Please join the Women, Gender & Sexuality Department in congratulating the winners of our 31st annual essay contests.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton Award Winner
Kira McBride
Classics Major, Graduating May 2019
Essay Title: Decus Italiae Virgo or Dira Pestis? The Gender and Ethnicity of Vergil’s Camilla

Zora Neale Hurston Co-Winner
Anna Eisenstein
Anthropology Major, Graduating May 2020
Essay Title: Pregnant Pauses: The Agency of Waiting in Southwestern Uganda

Zora Neale Hurston Co-Winner
Nicole D.K. Gilson
Law Student, Graduating May 2020
Essay Title: Fake Lesbians, Invisible Persecution: Legibility, Stereotyping, and the Regulation of Queen Female Asylum Applicants in the U.S. Asylum Apparatus

Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all who participated!


Women, Gender & Sexuality Department 31st Annual Essay Contests


for the best undergraduate essay focused on women, gender, and/or sexuality written during the 2018-2019 academic year.



for the best graduate essay focused on women, gender, and/or sexuality

written during the 2018-2019 academic year.



Friday, MAY 3, 2019 @ Noon


Both awards carry a cash prize.


Students may submit their own work or a faculty member may submit outstanding papers. A student need not be a Women, Gender & Sexuality major or minor to be eligible.

• There is a minimum page requirement of 20 pages.

• Please limit submissions to a full length senior seminar paper or ONE chapter from a senior thesis or dissertation.

• Essays must have been written between spring 2018 and spring 2019.

• Authors are limited to a single submission.


Please submit the paper electronically to wgsuva@virginia.edu and include the essay contest cover sheet (located on our website: http://wgs.virginia.edu/essay_awards).


When a radio interviewer suggested to the Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad that her verses could be characterized as “feminine,” she rejected the notion.

“What is important is humanity, not being a man or a woman,” she said. “If a poem can get to that point, it is no longer connected with its creator but with a world of poetry.”

Farrokhzad was one of Iran’s pre-eminent mid-20th-century writers, both reviled and revered for her poems, which often dealt with female desire. Throughout her life she struggled with how her gender affected the reception of her work in a culture where women were often confined to traditional roles, but where there are few higher callings than the life of a poet.

In the afterword to “Captive” (1955), her first poetry collection, Farrokhzad wrote, “Perhaps because no woman before me took steps toward breaking the shackles binding women’s hands and feet, and because I am the first to do so, they have made such a controversy out of me.”


Her death in 1967 at 32, in a car crash, was regarded as a national tragedy, making the front pages of Tehran’s newspapers.

Iran’s leading literary journal, Sokhan, wrote after her funeral, “Forough is perhaps the first female writer in Persian literature to express the emotions and romantic feelings of the feminine gender in her verse with distinctive frankness and elegance, for which reason she has inaugurated a new chapter in Persian poetry.”

After the overthrow of Iran’s secular monarchy in 1979, the Islamic Republic banned her poetry for almost a decade. But that censorship only elevated her appeal to new generations of Iranians, who saw in Farrokhzad — often referred to simply as Forough — an icon of artistic, personal and sexual freedom.

“I can only compare her in America to a movie star or a music celebrity, because no poet here would reach that kind of status,” said Farzaneh Milani, author of “Forough Farrokhzad: A Literary Biography” (2016) and a professor of Middle Eastern culture at the University of Virginia.

Forough Farrokhzad (pronounced FOR-ugh Far-ROHK-zad) was born on Jan. 5, 1935, in Tehran, one of seven children of Mohammad Farrokhzad and Turan Vaziri-Tabar. Her father was an army colonel and her mother a homemaker. She studied painting at the Kamal al-Molk school.

At 16, Forough fell in love with Parviz Shapur, a distant relative 15 years her senior, and married him over her parents’ objections. They moved to the southern city of Ahvaz, where Shapur worked for the Ministry of Finance. They had a son, Kamyar, a year later.

It was around this time that Farrokhzad began publishing her poetry. In a deeply traditional society, marriage gave her a degree of freedom, her first biographer in English, Michael C. Hillman, wrote in “A Lonely Woman: Forugh Farrokhzad and Her Poetry” (1987), using a variant spelling of her first name. With her husband’s support, Farrokhzad traveled frequently to Tehran. She published her first poems with the prestigious literary journal Roshanfekr. But she was unhappy in her role as homemaker, writing in the 1955 poem “Captive”:

I think about it and yet I know

I’ll never be able to leave this cage

Even if the warden should let me go

I’ve lost the strength to fly away.

