We are committed to creating an inclusive campus community that acknowledges the inherent dignity in every person.

Our faculty engages in research, pedagogy, and service with attention to social justice to contextualize and challenge sexism, transphobia, ableism, classism, and racial oppression. Our students learn through the development of critical and analytical skills, creative approaches to problem solving, and the ability to articulate productive socio-political alternatives.

On Wednesday, November 9 at 7pm, the Gender Equity Center is cosponsoring a talk with disability justice activist and attorney Lydia X. Z. Brown Lydia will address the disproportionate impact that limited access to reproductive health education and services has on people with disabilities and how we can advocate for change. The title of their talk is “Roe v. Wade at the Intersection: Reproductive Justice for People with Disabilities.” ASL and captioning will be provided. Individuals can register for the live stream using the link: https://wpsumm.wufoo.com/forms/rc0rf030fbpd0i/.
I hope that Week 10 of the semester ended better than it began. If you haven’t had a chance to read President Bendapudi’s response to October 24th’s events, you can find that here: Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi releases message following Uncensored America event cancellation | University Park Campus News | collegian.psu.edu. Given the recent announcement that Penn State is no longer moving ahead on the promised Center for Racial Justice (see Penn State Scraps Plans for a Racial-Justice Center (chronicle.com) and Penn State Breaks Promise to Open Center for Racial Justice (insidehighered.com), it’s difficult to feel good about where things stand. The following op-ed from October 28th's CDT I think it is also worth a read: State College community must rally against white nationalism | Centre Daily Times. I hope that as a community we can find ways to discuss and process the violence that has become more firmly embedded in our community. As we all know, racism and white supremacy never operate in “isolation.” They are always inextricably linked to other systems of power, such as sexism, heterosexism, and classism, just to name a few. As a community, we have a lot of work to do.
"we fight because we must, we rise up because there is no other path to freedom-- except straight through the road of resistance, built by the hands of our oppressors"
I am sad to report the passing of our former colleague, Professor Phyllis Kernoff Mansfield. Her daughter Becky reached out and asked that I share this with all of you:  Phyllis Kernoff Mansfield, Penn State emeritus professor, died on October 12, 2022. She died at home, with family at her side, in Boothbay, Maine. Professor Mansfield joined Penn State as an assistant professor of nursing in 1983. She was named associate professor of health education and women’s studies in 1989, and professor of women’s studies and health education in 1994. She later became the first full-time women’s studies faculty and served as the interim chair of the department. She retired in 2007.  A scholar who used feminist approaches to provide new perspectives on women’s reproductive health, she was also a teacher who touched many students’ lives. In 1994 she received the Dorothy Jones Barnes Teaching Award in the College of Health and Human Development, and in 1998 she received Penn State’s Alumni Teaching Award. Professor Mansfield is survived by her husband Richard, children Becky and David, four grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), thereby unleashing new laws, regulations and practices that will restrict access to abortions and reproductive health care for millions of people in the United States. The Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Penn State denounces and condemns this regressive ruling that is already inflicting harm and hardship on women, girls, and pregnant people across the country who need abortions.
Congratulations to Jessica Birkenholtz who just published "Un/Queering Intersections of Religion and Pride in Nepal," which appeared in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, vol. 38 no. 2, 2022, p. 69-88. Excellent work!

The Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State welcomes all people, regardless of gender, race, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation.

Our department is committed to creating an inclusive campus community that acknowledges the inherent dignity in every person.   Our faculty engages in research, pedagogy and service with an attention to social justice to contexualize and challenge sexism, transphobia, ableism, classism, and racial oppression. Through our work, we aim to move the discourse away from mere tolerance, celebration or appreciation of difference to a deeper understanding and critique of discrimination, intolerance, and inequality in the historical and contemporary global society.

We are committed to working with others in our community on meaningful efforts to promote a department and a campus that validates and supports everyone, and we are dedicated to achieving equity and respect for every individual of our society, especially those who identify as LGBTQ, African American, Latinx or other marginalized identities.

The recent withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan and the subsequent takeover by the Taliban has prompted extensive coverage of the “fate” of that nation’s women and girls, as though they have no role in determining their own futures.  Unfortunately, the coverage follows the familiar, troubling narrative of Muslim women as passive victims in need of “protection” and “rescue” by the West. Moreover, this impetus to “rescue” is falsely labeled as “feminist,” a claim we have firmly rejected. Nearly twenty years ago, on November 17, 2001, Laura Bush delivered a radio address – one normally delivered every week by her husband, the President of the United States – to “kick off a worldwide effort to focus on the brutality against women and children by the Al Qaeda terrorist network and the regime it supports in Afghanistan, the Taliban.” She described the “horror” experienced by “civilized people throughout the world” at the plight of those women and girls and reminded listeners of their obligation to speak out. “The fight against terrorism,” she noted, “is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.” All Americans were called on to therefore join her family “to ensure that dignity and opportunity will be secured for all the women and children of Afghanistan.” In one deft radio address, the former first lady deliberately invoked feminist rhetoric to evoke sympathy but ultimately to justify what would become decades of military intervention, and the devastating aftermath that war brings. The future of Afghan women and girls is once again in the news. What will become of their educational opportunities, their ability to work outside the home, to move freely, to be seen and heard in public? The brutal record of the Taliban is certainly reason for grave concern, but so is the idea that the liberation of women and girls must be tied to US military occupation. As feminist scholars and educators, we must think critically about the complexities – indeed, the messiness – that undergirds this historical moment. The call to simply “rescue” such women and girls is an echo of colonial discourses about Muslim women as passive victims of cultural oppression by Muslim men and not one informed by feminist ethics. Humanitarian aid must be forthcoming, but we must also question the systems of power and militarism that created this crisis in the first place. We must be wary of another calculated and false “feminist” call to “rescue” Afghan women that was used to justify 20 years of war. This is why intersectional feminist scholarship and teaching, and working in solidarity with other feminists, are so important. It is also why the work that we do within the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies is so crucial. We cannot create a world free of violence and terror unless we are willing to confront and challenge all forms of social injustice, both at home and abroad. We will seek to work in solidarity with feminists in Afghanistan and broader efforts by Muslim feminists to simultaneously challenge the Taliban’s destructive policies in the name of Islam and to resist the reduction of Afghan women to voiceless victims used to justify militaristic solutions, by now so familiar in the media and politics after 20 years of war. There is still much work to be done, but in community, we will meet the need ahead of us.

In solidarity,
Alicia C. Decker,
Department Head

Diversity, Many hands coming together

Featured Courses

3 Credits
This course examines women's reproductive health issues from a feminist perspective. Reproduction has always been thought of as 'women's work,' yet decisions about reproduction are rarely made by women.
3 Credits
This course introduces students to the complexity of feminisms in the context of contemporary globalization.
3 credits
Explores the history of different conceptions of gender and sexuality as they are understood within major religions (e.g. Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, indigenous spiritual systems).
3 credits
WMNST 301N: This course is an interdisciplinary survey of historical and contemporary feminist theories in both the United States and international contexts.
3 credits
WMNST 597 Considers how trans of color critique can amplify, extend, and complicate trans studies.