Women’s and Gender Studies

Academic Department Introduction

We explore gender and its intersections with other relations of power, such as race, social class, sexuality, nationality, age, dis/ability, and ethnicity. These forces shape the individual and collective lives of people across diverse cultures and times, and provide contexts for analyzing the worlds in which we live.

Our curriculum and faculty research reflect the vibrant contours of global feminisms today. We cover a variety of theoretical and empirical scholarship such as feminist theory; queer and trans studies; anticarceral/abolition feminisms; Indigenous and transnational feminisms; media studies; science and technology studies; critical animal studies; critical health studies; environmental and reproductive justice and their intersections; and feminist activism within disciplinary and interdisciplinary frameworks.

Learning goals

  • Interrogate how sex, gender, sexuality, race, dis/ability, and nation have been historically constructed, unsettled, and contested as social identities and systems of power.
  • Examine the potent material and political implications of social identities.
  • Apply an intersectional lens of race, class, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality to recognize the interlocking systems of privilege, oppression, and opportunity.
  • Deploy gender as a category of intersectional analysis in written and oral communication.
  • Cultivate a transnational awareness about shifting frames in global geopolitics.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the history of activism and the complexities of social change.

Programs of Study

Women’s and gender studies major and minor

Students explore how structural changes and historical moments intersect with individual lives. Each major chooses one of the following concentrations, taking at least four courses in that area:
1. Representations, media, and race
2. Feminist science, health, and reproductive justice
3. Labor, families, and the state
4. Transnational feminism(s), global context

Course Highlights

  • This course focuses on the politics of human reproduction which is inextricably linked with nation states, as well as cultural norms and expectations. Reproductive issues and debates serve as proxies for more fundamental questions about the intersecting inequalities of citizenship, gender, race, class, disability and sexuality. What does reproductive justice look like? We will discuss how the marketplace, medical technologies and the law are critical to creating social hierarchies that are produced, resisted and transformed. We ask: Why is access critical to control for the use of fertility technologies (both pre-and during pregnancy), gamete purchase, egg freezing? How is each accomplished and by whom? How are new technologies in reproduction coupled with the global marketplace creating a social hierarchy between people (e.g. gamete donors, gestational carriers). Finally, what is the relationship between the commercialization of reproduction and the creation of new intimacies and forms of kinship? The course emphasizes both empirical research situated in the U.S. and research involving transnational flows. (SOC 322 and WGST 322 are cross-listed courses.)
  • Equine cultural studies has become one of the most exciting fields to emerge out of Critical Animal Studies for how it looks at the intersection of humans and horses across histories, cultures, and the humanities. Some of the questions our course explores include: Did Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (1877) inspire the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals as well as the backlash against Victorian women’s corsets? Is there a feminist way to ride a horse? How does feminist thought offer a unique interrogation of race, flesh, and femaleness that sheds new light on equine studies? Have longstanding government programs and nonprofit rescue organizations helped or hindered the management of wild herds of horses? How has the horse been an integral partner in therapeutic healing in both Native and Indigenous communities as well as in non-Native communities? (ES 343 and WGST 343 are cross-listed courses.)

Research highlights

  • Banu Subramaniam stands in front of a whiteboard and gives a lecture.

    Professor Banu Subramaniam’s new book, Botany of Empire: Plant Worlds and the Scientific Legacies of Colonialism (University of Washington Press, 2024), examines how the plant sciences and botany have been profoundly shaped by empire, and how those histories live on in our study of plant worlds today.

  • Professor Hertz points out parts of a diagram on a table to two students sitting around her.

    Professor Rosanna Hertz conducted research on single mothers’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and co-authored an article about her findings in the 2021 issue of Journal of Family Issues. Her latest co-authored book is Random Families: Genetic Strangers, Sperm Donor Siblings, and the Creation of New Kin (Oxford University Press, 2019).

  • A black and white photo of a group of  indigenous Ainu people.

    In Professor Elena Creef’s book Shadow Traces: Seeing Japanese/American and Ainu Women in Photographic Archives (University of Illinois Press, 2022), she examines little-known visual archives of four historical groups of Asian women. She also follows the augmented reality work of Japanese artist Masaki Fujihata and his digital simulation of the WWII Japanese American evacuation, BeHere/1942.

  • Jennifer Musto sits at a table with students and speaks to them. She is wearing a black and white striped cardigan.

    Professor Jennifer Musto’s 2022 article “The Afterlife of Decriminalisation” explores the harms of reforms billed as trauma-informed alternatives to punishment. As co-facilitator of the Anti-Carceral Co+Laboratory (ACC) with Laura Grattan, professor of political science, she organized “Dreaming Abolition, Co-Creating Abolitionist Knowledge in Greater Boston,” a convening to explore how scholar-activists and organizers can reimagine freedom, justice, safety, and education beyond prisons.


We work closely with students to identify opportunities that will deepen their experience within our department.

  • WGST Leadership Council

    Majors and minors selected to join the WGST Leadership Council engage in student outreach and offer strategic advice and leadership in shaping departmental programming.

  • WGST tutor program

    As tutors providing peer support to students enrolled in WGST courses, WGST majors and minors have a vital opportunity to translate their understanding of gender and sexuality studies and apply their critical thinking, writing, and editorial skills.

Beyond Wellesley

Beyond Wellesley

Our graduates are thought leaders, policy innovators, entrepreneurs, writers, artists, and healers. Many devote their careers to confronting the most pressing issues of our time. They work in a range of fields, including health care, education, law, and the nonprofit sector. Employers of recent WGST graduates include United We Dream, Google, Accenture, the National Academy for State Health Policy, and Planned Parenthood.

Department of Women's and Gender Studies

Founders Hall
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
Banu Subramaniam
Department Chair