Open Statement of Solidarity with Professor and Students Targeted in Violent Attack at the University of Waterloo, Women’s and Gender Studies Association [et Recherches Féministes] (WGSA/RF)

June 29, 2023

** We welcome Faculty Associations, Departments and Programs, and individuals to sign this open letter. Please share widely.**

Women’s and Gender Studies Association [et Recherches Féministes] (WGSA/RF) stands in solidarity with students, faculty, and the broader campus community of the University of Waterloo, especially those who were targeted in a hateful attack on June 28th. We are horrified and collectively enraged by the news of violence encountered by students and professors of “Philosophy 202: Gender Issues.” The fear and trauma likely experienced by students and the professor is beyond comprehension. Post-secondary institutions should be places for students to learn openly and without fear, and where faculty and staff can expect safe working conditions. 

While the motivation for this attack has yet to be released to the public, it is essential to note the targets of this violent act: a gender studies professor and a gender-focused classroom. 

Misogyny, transphobia, and white supremacy are on the rise in the Canadian context. Resistance to the human rights of those who are gender diverse – the overarching topic of Philosophy 202– has become particularly violent. Calls to ban books that include references to gender and sexual diversity, protests against drag queen story-times, a steep rise in hate crimes reported to police by 2SLGBTQIA+ people, and the ongoing disappearance and murders of trans women and femmes of colour, Two Spirit and Indigiqueer people, point to a broad and insidious threat against those who are, are perceived to be, (or even recognized as an ally of) 2SLGBTQIA+ people. 

Moreover, gender studies professors, courses, and feminist, anti-racist, and social justice-based curriculum, have become central targets of “anti-woke” legislation and “anti-gender” discourses globally. Most recently, Florida’s targeting of Gender Studies, alongside African American Studies, critical race and intersectionality theory, and EDI initiatives, in HB 999 and SB 266 have stoked fears in the general public about “indoctrination” in institutions of higher education. This right-wing politicization of, and fear-mongering around, the reality of diversity in sex, gender, and sexuality puts the safety of students, faculty, and staff at risk. 

Courses that aim to deconstruct the gender binary, and those that ask critical questions about the supposed ‘nature’ of colonial, patriarchal, and cissexist gender systems, are always essential but especially at this moment when misinformation and disinformation about the diversity of sex, gender, and sexuality is so widespread. 

In the wake of this violence, we call on all Canadian universities and colleges, including administration and faculty unions, to collaborate with faculty of gender studies, and those who teach sex, gender, and sexuality courses in other disciplines, to create meaningful and actionable supports to secure the safety and wellbeing of those who are, and those who are perceived to be, 2SLGBTQIA+ on campus, especially Black, Indigenous, racially minoritized, disabled, and neurodivergent folks who face intersectional forms of violence. 

We know that we keep each other safe. WGSA/RF is planning to host a workshop on community-based safety planning early Fall 2023. This workshop will be free to our membership, and we welcome faculty and students who teach and learn in social justice-focused courses from all disciplines to join us. If you are interested in this workshop, please join our email list here: 

WGSA/RF offers our support to all departments and disciplines in the wake of this violent act. For specific requests, please email us directly. 

Corinne L. Mason & Claire Carter, Co-Presidents of WGSA[RF]