WGSS News and Activism

Sexual/Gender Violence and Policing in the Context of Feminist Anti-Violence movements


Photo: Professor Miriam Abelson and Women's Studies Major Shannon KearnsOn October 23, faculty, staff, students, and community members held a #DisarmPSU Solidarity Teach-In at the Native American Student and Community Center on campus, in response to the tragic shooting of Jason Washington by armed CPSO officers during the summer. WGSS Assistant Professor Miriam Abelson and Women’s Studies major Shannon Kearns, along with School of Social Work faculty Ericka Kimball, presented a session on “Sexual/Gender Violence and Policing in the Context of Feminist Anti-Violence Movements.” Their presentation touched on looking critically at the notion of gender-based violence and sexual assault from an intersectional feminist perspective, and the ways in which discourses on gender, sex/sexuality, and violence have arisen in the discourse around arming campus police at PSU.  


Participating in activist scholarship is important for a department like WGSS. Opportunities such as this allow faculty and students to use the knowledge shared in classrooms to promote change in our community and on our campus. This fall in WS 315, Miriam chose to focus on state violence and carceral feminist in class to help students understand how we can use feminist theory and analysis to gain perspective on what happened on our campus. For Shannon, being introduced to carceral feminism in Miriam’s WS 315 course “opened doors to a world I didn’t know existed.” In her work as a Sexual Assault Victim Advocate (SAVA), she often interacts with law enforcement. Gaining a theoretical understanding of state violence and carceral feminism enabled Shannon to see her work in the community in a new way, and to “learn what follow up looks like.” As the instructor, Miriam was able to draw on students’ experiences and integrate student advocacy outside of the classroom with feminist theories. According to Miriam, “Shannon’s experience as an advocate combined with what we were working on in class really deepened the impact of the session and made clear the connections between feminist histories, theories, and on the ground anti-violence work. The chance to work together in this way and its impact on the session exemplifies the power of learning from and with each other in our feminist classrooms and beyond.”


Pacific Sociological Association Conference Reflection

By Carly Hollabaugh


Image of Women's Studies Major, Carly Hollabaugh, presenting at the Pacific Sociological Association Conference 2018

During the spring break of my senior year, I had the opportunity to present my qualitative research at the 89th annual Pacific Sociological Association (PSA) conference in Long Beach, California. I first learned about the PSA from professor and mentor Dr. Miriam Abelson. As a double major in Women’s Studies and Sociology, the PSA was an excellent venue to gain undergraduate experience presenting my Women’s Studies senior research project. It was with the financial assistance of the WGSS Travel Award for Undergraduate Research that I was able to attend this conference and represent PSU’s Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department among Sociology scholars from across the West Coast.


My research examined intergenerational lesbian communities in Portland, Oregon. I used semi-structured, in-depth interview methods to investigate the ways in which lesbians experience community or lack of community between generations. My research was accepted for presentation at the “Sexualities” undergraduate roundtable session. Here, I was able to join other student presenters and share my research findings. Presenting my research in this type of way was an invaluable growing experience for myself personally and academically. The Q&A section of my presentation brought to my attention just how much interest and impact my work would garner.


I felt the PSA conference held incredibly supportive space for myself as an undergraduate researcher whose interests extend beyond sociological methods and research alone. I was honored to meet students, professors, and researchers who came up to me after my presentation asking for a copy of my research. One of the students who came up to me was another Women’s Studies and Sociology student from Evergreen State College. We quickly became friends at the conference and still maintain our friendship today. Most impactful to my scholarship was having dinner with a published author whose research investigates the impact of lesbian bars on older generations of lesbian communities and how this has changed for younger lesbian generations. As these examples of connection display, the PSA conference was a place of learning, friendship, and academic community like I have never experienced before.


The Pacific Sociology Association warmly welcomed me to their conference exactly as who I am, a gender and sexualities sociologist in training who is interested in the ways in which communities operate. As a recent graduate of WGSS, I feel my attendance at the PSA conference made me a more confident researcher and presenter. Attending various panels and research presentations taught me possibilities of social research, and more so, the importance of feminist research methodologies within the discipline of Sociology. The impact of the PSA will live on with me as I continue into graduate school and continue engaging with research in every aspect of my life. Thank you to all of those who support the WGSS Travel Award for Undergraduate Research for making this conference possible for me.



Photo: Nancy PorterNancy Porter 1936-2018

This summer, the Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies department lost a visionary and one of the founding faculty of the program in Women’s Studies and its original certificate degree at Portland State University. Nancy Porter passed away peacefully on August 17, 2018, at Hawthorne Gardens Senior Living Community in Portland, where she had lived for the past four years.

Nancy joined PSU as a faculty member in the English department in 1966.  Within a few years of her arrival, she had helped to co-found a thriving interdisciplinary Women’s Studies curriculum at PSU, which in the early 1970’s was the first Women’s Studies program in Oregon and featured one of largest course offerings nationwide. Nancy was not only instrumental in bringing Women’s Studies to PSU. She also served as the editor of a landmark journal in the field, Women’s Studies Quarterly, published by the Feminist Press, for over a decade.

Since then, the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies has remained strong. We now offer two majors and minors as well as a collaborative graduate certificate in Gender, Race and Nations. We are thankful to Nancy’s legacy for establishing the base upon which the study of women, gender and sexuality continues to thrive for our students today