Featured Stories

Featured Stories

Featured Feminist: Joshua Willis

Why do you consider yourself a feminist?

Even though I am male and am privileged because of it, I am a gay guy who is rather feminine in his gender expression. Because of this, I’ve gotten a taste of how badly the (hetero)patriarchy hurts those who do not identify as cisgender, straight, white men. The toxic masculinity that is so prevalent in our society even hurts those who do. So I think it’s safe to say that the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy is not working and we should strive for something better. The only way to do that is by uplifting marginalized voices and leadership and being a feminist is an important part of that process.

How has feminism impacted your life?

Feminism has made me grow as a person by forcing me to confront my privileges and question the oppressive narratives I  hear every day.  I now have a better understanding of humanity because of this, one that is not so limited to a certain race, gender, class, sexual orientation, etc. 

Do you have a feminist role model?

Gosh, I have too many! Generally, I really appreciate folks who take an intersectional approach to their feministism. A few people, both past and present, who pop into my mind include bell hooks, the Grimke sisters, Audrey Lorde, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera,  Janet Mock, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Angela Davis, Leslie Fienberg, Laverne Cox, Mia Mckenzie, CeCe McDonald, Ann Baden, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Kat Blaque, Janani Balasubramanian and Alok Vaid-Menon… the list goes on and on.

How do you plan to incorporate feminism into your life and career moving forward after graduation?

As a (hopeful) future art historian, I have a special passion for works created by marginalized artists, whether these are by women, people of color, queer and trans people, or those who are self-taught.  Unfortunately, the art historical cannon is overwhelmingly white, male, and straight, so these artists tend to get erased. I want to work to help disrupt this very limited understanding of art and show just how complex and multifaceted art history really is.

Featured Activist: Courtney Cosgrove

Courtney Cosgrove, a first year Psychology major from Statesboro, Georgia, has already exemplified the spirit of a dedicated activist at just 18 years old. In her Senior year of high school, Courtney discovered a scholarship opportunity through dosomething.org, a popular website that curates activism ideas based on interest and time availability. The specific opportunity Courtney decided to work towards encouraged students heading to college to organize a jean drive to help clothe the homeless through Teens for Jeans and enter in a competition that could potentially reward them with a $10,000 scholarship. Courtney's individual project focused on raising awareness in her high school and surrounding community about poverty and homelessness, primarily through flyers and promotional public speaking, as well as by offering incentives, such as donut parties, to encourage her classmates to participate. Though her initial goals for the project were relatively small, she soon found that as more people heard about her efforts, the number of donations quickly multiplied. Soon, her bags of donations had grown too large for the initial storage space, and by the end she had collected 2,195 pairs of jeans for people of all ages. When the drive ended, she took all of the donations to her local Aeropostale, who served as the distributor to those in need.

Despite the huge success of her small project, she did not win the scholarship. However, looking back, Courtney reflects that although her initial motivation to organize the jean drive was to win, as she worked through the process and began to see the widespread difference she could make as an individual, her motivation shifted from the monetary grand prize to a newfound inspiration for activism. She realized as more jeans flooded in that her faith in humanity was slowly being restored, and she had a new appreciation for working within her community. The knowledge and experience she gained from working in the field of homelessness ignited a new passion for increasing her own awareness on issues affecting her community, as well as extending her knowledge to others who could also make a difference, which, in combination, provided more value in her life than any $10, 000 scholarship could. 

Before she began her jean drive, Courtney had no experience in organizing an activism project, nor did she have any previous affiliation with a similar organization. By the end of her project, Courtney had successfully organized an effort that clothed almost 2,200 individuals in need. The huge amount of success she experienced can serve as a lesson to us all: it doesn't take years of experience or any specialized skills to make a lasting impact in our communities.

Featured Faculty

To gain an interdisciplinary perspective on the Women's and Gender Studies program, we turned to the faculty members across campus who support the program through offering WNS courses in various disciplines. Below is a compilation of answers to two questions: 1) Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, why? and 2) What led you to teach WNS cross-listed courses, and what has your experience been in teaching WNS courses as opposed to non-WNS courses within your field?

Dr. Anne Lewinson:

  1. Yes, I consider myself a feminist. Why? Because I think it's unfair and we ALL lose out when the potential, experiences, and contributions of an individual or group are not tapped due to their gender, race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, etc. It is one of my jobs as a teacher to point out when and how social systems are slanted and exactly how they are working.
  2. While I have not specialized in gender in my research, gender has been a consistent and important aspect in it. It was a natural fit for me to teach a course about the anthropology of gender. Teaching a WNS cross-listed course has been a great opportunity to work with students from a variety of disciplines and creates a dynamic mix of views in the classroom. I'm delighted to get to do it!

