feminism is still an important political philosophy and recalls a series of important historical movements and feminism is still a topic of prominent scholarly work. Women's rights haven't imporved so significantly in the last ten years that the issue might now be dropped (by the way, a discipline need neither be current nor popular to be important). So, basically, I ask what's driving this change. Is the problem that "feminism" as a political movement has fallen out of favor and enrollments have dwindled? Is this a marketing maneuver? (and by the way, please say no. please. Let's not have programs at Bryn Mawr be changed based on what eighteen year old women think they want to study) What does the discipline call itself? ("feminist theory" is still called "feminist theory", right?) Don't get me wrong, I think it's pretty cool that the program is asking these questions - and I'm definitely looking forward to hearing all kinds of good answers.


The specific identification of courses in feminist theory and perspective and reference to more inclusive focus on gender and sexuality both are relected in this designation.


It does have a feminist slant to it, let's face it. Rather than explicitly looking at issues of men in art, for example, Bryn Mawr's curriculum looks at representation and women's roles, with men being looked at for a contrast. I feel that perspective is found throughout all of Bryn Mawr's courses, specifically its FemGen ones.


I feel that this is the most recognizable and broad name given to this

area of study.  While sexuality is aptly a major component of this field , it is

one of many areas which are examined and not necessarily at the forefront for all.  Using the term gender puts the study in a broader soceital context.  It aknowledges that any study of one gender must take into account all definitions of gender.  It does not limit to one specific idea.  However, the term feminist puts some emphasis on the study of woman.    


This name suits the concentration best because it truly reflects the

area of study and the history of it. I think it also allows for the possibility

that studies that are feminist are not solely concerned with the study of

gender. Courses on the history of the social movement can be covered too.


I feel, particularly given its institutional location (namely, a

WOMEN's college), that it is EXTREMELY important to maintain, if only through naming, the historical, political and theoretical significance of the program.  (And, I should add, I write this as a faculty member who has consistently taught courses in the program, advised students, etc.)  As a second choice, I would pick the fourth option, "feminist, gender and sexuality studies," though I don't feel a change is necessary.  But I feel strongly that feminism should be present in the naming.

I think I would have preferred a change to Women's Studies, but since

that is not one of the options and since reading the pros and cons of all the

other options convinces me that none of them are better (and some are definitely worse), my vote is for keeping it what it is now.


Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies

This name is most applicable to the subjects we examine in the classes relevant to the concentration.  I feel leaving the "feminist" out would be misleading as the feminist perspective is a major component of the concentration.


I think the current type neglects a very important component of many

of the scholarship we are studying: sexuality.


This is most inclusive.


It seems all-inclusive.


Because this title is more inclusive, rather than exclusive, which is

a major purpose of the concentration!!!!


The "feminist" title pays homage to the amount of feminist theory and women's studies intrinsic to the concentration, while the inclusion of

"sexuality" highlights the difference between the studies of gender and

sexuality.  Incidentally, I think "women's studies" would be equally appropriate as opposed to "feminist".


Although this is a big clunky name and doesn't get rid of the F-word,

I feel that it's the most inclusive term.  I think that feminism, elitist

history and all, is still an important concept today that more people should be educated about; we shouldn't abandon it to misunderstood obscurity but rather continue to make it a living, changing movement.  Adding sexuality to the mix should hopefully invite more people in...removing words would cut people out.  One problem might be that it sounds a bit unfocused, but really feminism, gender, and sexuality are inextricably linked anyway...might as well put it all out on the table.  :-)  Hope that helps.


Well, from what I understand, the concentration is essentially a formal group of classes regarding all or some of the above topics.  Plus, if we plan to foster a continuing conversation on gender and diversity, we have to include men.


Because there is a clear distinction between gender and sexuality (one often overlooked by the influence of white heterosexual males), the

concentration should reflect these distinctions and honor the

individuals/cultures being studied.


