The National Women’s Studies Association Statement on Combatting the Climate of Fear, Division and Xenophobia in the Wake of the U.S. Presidential Election

The National Women’s Studies Association met in Montréal, Canada in the
immediate wake of the November 8, 2016 U.S. presidential election, and many
of us were shaken by the results. As transnational, indigenous,
intersectional and anti-racist feminist scholars, and practitioners, and
scholars of conscience, we feel compelled to speak out about the
implications of this political moment for the work we do and the
communities of which we are a part. Throughout this election season, and in
the weeks since November 8th, women and girls, LGBTQIA people, poor and
working people, Muslims and Arab-Americans, Jews, Black people, indigenous
people, Mexicans, Latinx, immigrant communities, and people with
disabilities have been threatened and maligned. Racist, xenophobic,
Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, homophobic, ablest, transphobic and misogynist
views have been rampant in the public sphere, sparking instances of
harassment, intimidation, and assault. Women have been insulted and mocked,
sexual assault has been trivialized, and Black communities have been
disparaged and maligned. Millions of undocumented residents fear unjust
deportations. And climate change denial places the future of the entire
planet at risk.

We recognize that none of us are entirely safe. Intellectuals and teachers
have been, and continue to be, the victims of authoritarian regimes around
the world and over time. Although critical thinking and transgressive
pedagogy are often perceived as dangerous to certain political agendas,
NWSA embraces these features of our work and calls on members to use our
collective energies to push back against the climate of fear, xenophobia
and anti-intellectualism that have become so prevalent. We must do what we
do best which is to provide alternative ways of thinking, expose myths and
lies through our research and writing, engage a broader public, and insist
upon critical and dissident inquiry that interrogate unsubstantiated
claims, and build bridges of unity and understanding. In our ongoing
efforts to democratize and decolonize colleges, universities and academic
scholarship, we must teach to the urgency of the moment, and in doing so
reach out beyond our campuses and beyond national borders.

We encourage our NWSA members to stand with, defend and provide sanctuary
for our students and colleagues who are most vulnerable. In these
challenging times we must embrace and reclaim the activist roots that
carved out a place for women’s and gender studies and other
interdisciplinary, critical areas of study within the Academy over forty
years ago. In addition to recognizing the continued importance of the
rigorous and clarifying scholarship that has been the hallmark of NWSA
members, we also encourage members to organize teach-ins and vigils, and to
explore ever more creative forms of learning, sharing, and mobilizing.
Speak out loudly and consistently through letters, petitions and collective
statements. We cannot accept the skewed argument that it is not our place,
or it is somehow unprofessional, to speak out. On the contrary, speak out
we must. It is our ethical obligation to do so. And in doing so we are
inspired and empowered by our collective effort.

NWSA has more than 2,000 individual and 350 institutional members working
in varied specialties across the United States and around the world.
Through scholarship, pedagogy and praxis our members actively pursue
knowledge to promote a just world in which all persons can develop to their
fullest potential?one free from ideologies, systems of privilege or
structures that oppress or exploit some for the advantage of others. It is
with this mission in mind that we call upon our NWSA membership to be
vocal, to be courageous, to be bold, to be visible and to be engaged with
each other and with a larger public in this critical time. Despite our
trepidations about the future, we are bolstered by the creative,
generative, humane and principled stances and actions many have already
taken. We stand with and remain supportive of our members in the work that
lies ahead.