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Student Research

Student Research

Mary Turner Lane Award

In addition to the research students undertake in their courses, each year a Women’s & Gender Studies student is nominated for and receives the Mary Turner Lane Award for outstanding contribution through original scholarship and/or creative production on gender and feminist issues. Below are a few of the recent recipients and summaries of their award-winning research.

Emily’s paper is titled ‘”You have to work within to make a change”: The American Friends Service Committee’s Organizational Reckoning,’ and it charts how an antiwar organization took strides to address internal racism and sexism in the 1970s. This paper was the third chapter of an honors thesis that examined how women in the anti-Vietnam War movement responded to women’s liberation. A group of pacifist Quakers established the American Friends Service Committee in 1917, and it is one of the nation’s oldest peace organizations. While the AFSC spent decades working to de-escalate and prevent international conflict and became a major force in the U.S. antiwar movement, the organization had several flaws. Women and employees of color were excluded from leadership positions and faced frequent discrimination in an organization that branded itself as a harbinger of peace and equality. The paper argues the swell of social movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s—especially the Black Power and Women’s Liberation movements–empowered women on staff to bring about organizational change. Women at the AFSC led new coalitions and developed programs that promoted racial and gender equality within the organization. The Gay Liberation movement also empowered AFSC employees to make it a more inclusive workplace for queer individuals. In doing so, Orland argue women at the AFSC challenged white, male leaders to acknowledge the importance of blending anti-racism, anti-sexism, and anti-imperialism in the pursuit of social change.

Estrada explains that as the youngest daughter in a Latinx household she has her own perceptions about eldest daughters—and here the gendering of daughter is important—and wanted to hear directly from this group about their own perceptions. Interviewing 5 eldest daughters in structured conversation, Estrada identified three themes across the eldest daughters: “fondness of siblings,” “the impact of their role on their childhoods,” and how “their role influenced their life decisions.” Estrada puts her own research results in conversation with secondary, peer-reviewed, published literature that addresses children of immigrant families, noting however that this literature lacks specific examination of the roles and expectations of eldest daughters. In her conclusion, Estrada finds a subtle yet present distinction between the perceived expectations and experiences of those who grew up in Latinx households and those who identify as Latinx but did not grow up in Latinx households. 

Genni Eccles’s Lollipop Power: A Small Press with Big Ideas is an example of excellent archival research that uncovers a history about a little known local independent feminist press. Lollipop Power Press operated for two decades (late 1960s-1980s) yet there has been little critical examination of the press and its objectives. Eccles’s paper evaluates Lollipop Power Press’s stated goals-to produce nonracist and nonsexist work, especially in children’s literature. She finds that as might be expected their goals of producing material that challenged dominant gendered norms (at the time) was quite successful while less successful in regard to race and ethnicity. The real gem of this paper is the author’s close reading of the texts, the smooth and stylistic writing and feminist excavation of little-known feminist publishing history

This paper aims to uncover the relationship between social networks and antioppression in Orange County violence prevention work. Antioppression—defined and analyzed in this paper
using theories of Cultural Competence, Intersectionality, and Critical Race Theory—refers to the work that practitioners do to account for and fight against the oppression of their clients,
both on an institutional and an individual level. Two participants each from Compass Center for Women and Families and Orange County Rape Crisis Center were interviewed to elicit their social networks and determine how these networks affect their work. Practitioners indicated that their networks were highly relevant to their antioppressive services and standpoints. Networks were described as a tool to increase organizational capacity, do outreach, and make their voices heard. However, for most, networks also proved to be a defining feature in how participants understand antioppression in the specific sociopolitical context of Orange County, NC.

Susannah’s essay addressed the topic of Female Workplace Bullying and Aggression. First, as she notes, female workplace bullying is a widespread phenomenon. It is also undertheorized in WGST and other academic disciplines. Not only does she document this experience for young professional women, she used an intersectional approach that extends the literature on this topic. She examines the very real world consequences when women of multiple marginalized backgrounds experience female aggression. Susannah’s paper digs deeply into these issues through strong research methods, researcher self-reflexivity and brings a robust and intersectional analysis to her qualitative themes.

Sarah’s paper comes from her Honor’s Thesis, “Conformity and Subversion: Noir and US Lesbian Pulp Fiction, 1950- 1965.” Sarah considers five texts from an important but relatively under-studied set of works known collectively as “lesbian pulp.” These mostly fictional books were produced for and distributed to a mass market in mid-twentieth century U.S. just prior to the emergence of the gay liberation and women’s movements. Sarah focused on how some of the authors of lesbian pulp challenged heterosexism by deploying aspects of “noir,” a genre usually associated with masculinist detective fiction. Sarah demonstrates how “[b]y including noir conventions in pulp novels, authors both conformed to publishers’ standards that demanded lesbian characters be punished for their sexual transgressions and made space for lesbian self-representation in a heavily censored and hetcrosexist society.” Sarah’s sophisticated analysis draws on archival material from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library of Duke University and connects the literary texts to Cold War politics. Sarah is interested in going on to graduate school eventually and is considering continuing with this research. As her Honors advisor, Professor Maria DeGuzman comments, Sarah’s thesis “is the culmination of her continual excellence in scholarship focused on women’s issues throughout her undergraduate career.”

Johnson’s paper, “It Just Wears: Gender Presentation Negotiation for Trans and Gender Non-conforming People” was her final for “Women’s Studies 695: Principles of Feminist Inquiry.”  Her paper engages with issues of safety, gender presentation, and comfort. Johnson highlights the gap in our knowledge in terms of daily gender presentation and uses trans theorist Julia Serano to challenge theorists like Judith Butler on the idea that gender is performative. Serano and other trans theorists argue that gender is innate and to code it as performative dismisses the transgender experience. Johnson argues a middle ground.  She finds “that gender is simply a categorization of external attributes, meaning that the personal experience of gender is about figuring out which set of attributes one wants to be associated with, and taking steps to associate themself with those attributes” (6-7) and that both Serano and Bulter have relevance among her interviewees.

Emmy Johnson uses a transgender standpoint epistemology and interviews to explore how non-binary trans people negotiate daily life in terms of clothing.  Her work addresses issues of passing, safety, and emotional duress.  Though her sample is small, just seven people (some of whom are friends), Johnson’s work illustrates how contradictory the process of gender presentation can be. Emmy Johnson’s engagement with sartorial expression illustrates the way cultural communication both supports and subverts social norms.

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