Undergraduate Honors Program Information
Penn Program on Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
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Undergraduate Honors Program Information
Queer Aestheticism – A Mirrored Resistance: Andy Warhol and The Picture of Dorian Gray
The project at hand analyses The Picture of Dorian Gray through a close examination of Andy Warhol’s work and words. Wilde’s novel and Warhol’s oeuvre may be seen as part of a longstanding – and still-standing – tradition of queer aesthetics. That tradition acts both as a mode of queer resistance against normative structures, and as a means of survival/success in the dominant cultural landscape. In placing the burden of interpretation upon their respective audiences, both Gray and Warhol assert “it is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.” Though differing in time, place, and medium, Wilde’s Dorian Gray (as both work and character) and Warhol (as both creator and character) are testament to homosexual existence, resilience.
The Impact of the Minimum Wage on the Gender Wage Gap
Women in the United States currently earn just over 80 cents for every dollar that men make. While the gender wage gap has decreased since the middle of the 20th century, at the current rate of increase, it will take women over 40 years to reach full parity with men. For women of color, it will likely take additional decades to earn the equivalent of white men. The causes for the current disparity in pay are multifaceted from women’s historically low labor force participation rate to undervalued feminized industries to the gendered impacts of early and current wage floors. Because of the numerous causes, it is not easy to fully address the wage gap to meaningfully reduce it.
Farm laborers and restaurant workers are largely excluded from many of the job protections and pay guarantees of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Likewise, 9 out of the 10 lowest paying jobs are composed of primarily women. As a result women are more likely to be in the lower part of the income distribution just as a result of the industries that they are most likely to populate. To reduce the wage gap for those women in the lowest part of the income distribution, an increased minimum wage could promote wage parity between men and women, by shrinking the spread of the wage distribution and as a result, reducing the gender wage gap.
Or: a provisionary poetics
“Transcript,” (n. and adj.) a written copy, a legal record or, a verbal or close translation or rendering or, a copy, imitation, reproduction, rendering, interpretation.
There are many ways to use a transcript, there are many ways to read a transcript. This project provides a reading of the word transcript to complicate and trouble the boundaries of the given definition, and to suggest different ways of reading. Utilizing definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary, a basis of queer and trans theory, and inflected by the work of trans, queer, and language-seeking poets, this thesis investigates the linguistic impossibility of expressing a transgender embodiment. It is a pedagogical project of asking questions of language, and negotiating the ways this may be both marginalizing and liberating. It is a form of recording, tracing, and indexing thoughts and threads available at the time of writing, and imagining the possibilities of reading beyond the parameters that language prescribes.
Beyond Inclusion: A Critical Review of Narrating Trans Lives in the Wilcox Archives
A narrative of archival excavation, Beyond Inclusion reviews the structure of trans life narratives enabled by the collections preserved in Philadelphia’s John J. Wilcox Archives at the William Way LGBTQ Community Center. The collections considered include five decades of the community center’s newsletters, self-portraits of lawyer and Air Force veteran Donna Mae Stemmer, the personal and organizational papers of trans health care activist Ben Singer, and the memorial collection dedicated advocate and community leader Jaci Adams. The arc of the thesis works from historical methodologies described by Foucault to critical trans and critical trans of color theories to work in conversation with the narrative and archival turns necessary for improving narrativesof trans lives and communities. The work of critical analysis and contextualization calls-in responsible archival hands,those of archival practitioners, researchers, and donors, to expand their practices of naming, claiming, allying, and connecting with communities through collective practices of legacy.
Trans Colonialism: The State Project and White Trans Men in the United States from 1870 Onward
This thesis traces the development of white transgender male identity as in alignment with the goals of the United States political state and its theft of land and labor from Indigenous and Black people. Beginning substantially earlier than other works on the topic, with the 1870s, it expands on three key eras of white transgender male identity: the period of frontier expansion, the mid- to late-twentieth century, and the 21st century. Through these eras, white transgender men are understood as a central part of history of white male identity in the United States, and evaluated for their complicities and active participation in benefitting from racialized gender and accordance of benefits to white men. In addition to providing a summary of the history of racialized gender in the United States, particularly the subsidization of white manhood through frontier and suburban expansion, this thesis engages in textual analysis of newspaper coverage, personal writing, intra-community publications, and autobiography to demonstrate the narrativization of white transgender men’s identities. The thesis then points to the importance of understanding white transgender men’s history in the framework of their invovlement and bolstering of settler-colonialism in the United States, contrasting the historical work done in the thesis with other forms of transgender historization which threaten to venerate white transgender men as inherently in opposition to state projects of violence.
