Leading the Way in Women’s Studies
Comparative women’s studies is an integral part of the groundbreaking programs of the Women’s Research and Resource Center. A first among historically Black colleges, this unique interdisciplinary program places an emphasis on Black feminist theory, women’s health, digital media documentation stories of women’s lives, and activism.
“Since the 1970s, there has been a national women’s studies movement that has been one of the most transformative interdisciplinary projects in higher education, and Spelman has been at the forefront of that movement,” said Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies and founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center.
Shifting the Focus to Major
Elevating women’s studies to a major allows the College to continue leading the path in educating and creating a global community of progressive women and men who envision a world free from injustice, exploitation, violence, poverty, waste, greed, illness and misogyny.
In October 2010, Danielle Taylor Phillips, Ph.D., C'2004, received her doctorate in women's and gender studies from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, making her Spelman’s first comparative women’s studies graduate to receive a doctorate in women’s studies.
“Spelman provided a strong foundation that prepared me for graduate school and beyond through the intellectual support and affirmation that the professors offered to students and through the exchange of ideas that could have only emerged in dialogues between the particular diversity of students in Spelman’s classrooms,” said Dr. Phillips, who is beginning a tenure-track position as an assistant professor at Texas Woman’s University in the Women’s Studies Department.
A Cutting-Edge Program
Another premier component of the program is the Digital Moving Image Salon, which teaches students how to make films. Launched in 2004 by Dr. Ayoka Chenzira, an award-winning, internationally acclaimed film and digital media artist and the College's first Cosby Endowed Professor, DMIS serves as a learning space, training ground, and production studio for students interested in documentary filmmaking and digital media productions.
Juliana Montgomery graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in film studies from Spelman in 2006. As an independent major, Montgomery designed her film studies program. Among the works that she associate produced was the 2009 Emmy Award-winning Coca-Cola advertisement, “Heist.”
“Spelman’s comparative women’s studies department not only supported my independent major and course of study, it made possible an environment through which my understanding of images of women – especially of women of color – within the visual media, could be realized,” said Montgomery.
A Movement Against Misogyny
It was hip-hop’s lowest point in 2004 that stirred the genteel soul of Moya Bailey, C’2005, a comparative women’s study graduate. “Tip Drill,” the controversial video by Nelly, would become the catalyst for a movement against misogynistic images of women in the hip-hop culture and would catapult Bailey and the College into the forefront of discussion on the depiction of Black women in hip-hop videos. Today, Bailey is a Ph.D. candidate in the Emory University Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
“The women's studies program at Spelman gave me the language to articulate what is happening in the world and made me aware of the interlocking systems of oppression that keep us from having the world we want,” said Bailey, who wants to also become a professor and teach women’s studies. “I credit the Women's Research and Resource Center with giving me the tools I need to help build the world I want to see.”