Victoria Pitts-Taylor, chair and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, is interested in studying bodies from a cross-disciplinary perspective.
Victoria Pitts-Taylor, chair and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, joined the faculty this fall.
Q: Welcome to Wesleyan, Professor Pitts-Taylor! What attracted you to Wesleyan?
A: Wesleyan has a great tradition of progressive liberal arts education, including a long tradition of feminist/gender/sexuality studies. Like most programs, it began as women’s studies, more than three decades ago, evolving into its current form as times and perspectives changed. Wesleyan has a reputation for having really smart, socially engaged students, for fostering interest in and commitment to social justice, and for investing in interdisciplinary modes of scholarship and teaching. It’s also full of incredibly accomplished professors, people whom I’d like to read, talk to and learn from.
Q: You came to Wesleyan from the City University of New York. What did your position at CUNY entail?
A: I was at the City University of New York for 15 years – almost my whole academic career since getting my Ph.D. at Brandeis University. I started as an assistant professor in the sociology program at Queens College (part of CUNY) in 1999, and after I received tenure I also began teaching in the doctoral program at the Graduate Center. In 2009, I was promoted to full professor – that was a big deal for me at the age of 36, and I thought back then that I’d probably stay at CUNY forever. But that year, I also became director of the Center for the Study of Women and Society and Coordinator of the Women’s Studies Doctoral Certificate Program at the Graduate Center. I served two terms as head of those programs. I am a sociologist by training and orientation, but over the years I became more deeply involved in gender and sexuality studies. In addition to heading the women’s studies program, I also served as co-editor of the journal Women’s Studies Quarterly (WSQ) for three years. That experience, along with getting involved in the Feminist Press (which publishes WSQ), team-teaching a feminist theory course with a Victorianist, and getting interested in feminist science studies, convinced me that I wanted to be part of a gender studies program.
This year, Pitts-Taylor is teaching courses on Biofeminisms, and Sex and Gender in Critical Perspective.
Q: What has been your impression of the university, and the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies program in particular, so far? How is it different from CUNY?
A: When I walked into my Biofeminisms course, I expected to see a group of juniors and seniors majoring in FGSS. Instead, I got a class filled with biologists, economists and neuroscientists, most of whom had never taken an FGSS class before. Two things strike me about this. First, at most places, the science majors (not to mention the econ majors) wouldn’t often find their way to a gender studies course.
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