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WGSS Distribution Requirements for Undergraduates

The major and minor in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at UMass approach key issues in the field of WGSS from an intersectional perspective, emphasizing the interconnections of gender, race, class, sexuality, nation, and other power relations. The following requirements are intended to ensure that WGSS majors and minors are substantively exposed to the rubrics of transnationalism, critical race studies, and sexuality studies crucial for full engagement with the field. Within WGSS at UMass, all three of these rubrics are taught intersectionally, such that race, class, gender, sexuality and other forms of difference are meaningfully included in all courses taught within these three frames.

WGSS majors are required to take a minimum of two courses (total) from at least two of the following distribution requirement categories: Transnational Feminisms, Critical Race Feminisms, and Sexuality Studies. WGSS minors are required to take a minimum of one course in any one of these categories. Eligible courses are listed in the Course Guide published each semester. Information on courses that have counted toward these requirements in past semesters are available at the Past Course Guides link.  

Students may count each course toward only one distribution requirement. If a course listing indicates that it can be used to fulfill more than one distribution requirement, a student may designate which requirement the course will fulfill. For example, a WGSS major enrolled in “Feminist Engagements with Biomedicine,” which may be counted toward either the Critical Race Feminisms or Sexuality Studies requirement, must choose which one of those two requirements they will use the course satisfy.

In addition, courses counted toward the distribution requirement cannot be used to fulfill any other requirements of the major or minor (such as the theory requirement). All distribution requirement classes must be above an introductory level and must be focused on topics in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies.

Courses meeting the distribution requirement are selected based on the following criteria:

Sexuality Studies

Courses on LGBTQ studies, sex work, reproductive politics and the formation of sexuality as a category are available in numerous departments at UMass, and are now offered each semester in WGSS. Courses that count toward the Sexuality Studies distribution requirement include those that emphasize the areas above, as well as those that emphasize “sexuality studies” more broadly, and those that focus on queer studies, trans* studies, and intersex studies. There is no specific geographic focus attached to this requirement.

Critical Race Feminisms

Critical Race Studies initially emerged as an intervention in critical legal studies, and, as such, has had a focus on the law, liberal framings of rights, and legal reform. Critical Race Studies has also developed and promoted theories of intersectionality, which have been central to recent feminist discourse. Courses that count toward the Critical Race Feminisms requirement include those that emphasize the study of race and gender in the U.S., either by focusing on the experiences of people of color as gendered and racialized subjects, or by emphasizing questions of racialization and racial formation from a feminist perspective. Eligible courses include those that focus on historical, political, economic, literary and sociological inquiries that emphasize race and gender within the U.S.

Transnational Feminisms 

Courses in Transnational Feminisms destabilize “Western”- and U.S.-centric perspectives on feminist thought and politics, and emphasize non-“Western” places, people, concerns, and scholarship relevant to WGSS discourses. While courses may include topics and concerns linked to U.S. geographical sites, their theoretical and critical approaches should critique or provide an alternative to “Western”- and U.S.-centric analyses. Courses that count toward the Transnational Feminisms requirement include: courses in postcolonial feminism, diaspora studies courses that focus on gender or sexuality, or courses with either non-U.S. or non-“Western” scope that focus on gender or sexuality. These courses do not take the U.S. as their exclusive referents; they may either focus on content outside of the U.S. (i.e. by focusing on people, events, histories, literatures, politics, etc. outside of the U.S.) or on content that is diasporic (i.e. including subjects inside the U.S. positioned as part of a diaspora).