News Story

Celebrating 25 Years

September 27, 2012—This weekend, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program (WGSP) celebrates its 25th anniversary by inviting speakers, students, and the greater Georgetown community to explore the history and future of the discipline.

Now offering a major and a minor, the program began in the late 1980s and has steadily increased its number of teaching faculty and students. The founders never intended the program to be an insular department within the College. They hoped that their presence would change discussion in many fields and courses. “They didn’t want to occupy a corner on campus doing our own things. They envisioned it as a movement that [would] change the campus culture itself,” said You-Me Park, visiting assistant professor and the program’s current director.

At a reception on September 28, the program will welcome its first director and alumni back to campus to discuss the program’s evolution. Current students will have a chance to hear from alumni about their work after graduation.

Park also invited six guests to lead panels on September 29. She specifically designed the day to be different from a conference, focusing on students rather than scholars. “I didn’t think [a conference] was exactly what our students needed. They need to see the configuration of the discipline,” Park said. Students will be able to attend each panel and a round-table discussion with the scholars at the end of the day.

Park chose speakers from across the field, including seminal theorists Cythina Enloe (Clark) and Jack Halberstam (USC); up-and-coming scholars Hagar Kotef (Columbia) and Shiloh Krupar (Georgetown); and Ashwini Tambe (UMD) and Esther Wangari (Towson), scholars who are “currently carrying the discipline.”

For students, the weekend is an opportunity to meet and engage with the theorists that they study in class. The events also allow the rest of the Georgetown community to learn more about women’s and gender studies. “It’s so much more than what people see it as, which is gender roles. I think that’s a really big misconception, and I’m excited for the anniversary to open it up to all of Georgetown,” Madeline Wisemen (C’13) said. Wiseman is a women’s and gender studies major, and one of four students who volunteered to help coordinate the anniversary weekend.

According to these students, the program has changed how they analyze issues in all of their classes, not just those specific to the program. “I came to Georgetown thinking I wanted to do government. But when I took the intro class with Professor Widener, I was able to see government and wars differently,” Monica Vizconde (C’13) said. “I feel like this program makes you see characters and actors that you don’t pay attention to in [other circumstances],” she continued.

After Giuliana Cortese (C’13) started taking women’s and gender studies courses, she also began to view feminism differently. “When I came to the program, I had a certain idea of what feminism meant. [But] there is no strict definition of feminism, it is something that’s always changing,” Cortese said. “It’s perspective; it’s a certain lens.”

By promoting that there is not only one type of feminism, Park and her students hope to use the anniversary to share the program with more students at Georgetown. “It’s such a loaded word. [People] are afraid of calling themselves feminists because of some of the negative connotations with the word,” Wiseman said.

In the last event of the weekend, guests and scholars will come together to discuss the future of feminism. Professor Park decided to call the round-table “Building Feminist Futures,” highlighting how feminism will continue to evolve in many directions. 

The anniversary’s events will showcase not only theory and history but also action. “I’m trying to teach [students] that feminism is about praxis. It’s about strategizing, coming up with ways to make the world better, especially for the most disempowered, the most vulnerable, and the most silenced,” Park said.

“Feminism is about human dignity for all. This is about creating a world where men and women can celebrate themselves and each other.”

—Elizabeth Wilson

Photos by Kuna Malik Hamad

WGSP Anniversary Weekend

A reception will be held from 6:30–8:30 p.m. on Friday, September 28. The panels and discussion will be held from 10–4 p.m. on Saturday, September 29. For more information, visit the program’s schedule of events. The weekend’s events are free and open to the public.