Three years into her marriage, Farrokhzad left her husband, whose family would cause her great pain by forbidding her to see her son. She declared her determination to give herself over to her true “lover,” poetry.

Her poem “The Sin” exposed her to public ridicule. Much-quoted, it opens, “I sinned a sin of pleasure,” and describes her affair in 1954 with Nasser Khodayar, the editor in chief of Roshanfekr:

In dark and quiet seclusion

Absently I lay beside him.

His lips poured lust on mine,

And I rose from the sorrow of a crazed heart.

After the affair ended abruptly, Khodayar presented an unflattering portrait of Farrokhzad in a series of short stories in the magazine. Farrokhzad’s family implored him to stop. A month later, in September 1955, she suffered a mental breakdown. After attempting suicide, she was put in the Rezai psychiatric clinic, where she was subjected to electroshock therapy.


In 1964, Farrokhzad published her landmark collection, “Another Birth,” which included cutting social commentary and established her among the great voices of Persian literary modernism.




In 1964, Farrokhzad published her landmark collection, “Another Birth,” which included cutting social commentary and established her among the great voices of Persian literary modernism.

Addressing rumors of her madness, a Tehran magazine quoted the medieval writer al-Tha’labi; “Heaven forbid the day when the daughters of Eve, who are lacking a rib, become poets, and beware the day they go mad.”

In 1956, after her recovery, Farrokhzad left Iran for the first time, traveling to Europe and remaining there for nine months. She returned with a renewed sense of confidence. The title poem of her third collection, “Rebellion,” published in the spring of 1958, set out her determination to write verse and live freely.

She later described the collection as coming “between two different stages of life, the last gasp before a kind of liberation.” Her poems, a few of which called for the “rising up” of women against centuries of injustice, were aimed at the Iranian concept of manhood. Both men and women, she believed, suffered from the gender inequities of society.

In 1958, Farrokhzad began work as an assistant at Golestan Film Studio. Her relationship with the owner, Ebrahim Golestan, an avant-garde filmmaker, writer and married man, caused a scandal that spread among Tehran’s literary circles. Her separation from her son continued to torment her. Two years later she again attempted suicide, swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills; she was saved when Golestan found her.


Farrokhzad’s last years were full of promising achievement. In 1962, she made a short documentary, “The House Is Black,” about a leper colony where she lived for 12 days. Narrated by Farrokhzad with her own verses, the film portrays the colony as an allegory for Iranian society. While there, she adopted a young son, Hossein Mansouri. The film won the 1963 grand prize for documentary at the Oberhausen Film Festival in West Germany.

In 1964, she published her landmark collection, “Another Birth,” which established her among the great voices of Persian literary modernism, alongside the poets Ahmad Shamlu and Mehdi Akhavan Sales.

The collection, whose title poem is a long meditation on love, includes cutting social commentary. “Oh Bejeweled Realm” satirizes the pretensions of both Iran’s Westernizing regime and its middle-class intellectuals:

Tomorrow I can,

In the backroom of Khachick’s shop,

Snort a few grams of some of the purest stuff,

Swill a few glasses of mixed-up Pepsi-Cola,

Give out a few oh Gods, and Hallelujahs, haw-haws, aha-aha-aha,

And formally join the ranks of high-minded thinkers and an asinine Enlightenment.

Then I’ll sign up with the Ho-Ho School of Thought,

And put out my first great novel

Published with a bankrupt press.

The poem ended by mocking writers who clung to traditional and decorous rhymes in their verses.

Yet Farrokhzad never thought of modernity and tradition as mutually exclusive. Like the French symbolist poets whom she read and admired in translation, she reinvented classical imagery in modernist forms. Her last collection, “Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season,” published posthumously, was heavily influenced by her reading of the 13th-century Persian mystic Jalaluddin Rumi.

“She always had one eye back on tradition, and one eye toward the future,” said the Iranian poet Fatemeh Shams, an assistant professor of Persian literature at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Many people who left Iran in the 1980s took three books with them: Saadi, Rumi, Forough,” Shams said, referring to the tumultuous decade after the 1979 revolution, which led millions of Iranians to leave their country.

Farrokhzad died in a road accident, returning from lunch at her mother’s house, on Feb. 14, 1967. Hundreds mourned at her funeral. It was a rare gathering of many of Iran’s leading intellectuals, one of the last times before the revolution.