Feminism must be studied as a political and sociological topic

influenced by Gender, but it is not always influenced by Sexuality--therefore it is a seperate topic, intertwined with the rest, but deserving of seperate

mention. It has a seperate history from Gender and Sexuality studies, for

example. It should not be subsumed into the "Gender" or "Sexuality" categories. Likewise, one can discuss Gender without involving Sexuality, and vice versa. I believe that each of these terms is clear enough in its own right to merit its own mention in the title of the department, but are intertwined enough with each other that all should be mentioned.


To me, "feminism" means being conscious of your rights as a woman and

your place in discourse.  I think it is very important for women, as a repressed group, to have an area of academic studies devoted to their self-awareness.  Why marginalize women even more by making the issue of female oppression invisible within academia?  Keep the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies name!!!  Sexuality is also an issue, so this name fits.


It is inclusive and descriptive of the types of issues addressed

within this concentration.


they are three separate things- sex is between your legs, gender is in

your head.  a feminist can be male, female, or anything else.  anyone can be a feminist, it isn't at all influenced by gender or sexuality (unless society

portays them as being connected and the individual buys into that portrayal).


a greater comprehensiveness and a poetic meter


This name seems the most inclusive. Retaining the word "feminist"

gives a nod to pioneers who made this field of inquiry possible in the first

place, and suggests that primary historical texts will be addressed. It

furthermore distinguishes the program from broader, looser inquiries into gender which might take place in any discipline, giving the concentration more political and historical specificity (but leaving it optional whether individual participants want to label themselves "feminists" -- students can study historical instances of a movement without necessarily claiming it as part of their identity).  The word "gender" helpfully indicates that the categories "female" and "male" will be subject to exploration and inquiry rather than taken as givens, and also, I think, helps to indicate that male students and faculty are welcome.  Finally, the addition of the word "sexuality" extends an invitation to students who identify as or have an interest in issues related to queer/bisexual/gay/lesbian/transgender studies. It also suggests, rightly in my opinion, that issues of gender can and should be thought in tandem with issues of sexual orientation. Ultimately, though, I think that the choice of name depends upon the types of students the concentration wishes to attract. "Gender Studies" would probably be the name least likely to raise any red flags with students (and the least likely to cause them to balk at having controversial words on their permanent transcripts). It may be that this is the safer way to go, especially if the program wishes to cast its net wider. However, my own experiences with students suggest that they are less timid than this, and that they can handle the edgier words in a mature and inquisitive fashion. I also worry that calling the program "Gender Studies" would seem like a retreat or watering-down, and that the act of dropping the word "feminist" from the title would be perceived as a statement that we no longer need to think about gender equality.


I think maintaining Feminist in the title is important.  While I don't

use the word to describe myself and often feel isolated from the popular

"feminist movement," I think of academic feminism in a different light, as more

reflective on society and not necessarily pushing a specific political agenda.

The feminist perspective in theory (across academic disciplines) is very

important to me and I'd like to see it continue to be emphasized.

I also think that the use of both Gender and Sexuality in the title is

appropriate.  Being at Bryn Mawr I've experienced a lot of discussions on these terms, and I think that the two together accurately reflect the interests of students here, both inside and outside of the program.  Also, while incoming students might not understand the reasons for including both, I think that if anything, it would intrigue and not dissuade them.


Sexuality needs to be included in the department name, but I also feel

that "Feminist" is an important part of the program as well. The idea that women don't like to be called feminists anymore because it is controversial and outdated is because they are made to feel that feminism is a negative thing, when really I think most women would agree with the ideas behind feminist theory. I think it is integral that 'feminist' is kept as part of the title.


