Departmental Name Change

June 3, 2011

Departmental Name Change


In May 2010, the Women’s Studies faculty voted to change our name to the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and by the end of October the change was approved by all levels of The Ohio State University curricular committees, including the Board of Trustees. Why the change, and why now? When Women’s Studies was founded as an interdiscipline, programs—and later departments—emphasized “women” as a way of naming the subjects and intellectual perspectives that had been neglected by traditional disciplines. However, in recent years many programs and departments that began as Women’s Studies have changed their names in recognition of the expanded intellectual breadth of scholarship and teaching that these programs and departments perform now. While Gender Studies is a common variant, or Women’s and Gender Studies, our department has opted for Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies to more accurately reflect the scope of knowledge our faculty produce and teach.

Women’s Studies as a field has increasingly recognized that the study of gender and sexuality are central to research on women and girls. Feminist scholars also insist that studies of gender and sexuality should not focus solely on “women” but have important lessons to offer for understanding social relations of difference very broadly. In fact, many of our faculty examine the sexual politics of gender in society, considering religious movements, political theory and philosophy, transnational politics, and histories of the family, to name a few. Therefore, the name change reflects the fact that as a department we no longer just study “women.” Our hope is that the name change will illustrate effectively our contemporary approaches to theory and research.

During the last two years, the Women’s Studies faculty have held numerous discussions about the possibility of a name change. The current process of conversion from academic quarters to semesters has entailed a long and careful review of our curriculum which very clearly confirmed what we have known for quite some some now: gender and sexuality are integral to all that we do.

Including “sexuality” in the department’s title also points toward the national norm of housing sexuality studies in women’s and gender studies programs and departments. This is due to the fact that feminist critical approaches to gender, women, and social difference treat sexuality as a core feminist concern and a core feminist methodology. Indeed, since Women’s Studies became a department at Ohio State several faculty lines have been designated as sexuality positions. The addition of these faculty members has firmly reinforced our national leadership in the sub‐field of feminist sexuality studies. Sexuality is not peripheral to our research or teaching at OSU and currently exists as a foundation to our undergraduate and graduate curricula. In the coming months, we will be changing our name on our web site and all of our documents and publications, including the newsletter. We hope that our alumni and friends will find this change as exciting and energizing as those of us who are currently in the Department.

Professor Jill Bystydzienski