Santana Romero performing at the 'Sco.
Program Overview

Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies

Exploring expressions, experiences, and identities.

Ohio drag king Santana Romero performs at Oberlin’s annual Drag Ball.
Photo credit: Greggor Mattson

Bodies, Queerness, Sexuality, Politics

Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies (GSFS) is an interdisciplinary and transnational program that fosters transformative understandings of the role identity plays in shaping history, theory, and individual lives. Our broad academic approach reflects the way feminists work—collaboratively across boundaries—exploring how gender, race, class, and sexuality are represented in relation to ethnicity, nationality, politics, and other categories of human experience. We are radically interdisciplinary. Our majors and minors take courses in a variety of methodological and theoretical approaches from departments as varied as Africana Studies, Cinema Studies, Comparative American Studies, Dance, English, Hispanic Studies, History, Politics, Religion, and Sociology, among many others.

New Methodologies and Community-Based Research

GSFS builds upon Oberlin’s legacy as the first institution to offer degrees to women of all races alongside men, the College’s early work with LGBTQ+ students, and our foundations in women's studies. Today, we work to make Oberlin and the world a place for people of all races, genders, and sexualities, providing students with the analytical and methodological skills that will carry them through their classes and into careers. Our faculty are experts on topics including trauma theory, literacy in India, Latin American icons, corporeal politics, French feminist film, gay bars, and inclusion in STEM. Not only do GSFS students receive grounding in theoretical approaches to identity, positionality, and intersectionality, they are also encouraged to explore study away and community-based work ranging from oral histories to collaborative advocacy and support work. In their senior year, majors may be accepted into the Honors Program to conduct independent, original research or creative projects, with grants and student awards available. Oberlin’s GSFS graduates have pursued a range of career paths in fields including reproductive health, human rights work, sustainable business, education, and legal advocacy. We invite you to join us!

GSFS majors and minors are often leaders in campus life in organizations including Oberlin HIV Peer Testing, the Sexual Information Center, Oberlin Doula Collective, Drag Ball, Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct (PRSM), and Students United for Reproductive Freedom.

Campus Support and Community

Oberlin is committed to a climate where all students belong and have equitable opportunities and outcomes. The GSFS department often partners with the Multicultural Resource Center to host events affirming and promoting equity for LGBTQ+ students as well as students of color and first-generation college students.

Oberlin professors and students smiling.
GSFS is connected to over 19 academic units from Comparative American Studies to Dance and Philosophy

Encounters with the Future of Nightlife

A nightlife class without nightlife? Not at Oberlin, where Professor Mattson invited 11 guest experts from around the country to discuss the present and future of nightlife as part of his course GSFS 386 Nightlife: Place, Identity, and Feeling Alive. Speakers included leading artist-scholars, business owners, and practitioners involved in making nightlife inclusive and exciting, in pandemic and beyond.

A person in a black shirt deejaying.

Featured Courses

GSFS 207

Introduction to Queer Studies

This course provides an interdisciplinary grounding in historical and theoretical foundations of queer culture and theory. We will explore LGBTQ history alongside contemporary queer cultural studies. This course will address the intersections of sexuality and gender with race, class, ability, age, nationality, and religion. We will explore how historical, social, political, and economic systems have shaped and reshaped what it means to be queer or claim queer identity in the United States and abroad. Students will engage with multiple disciplinary approaches that have both shaped queer studies and have been shaped by queer methodology.

Taught by
KJ Cerankowski
GSFS 214

Friends, Foes, and Feminism: Relationships in Contemporary US

We will explore complexities of human relationships, among friends, family, lovers, colleagues, community members, and strangers as they are portrayed in contemporary US novels. Of particular interest will be the ways in which these relationships (fraught? friendly?) blur lines between love and hate, respect and animosity, civility and hostility, empathy and apathy. Using feminist theory as a lens, we will also pay particular attention to characters’ identities (i.e. race, gender, class, sexuality, and more).

Taught by
GSFS 237

Gender and Sexuality in Indian Religions

From the erotic asceticism of the god Shiva to the auspicious power of a married woman, the nexus of gender and sexuality has broadly shaped the practices and philosophies of South Asias many religious traditions. The central questions guiding this course are: How do Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam incorporate sexual practice and/or restraint into a vision of ethical life? When does one’s gender become dangerous or unethical? In pursuing these questions, students will gain a deep familiarity with South Asian asceticism, the place of erotics within religious discourse, new perspectives on queer and transgender theories, emic feminisms, and sexual ethics.

Taught by
Emilia Bachrach
GSFS 305

Feminist Research Methodologies

This course traces the historical and dialectical impact of feminist epistemologies on disciplines of the social sciences and humanities. We explore feminist approaches to research practices including oral history, case studies, archival research, visual and literary criticism, survey/content analysis, and fieldwork. Throughout the semester, each student works on an individual research proposal that incorporates interdisciplinary methods and includes a literature review.

Taught by
Greggor Mattson, KJ Cerankowski, Emilia Bachrach

Student Profiles

Fulbright to Bulgaria

At Oberlin, Sophia Brewer Thompson ’20, a double major in religion and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies, served as an America Reads tutor for three years. She also worked for the Peer Support Center and co-facilitated two Intro to Peer Helping Skills courses during her senior year. After graduation, she was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Bulgaria.

Sophia Brewer Thompson.

Newman Civic Fellow

While at Oberlin, Wren Fiocco ’20, an environmental studies and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies double major, was involved with the El Centro Volunteer Initiative, Students for Energy Justice, Oberlin Students in Solidarity with Guatemala, the Resource Conservation Team, and the a capella group Nothing But Treble. After graduation, Fiocco  was awarded a 2019 Newman Civic Fellowship.

Wren Fiocco.

Teaching in Brazil

Davíd Zager ’17, a graduate in comparative American studies and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies, was awarded a Fulbright to Brazil. During his time at Oberlin, David helped teach citizenship classes at El Centro in nearby Lorain, Ohio, and tutored ESL at Southview Middle School, also in Lorain.

Davíd Zager

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.

Students walking in Wilder Bowl on a sunny fall day.
Photo credit: Yvonne Gay