Dr. Timothy Knowlton

  1. Yes, I am a feminist. I believe in equal opportunity regardless of gender, and in the right of individuals and groups to invent and re-invent themselves, including in terms of gender roles. But humans are inherently social beings, and so my freedom is dependent on others' freedom. The saying has been attributed to the 20th century anthropologist Margaret Mead: "Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man." I think men who aren't feminists ultimately are working against their own freedom.
  2. I teach ANT 330: Anthropology of the Body, which is one of my research interests in anthropology. I do research on non-Western healing practices, and find myself increasingly confronting issues of women's health in my research, so it's been really helpful to engage further with feminist scholarship. The ANT 330 course has only recently become cross-listed with WNS. In my experience so far this semester, having a mix of students from WNS with the SOC-ANT students who traditionally take the course has enriched our dialogue and thinking within the class. I'm looking forward to seeing how the semester progresses!

Dr. Julia Barnes

  1. I consider myself a feminist because I want individuals to have maximum freedom in determining their own identities! I also have a five-year-old daughter, so her ability to grow up safe, valued, brave, and confident is very important to me!
  2. This semester is my first experience teaching WNS 210, and it is a wonderful experience so far. I am impressed that my students have been so willing to engage with sometimes controversial topics and think deeply about them.

Dr. Jeffrey Lidke

  1. As with many labels, so with the label "feminist," I generally elect not to identify myself as such. This is not because I am necessarily not a "feminist," but rather because I find labels to be limiting. About the only label I'm comfortable with is "human." That being expressed, I would say that I support the rights of all humans, regardless of gender, race, and orientation to achieve the basic human right of liberty, life, and the pursuit of happiness. And in this regard, I support the feminist agenda of achieving equal rights for women
  2. When I was hired in 2003, I was asked by Harvey Hill and Carrie Baker to teach a course on Women in Religion (REL 382). I also teach a course called Goddess Traditions of Asia. The latter course is particularly in alignment with my dissertation research which was based on ethnographic and textual studies of Goddess Traditions in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. In all of my courses, I include a consideration of women's experiences and expression in religion. My WNS courses heighten this focus and this heightening enriches those courses.

Dr. Jim Watkins

  1. I am a feminist because I believe in equal opportunities for all and, despite significant progress in lots of areas, we are just not there yet. Also, a brief glance at American history will tell you that rights given can be revoked, so the struggle never ends.
  2. What led me to teach WNS courses is that my research often involved masculinity studies, but also I was involved for a number of years in directing or codirecting the biennial Southern Women Writers Conference, so I developed a course, Southern Women Writers, to involve my students in some of the wonderful material that has been written by the likes of Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Conner, Alice Walker, and lesser known women writers from the South. 

Featured Alumni: Sara Totonchi

Sara Totonchi is a perfect example of the successful and meaningful life that a degree involving women's and gender studies can provide. Currently, Sara is the Executive Director of the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR), a nonprofit law firm that provides legal representation to people facing the death penalty, challenges human rights violations in prisons and jails, seeks through litigation and advocacy to improve legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, and advocates for criminal justice system reforms on behalf of those affected by the system in the Southern United States. Sara Joined SCHR in 2001 as the Public Policy Director and became SCHR's Executive Director in 2010. For more than a decade, she represented SCHR on a full range of criminal justice and public safety issues at the Georgia General Assembly, and led coalition efforts and legislative advocacy to establish Georgia's first statewide public defender system and enact criminal justice reforms, specializing in building partnerships with unlikely allies such as law enforcement, survivors of crime, and conservative elected officials. Now, she leads the organization in carrying out its mission of bringing creative and effective litigation and raising the funds needed to do so. 

When asked how she has used or incorporated her background in Women's and Gender Studies into her life, she reflected on how crucial her experiences in the WNS program at Berry were to her current success. At the heart of the struggle the SCHR battles so passionately is a belief in love and fairness, and a belief in valuing dignity, equality, diversity, and freedom of all, including freedom from oppression, freedom from barriers between people, and freedom to live a full and joyous life. Values that permeate the WNS program, such as equality, dignity, and justice, are values the SCHR is most dedicated in protecting, and Sara is still grateful for the firm foundation she was able to build in the WNS program that enabled and empowered her to embrace a career path defined by such important values. 

Aside from her impressive and inspiring work, Sara maintains a happy life. She and her husband have one son, live happily in Atlanta, and love to travel. Recently, they've visited Bolivia, New Zealand, and spent a week on the Pacific coast in Oregon. She is continuously fortunate to be a part of a progressive community of friends and colleagues who are committed to working for social change.