She was buried at Zahir al-Dowleh cemetery in northern Tehran, under the February snows.


Feeling pain and fear in the marrow of my fingers, I wonder what was so dangerous, so menacing about a journalist whose only weapons were his words. Why were Jamal Khashoggi’s pen-wielding fingers chopped off before he was allegedly strapped to a desk and dismembered?

Befuddled, I ask myself, why would a sovereign and powerful government dispatch a whole hit squad to another country, and fully equip it with private jets, cars, bone saws, and forensic technology to assassinate a man who dearly loved his country? What had he done to deserve such fury and such a brutal death?

I am not sure I would have believed the incremental and contradictory details of this premeditated murder, its sloppy cover-up, and its international reach had I read them in a novel. And, yet, I know all too well that the abduction, torture, and assassination of a journalist is nothing new in Saudi Arabia or the Middle East.

Journalists, like writers and poets in the region, have written with their blood, not with ink. They have been kidnapped, exiled, tortured, arrested, incarcerated, beheaded. They have had their lips sewn together, their tongues cut out, their fingers broken, their mutilated bodies hung from cranes in public squares. There is a whole category of Arabic and Persian literature — both prose and poetry — devoted to such atrocities reserved for those who speak truth to power.

Surely, several personal, national, and international factors have contributed to the bizarre Khashoggi affair. But underneath the darkness and depravity, beneath all the excruciating twists and turns, regardless of who ordered the killing directly or indirectly, who executed it and how, there lies a deep-seated fear of, but also reverence for, words.

Khashoggi comes from a region where people grow up kissing books; where the very first word revealed to their prophet is a short command with vast implications, “Read” (Surah 96), and a whole chapter of their holy book is titled “The Pen” (Surat 68).

Khashoggi was schooled in a literary tradition whose illustrious storyteller believed in the healing power of words. Scheherazade of "One Thousand and One Nights," better known in the West as "The Arabian Nights,"  declined to be complicit in the ruler’s vindictive rage and revenge. At a time of national crisis, she did not remain silent or uninvolved. Nor did she look the other way and leave the dictator to his perilous behavior. To the contrary, she engaged in public service of the highest order with words — the sole weapon she would carry and the only armament she trusted.

But not only activists like Scheherazade, also rulers and dictators in the region know the power and the lasting impact of words. Didn’t ISIS torch books in public squares? Didn’t they burn libraries with explosive devices?



Kashoggi knew the exorbitant price he would have to pay for speaking out “when so many cannot.” He knew the consequences of his actions, but did not fear them. “I have left my home, my family and my job,” he declared in his first column in The Washington Post on Sept. 18, 2017, “and I am raising my voice.”

Words mattered to Khashoggi. Truth mattered to him. Democracy mattered to him and he continued to push the boundaries of free expression at great risk to life and limb. At his last Thanksgiving in his adoptive home, he knew exactly why he was thankful. “Because I have become free,” he told his friends around the dinner table, because “I can write freely.”

Khashoggi is dead, but his message cannot be abducted, mutilated, murdered. In fact, his voice beyond his unidentified, unmarked grave is louder than ever before. His body has been disappeared for now, but he appears and reappears on the front pages of major and minor newspapers around the globe. His photographs are blazoned on television screens, on banners and posters, etched into the collective memory of a justifiably outraged world.

Politicians come and go, governments are voted into office and chased out of it, but words remain. Indeed, in the beginning was the Word, and in the end will be the word.

Farzaneh Milani is Raymond J. Nelson Professor in the departments of Women, Gender, and Sexuality and Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Virginia. She is the author, most recently, of “The Literary Biography of Forugh Farrokhzad and Unpublished Letters” (in Persian).


Transgender characters on television shows, in movies and in other mainstream media have never been more prevalent. But how do people in the transgender community feel about these characters, who are attempting to portray them?

Well-represented? Empowered? More vulnerable? Better understood? Indifferent?

These are questions that University of Virginia assistant media studies professor André Cavalcante addressed in his recent book, “Struggling for Ordinary: Media and Transgender Belonging in Everyday Life.”

Cavalcante, who has a dual appointment in media studies and in women, gender and sexuality, interviewed hundreds of transgender people about their experiences with media throughout their lives.


“I wanted to see what they made of this new visibility,” Cavalcante said, “because historically, there had been either nothing or pretty awful representations.”

Cavalcante went into the project assuming that media played a role in the everyday lives of transgender people. He just didn’t realize the magnitude of that role.

