Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program
Director: Vickie Langohr
Associate Director of Concentrations: Susan Cunningham
Academic administrative assistant: Karen Todd
Lihua Wang, visiting assistant professor in sociology and anthropology, teaches a Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies class.
Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Mission
Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies is an interdisciplinary academic concentration that uses gender and sexuality as central frameworks for exploration, analysis, and action. The program affirms the commitment among its students and faculty to promote social justice and deconstruct assumptions about gender and sexuality that reproduce inequality.
Guiding Intellectual Principles
- We respect the intrinsic dignity of all people.
- We honor our history in Women’s Studies and indebtedness to feminist methods and theories.
- We embrace diverse pedagogical approaches that deconstruct binaries and bring marginalized experiences and perspectives to the center of inquiry and analysis.
- We commit to shared exploration and investigation of interdisciplinarity, intersectionality, and transnationality.
- We interrogate power at personal, interpersonal, social, and structural levels.
- We engage in pluralistic dialogue and collaborative decision making that is respectful of difference.
- Discernment: Whose voices are least likely to be heard and how might we dismantle the power structures that silence them?
- Equity: How might we transform unjust social relations that are personal and political, local and global?
- Empowerment: How might students and faculty personalize activism in relation to our own interests, talents, and social location?
- Solidarity: How might we ally with affinity academic programs, student organizations, and other college initiatives?
On June 24, the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade, which has prevented states from outlawing abortion since 1973. At least 13 states with “trigger bans” will likely eliminate the right to abortion in the near future, most with laws that would deny abortions to survivors of rape or incest. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that at least 26 states are “certain or likely” to ban abortion.
The Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies concentration condemns the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The right of all pregnant people to control their bodies is a fundamental right and a foundational principle of intersectional feminism. Abortion access has narrowed substantially over the past decades in many states; overturning Roe v. Wade increases the harm to those who seek to make informed decisions about their reproductive and overall health, their family planning, and the course that their life will take. The decision places poor people and people of color in particular in jeopardy. Three-quarters of people seeking abortions in the U.S. are poor or low-income; studies show that women who seek but are denied abortions are four times more likely to live below the federal poverty line after their pregnancy than those who were able to obtain an abortion. Overturning Roe v. Wade also further jeopardizes the ability for pregnant people of color to access quality healthcare and to establish healthcare relationships that advance their reproductive freedom and overall well-being.
Abortion bans also threaten the mental and physical health of people who are pregnant by choice. They endanger people whose pregnancies cause life-threatening complications; as doctors have pointed out, ascertaining the precise moment at which a pregnant person’s life is threatened - and thus at what point a doctor can legally terminate their pregnancy - is very difficult. People seeking medical treatment for miscarriages and stillbirths may find themselves prosecuted on suspicion of having induced an abortion. This is a particular concern in a country in which Black women are twice as likely to experience stillbirth as white and Hispanic women, Black women are disproportionately more likely to experience miscarriage, and Black people face increased scrutiny from law enforcement and discrimination in the criminal justice system. In states with abortion bans, people whose doctors have told them that their fetuses have no chance for survival outside the womb may be forced to continue with those pregnancies, causing them grievous psychological harm.
The overturning of Roe vs. Wade also signals the potential erosion of other rights, as Justice Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion that “we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” the Supreme Court rulings legalizing contraception, same-sex sexual relations, and same-sex marriage.
As the Holy Cross mission statement notes, “critical examination of fundamental religious and philosophical questions is integral to liberal arts education.” In accordance with our mission to consider our responsibility to those without power or privilege, GSWS upholds the dignity and autonomy of all women, girls, and pregnant people and stands in solidarity with all those who seek comprehensive reproductive justice.