Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 1, Issue 2
Spring 2011
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editor, John-Albert Moseley
Layout Design: Nick Appleby

Senior Essay Prizes in WGSS & LGBTS

WGSS and LGBTS is pleased to announce the 2011 Senior Essay prize winners. WGSS continues the tradition of offering the Steere Prize in Women's Studies and the Lily Rosen Prize in Women's Health. LGBT Studies, in association with Yale-GALA also offers GALA Senior Essay Prize.

Steere Prize in Women's Studies

Awarded annually for the Yale senior essay which best exemplifies advance in scholarship gained by focusing on women or gender roles and/or by employing feminist theory. Senior essays written by majors in any department as well as by Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies majors are eligible.
Rhiana Gunn-Wright (Saybrook 2011)
"Breaking the Brood Mare: Representation, Welfare Policy and Teen Pregnancy in New Haven"

Rhiana Gunn-Wright's senior essay, “Breaking the Brood Mare: Representation, Welfare Policy, and Teen Pregnancy in New Haven,” is a terrific contribution to the literature on race, gender and the state. The argument that the state’s welfare policies are a means to control black women’s reproductive and sexual practices via a long history of racialized representations and a set of policies that vilify black families and black women is argued with excellent evidence and research. Rhiana brings together a great deal of primary and secondary research--oral interviews, archival research, black feminist scholarship, social theory--to make a brilliant and compelling argument. She uses this research with great passion and skill, and ends up with a superb essay that reveals analytic, research and writing abilities that are truly unusual and extraordinary. This quality and depth of this essay goes far beyond most senior essay and looks like the work of a graduate rather than undergraduate student. The final section of the essay, which analyzed welfare delivery to pregnant teens in New Haven schools and welfare agencies, is particularly commendable for its original research and analysis and for its considerable contribution to research in WGSS and African American studies
Jessica Moldovan (Saybrook 2011)
"Feminist History: Evolution, Development, and Politics in the Aftermath of the Sears Case."

The members of the Steere Prize committee were very impressed with Jessica Moldovan’s ambitious essay “Feminist History: Evolution, Development, and Politics in the Aftermath of the Sears Case.”  Moldovan’s investigation of the feminist historians Rosalind Rosenberg and Alice Kessler-Harris, who were involved in the court case EEOC vs. Sears, Roebuck and Company, is an exemplary model of what undergraduate research can be at its best.  The essay examines the contours and complexities not only of the courts case, but also of feminism in the 1980s.  Relying upon interviews, historical and legal commentaries, and archival materials, Moldovan situates the court case and Rosenberg’s and Kessler-Harris’s involvement as pivotal moments in both historical debates and feminist discourse.  The interdisciplinary methodology is productive and inspiring; however, the piece is always sensitive to disciplinary protocols or expectations.  In fact, “Feminist History” is an original piece of historiographical scholarship that itself would be a valuable resource in both history and women’s studies courses.  The clear line of thought and well-organized structure make the essay quite persuasive.  Moreover, the fact that in making the argument Moldovan also reflects on the life of academic scholarship outside of the academy and the different ways that scholars conceptualize the public life of their work provides an implicit yet insightful meta-commentary about scholarly work.  The piece is a valuable contribution to all of the field it touches and is as convincing as it is beautifully written.

Lily Rosen Prize in Women's Health

Awarded annually to an undergraduate in Yale College for the best essay that contributes to knowledge about women’s health.  Essays may be in any field of the humanities or social, physical or natural sciences and may deal with any aspect of  women’s physical or mental health.
Ersilia DeFilippis (Calhoon 2011)
“The Legacy of Title IX:  Disordered Eating, Injuries, and Role Conflict in the Female Collegiate Athlete”

Motivated by her own observations as a varsity athlete, the author explores the experience of female varsity athletes, particularly focusing on the tension between the power and aggression revered in sport and the slenderness and passivity demanded by femininity.  Based on a survey, interviews, and her own “participant-observation,”  this essay focuses on the social pressures on women’s teams around eating and around playing through pain, and establishes a clear link between them.  Penetrating and original in its analysis, the essay concludes with practical suggestions to address some of the issues identified.

Rhiana Gunn-Wright (Saybrook 2011)
"Breaking the Brood Mare: Representation, Welfare Policy and Teen Pregnancy in New Haven"

This boldly ambitious essay offers a sustained critical analysis of key moments in the development and implementation of US policy towards pregnant African-American women.  In a very distinctive and compelling voice—both personal and powerful--, the author subjects political discussions around welfare reform in the 1960s and in 1996 to theoretically sophisticated questioning.  The essay concludes on a hopeful note by looking at how administrators at two local institutions—Planned Parenthood and Polly McCabe High School—work to implement programs that reach beyond pernicious stereotypes.

GALA Senior Essay Prize

In association with GALA (the Yale Gay and Lesbian Alumni/ae Association), LGBT Studies awards an annual GALA Senior Essay Prize. Any senior essay or senior project, submitted to any department or program in Yale College, is eligible if it addresses a topic relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies.
Gabriel Seidman (Calhoon 2011)
“Is Safe Sex Queer Sex? Understanding Trends in HIV Transmission Prevention Amongst Men Who Have Sex With Men.”

The committee was deeply impressed with this topic trying to bridge the gulf between queer theory and public health—a place where few dare to tread.  Gabriel  engaged in a deep and significant way with a wide variety of literature, demonstrating a sharp intelligence and an unrelenting moral vision, all presented in elegant and theoretically rich prose. With new HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) on the rise in the United States, the epidemic still represents a critical threat to this community. This essay considers how queer theory and queer ethics can contribute to HIV transmission prevention and safe sex discourses today.  Historically, many queer theorists have written off interventions coming from public health regimes while championing the grassroots organizing of gay men.  I argue that such critiques derive from a highly specific and possibly misguided reading of Foucault and that they actively prevent progress in HIV prevention work.  Indeed, many safe sex messages written by and for the gay community seem to have stagnated, often coming down to the overly reductionist and ineffective message to “use a condom every time.”  On the other hand, at least certain research agendas in the field of public health today might hold promising new strategies from preventing the spread of HIV while simultaneously promoting certain queer values.  In particular, the concept of seroadaptation- or various strategies besides consistent condom use designed to lower transmission risk- seem to have both health potential and queer potential.

To learn more, visit http://www.yale.edu/wgss/prizes/index.html

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