Utilizing Doulas to Achieve Reproductive Justice for Black Women
Black Women in the United States are currently experiencing an epidemic in maternal health. According to a nation-wide report, Non-Hispanic Black women experience maternal mortality at a rate three to four times that of non-Hispanic white women (Nine Maternal Mortality Review Committees, 2018). Additionally, Black women experience disparities in quality of maternal health care due to sexist, patriarchal norms and biases which permeate throughout the healthcare industry as well as healthcare policies. Many disparities and injustices being perpetrated against Black women today can be traced to historical precedents of American Chattel Slavery and the rise of Eugenic ideologies. Therefore, comprehensive solutions such as implementing doula care acknowledge the historic discrimination which impact present disparities in maternal health.
Mainstream feminism has historically failed to address such challenges to Black women’s health and wellbeing. Consequently, the movement of reproductive justice has been brought forth by activists and scholar-activists (predominantly Black women) who are determined to expand the dialogue of reproductive rights from the narrow ideology of “pro-choice” towards one’s human right to survive and thrive through pregnancy and parenting. Reproductive Justice may become a reality for Black women through the utilization of culturally competent doulas who are aware of the many systemic inequalities Black women face when faced with maternal health and wellbeing.
Matters of Heart(land): Housing Kinship, and State Power in Singapore
Singapore is a nation of paradoxes. Renowned for its rapid economic transformation from third world to first, Singapore’s global city aspirations necessitate an open, cosmopolitan approach to development. Yet, the state continues to maintain a conservative, moralistic stance on deviant subjectivities, resulting in the valorization of specific forms of kinship that intersect with gender, sexuality, race, class, and citizenship. I examine these ideological incongruences in the case of public housing, contending that there exists a triangular relationship between housing policy, kinship relations, and state power. Through rhetoric surrounding the figure of the "heartlander", I argue that the state regulates citizens' private and communal lives through their access to public housing, furthering a national project of a heterosexually reproductive and economically productive Singapore. However, I also complicate and move beyond the stereotypical narrative of the state as a dominant, paternalistic government ruling over a silent, obsequious citizenry. Through the use of local literature, I flip the script to show how citizens understand themselves and their connection to the nation. In revealing the idealized Singaporean subject to be a myth propagated by the state, I highlight the role of literature and poetic language as sites for negotiation, resistance, and self-definition.
Familial Sexual Education for South Asian American Undergraduates and its Implications on Sexual Well-being
With culturally distinct conceptions of sexuality and gender along with complex migration histories to the United States, South Asian immigrants showcase unique methods of undertaking familial sexual education conversations with their children. These second-generation South Asian American children must then navigate parental sexual communication alongside normative standards of sexual expression for adolescents in America. Using a feminist and folklorist framework, this study employs a mixed-methods approach involving quantitative survey data and qualitative interviews of undergraduate students at the University of Pennsylvania to understand the trends and effects of familial sexual education for South Asian Americans. The collected data analyzes several identity variables, the occurrences and content of the sexual education talks, and various measures of participants’ sexual well-being, including activity levels, knowledge, and comfortability with sexual expression. The findings of this ethnographic research ultimately reveal a differential prioritization of open sexual communication as well as differing perspectives on sexual expression between South Asian immigrant parents and their South Asian American children, stemming from the disparate lived experiences of the two generations. Participants overwhelmingly reported an absence of familial sexual education. However, more discrete forms, such as silence, restrictive messaging, and implicit actions, were all part of broader parental sexual communications for this demographic. The sexual boundaries constructed by said communication create complicated situations that their children must navigate through obedience, lying, or rebellion and result in varying effects on their physical, mental, and sexual well-being. Impacts included familial tensions, discomfort during sexual encounters, negative repercussions on relationships, and difficulties with medical care. Realizing these consequences allows future scholarship to examine what steps can be taken to address the potentially harmful effects of lacking familial sexual education.
Bio: Simran Chand is a senior from Newtown, Connecticut and is a proud Indian American woman. She is in the College of Arts & Sciences, double-majoring in Biology and Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies and minoring in Chemistry. She is on the pre-medical track at Penn and plans to matriculate to medical school in the fall of 2022. In the future, she aspires to work at the intersection of medicine and social justice. Simran embarked upon her Honors Thesis project after noticing various trends pertaining to sexuality in the South Asian American community at Penn. She has since been awarded the Carroll Smith-Rosenberg Senior Thesis Award in Women’s Studies, and she hopes that her research will spread awareness on the issues faced by South Asian Americans in addition to prompting further scholarship on the convergence of South Asian identity and sexuality.