The politics, history art psychology... of privledge.  Difference.  Rights.  Choice.  Confrontation.  Some of the words that I free associate with

my understanding of women studies.  The word feminist inserts these ideas for me,however I do not identify with the groups (racial minority, 20 something, transgender) that are alienated by the word. Is there another word?  I designed a women studies major as an undergraduate and found it very difficult to find a title for my coursework.  For the record I ended with female reality which still makes me cringe.  Apparently I have not made much progress in my ability to rename women studies which suffers from ambiguity.  This is a bit of a cop out vote b/c it incorportates all three words so is sort of a non-vote. Also it has a good chance of being shortened and thus loosing its intended all-inclusiveness. 


This seems like the most inclusive, least exclusionary choice --

though it's a mouthful!


I'm compelled by arguments for including all of the above (Cornell

statement, etc.).  Also, this title seems to invite attention and that makes

critical consideration more likely.



Gender and Sexuality

Why GAS? Gender and Sexuality are quite distinct, so both should be in the

title.  Feminism would be implied in the title.  "Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality

Studies" is just too long of a name.


Feminist is an ambiguous term and can have an unpleasant connotation. I

think this term encompasses everyting in general.


For one thing, it can't be abbreviated "fags." Feminist, Gender &

Sexuality studies is too long of a title. And keeping 'feminist' in the title

makes us look like the man-hating butch dykes the rest of the world things that women who go to women's colleges are. At least with 'Gender & Sexuality' we can pretend that we think about boys, too.


The central concerns of the program require a recognition not only of

"social construction" (gender) but also of relevant biology, genetics, and

neurobiology.  The addition of "sexuality" represents an acknowledgement of this broader scope.  It is, in addition, a less "academic" term, one that invites

greater engagement from/with non-academic sources and considerations.  "Sex" is on everyone's mind, gender is not.


Gender Studies

I believe that this name is more inclusive of all aspects pertaining to

gender. A student might be interested in gender issues, but not necessarily in feminism per se (or at all), and this name will accomodate a wider range of



I feel that this name would allow for the department to offer more

courses on BOTH genders as well as courses on the issue of gender and sexuality. I have always felt that fem/gen courses at Bryn Mawr were merely

feminist/womanist courses, and the gender aspect was minimally explored.

Courses such as "Vision de la Femme" and "Women, Medicine, and Biology" were great courses, but they were not Gender courses. They were womanist courses. I would like to see both genders equally explored in the coursework. If "Women's Studies" is not an option, this is the option I best prefer.


It seems more inclusive, and it doesn't insist that sexuality is an

inherent part of gender.  feminism, unfortunately has a negative conotation in our society.  I feel that having a concentration in gender studies would lesson that automatic "bitch" assumption.


It implies more equality of focus.


Because the title is not gender specific.


Feminism deals with a way in which the world is viewed. I see the

concentration more as a study of women (and some men) in the world. But not neccessarily from a feminist presepective. I also think that sexuality is a given in "gender studies." Sexuality is important to some people in defining their gender, and a part of the study of gender RELATIONS, and the formation of gender identity.


it seems more inclusive, though i don't think i know enough about the

course offerings of the department to say for sure. my second choice would be to keep it as feminist and gender studies


This seems the simplest and most concise way of stating the

concentration. I feel that it is best not to be too PC too often, and by

sticking a lot of labels onto the concentration, one falls into this trap. Sure,

it is important to be inclusive, but "Gender Studies" is as broad as it gets.

Those who were interested would know that it was what they were looking for, those who weren't it wouldn't concern, etc. The only question I have is, if you tell someone you have a concentration in Gender Studies from BMC, will this be translatable for people from other institutions? (Due to the paucity of concentrations of this type calling themself "gender studies", would this result in confusion and.or misunderstanding?) I would like to think not.  However, after saying all this, I would like to present the idea that it is not really my place to name the concentration-- how do the women who are planning in concentrating in these ideas feel? They are certainly the most informed and involved. Take my comments into consideration if you'd like, but listen closely to them.


Because it's the happenin' name today. Onwards to the future!