“As I started talking with them, many of them said they didn’t even know the word ‘transgender’ existed or that the identity was a possibility until they saw it on television or in a movie or until they Googled it,” Cavalcante said. “These media moments were really transformative for them in terms of their self-understanding and also in terms of what they thought was possible.”

In the 1980s and ’90s, Cavalcante said the most popular television shows for transgender people were tabloid shows like “Jerry Springer,” “Ricki Lake” and “The Sally Jessy Raphael Show,” because they were some of the only programs that featured people like them.

“Trans people were paraded around like freaks – like these oddities of nature,” Cavalcante said. “But a lot the participants in my study were like, ‘Yeah, I saw that and I didn’t like the way the audience treated them, but they looked beautiful to me and were confident in who they were, and I realized I could do that and wanted to be that.’”

The portrayal of transgender people in movies around that time wasn’t great either. Cavalcante said characters fell into three main “stock characters” that you would see over and over.

  1. The transgender person who is a killer or psychotic, such as the character in “Silence of the Lambs.” “Their psychological disorder is somehow connected to cross-dressing,” Cavalcante said.
  2. The transgender person who is a freak or a monster. “You see that being recycled now with a lot of the discourse around bathroom bills – like these trans people are men in dresses looking to hurt people,” Cavalcante said. “But if you actually talk to trans people, they just want to go to the bathroom like everyone else.”
  3. The transgender person who wants to deceive you, such as the character in “The Crying Game.” “This, in turn, sanctions violence against them,” Cavalcante said.

Based on his research, Cavalcante believes the good news is that current movies and television shows, for the most part, are doing a better job of avoiding these stereotypes.

In the television show, “Transparent,” a successful older white man in Los Angeles with grown children is transitioning to life as a woman. In “Orange Is the New Black,” an African-American trans woman finds herself in prison. In “Shameless,” a young trans man works for an organization that helps find homes for runaways.

“Compared to the history of transgender representation, what we see now is leaps and bounds superior,” Cavalcante said. “It’s definitely moving in the right direction.”

Cavalcante said “Shameless,” a Showtime drama set in Chicago, does one of the best jobs he’s seen.

“A lot of the focus is usually around trans women and very rarely in the media do you see trans men,” Cavalcante said. “In this particular instance, you have a young, good-looking trans guy who is very confident in being trans – but that isn’t the only thing about him. The character has a full life, volunteers, is part of the community.”

In his book, Cavalcante covered the period of time leading up to what he calls the “trans tipping point” – when former Olympic hero Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner.

“What is so interesting about Caitlyn Jenner is that she’s a very controversial figure, both within the trans community and outside of it,” Cavalcante said. “She’s a highly unusual case. This is someone with all of the resources and all of the money to get the clothes and the makeup and have whatever kind of medical or surgical interventions she wants. She can afford all of that. So a lot of people were concerned that people would think, ‘This is what it means to be trans.’ And she really didn’t know much about trans life or trans communities or transgender politics.

“But what she did do was she put the question of transgender on the national agenda. People starting talking about it and it became less fringe. So while I don’t think she’s necessarily the best spokesperson for the trans community, she definitely put it on the national agenda in ways it hadn’t been before.”

Cavalcante enjoys discussing these types of issues – and other themes from his book – with students in his classes.

“It’s always one of the most dynamic conversations,” he said, “because I think in some ways they kind of understand what it means to be lesbian, what it means to be gay, bisexual. Trans, I think, is new for some students.

“There are transgender students at UVA – I see them in my classes and in the LGBTQ clubs and events that I’m a part of and help organize. I think one of the beautiful things about teaching it is that it’s a way of recognizing that they exist. It’s a form of recognition.”


WGS Professor Andre Cavalcante has a newly published article in a special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality on queer media cultures.  Read it here: https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2018.1511131



Assistant Professor, General Faculty

Department of Women Gender & Sexuality

The Women Gender & Sexuality Department at the University of Virginia seeks applications to fill a full-time Assistant Professor position on the Academic General Faculty. This is a teaching-oriented position that involves teaching 3 courses in the Fall semester and 3 courses in the Spring semester each year. The successful candidate will be expected to teach and advise students, and to perform service to the Department, the College & Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the University, and the profession. Teaching areas of particular need include Introduction to Gender and Sexuality Studies, Feminist Theory, and/or Queer Theory; the successful candidate will also offer courses and seminars in his or her fields of specialization.

