Skip to main content Skip to local navigation
Home » Critical Femininities

Critical Femininities

Critical Femininities is an emerging field of study that seeks to examine femininity unhinged from “woman” (Dahl, 2012). In addition to elucidating and theorizing feminine and femme identities, Critical Femininities scholars follow traditions in non-academic femme writing and feminist and queer scholarship to understand femininity as subversive (Hoskin & Taylor, 2019), understand femme-ininity as a theoretical framework and a mode of knowledge production (Hoskin, 2017; Schwartz, 2018, 2020a), and understand femininity beyond identity as affective, assemblage, and lineage (Brightwell & Taylor, 2019; Dahl, 2017; McCann, 2018; Schwartz, 2020b).

If you would like to get involved in the Critical Femininities research network at York University, please contact us at


Call for Abstract the Fourth Annual Critical Femininities Conference.

The Centre for Feminist Research at York University invites abstracts from scholars, researchers, activists, and artists for the fourth annual Critical Femininities Conference on the theme of ‘Generation.’ The conference will take place virtually on August 16-18, 2024.

To generate is to cause, create, or bring about. A generation may refer to a relation in time or the creation of art, scholarship, solidarity, or power. This conference aims to explore the multifaceted dimensions of and attitudes towards femininity across different generations, interrogating how various social, cultural, political, and technological factors intersect with and shape our experiences. In this moment of intergenerational conflicts, climate crisis, and generative AI, the time has come to think critically about our generations and what we generate.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions can take the form of sole-authored or co-authored academic papers, experimental or artistic presentations, including autotheory, personal narrative, artist talks, visual art and film, poetry, music, storytelling, life-writing, and performance. We welcome submissions from undergraduate students, graduate students, emerging and established scholars, artists, and those working beyond the university. Please send submissions to by March 22, 2024.

For single presentations:
Please submit a 250-word abstract that indicates your main argument or focus and the format for your presentation and a 100-word bio (50-word bio for multiple authors). Single presentations should be 15-20 minutes in length and will be organized into thematic panels.

For panel presentations and roundtables:

Please submit a 250-word abstract that indicates the main theme and format of the panel presentation/roundtable and 50-word bio for each presenter (minimum of 3 panellists). Group presentations should be no longer than 60 minutes to allow time for Q&A.


Liminal: Proceedings of the Second Annual Critical Femininities Conference is now live!

The Critical Femininities Research Cluster's first publication is now available. The works included in this collection were all originally presented at Liminal: The Second Annual Critical Femininities Conference at York University in the summer of 2022 and they all respond to notions of liminality.

Cover of Liminal: Proceedings of the Second Annual Critical Femininities Conference

Upcoming Events

Still Brazen: Twenty Years of Queering Femininity
Launch and Listening Party

Date: October 21, 2023
Time: 1:00pm - 4:00pm EDT
Location: The ArQuives (34 Isabella Street, Toronto)

The foundational femme anthology Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity was published in 2002. Editors Chloë Brushwood Rose and Anna Camilleri curated a collection of prose, poetry, visual art, and theory that explored femme on its own terms and brought us new, complex understandings of femme experience that changed the conversation about queer femininities. Now, twenty years later, original contributors to the collection and emerging femme writers and scholars come together on this podcast to talk about femme’s past, present, and future.

Join us in person at The ArQuives on Saturday, October 21, to celebrate the launch of Still Brazen: Twenty Years of Queering Femininity. Come out for the chance to listen to all six podcast episodes before they’re online, see ephemera from the early days of Brazen Femme, and share your memories of the book and visions of femme’s future.

Find out more about the podcast here.

Past Events

Irreverence: The Third Annual Critical Femininities Conference

August 17-19, 2023 | Online

The Centre for Feminist Research at York University will host the third annual Critical Femininities Conference on the theme of “Irreverence.” The conference will take place virtually on August 17-20, 2023.

To be irreverent is to show disrespect where respect is demanded, to be flippant in the face of serious situations, and to satirize what others hold sacred. In western culture, the mother, the virgin, and the queen are figures of femininity that are often held sacred, exemplifying the entrenchment of idealized feminine characteristics such as domesticity, piety, and (hetero)sexual or moral purity. But for decades, irreverence has been woven into camp and poststructuralist approaches to femme theory, which insist that femme is an intentionally ironic performance of this idealized white, cis-heterosexual femininity (Albrecht-Samarasinha 1997; Case 1988; Duggan & McHugh 1996). Irreverent attitudes toward femininity—especially white, heterosexual, and colonial femininities—are also integral to other queer cultures and modes of critique: in recent years, hypersexual and outrageous impersonations of the sacred feminine figures the Virgin Mary and Queen Elizabeth (I and II) have been presented on the mainstage of TV’s Rupaul’s Drag Race. In this way, irreverence has wrought countercultural styles of femininities that relate to punk, drag, sex work, working-class, Indigenous, and racialized sensibilities (Bailey 2014; Chepp 2015; McCann 2016; Padaan 2023).

