Women's Studies Honors Class of 2012

Alexandra Tourek
Gender Perceptions in Mathematics

Disassociation from mathematics among women and racial minorities occurs at alarming rates in the U.S. In this study, I investigate the differences in mathematical background and self-perception of mathematical ability across gender, race and other demographic characteristics. In addition, I examine the effect of gender in mathematical material. In an online survey sample of University of Michigan students (n = 204) currently enrolled in an Introductory Statistics course, I test these relationships by conducting one-way ANOVA and Chi-squared testing and multivariate linear regression. I found significant differences between men and women in self-perception of ability, expectation of performance, and the effect of a professor’s gender, as well as gender in mathematics material. These finding may help inform strategies to address exclusionary social norms and negative self-perceptions in mathematics.  Thesis advisor:  Anjel Vahratian.

Lauren Elizabeth Rink
“Even More Scared”: The Effects of Childbirth Reality Shows on Young Women’s Perceptions of Birth

In contemporary U.S. society it is rare for a woman to be present at childbirth before she gives birth herself. The representation of childbirth on television has greatly increased in recent years, and these portrayals are often the only time women witness childbirth before experiencing birth themselves.  Reality television shows present birth in a highly dramatized way, leading to questions about the impact such shows have on the women who watch them.  This study analyzes the effects these childbirth reality shows has on young women’s perceptions of childbirth.  College women (n = 78) participated in a viewing experiment followed by a focus group to measure the effects of the show One Born Every Minute, the most recent childbirth reality show to premiere on television.  Findings reveal that certain portrayals of birth on reality television shows significantly increase women’s anxiety toward future childbirth and decrease perceived agency in the birth process.  These effects have public health implications because these shows normalize medical interventions and may leave newly expectant mothers ill-prepared for a wide range of childbirth experiences. Thesis advisor:  Lisa Kane Low.

Kirsten Meeder
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Partial-Birth Abortion Law: A Real or Imagined Influence?

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 not only represents a notable pro-life political victory, but has also changed the way abortion regulation is legislated, enforced, and discussed by the United States government. While it is important to consider the social, political, and legal variables that led to the success of this legislation, it is equally important to question if the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) contributed to its passage. What influence, if any, did the leadership of the Catholic Church have over the passage of this new law on one of its most central social issues? This thesis analyzes over 1,800 pages of transcripts of Congressional testimony and debate presented in consideration of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. These findings not only attempt to gauge the presence of Catholic religious influence in Congress, but whether and how this presence actually influences federal legislation.   Thesis advisor:  Edward Goldman.

Anne Laverty
Practice What You Read?: A Feminist Critique of the Theory-Practice Relationship in Clinical Psychology

There are numerous methods through which one can become trained as a clinical psychologist and various career paths one can follow afterward. This field is complicated further by the tense relationship between theory and practice. This paper analyzes the relationship between theory and practice in clinical psychology. Which theories are taught, implemented in practice, and have become adopted as standard models over time varies and are influenced by larger hierarchical structures.  Many popular theories within the profession fail to account for oppressive structures clients might face, and thus do not provide quality care for people with marginalized social identities. I examine modifications in the field by interviewing clinical psychologists who received their PhD between 1973 and 1995.  I identify strengths and weaknesses in the relationship between theory and practice and offer suggestions for how the profession can develop more helpful therapeutic tools that consider clients within the oppressive institutions they face.  Thesis advisors:  Lorraine Gutierrez and Edith Lewis.

Kaitlyn Filip
Genre Trouble: Locating the Politics of Women's Humor

What difference does a joke make? This essay examines the genre of women’s humor from a feminist, political theoretical perspective. I argue that feminist accounts of humor assess the political validity of a work on the basis of one, or both, of two standards: the political nature of the content of the work and/or the presumed feminist intent of the author in writing the work.  Taking early-20th century wit Dorothy Parker as a case study in which neither of these standards is always easily met I propose a third category of analysis: the role of the public in perceiving the importance of the work. I further call for a broader interpretation of humor that is attentive to both the gendering of the genre as well as the dynamic nature of reading and writing. In such an interpretation, the importance of a joke is shown to be profound.  Thesis advisor:  Elizabeth Wingrove.

Rachel Fentin
Disobedient Youth:  Political Involvement and Genre Resistance in
Contemporary Young Adult Dystopian Fiction

Young adult fiction has experienced a boom in publication and readership in recent years bringing with it a surprising number of dystopian novels for young adults. The young adult dystopian novel is more than just a market phenomenon; the novels of this sub-genre consistently tackle the complex relationship between adolescents and political involvement. Marginalized within the conventional political structure and excluded from acceptable forms of dissent yet youthfully drawn to change and rebellion, young adult heroes establish their citizenship and political commitment through resistance and civil disobedience. This thesis explores two young adult dystopian trilogies, The Hunger Games and The Giver series, and examines the ways that the image of the Romantic child and the adolescent period of development interact with the traditional conventions of the classic genres adapted for young adults. Ultimately this creates unique pressures placed on the adolescent protagonist and has implications about young adult power, agency, and exclusion. Thesis advisor:  June Howard.

Lindsay Acker
Femicide or Genocide?: Tracing the Evolution of Jurisprudence on Sexual Crimes in International Law

The creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) following the Balkan War of the 1990s brought a multi-faceted and complex debate to the feminist legal community. How should the tribunal define and rule on sexual violence as a war crime? Was it femicide or genocide? In this paper, I trace the evolution of the ICTY's jurisprudence on sexual crimes, looking at the ways the feminist debate from the 1990s was mapped upon the case law of the tribunal. Situating the jurisprudence of the tribunal within larger discussions of international human rights for women, I conclude by showing how various lessons from the tribunal have been incorporated into the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC).   Thesis advisor:  Sueann Caulfield.