Applicants must hold a PhD at the time of appointment, and must demonstrate strong commitment to high quality teaching and advising at the college level. Previous teaching experience in a Women Gender & Sexuality (or similar) department or program is required.

Review of applications will begin on September 18, 2018, and will continue until the position is filled. The appointment is expected to start in July, 2019 with classroom teaching to begin in Fall semester, 2019.

To apply, visit jobs.virginia.edu/applicants/Central?quickFind=85376. Complete an a Candidate Profile online and attach the following: a cover letter of interest describing teaching experience and listing proposed courses, a curriculum vitae, and contact information for three references. In addition, please have reference letter writers email letters directly to wgsuva@virginia.edu.

For questions about the application process, please contact Savanna Galambos, Faculty Search Advisor, skh7b@virginia.edu.

UVA assists faculty spouses and partners seeking employment in the Charlottesville area. To learn more please visit http://provost.virginia.edu/dual-career.

For more information about UVA and the surrounding area, please visit http://uvacharge.virginia.edu/guide.html.

The University of Virginia is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Women, minorities, veterans and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

Women, Gender and Sexuality Department 30th Annual Essay Contests

WGS Announces Winners of 2018 Essay Contests

The Women, Gender & Sexuality Department announces the award winners for best undergraduate and graduate essays focused on women, gender and/or sexuality.


Zoe Pettler - Acquitting the U-Haul: Temporality and Intimacy in Lesbian Relationships



Lauren Haumesser - "Domestic Institutions”: Gendered Language and the Debates over Territorial Slavery


CONGRATULATIONS to our winners!


Imagine this: you check in at a doctor’s office and are asked to fill out a personal information form. Moving through the list of questions, you arrive at one that asks if you are male or female. What if neither choice is appropriate for you?

For members of the transgender community, this is a common experience.

At UVA Health System, closing this information gap has become an important goal. Last year, the Medical Center began participating in the Health Equality Index — a nationally recognized benchmarking tool — to gauge our progress in serving the unique needs and expectations of transgender and LGBTQ patients. Our 2017 score — which is a benchmark for ongoing improvement — was 60 out of 100.

Recently announced, our 2018 Health Equality Index score was 95 out of 100.

First Steps
Improvement efforts have been guided by a multi-disciplinary Transgender Advisory Committee. One of its first recommendations was to participate in the 2017 Health Equality Index. Created by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization, the index evaluates how well healthcare facilities are providing equity and inclusion to their LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees.

“Our 2017 score (60 out of 100) showed we had a way to go in providing health equity. Those results helped us focus our improvement efforts,” explains Patient Experience Officer Bush Bell, who is an advisory committee co-chair.

Between 2017 and 2018, the advisory committee recommended that the Medical Center lay a stronger foundation for serving LGBTQ patients by:

  • Revising and better communicating non-discrimination policy
  • Requiring that the most senior leaders in each work area complete a training series, LGBTQ-Centered Care: An Executive Briefing

“This initiative is centered in respect for all patients and staff in the UVA Health System. We want to provide tools and education to make it easy and natural to do the right thing when interacting with our transgender and LGBTQ community members,” says advisory committee co-chair David Repaske, PhD, MD, Division Chief, Pediatric Endocrinology and Acting Chief, Pediatric Nephrology.

2018 Focus — Training and New Epic Tools
“We have a lot of work to do in 2018. Many groups are requesting training and educational workshops. Caregivers are asking for enhanced Epic tools to improve documentation so they can better care for their LBGQT patients,” Bell reports.

Training The advisory committee has established training partnerships with the Center for Affiliated Learning and the National LGBT Health Education Center, both of which offer many online classes. All team members are expected to complete at least one of three recommended classes this year:

  • Providing Quality Care to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Patients: An Introduction for Staff Training — This is an overview course for all team members.
  • Achieving Health Equity for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People — This course is designed for clinicians who want to learn more about this patient population.

These courses are now in the LMS (NetLearning). To enroll, please log in to your NetLearning account and search for them under the Learning Opportunities (Enroll) tab.

New Epic Tools — The advisory committee is assessing a new electronic medical record module that captures clinically relevant information such as biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and a patient’s preferred name. The module is available on our Epic Phase 2 platform, but has not been activated.

“Our current medical records only contain binary — male or female — information about a patient’s sexual profile,” notes Bell. “When we upgraded our Epic system last summer, we opted to delay installation of the new software until clinical and administrative leaders had an opportunity to assess its utility.”

The advisory committee is now supporting leaders in making that assessment.

