WMNS 391: Intro to Gender Studies, OPEN MINDS Project

This course will introduce students to the field of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and many of the intellectual, creative, academic, and activist possibilities within this field. This course focuses on connecting diverse theories about women and gender to various academic fields and community causes through exploration and discussion of critical and creative writing. Students in this course will participate in a deep study of identity, through the lenses of gender, sexuality, race, social class, "ability," geographic location, spiritual practice, and other identity categories.


Stereotypes and people’s opinions aren’t always true.

Kelvin Paterson, RCJ Resident

Our primary focus of study will be engaging in the creative and critical writing of scholars, poets, activists, and incarcerated people, while also producing creative and critical writing that responds to what we read and discuss during our dialogues on Fridays at the Richmond City Jail. The class format is structured as a reading and writing workshop, where participants will share their work and respond to both assigned readings and the writing of others in the workshop through constructive dialogue and engaged writing activities.

Through our study of published prison writers, poets, activists, and scholars, and through our own communal writing practice at the Richmond City Jail, we will search for the common ground connecting our diverse experiences and together envision a world we can share that has less crime and ideally less jails and prisons. To do this, we will need to wrestle with the paradox at the heart of writing and social change; the burden of becoming a writer—becoming honest, creative and responsible with words and, presumably, the deeds, too—while struggling with the forces in jail and "out there" in society that would subvert change. Central to our dialogue will be breaking down the false binary of "inside/outside" and theorizing, through our creative work, how social change is indeed possible.

We don’t differ much by our situations or circumstances and when we share, it allows us to view things, people, and life in more ways than one. I love to write, and this class has enhanced me to heal from some things.

Ventura Blackshear, RCJ Resident