Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies
Department Chair:
Greggor Mattson

Administrative Assistant:
David Divins

Department Email:

Phone: (440) 775-8923
Fax: (440) 775-6698

Rice Hall 29
10 N. Professor St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Leah Freed - Fall 2016

Leah Freed - Fall 2016

The Fall 2016 recipients were as follows:

Maddie Batzli
Major: GSFS & Sociology

Project Title: At the Edges of Queer: Lessons in Ambiguity, Community, and Erasure
Project Description:  

When queer took the world of AIDS activism and the academy by storm in the late 20th century, activists and academics leapt to understand and define this “new” word and predict its trajectory. Some academics claimed that queer would avoid obsolescence, remaining an anti-assimilationist beacon for activists, while others worried that lumping anyone with non-normative sexualities or lifestyle practices under the same umbrella would inaccurately homogenize disparate groups and detract from specific causes. My research aims to understand the meanings of the word queer among Oberlin students today, over a quarter century after the beginning of the word’s reclamation.

Through semi-structured, in-depth interviews, I asked non-heterosexual or non-cisgender students to describe their relationships with and perceptions of the word queer in Oberlin and in other places they’ve lived. Participants revealed that multiple and ambiguous uses of queer create implicit boundaries that facilitate more inclusive and nuanced understandings of gender and sexuality while simultaneously reinforcing dynamics of privilege and marginalization present within mainstream U.S. society.

In-depth interviews make up the core of this project. With funding from the Leah Freed Memorial Prize, I was able to send some of my audio-recorded interviews to a transcription service. This allowed me to spend more time reading, coding, and writing, proving that receiving this funding has been incredibly valuable to the progress of this project.

Natalia Shevin
Major: History

Project Title: "We Need Not Weep Alone": Evelyn C. White's Vision for a World Where Black Women are Free
Project Description:  

I am writing about Evelyn C. White, journalist and author of Chain, Chain, Change: For Black Women in Abusive Relationships (Seal Press, 1985), The Black Women’s Health Book (Seal Press, 1990), and Alice Walker: A Life (W. W. Norton, 2004). White wrote regularly for The San Francisco Chronicle and various other publications, including Essence, Ms., and The Washington Post. The paper examines the published and personal writings of White, an unexamined figure in the scholarship of twentieth century Black feminism. Without White, history lacks a storyteller whose voice has illuminated the opportunities, contradictions, and imagination involved in creating a world where Black women are free.

The paper relies on unpublished archival sources from the Seal Press collection at Oberlin College, Alice Walker’s papers at Emory University, and White’s personal papers at Smith College. With the generous funding from the Leah Freed Memorial Prize, I visited Smith's Archives. Her archive catalogues her relationship to Black and white feminists, why she chose journalism, and how she understands pain, vulnerability, and silence. These questions are the driving force of the paper, and without seeing her personal papers, I would be ill-equipped to answer them.

Tory Sparks
Major: GSFS and Anthropology

Project Title: ’This is a Closed Space for Queer-Identifying Folx’
Project Description:  

My Honors thesis aims to show how students at Oberlin construct queer-only spaces as sites for formation of queer identities. I am interested in how queer, the non-identitarian identity that is open to all, is constructed in arguably closed Safe Spaces at Oberlin (primarily focusing on Queer Beers.) Through interviewing students, I will attempt to understand how queer theory and identity politics operate simultaneously in the creation and discussion of queer space on campus.