“As we strive to put patients at the center of all that we do, we often need to step beyond our current approach and processes,” Bell says. “Serving and caring for members of the transgender and LGBTQ communities requires a willingness to act with respect and compassion, to learn and speak their language and to gain a deeper understanding of their unique medical needs. We are proud of the progress we are making and are counting on all team members to help us provide health equity to all of our patients.”

Transgender Advisory Committee Members

  • Bush Bell
  • David Repaske, MD, PhD

Community Members

  • Roxanne Barreto
  • Lou Weakley

Health System Team Members

  • Leah Beard
  • Susanna Brent
  • Dallas Ducar
  • Mary Ann Harkins
  • Rachel Holmes
  • Jamie Hughes
  • April Kimble
  • Georgina King
  • Susan Kirk, MD
  • Kathryn Susanne Laughton
  • Rebecca Lewis
  • Amy Sarah Marshall
  • George Minor
  • Casey Morrison
  • Gary Nimax
  • Mark Pulczinski
  • Colby Rountree
  • Mary Sullivan
  • Cindy Westley

University of Virginia Best

We are pleased to announce that UVA has been named the best college for LGBTQ+ students in Virginia! This new ranking is created by the partnership of Best Colleges and Campus Pride, who curated the list (http://www.bestcolleges.com/features/best-colleges-for-lgbt-students/) based on their criteria of inclusivity factors. What a neat milestone and congratulations to everyone for all their hard work and support!


Taylor Lamb had just decided to postpone a panel of LGBT speakers of color when a call went out for proposals for funding from the University of Virginia. A small grant, Lamb thought, would help her sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho, try to hold the event again.

UVa’s Flash Funding project was announced at the beginning of September. The grant was awarded to projects that work toward “Achieving the Culture and Environment We Value,” with preference for ideas for programming that address unconscious bias and racial tension.

Immediately, proposals began pouring in, said Archie Holmes, vice provost for academic affairs. About a month after the call went out, Holmes said he has awarded all of the $100,000 available to eight projects. He even asked Provost Tom Katsouleas to shunt a little bit more money so that he could fully fund the final grant.

“Sometimes, you just need to get something started,” Holmes said. “This money allows them to get started.”

Holmes said he and other university leaders first got the idea for a diversity project about a year ago. The particular idea for the grant came in August, after seeing a funding initiative from the Association of American Colleges & Universities.

They decided to seek projects that would connect the city and the university and tackle racial bias. Holmes didn’t directly choose any of the projects, but he said he appreciated the three chosen that involve the community.

“Those were the ones that gave back the most to me,” he said.

Christine Mahoney, director of UVa’s social entrepreneurship program, proposed one of those partnerships. The “New Vinegar Hill” project — developed by Mahoney, UVa professors Bevin Etienne and Elgin Cleckley and City Councilors Wes Bellamy and Kathy Garvin — aims to help the city have a community-driven checklist for approaching future redevelopment projects.

“There is a history in Charlottesville, and in lots of cities, that when redevelopment happens, it’s top down,” Mahoney said. “The destruction of Vinegar Hill and relocation of those communities to Friendship Court and other areas was not a community plan; the communities were subject to that plan.”

She already had been working with community leaders and thinking about possible ways to harness social entrepreneurship classes toward racial justice initiatives. When the call came from the provost’s office for projects, Mahoney said it provided the impetus and ability to put a proposal together.

“All eyes have been on Charlottesville, in a bad way, but maybe there’s a silver lining where people maybe are thinking about how to move beyond divisions,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney’s project aims to use the architectural concept of design thinking to generate and refine ideas for community redevelopment.

Design thinking, said Cleckley, an assistant professor of architecture and design thinking, describes the process of doing research, talking to lots of people, prototyping ideas and suggesting solutions.

“There’s a way to form relationships here. This new way of thinking is very inclusive,” Cleckley said. “We’re at a time of new types of conversation. One thing that everyone has is a desire to talk and to be listened to.”


It is fitting that we feature Annie Forrest as one of our October Spotlight profiles, since Annie's work for the One Love Foundation--a relationship violence programming provider, founded to honor UVA student Yeardley Love--aligns with the mission of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Annie interned with the Women's Center Gender Violence and Social Change program, and says, "My professors and peers at UVA were pivotal in helping me find my strength to do this work."

Read on to learn more about Annie, including her affinity for both Leslie Knope AND Ron Swanson.


When and why did you attend UVA? What did you study?