School-based interventions to Prevent Dating and Relationship Violence and Gender-Based Violence: a systematic review of barriers and facilitators to implementation
Dating and Relationship Violence (DRV), also known as teen dating violence, and Gender- Based Violence (GBV) are major and interrelated public health problems with significant impacts on youth well-being, both short and long-term. Recent legislation mandating DRV and GBV prevention efforts within schools has immense potential to reduce the severity of this problem; however, a lack of guidance from governmental structures on how to do so acts as a barrier. Prior to adoption and implementation of preventative interventions, it is critical that schools both understand their efficacy and delivery. While the larger research team I am part of seeks to develop a systematic review to evaluate school-based DRV/GBV prevention efforts more broadly, in my own research and for this thesis, I specifically studied the barriers associated with intervention implementation by means of a qualitative systematic review of process evaluation data using a socio-ecological model. Ultimately, I found that factors on the level of the school, the facilitator, the student, and the intervention itself all played a major role in the delivery of the intervention. While many individual factors were identified, ranging from the importance of positive relationship formation with facilitators and peers to the competing demands of school personnel inhibiting their commitment to the intervention, an overarching theme relating to program modifications and fidelity emerged. Specifically, many aspects of the school context will necessitate program modifications in order to best suit the needs of their student body and the limitations of their school. Including these modifications within intervention guidelines can thus ultimately help make sure any changes are evidence-based and will help, rather than harm, intervention success.
Bio: Annah Chollett is a double major in Gender & Women’s Studies, Neuroscience whose research interests focus on the intersection of mental health and reproductive health for incarcerated women. She has worked with the Petey Greene Tutoring Program; the Philadelphia Incarcerated Women’s Working Group; as Penn’s campus liaison for Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM); as Student Coordinator of the Cell to Home project; and as a teaching assistant in an Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) course which connects Penn students with incarcerated women at Riverside Correctional Facility. Chollett has been honored with a Truman Scholarship and Marshall Scholarship, and named a 2021 Dean's Scholar. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation at Oxford.
Navigating University Responses to Sexual Violence: A Case Study
Sexual violence is a pervasive issue at U.S. institutions of higher education. Universities often have complex systems and channels through which students can report violence or seek. The 2019 survey by the American Association of Universities found that 73% of students at Penn who experienced sexual violence did not contact a program or resource to seek support. This research project examines the web of resources available to students seeking support after sexual violence within the University, and aims to both present and assess the choices available. Of the body of research on campus sexual violence, little has been produced for and by undergraduate students. A key element of this research will also include the consolidation of information about University resources, to be made publicly available to students and potentially distributed by campus resources themselves.
I am Where I Come From: Narratives of Transgender Asian Adoptees
In his book The Feeling of Kinship: Queer Liberalism and the Racialization of Intimacy David Eng writes of his Asian American students coming out to him “not as gay or lesbian but as transnational adoptees,” employing “the language of the closet in these revelations.” How then, might we consider the experience of transgender Asian adoptees who must “come out” as both transgender and adopted? This thesis seeks to answer this question by examining the documentaries aka SEOUL (2016) and Coming Full Circle: The Journey of A Korean Transgendered Adoptee (2015), which chronicle the return of two transgender adoptees to their birth country of Korea. By juxtaposing the dead names of aka SEOUL’s protagonist and the search for birth parents in Coming Full Circle, I contend that the complicated histories inhered in these texts constitute the lack of a “threshold” at which an adoptee comes to terms with their adoptee identity in the way they with their gender identity.
Bio: Erin O'Malley will graduate as an inductee of Phi Beta Kappa and with honors in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies and Comparative Literature. They are the recipient of the of 2021 Lynda S. Hart Undergraduate Award in Sexuality Studies. In the fall, they will be an Interdisciplinary Enrichment Fellow at Arizona State University's MFA Program in Creative Writing.
