Since its establishment in 1977, the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) has committed itself to leading the field of women’s studies in both education and social transformation. It has also dedicated itself to showcasing scholarship in this evolving field, as Le Moyne’s Alyssa Kizer ’23, Amelia Duffy ’24 and Ayeh Hajjari ’24 recently discovered when they traveled to the association’s annual conference in Minneapolis, Minn. The undergraduates, who are pursuing minors in gender and women’s studies (GWS), were accompanied Farha Ternikar, Ph.D., director of the GWS program, and Norrell Edwards, Ph.D., the 75th Anniversary Endowed Professor of the Humanities. They shared their writing and research with hundreds of conferences attendees from around the country – and learned from them as well.
Kizer gave a presentation on race, gender, sexuality in media. Duffy addressed the issue of fatphobia in television, while Hajjari spoke about masculinity, Muslims and social media. The diversity of the students’ work reflected their commitment to their majors – political science, biology and sociology respectively – and the ways in which those disciplines intersect with the field of GWS. The program overall helps students understand the differences that gender makes in the economic, social and political lives of individuals, but the conference added a new dimension to the students’ learning and understanding. Ternikar said that she hoped it would expose students to new feminisms, help them to perfect their presentation skills, and give them an opportunity to engage in professional networking, especially as it relates to graduate schools across the disciplines. Kizer, Duffy and Hajjari attended multiple panels a day focusing on intersectional, global, Black and queer feminism(s), and a keynote address by scholar and author Angela Davis.
“I think it is important to have these kinds of experiences and opportunities as an undergraduate because you get to hear from individuals who are a part of academia,” said Kizer, who noted that the conversations she had with others at the event made her even more confident in her decision to pursue a career in law and later academia following her graduation.
Kizer and her peers also had the opportunity to see Ternikar and Edwards at work. Ternikar is the author of Muslim-American Women, Intersectionality in the Muslim South Asian Middle Class: Lifestyle Consumption Beyond Halal and Hijab. She delivered a talk on food as feminist resistance in which she used intersectionality and transnational feminism to examine the role of halal food for Muslim women and moderated the panel “Teaching resistance: Black and Brown Girls & Women (Re)Claiming their Voices and Digital Spaces.” Edwards took part in a panel presentation during which she looked at the portrayal of online organizing and digital community in actress and screen writer Michaela Coel’s TV series I May Destroy You. Edwards highlighted Coel’s masterful portrayal of the benefits and costs of digital community building. Upon returning from the conference, Ternikar said that she was proud to receive an email from conference organizers praising the students’ intellectual maturity and initiative.
“Being able to present and attend a national conference like NWSA is so valuable to our students because it exposes them to new ideas about gender, sexuality, feminism and social justice,” she said. “NWSA is founded on the principles of equality and justice, and in many ways ties into the social justice mission of Le Moyne.”
Above: Amelia Duffy ’24, Alyssa Kizer '23 and Ayeh Hajjari ’24 gather together at the 2022 NWSA Conference. They are holding a copy of a book written by faculty member Farha Ternikar, director of the College's Gender and Women's Studies program.
The Gender and Women’s Studies program looks forward to hosting the following events in the spring of 2023. On March 2 at 4 p.m. Katrina Overby of the Rochester Institute of Technology will deliver a lecture titled "On Black Women and Intersectional Representation: Beyond Sports and Music," On March 29 at 4 p.m. of Colgate University will deliver a lecture titled "On Catholic Girlhood."