Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies

Student’s favorite comic book inspires pursuit of embodied feminist practice

March 16, 2021

Undergraduate student Maki Cairns credits the Wonder Woman comic book series as part of her drive to study at the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS). An avid comic book and graphic novel reader, Cairn’s interest in feminism was sparked from her  hobby and has turned into a full course of study. Currently she is a fifth-year student working on completing a Joint Major in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and Psychology.

“I am continuously impressed and surprised each semester with the new course offerings.” Cairns  commends the GSWS Department for the variety of courses she has been able to take. The range of topics she’s studied  have also helped fostered critical engagement with theory in Maki’s area of study.

Cairns  says her  favourite class was GSWS 333, “Intersectional Feminist Journal Praxis,” a class taught in Spring 2020 by then-Ruth Wynn Woodward Junior Chair, Dr. Ela Przybylo. The class opened her eyes to the complexities of feminist thinking and practise within and outside academia. She says, “it taught me that knowledge should not be kept for a small group of individuals but for everyone,” a radical idea in the current climate of the academic publishing world. 

Working with her peers, she  created an open-access journal, a project which she is proud to note is  still accessible today here. Working in pairs, Cairns explains that they  chose tasks based on each component of designing a journal. She worked with  the peer review team to ensure every piece of work aligned with the calls for submissions that they had put out. She enjoyed the collaborative process, and says while it “definitely was a lot of work, it was rewarding to see [the journal]  in its final form!”

Cairns is also passionate about  advocacy for  women and gender non-conforming women of colour. She is a member of the British Columbia chapter of the General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership, and Action (GABRIELA). The organization is “committed to liberation and justice for all Filipinos who identify as women or gender non-conforming and for national democracy in the Philippines.” 

Cairns  has helped organize a number of events that highlight and share Filipino women's perspectives and concerns on social, political, and economic issues. Among these events has been a dialogue event called Share Ko Lang, where Filipino women share their thoughts and feelings on current social, political, and economic issues.

When asked what encouragement or advice she would give to fellow incoming students, Cairns says the GSWS Student Union has provided her with opportunities to meet and make friends with wonderful people at fun events, and she urges fellow students to consider joining their departmental student union.

Moreover, she encourages students to remember that studying is only one part of the journey. With many options for different countries and universities to choose from, she says it’s equally important to have fun during your studies and “ make time to explore and travel [when it is safe to do so]”. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cairns pursued a  Study Abroad program and travelled to the Philippines. She says learning more about her own culture and making lifelong friends during the trip was a life-changing experience. ws.

Being a GSWS student continues to be a positive experience for Maki, as she says that  she is “quite grateful for the department and faculty for creating a space I feel comfortable and safe to be in.”