Door to the old office for Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at UMass Amherst

Our department grew out of the rich terrain of feminist organizing, anti-war and anti-imperialist activism, racial justice, and other social change work that took place in the "long 1960s" in the region, the country, and the world. In the past two decades, WGSS has focused on building a faculty and curriculum that take a critical perspective on the field. Affiliated and core faculty treat the categories of analysis that define and shape the field as dynamic, historically contingent, and relational, and as opportunities to understand how power operates. 

We are committed to an interdisciplinary and intersectional analysis, drawing from different disciplines, in which the study of women and gender is multifaceted, diverse, and embedded in a network of power relations, including race, class, sexuality, and nation. WGSS scholarship, teaching, and activism develop new theoretical approaches and engage and transform the analytical tools of many fields of study.  

Transgender Studies and WGSS at UMass Amherst

Given the persistence of legacies of trans-exclusionary radical feminism, including its presence in the history of Women’s Studies at UMass Amherst, and in response to requests for clarification on this issue from trans communities at UMass and in the Pioneer Valley, we would like to take this opportunity to affirm the vital presence of trans students, faculty, TAs, and graduate students in our department. We categorically reject transphobia in our department, on our campus, and in our discipline. We are therefore committed politically and intellectually to furthering greater understanding, awareness, and acceptance of trans perspectives and communities.

A Written History

Professor Arlene Avakian, who joined UMass Women's Studies Program in 1974 and retired from WGSS in 2011, collaborated with Erika Arthur on a narrative history of the department, detailing its evolution from a program to a department, including its various transformations and challenges.

Professor Alrene Avakian
Professor Arlene Avakian, 1974