See the full CFP here. If you have any questions, please contact us at

Graphic by MA student Maisha Mustanzir

Dying But Fine: Memeing the Void
A Workshop with Kristel Jax

Date: Friday, August 18, 2023
Time: 1:30pm - 3:00pm EDT
Location: Online via Zoom

How can one infiltrate the zeitgeist with stealth, accuracy, and grace? In this Zoom workshop artist Kristel Jax of niche online humour operation @DyingButFine (rumoured to be indirectly inspirational to 2023 box office smash Barbie) will aim to answer any question you’ve ever had about making, and sharing, memes.

Kristel Jax runs Instagram meme account @DyingButFine, a parody retreat where trademarked dolls are free to embody chaos, nihilism, and catharsis. Jax aka Brigitte Bardon’t is the host of Drone Therapy Podcast, and shares the only real estate she’ll ever own, a once-curbed, 2015 era Barbie Dream House, with her mini pug, Lana.

This workshop is part of the Irreverence conference and open to all. Click here to register for the conference.

Workshop facilitator Kristel Jax

Femme Fiction: Irreverence, Resistance, and Intersectionality
Keynote Address by SJ Sindu

Date: Saturday, August 19, 2023
Time: 1:30pm - 2:30pm EDT
Location: Online via Zoom

What does it mean to write and create stories from a femme perspective? As a queer, genderqueer femme Tamil diaspora writer, I approach my art from a heritage of resistance. In this talk, I’ll trace the histories, theories, and politics that inform and interact with my creative practice, with a focus on irreverence as a technique to subvert expectations in the publishing industry.

SJ Sindu is a Tamil diaspora author of two literary novels (Marriage of a Thousand Lies, which won the Publishing Triangle Edmund White Award; and Blue-Skinned Gods, which was an Indie Next Pick and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award), two hybrid chapbooks (I Once Met You But You Were Dead and Dominant Genes), two graphic novels (Shakti and the forthcoming Tall Water), and one forthcoming collection of short stories (The Goth House Experiment). Sindu holds a PhD in English and Creative Writing from Florida State University and is a co-editor for Zero Street, a literary fiction series featuring LGBTQ+ authors through the University of Nebraska Press. Sindu is an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. More at or @sjsindu on Twitter/Instagram/Threads.

Keynote speaker SJ Sindu

The Critical Femininities Research Cluster at Congress 2023 | Critical Femininity Studies: Current Questions and Future Directions

Roundtable with Andi Schwartz, Jade Da Costa, Laura Brightwell, Hannah Maitland, Cassie Osei, Jessie Taieun Yoon & Lindsay Cavanaugh | Presented at SSA | 9:00AM - 10:30AM EDT | CLH K

In 2012, Ulrika Dahl began to define the field of critical femininity studies. Calling for an analysis of femininity beyond its ties to femaleness and its critique as a source of oppression, Dahl suggested we consider femininity as a genre “in all its variations, representations, and materializations (p. 61).” Dahl argued considering femininity’s many genres enables us to theorize affective and power relations between femininities, especially as demonstrated in antiracist and postcolonial inquiries on femininities. For example, many scholars in these fields have considered femininities that diverge from white norms, in particular with regards to racialization, colonialism and transness (Aizura, 2009; Cheng, 2019; Huang, 2022; Keeling, 2007; Panuska, 2019; Reddy, 2016; Zuo, 2022). Now, ten years after Dahl’s initial sketch of the field was published, this roundtable will illuminate the directions the field has already taken—and where it still needs to go.

Cluster Members

Alex MacKenzie (she/they) is a trans non-binary, queer femme Ph.D. candidate at York University in the Gender, Feminist, and Women's Studies department. Her graduate work focuses on fan engagement with K-pop by queer and Black fans. Her work is interdisciplinary, drawing from the fields of cultural studies, queer theory, transnational studies, urban studies, fat studies, trans studies, critical femininities, and critical race theory. Her work will be published in the Excessive Bodies journal and has presented at the Critical Femininities Conference and the Feminist Digital Media Conference. She is also a research assistant at the Canada-Mediterranean Centre at York University and teaches in the field of Urban Studies at the University of Toronto. 

