Elizabeth Mills, Professor of English
Impertinent questions. New discoveries. Creative, challenging conversations with adventurous-minded, socially awake women and men. Gender Studies suggests those opportunities to me. I know that some students view the Gender Studies Concentration as a closet Women's Studies program, but it is not. The Gender Studies Concentration includes a focus on women, as many of the course selections each semester suggest. It also, however, includes a focus on men, and on women and men interacting with each other, from birth to death, in all sorts of combinations and circumstances, public and private, individual and institutional. Gender Studies names a larger category than Women's Studies; it covers broader territory, and it asks different questions.
Gender Studies begins with the assertion that gender is a social construct, that humans are taught from the moment of birth(and some might argue even before) what their society believes is man, male, masculine and woman, female, feminine. Gender Studies rejects the assumption that a person's biological sex naturally or innately contains all the essential matter ofmale or female identity. If biological sex alone does not determine gender, then what does? Answering that question leads to an investigation not only of biology but of culture and its institutions as well. Fully exploring the creation of gender, that long unacknowledged reality, and understanding gender's effect upon all dimensions of life involves interdisciplinary work.
In 1989 and 1990, when faculty were developing concentrations that would allow students official recognition for interdisciplinary work, some faculty members thought Davidson should, following a model from many of our peer institutions, offer a Women's Studies program. Others, however, argued that Gender Studies would better reflect the college's history and prepare current students for the future. The debate over which type of program to offer was more pragmatic than passionate and occurred before any proposal was made to the faculty; when the concentration was proposed, the faculty approved it without opposition.
The Gender Studies rubric represents a variety of approaches, and that variety is one of the concentration's great contributions to students. Twenty-eight faculty members representing thirteen separate departments currently teach Gender Studies courses. African American Literature; Childbirth; Gender Identity; Reproductive Ethics; Reproductive Biology; Childhood and Youth; Gender and Society; Male and Female; Modernism: Space, Place, and Gender; the Genesis Narrative; and Turn-of the-Century Britain are some of the course faculty offered during the last three semesters. The fourteen current Gender Studies concentrators represent seven majors, including Anthropology, English, German, History, Psychology, Political Science, and Religion.
Liz Yarema, a 1991 Cum Laude English major, was the first person to graduate with a Gender Studies concentration. Since then, forty-two people have completed the five-course requirement for the concentration. In addition to English, their majors include Anthropology, Biology, French, History, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Sociology, and Theater; two students have interdisciplinary majors through the Center. Many of the concentrators graduated with honors or high honors in their majors and were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. Several have completed graduate school; others are employed by business or non profit organizations. Rafael A. H. Candelario, a History major who taught at Durham Academy, is now a marine officer.