Using A Reproductive Justice Framework to Examine The Coercive Sterilization of Incarcerated Women in the United States
Between 2006 and 2010 the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 incarcerated women without approval from the state—just 30 years after California’s first sterilization law was revoked, revealing records of nearly 20,000 involuntary sterilizations of people incarcerated in California state carceral institutions. These are just a few of the numerous instances of sterilizations that were performed nonconsensually against incarcerated women throughout American history, whether they were housed in local jails, federal prisons, state psychiatric facilities, or immigration detention centers. Sterilization is a primary mechanism of reproductive coercion and control and has been leveraged in the United States carceral system for purposes of permanent birth control. Using a reproductive justice framework, centered around bodily agency and reproductive autonomy, this thesis looks at the ways in which the United States carceral system has inflicted harm upon incarcerated women and has infringed upon their reproductive liberties by forcing or coercing them into undergoing permanent or long-term temporary sterilization procedures. This thesis also explores the racially driven motivations of incarceration in parallel with the sterilization of women as a tool of eugenics and reproductive control and how these notions can illuminate how imprisoned women’s reproductive agency is repressed and corroded by mass incarceration in America. By conducting a systematic review of the research articles, primary data, news articles, investigative journalism, grey literature, and documentaries on this subject, I examine the ways in which the subject of coercive sterilization of incarcerated women has been discussed across academic and journalistic disciplines and intersects with discussions surrounding reproductive agency, eugenics, mass incarceration, informed consent, and prison abolition. I conclude by recommending ways in which academics, clinical practitioners, and policymakers can work to conduct more intentional research, actively improve the informed consent-giving process, pay reparations to survivors of forced sterilization, and prevent more incarcerated women from being sterilized against their will.
Bio: Claire Sliney is a senior from Los Angeles, California double majoring in Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies and Philosophy, Politics & Economics. She is a Co-Founder of The Pad Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating and cultivating global partnerships to end both the stigma surrounding menstruation and the poverty caused by periods as a mechanism for improving social, health, and economic conditions for all. With The Pad Project, Sliney Executive Produced the Oscar-winning documentary short, "Period. End of Sentence." which follows the plight of women in Kathikhera, India, working to transform periods into a source of personal empowerment and economic advancement.At Penn she is a Perry World House Student Fellow and a Millennium Fellow through the United Nations Academic Impact and Millennium Campus Network. She was selected for a Fulbright award to France as a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow for the 2021-2022 academic year. There, she plans to make a documentary examining the sociopolitical and sociocultural implications of the depictions of French-Maghrebi women in French cinema and exploring how those depictions can be reflective of or incompatible with their identities.
LGBT Themed Advertisements and Consumer Perception
This thesis expands current understandings of the impacts that LGBT-themed advertisements have on consumers by offering a discursive analysis of existing literature to discuss apparent gaps in the study of marketing to the LGBT community. Focus group research was also conducted to offer important commentary that reveals how consumers perceive and react to LGBT-themed advertising. The discursive analysis reveals that lesbians and gay men are present in advertisements and academic research, while trans and bisexual people are left out of or are less visible in advertisements and existing studies. My research indicates that attention needs to be given to the representations encoded in LGBT-themed advertisements as these representations impact consumer perception of brand inclusivity and consumer purchase behavior. I found that authentic or affirming representations of the LGBT community are likely to have positive effects on consumers whereas pejorative or stereotypical depictions are likely to have adverse effects. Although LGBT-themed advertising produces an external-facing message of support, interlocutor response – both LGBT and heterosexual – suggests that companies should also support the LGBT community within their business to be perceived as inclusive of the LGBT community. Finally, this study furthers understandings of the relationship between utilizing LGBT-themed advertising and its effect on consumer – both LGBT and heterosexual – purchase behavior.
Bio: Fisher Taylor is first-generation, low-income student from Biglerville, Pennsylvania double majoring in Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s studies and Communications with a concentration in messaging and marketing. Throughout his time at Penn, Fisher has dedicated much of his extracurricular involvement to Lambda Alliance where he served as the Vice Chair of Finance from 2017 until 2020. He is also the outgoing President of the Social Planning and Events Committee. Post-graduation, Fisher will stay in Philadelphia where he hopes to work in digital marketing.
In completing this thesis, Fisher wants to extend his thanks to his advisor team Dr. Beetham, Dr. Robb, and Kelly A. Diaz as well as his friends and family who have supported his academic journey and passions for learning.
Lucas Samaras (1960-1975): Eros and Death
Advised by Prof. Jonathan D. Katz, this thesis works to recuperate the work of the influential Greek-American contemporary artist Lucas Samaras (b. 1936), a perennial loner, into a broader context of the 1960s and 1970s through a queer lens. Central examinations include the relationship between Christianity, sadomasochism and artistic practice, the theoretical work of Herbert Marcuse and Norman O. Brown, and the queer history of narcissism. Phenomenological and psychoanalytical readings are advanced to put forward transcendence as the central psychic interlocutor, interconnecting death, anality, art and Eros.
Bio: John Willis is a student of History of Art minoring in French and GSWS. He has focused his time at Penn on studying queer histories and will be matriculating at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver this Fall to continue his studies of queer art history. He is especially grateful to Professor Jonathan Katz for enabling and encouraging this concentration, and wants to thank the GSWS program for their advocacy and generosity!