Director's Message

Welcome to the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) program at Western. Our program offers an interdisciplinary approach to women, gender, and sexuality studies. 

Central to our program is the study of sex, gender, and sexuality. We study women's contributions as artists and anarchists, poets and politicians, public figures and private citizens. The program also examines the complexities of gender, analyzing the construction of feminine, masculine, and queer identities across time and cultures. Our focus thus includes some of the most pressing issues of today: reproductive rights, economic and political equality, health and welfare, and LGBTQIAA rights.

Above all, we aim to create an innovative and challenging experience for students at Western. Interested in examining transnational feminist movements? Eager to do an internship on women and media? Looking to get course credit for working at the domestic violence center? Hoping to develop a senior project analyzing queer graphic novels? With course offerings from more than fifteen academic disciplines, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies introduces students to exciting ideas, dynamic professors and classmates, and feminist thought and gender perspectives in small, collaborative communities of learning.

I warmly invite you to join us in our academic and social events. Check out our new website to find up-to-date information on our events, courses, faculty, and students. We have frequent colloquium with lectures, panels, and other events that address new research, current events, activism, and other timely social, economic, political, and cultural issues.

If you have any questions about the program, please contact me ( or Kim Ayre (, program manager. I'd love your input, perspective, and participation.

About the Director

I was appointed as the Director of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in 2013. I have been an affiliated faculty member of the program since 2003. I also have a joint appointment as a professor in the Department of Political Science. My research and teaching interests focus on Anglo-American political thought, identity politics and post-colonial theory, and sex, gender, and sexuality in political theory. My book, Hybrid Constitutions: Challenging Legacies of Law, Privilege, and Culture in Colonial America (Duke University Press) was published in 2010. I also have written several articles on constitutionalism, identity politics, and post-colonial theory.

My current research focuses on conceptions of sobriety and intoxication in democratic and liberal political thought, emphasizing the gendered and cultural dimensions of rational discourse, emotion, and political agency as it was expressed in early modern English pub and coffeehouse culture, riots, and protests. I am also working on a second project that looks at the dynamics and definitions of identity in contemporary urban protest movements (most notably, Slutwalks, the Occupy movement, and Right to the City struggles).

Both my research and teaching draw on an interdisciplinary approach that combines political theory with the insights of historical research, critical theory, and legal studies. In the classroom, I find this approach highly productive in providing students with the resources to engage, complicate, and refine their understanding of both traditional and contemporary political theory. In my courses, we look at how conceptions of sex, sexuality, gender, race, and ethnicity have shaped long-inherited ideas about political participation, power and authority, freedom, rights, and liberty.

Throughout my career, I have been actively involved in scholarship in women studies, gender studies, and identity politics. I have a history of leadership and service to both the university and the Bellingham community, with a particular emphasis on projects that tackle issues of equality, justice, and violence prevention and care. I have worked with: 826 Seattle (writing and tutoring center); the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (DVSAS) agency of Whatcom County as an DV/SA advocate; the South Whatcom Fire Authority as a volunteer FF/EMT.