McGill, News

New Assistant Professor Kelly Gordon introduces feminism to the McGill political science scene

As of Fall 2017, the newest addition to the McGill faculty is Assistant Professor Kelly Gordon, a proud feminist who is introducing McGill students in her class to the role of gender in politics. This is her first academic position, directly following the finalization of her of post-doctoral work at the University of Ottawa (UO).

In the Department of Political Science, where 26 of the 36 professors are male, Gordon focuses her research on conservative politics and the role that gender plays in political persuasion. Gordon believes the field of political science could benefit from a gender studies analysis it is currently lacking.

“It’s very difficult to understand contemporary politics without studying gender,” Gordon said. “[And] it’s very difficult to understand Donald Trump without understanding the role masculinity plays in politics [….Feminism] is more of a lens through which you see the world. It’s not a defined set of policies or ideas.”

Gordon completed her Masters of Arts in Political Studies and Feminist and Gender Studies at UO in 2010. She was inspired to pursue a career in academia after noticing the misconceptions surrounding conservative politics, especially the differences between East Coast Canadians’ perceptions of life in conservative Alberta and the reality. During her undergraduate degree, she never planned on becoming a professor.

“I had no idea that this was the route that I was even going to take,” Gordon said. “I think when I was doing my undergrad, I wasn’t really sure what a PhD even was.”

Gordon was originally inspired to focus on the role of gender in politics by her mother, who worked as an abortion provider. She also sought inspiration from a 1983 book called Right-Wing Women by Andrea Dworkin, which argues that the American political right mobilizes women by exploiting their fears.

“I disagree with most of [the book], but I think that it was a huge catalyst for me being interested in conservative politics as a feminist,” Gordon said. “Feminism is about economics [and] social, racial, legal injustice. Feminism is for everyone.”

Gordon applied her vision by working in a variety of areas within gender and politics. In 2015, she co-wrote a book with her thesis supervisor, Paul Saurette, titled The Changing Voice of the Anti-Abortion Movement: The Rise of “Pro-Woman” Rhetoric in Canada and the United States.  In 2016, the work received the Donald Smiley Prize for best book relating to the study of government and politics in Canada. Yet, Gordon’s proudest achievement is sitting on a task force at UO in 2014 and 2015 that revised the university’s sexual assault and sexual violence policies.

“We undertook a big consultation with all the different stakeholders at the university,” Gordon said. “[I] got involved with being an advocate for survivors of sexual violence, and I think that’s something that I’m the most proud of that I’ve done.”

Currently, Gordon is teaching POLI 379: Topics in Canadian Politics and researching several independent pursuits such as the implications and motivations of victimization, conservative political persuasion, and the men’s rights movement in Canada. Gordon hopes to complete her works that are currently in progress—titled “Think About the Men!: Victimhood, Conservative Ideology, and Men’s Right Activism in Canada” and  “Gendering Political Persuasion: Sex Work, Bill c-36, and Discourse of Victimization in Canadian Conservatism”—during her time at McGill.

“I’m really just getting started,” Gordon said. “I really enjoy teaching. Until now, there really hasn’t been a gender and politics course offered within the political science department. My students are super excited about it, which makes me really excited about it.”

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