I graduated from UVA in 2015 and double majored in Psychology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality. I attended UVA because my entire family went to Virginia Tech and I so wanted to be different that I chose the rival school. No one else from my high school even applied to UVA, so I knew I would be forging my own path. My family still gives me Virginia Tech-themed gifts during the holidays. C’mon everyone, I already graduated. There is nothing that can be done now.


The work/life pathway to where you are now, was that totally planned? Organic? Some combination?

I am a survivor of sexual violence and like many other survivors, I find great empowerment by doing prevention work around sexual and domestic violence. Working at the One Love Foundation is a dream come true for that reason. Although this is not the path I thought I would be headed down when I arrived at UVA, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to educate and empower young people every day about relationship abuse and how to help themselves and their friends. My professors and peers at UVA were pivotal in helping me find my strength to do this work. I am also still unsure how a small town country girl from the mountains of Southwest Virginia found herself living in the middle of New York City, but I am so happy with where life took me thus far. 


How has your view of yourself as a feminist or your view of feminism changed over time?

When I arrived at UVA, I thought “feminist” was a dirty word. Growing up in a hyper-conservative, white, Christian area, I did not experience many conversations about feminism and privilege. Somehow I ended up in the Introduction to Women and Gender Studies with Amanda Davis the first semester of my first year. Everything changed. “Feminist” is now one of the first words I use to describe myself and every day I strive to become a better, more inclusive, and more intersectional feminist.


What do you wish you had known while an undergrad?

Nothing is free once you leave college. Take advantage of every free service you can – counseling, the gym, career services, food, etc.


Who’s going to play you in the movie of your life?

I tell people I am a combination of Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation. Maybe they can split the role.




Describe your perfect work environment.

Lots of space and time to nap. You know, to be more productive overall.


What’s your most unpopular opinion?

I love TSA. I fly in and out of airports at least once a week for One Love and I really appreciate their efficiency. It typically takes me less than five minutes to get through security with TSA Pre-check, even at LaGuardia and JFK. Their Instagram account will also make you cry from laughter.


What’s one object in your life you’re so attached to it has to be with you every day?

Tums. I am mildly allergic to so many foods that I refuse to stop eating. You can find Tums in all my purses – rolls, bottles, even loose ones. 


What items can always be found in your fridge?

Sadly, nothing – I travel too much to keep a stocked fridge, so there’s usually nothing but a bottle of wine and some baby carrots. 


Tell us about a time when a risky move paid off.

Although One Love’s headquarters are just north of New York City, my focus region is Northeast Florida. I spend a great deal of time in Jacksonville and did not know anyone in that city when I started. So, I downloaded Bumble BFF and messaged this guy something along the lines of “Hi, I have a serious partner, but I don’t know anyone down here. Want to help me make some friends?” He started inviting me to social events, and a couple months later, he and his roommates had a room open up in their apartment. I wanted to stop staying in hotels all the time and save One Love a lot of money, so now I live in their spare room when I am in Jacksonville. They are the best roommates I have ever had and I cannot believe how serendipitously it all worked out.


The WGS Department now offers a graduate certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies.  Open to graduate students who are already enrolled in Ph.D. programs in UVA’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the new certificate offers interdisciplinary coursework, mentoring, and certification. This will help graduate students add expertise in Gender & Sexuality Studies, meet others with similar interests, and qualify for academic positions in WGS departments as well as in their home disciplines.  To learn more, click the included link below.


What does it mean to “be a man,” and why does it matter? The answer is more complicated than you might think, but it’s a topic that students in two University of Virginia courses have taken head-on.

One of the summer-term courses took a more philosophical approach and the other a more psychosocial approach, with some overlap, examining ideas about what it means to “be a man.” Matthew Andler, a doctoral student in the Department of Philosophy, just finished teaching “Masculinity.” At the same time, Lisa Speidel, a full-time lecturer in the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality, taught “Men and Masculinities.”

Masculinity is generally defined as a combination of biological and social characteristics or learned behavior. Students in the summer courses explore that it’s not just a matter of biology and physical traits; there are too many variations and exceptions to a simple dual model of male and female. Concepts of masculinity and femininity also vary among cultures, and over time within the same culture. For instance, upper-class male fashion in Thomas Jefferson’s time included lacy shirts, wigs and stockings – items that would not be considered manly today.

Although the terms “gender” and “sex” are sometimes used interchangeably, specialists use the term “sex” to refer to biological features or the label someone is assigned at birth, and “gender” to refer to extra-biological features, such as social role or self-conception.