Because while "feminist" is a descriptive adjective it is most commonly

heard/read as if conveying the prsence of specific ideological investments.  I

think we best serve our students by giving them access to interpretive tools and strategies; over coffee and beer we can do politics. My second choice would be Gender & Sexuality.


I believe that Gender Studies allows for a very broad range of topics to

be covered.  Feminist issues can be covered as well as issues of sexuality,

sexual orientation.  I understand the cons of calling gender studies.  As

someone whose dissertation was feminist in its theory, I feel like gender

studies would have covered that theory among others.  I think it primarily

depends on what members of the department feel the focus should be—broadly defined or more narrowly defined.


 ...because it is the most inclusive of all the names here.  Feminisms

are approaches to gender analyses and sexuality is mediated by gender.  Gender also a stronger, broader axis for analysis.


I think dropping the word "Feminist" makes it more inclusive and will

make the concentation more appealing to young men and women. 


it's more inclusive. Sadly the word "feminist" has taken on a bad

connotation. I believe that the best feminists are interested in how gender

roles and gender equity inform and change the world for all of us.


I think Gender Studies is the most encompassing in terms of what will be offered, the focus, and the direction of the curriculum. I think when, in academia, you are discussing and contemplating 'gender studies', it's more than feminism and more than sexuality, it's the psychology, the sociology, biology, etc. of all of those things and how they contribute to our understanding of gender and gender relations.


It is a more general term, and invites fewer stereotypes than a title

with "feminist" or "sexuality" lurking within--- also, I feel it would be more

inclusive and make the field of study appeal to a wider range of people.


I'm not sure what the concentration entails but the idea of feminist and

gender studies really turns me off, because feminists turn me off.  The study of both genders is interesting, however.  If the concentration is feminist and

gender studies, it might as well just be feminist studies because then by

default you are studying about gender.


I believe that this name more accurately embraces the many aspects of

gender that the program explores.  Terms like Feminist and Sexuality narrow the field in a way that seems inappropriate at Bryn Mawr.  Gender Studies is a larger way to think about the discipline that is also more inclusive.


I think that "feminist" suggests bias to a lot of students, and I don't

really want those students to opt out of these courses.  Other colleges avoid "feminist" for that reason, and it makes sense to me. 


Gender is broad enough for me. Derrida says that to supplement is to

replace not add as in Asian-American meaning Asian not really American or in

women historian meaning women. Supplementing Gender (main object of inquiry) with all the other stuff just makes the program about all that other stuff and not gender. That would be a mistake.


I prefer for the concentration to be named Gender studies because it leaves open a wide range of topics to be discussed. To just call it anything else would be to narrow down what could be explored in this concentration.


Not so bad to study guys and their whole in the whole gender relations

issue too.


I like this name because it is more inclusive to the study of both

genders. One gender defines and influences the other anyway.

I like the name Gender & Sexuality, because I think that sexuality is a

construction worth designating, but I think some people would shy away from having this named on their resume.


Gender Studies is straight-forward, inclusive, and unalarming.  I see no

reason why department names need mark their history, proclaim activist

positions, or emphasize particular theoretical trajectories.  Gender may be a

"mainstreaming" term but the mainstream is in part the consequence of success. Partly because my own interests are comparative politics, "sexuality" and "feminist" are awkward framing terms. The first, in a comparative politics context, is invasive and produces alarming Orientalist effects; the second elides my research agenda with my politics.  While "feminist" in the American context can be read as white and middle-class, outside of the United States it is often seen as a project of Western privilege and Western cultural imperialism.I graduate in 1992 with an independent major in Feminist and Gender Studies.  My primary area of interest was masculinity, specifically in Female-to-Male Transsexuals and Transgenders.  I didn't have a particular interest in what the name was, so I went with the name of the minor. I've had over ten years to consider it, and I wish it had just been Gender Studies.  It is the most inclusive and least controversial name. I don't include the feminist on my resume -- too many assumptions can be made by potential employers!  And I would never include Sexuality on my resume. Please!