Andi Schwartz is the Coordinator of the Centre for Feminist Research at York University and a Research Associate with the Critical Femininities Research Cluster. Andi has a PhD and MA in Gender, Feminist, and Women's Studies from York University, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. Her academic work has been published in Punk and Post Punk, Feminist Media Studies, Social Media + Society, First Monday, Feral Feminisms, and others. Andi lives in Tkaronto with her dogs.

Casey Robertson is a PhD candidate in Humanities at York University exploring the intersection of sound studies and trans studies through Jean-François Lyotard's politics of aesthetics.  Casey is also a graduate research associate of the Centre for Feminist Research, and Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts and Technology, and a member of the Advocacy and Development Humanities Organizing Committee (ADHoC).  Prior to coming to York, Casey received an honours BA in Music (minoring in Philosophy) and a Diploma in Sonic Design from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, and an MA in Humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills in Carson, California. As a musician, activist, and community organizer, Casey is also frequently involved in various equity-centred initiatives and projects throughout the Greater Toronto Area.   


Hannah Maitland lives and works on Treaty 13 territory in Tkaronto, where she is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Gender, Feminist, and Women’s Studies Department at York University. Hannah is a feminist researcher who studies girl activists, their politics, and their relationships with their mothers. Her other research areas include youth activism, sex education, and sex education controversies. Beyond her research, Hannah is the co-founder of the Ontario Digital Literacy and Access Network (ODLAN), producer for the Resisting the Script podcast and the Sexuality Studies Spotlight podcast and involved with other organizations and projects that help foster intergenerational relationships in 2S-LGBTQ+ communities. You can find some of her writing in the journal Sex Education and Shameless Magazine.

Jade Crimson Rose Da Costa (they/them/she/her) is a gender nonbinary queer woman of colour PhD Sociology candidate at York University, Tkaronto, a community organizer, educator, and knowledge mobilizer across central Southern Ontario, and a creative writer and poet. Their research, teaching, pedagogy, organizing, and art converge on topics of race and racism, queer and trans belonging, feminism, the sociology of health, and social justice. For more information, please visit:

Kathleen Cherrington is a third year PhD student in the Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies Program, at York University. For 15 years, she worked as an outreach worker to marginalized populations, specifically chronically homeless individuals, prisoners, and street-based sex workers. Her research specializations include critical sex work and erotic labour studies; transnational sexualities; scholar activism; gendered labour; women in poverty; sexual rights; creative research methods and methodologies; feminist art activism; and urban sexualities.

Mackenzie Edwards is a PhD candidate in Gender, Feminist, and Women’s Studies at York University. Her research uses queer and disability influenced approaches to study fatness in popular and social media. She is also a union steward as well as a co-editor and social media manager of Excessive Bodies. Mackenzie’s work has been published in Fat Studies and Screen Bodies and presented at conferences internationally.

Maisha Mustanzir (she/they) is an M.A. student in the Social Anthropology program at York University. Her research explores the intersection between care, labour, and the bureaucracy within shelters that offer aid to women facing violence in Toronto, Ontario. She is interested in using multi-modal and artistic forms of information dissemination and knowledge production. Currently, Mustanzir is also an editor at Contingent Horizons at York University. 

Sara Shroff is a 2023-2024 Visiting Scholar at the The Centre for Feminist Research/ Le Centre de recherches féministes at York University.  Sara is a Fellow at the Center for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto, where she was also the inaugural postdoctoral fellow from 2019-2021. Most recently, Sara was an Assistant Professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences, with joint appointments in Gender and Sexuality Studies and Political Science. Her work takes up racialized histories of labor, capital, and coloniality, infrastructures and intimacies of brown femininities along side the geo-poetics of desire, migrations, and sacred knowledges. Sara's work has appeared in top academic journals such as Feminist Review, Feminist Theory, Kohl, and Third World Thematics as well as several anthologies in Peace Studies, Feminist Economics, South Asian Studies and International Relations. Sara received her PhD in Urban and Public Policy from The New School and has taught at The New School, New York University, and PACE University. She currently serves on the editorial board of Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography and as a Co-Editor for the International Feminist Journal of Politic's Conversations. She previously served as a committee member at the Saida Waheed Gender Institute, and Queer Asia. Prior to joining academia, she worked in public policy, global philanthropy and finance for over 18 years.