People may seem to favor simplistic explanations of what constitutes a man or woman. However, as changes in society have shown, definitions get complicated, especially when homosexuality and transgenderism are considered, the course instructors agreed.

Speidel, who has taught her course every semester for four years, got involved in the topic from more than 20 years in anti-sexual violence advocacy. She worked for the Sexual Assault Resource Agency for nine years, including leading training programs at UVA and working with sexual assault peer education groups on Grounds. Being a teaching assistant for now-retired professor Bob Covert’s popular course on multicultural education while a doctoral student in social foundations at UVA’s Curry School of Education also influenced her approach, she said, as did her scholarship in women’s studies. She also taught the multicultural education course after getting her Ph.D. in 2010.

Andler, who is teaching his course on masculinity for the first time, emphasized the importance of feminist philosophy to the study of men and masculinity. He claimed “men are not oppressed along the axis of gender. The very social structures that, in part, cause unhealthy masculinities are also central to patriarchy. Although men are privileged in a gender hierarchy, gender roles, norms and symbols can negatively affect men.”

Speidel calls it “the man box” – stereotypical expectations that define men in certain ways; if there’s something about them that’s outside the box, they might suffer for it. It’s a big contributing factor in bullying and violence, she said. Words associated with femaleness, femininity and homosexuality are used to put down boys and young men, which is negative for everyone.

In their classes, which wrapped up last week, both teachers sought to provide an open atmosphere for discussion, even as they challenged traditional assumptions.

“Personally, I want all types of people in this class,” Speidel said.

Isaiah Wilkins, a member of the UVA men’s basketball team who took Speidel’s class, said, “The class really opened my eyes to different struggles that people are facing. I feel like it’s so easy to get caught up in yourself, and this class really pushed me to consider other people.” 

Wilkins, who’s majoring in African-American studies and minoring in women, gender and sexuality, said he appreciated the way Speidel went about addressing topics that could possibly be controversial.

“Growing up, I never thought twice about my gender,” said Jordan Ferbrache, a recent UVA graduate who took the class last summer. “After reading the description of [Speidel’s] course, I realized that this class could turn my attention to a topic that I would not have pondered on my own.”

Ferbrache said the course was one his favorites. “I would recommend that everyone take it,” he said. “Furthermore, I would highly encourage those who are NOT interested. Those who are not interested would be surprised how interesting and applicable this subject is to everyday life.”

He said the class gave him an awareness he had not previously had. “One thing I have learned is that we subconsciously know most of the material (men have feelings, the man-box). However, our society has buried that knowledge so deep that many people have trained themselves to think that acting according to our gender is a norm.”

Although not much has been written about masculinity in the discipline of philosophy, Andler is pursuing philosophical research on the topic. “We proficiently employ concepts of masculinity, but what is masculinity? Just as is the case for justice, free-will, existence, etc., we can’t answer the question simply by opening a dictionary,” he said.

Speidel said one of the main objectives of her course was to get students thinking about how to promote healthy masculinity. For instance, a movement called Men Can Stop Rape enlists men to be allies against sexual violence and promotes using their strength in supportive ways. Or looking at courage, often considered a masculine trait, Speidel encourages more men to have the courage to speak up as bystanders.

Another of Speidel’s students, rising fourth-year Haden Parrish, who is double-majoring in sociology and African and African-American studies, has worked as a resident assistant and as a “big brother” to local middle-school boys in the Men’s Leadership Project, a program of UVA’s Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center.

“This class seemed like a great opportunity to process my experiences, learn for the future and contribute to the conversation,” he said. “A key part of the class philosophy is that while men do have so much male privilege, not all of masculinity is positive, and understanding when it can be toxic is one step to furthering equality for all genders.

“As a man and as a person, that is something I can apply to my everyday life.”





New additions to WGS course offerings for Fall:

WGS 3559           Queer European History              

WGS 3559           Women and Music

WGS 3559           Gender, Sexuality, and Ethnography

WGS 4559           Indigenous Women & Globalization


For details, please refer to SIS or http://wgs.virginia.edu/content/fall-2017

Let’s talk about sex

Geeta Patel, Director of the UVA in India Program sent us this article about an event she recently participated in. Click through and have a read.


We have opened up a new section of Intro to Women, Gender & Sexuality that meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3:30-4:45PM.  WGS 2100-004 with Abigail Arnold. Please sign up in SIS if that works for you.

This 4th section makes our Intro class available to 30 more students!