General Comments

There should be more information and general noise from the femgen concentration and it should be a major!


I really don't consider this a valid field of study, particularly as a major.  I

have no idea why we have this, but most people I know do not take it at all

seriously--and they're feminists.


You should have an intro course.  Tons of people would take it!


One of the concerns that I have with listing my "Feminist and Gender Studies" concentration on my resume is the negative sterotypes people associate with "feminist".  As Mawrtyers we're above these types of stereotypes, but it's not always so in "the real world". I just caution you to be careful with whatever title you give the concentration for what the label says once we're outside of Bryn Mawr. 


While not specifically affiliated with the Fem/Gen study concentration, I do not quite understand how a name change would affect the courses offered.  I would need to hear reasons for changing the name of the concentration before I could vote well. 


This year, Harvard tried to change the name of its Women's Studies concentation (Harvard-speak for major) to 'Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies'.  This was met with considerable opposition from concentrators.  My (male) best friend, currently a Women's Studies and History of Art/Architecture concentrator, articulates, "I don't want 'sexuality' on my diploma.  I just don't.  It sounds cheap and its a misinterpretation of what I am doing.  It belittles the field and begs misinterpretation."   Harvard decided to allow students who entered under the title of Women's Studies choose what their concentration will be called.  From here on out, though, the program is officially Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  Interesting and wonderful that Bry Mawr allows student reflection and contribution on the issue.


To be honest, I don't think the name matters quite as much as the content, which I think should include some solid background in feminist theory as well as current scholarship in the fields of feminism, gender, AND sexuality.  If you

must remove the F-word, go ahead...but keep feminism alive in the classroom! Thanks for your efforts.


My major grief with the program is that most the classes focus on WOMEN. I would consider the title "Women's Studies" (like Swat) more appropriate than any of the ones listed above.  We have no classes on men, but several on women. How can we consider it GENDER studies when we only study women? This naming implies that gender=women, and the rest of the world is male, or maybe just unimportant. I would be very interested in a true Gender Studies program (that would be my prefered independent major)- one which admits that male is a gender and that males have issues and need/deserve to be studied.


Using a more efficient means (the name) to the end (stronger students make for a stronger program)!


Thanks for asking!


I've never seen the purpose in having this concentration.


I really feel it would be useful to develop the concentration into at least a

minor, if not a major... at a college such as Bryn Mawr, I find it appalling

that we do not have a fem/gen (or whatever it shall come to be called) major



None of the above.  17 year olds find what they are interested in by looking

under W in the catalog for Women's Studies.  Feminism was fine for us in the

70's but is an unwelcome category for the current applicants.  The concentration is not about gender.


Sexuality studies are important but there are aspects of gender that are

different than sexuality. In fact that is why we talk about gender differences

these days not just sex differences


First, what is your goal for the program?  Who are you trying to attract as

students, as sponsors, as your "community at large"?  The best name is going to be the one that enhances your goals.


Though male and a biologist, I have been a feminist fellow traveler most of my

conscious life.  I believe in and deeply respect the historically necessary

efforts to assure that women are not discriminated against in our culture in any way.  But, for me, the overriding issue is not "fairness" or "equality" but

rather the needed infusion into our culture of the distinctive understandings

and perspecties that woman (like non-attended to population) are in a position to provide.  I do not, in general, think that academic programs should be structured to promote the particular interests of any subset of humanity but rather to encourage the exploration of areas of broad human concern.  At this point, I think the interests of feminism are best served by taking a leading position in the creation of new ways of thinking about such problems, and gender and sexuality is an excellent example of one way of doing so. I would be very interested in participating in a new concentration on gender and sexuality and would hope to feel welcomed in it , whereas I earlier felt that "Feminist and Gender Studies" had a narrow purpose serving a narrower population less likely to feel contributions from me would be useful.