Have 2 minutes? A recap on the first “Unexpected Gender” series at UBC

Written by: Frannie Mackenzie

I had the pleasure of attending an event titled “Unexpected Gender” hosted by the Collective for Gender+ in Research out of University of British Columbia on February 13th, 2020. This was the first installment of the series of talks and discussions that are meant to assist in building your capacity to engage gender+ in research.

The Collective for Gender+ in Research is a group of individuals that aim to promote a community for rich dialogue in which gender and other identity intersections, including race, class, sexuality and ability, are considered when conducting community-engaged research. The Collective focuses on capacity building and providing the tools researchers need to utilize a gender+ lens.[i]

This collective is an asset to researchers and trainees as the lens of inclusivity in research is becoming more prominent and imperative to acknowledge when creating and conducting a research project. The collective itself has provided an essential space and community for researchers and students to foster new dialogues and create a network around the gender+ framework.

Gender+ is defined as recognition of the intersectional aspects that go along with gender such as race, sexual orientation, class, disability, and many other inequalities. It is a term of diversity that undertakes the notion that there is more beyond biological sex and the socio-cultural definition of “gender”. Gender+ is a lens that researchers can take to be more intersectional and inclusive in their research practices, additionally it can be used as an important tool to ask key questions to make their research gender+ sensitive.

The first session of the series hosted by the collective was a discussion led by Dr. Dory Nason, a powerful and well-spoken Anishinaabe woman whose areas of research include indigenous feminisms and specifically Native literature as a source of the evolution and rise of feminisms. One key point of her discussion revolved around the use of feminisms as a plural and the importance that as a singular it is determined what it is, who it’s for, and who defines it, but as a plural it encompasses so much more as it can be contested to have a more intersectional and inclusive meaning.

Dr. Nason began her discussion reciting stories from her ancestors and relatives that brought to light the effect of colonialism on gender and feminism, and how these events still carry true to the socio-cultural definition of what gender is defined as, and more specifically the role of women in a society. She brought with her the stories of her female elders who are known as ones who hold things together and how they were stripped of their indigenous roots by boarding schools and traditional colonialist upbringings. Much of Dr. Nason’s research revolves around locating documents from her relatives at the time when the colonial intrusion was at its peak and finding light by thinking about the impacts that these moments had and addressing them in a creative way.

When asked what drives Dr. Nason to do the research she does she mentioned how she finds inspiration understanding the penalty and privileges of the events that occurred which allows her to ask questions about the roots of feminisms and letting these moments inform her work.

With respect to research methodologies, Dr. Nason brought with her a plethora of knowledge about how to incorporate indigenous feminisms into research with her most prominent point being to tread lightly and engage with those who have experienced what you’re trying to encompass. Dr. Nason encouraged the attendees to reflect about the research they are doing and think deeply about intersectionality+ and where there is potential for improvement.

In order to engage in inclusive research you must foster relationships with individuals within these groups and work alongside them not appropriating them, and become informed by what they’re saying while challenge how things traditionally operate.

As a researcher or someone working in research, this can start with the development of the research question or the re-framing of a current research question by asking yourself who this research is for, and being honest about who is being left out and why.

This opening discussion was incredibly informative and has brought to light the influence of the land we have the incredible privilege of working on and how its colonization has had its effect on feminisms and gender+. The next instalment in the series hosted by the Collective for Gender+ in Research is on March 20th, 2020 at the University of British Columbia.

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[i] Collective for Gender in Research. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://orice.ubc.ca/programs/research-collectives/

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