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Each year, the Dorthy McGuigan Prizes are awarded to the best essays on women and gender written at the University of Michigan. The prizes honor the memory of Dorthy Gies McGuigan, a distinguished alumna of the University of Michigan who taught in the School of Business Administration and the Residential College.
Graduate McGuigan Prize Co-Winners
“Survived and Punished: Incest Victims’ Treatment in Progressive Era Chicago,”
In “Survived and Punished: Incest Victims’ Treatment in Progressive Era Chicago,” History/WGS doctoral student Grace Argo offers a groundbreaking exploration of the vexed relationship between a criminal justice system that recognized incest as abusive, and a child protection system that effectively punished children for being sexually abused. According to Illinois law, Grace explains, father-daughter incest was a crime analogous to rape, and abused girls were victims. According to Progressive reformers, however, abused girls were either “feebleminded” children who belonged in an asylum or “sex delinquents” who belonged in a reformatory for girls. Drawing on an impressive array of archival sources—newspaper articles, court reports, textbooks, reports from children’s institutions, case studies compiled by court physicians and psychologists, and studies conducted by social work graduate students—Grace illuminates how reformers’ racialized, classed, and gendered assumptions prevented them from recognizing incest victims’ trauma, survival strategies, and efforts to experience power and pleasure. Indeed, Grace persuasively argues, reformers’ efforts to restore incest victims’ “honor” rather than restoring their sexual autonomy ultimately reinforced the white, bourgeois, patriarchal family ideal that made girls vulnerable to incestuous abuse in the first place.
“The Work-family Circuit: Doing and Undoing Gender through Monetary Flows in Immigrant Women Entrepreneurship,”
In “The Work-family Circuit: Doing and Undoing Gender through Monetary Flows in Immigrant Women Entrepreneurship,” Sociology doctoral student Jun Zhou offers a fascinating analysis of the varied ways in which Chinese immigrant women “do and undo gender” through the money management practices they adopt as entrepreneurs. Drawing on compelling ethnographic data and interviews with 45 women entrepreneurs and their families in Chicago’s Chinatown, Jun argues that “the family circuit” (women supporting their families with money earned from business) tends to reproduce gender norms, while the business circuit (women supporting their businesses with money earned from business) tends to challenge gender norms. More specifically, Jun identifies four ways in which women integrate their work and family lives through the use of money: “traditional women” earmark family money to assert their domesticity, “breadwinning women” combine family money and caregiving to negotiate competing femininities, “transgressive women” redefine business money to challenge the masculine discourse of entrepreneurship, and “career women” weaponize business money to challenge the cult of domesticity and assert their entrepreneurial spirit. Given that women tend to bear the heaviest burdens of increasingly informal and irregular work within the global economy, Jun’s “work-family circuit” is a much-needed framework for understanding how monetary flows shape work-family relations that, in turn, reinforce or challenge the gendered division of labor in both family and business sectors.
Undergradute McGuigan Prize Winner
"Yihan Lin’s and Siqi Fang’s Writing, Speech and Resistance in Siqi Fang’s First Love Paradise"
In this complex and thoughtful paper, Shao-Chi Ou analyzes the Taiwanese novel First Love Paradise by Yihan Lin and media attention brought to it after the author's death. The novel is an autobiographical account of a young woman who is raped by an older teacher but convinces herself she's in love. As brilliantly analyzed by Shao-Chi, media attention to this case tended to ignore the author's identification of and resistance to patriarchal norms, and instead created a frenzy focused on the author's former teacher after the author's death. As Shao-Chi describes it, media analysts "tended to put Siqi [the protagonist] at the position of a vulnerable, passive victim and Guohua Lee [her abusive teacher] a cunning, sophisticated exploiter of the structure. They ignored Siqi’s voice and resistance when they were contextualizing the structural violence of patriarchy that the novel reflects. In my opinion, these news reports and literary analyses are perpetrator-centric and ignorant of Lin and Siqi’s resistance, and thus implicitly victimize Lin and Siqi again. They all fall into the trap of patriarchal narrative – the traditional narrative in which the powerful and the privileged are always at the center." By contrast, Shao-Chi's paper is a brilliant meta-analysis not only of the themes within the novel but also of the media coverage about it. Although it focuses on one Taiwanese novel, this paper provides thoughtful engagement with disturbing patterns we see in other cultural contexts as well. Shao-Chi completed this paper in Prof. David Gold's course "Women in Literature: Women, Rhetoric, Activism."
Undergraduate McGuigan Honerable Mention
"Megan Thee Stallion: How Female Rappers and Their Content are Fighting Toward Gender Equality”
In this engaging paper, Ana analyzes American feminist rappers and media responses to them, their work, and their public images. Focusing especially on Megan Thee Stallion, Ana gathers a complex collection of reactions from conservative public figures such as Ben Shapiro to popular musicians like CeLo Green. Clearly exposing double standards and carefully tracing shifting rhetoric, Ana describes media ecosystems that depend on content created by Black women but use that content to condemn and dismiss the creators themselves. As Ana's analysis makes clear, Megan Thee Stallion was criticized for reclaiming derogatory terms for women and celebrating her own body and sexuality. Tracing media across social media postings, newspaper coverage, and academic scholarship, this paper ultimately argues that women rappers can produce effective and positive social change. Ana completed this paper in Prof. David Gold's course "Women in Literature: Women, Rhetoric, Activism."