By Zibby Pillote /// Editor-in-ChiefWho ever though they would hear about oocytes in male fish in the same presentation about the role of camp in gay culture? That’s just what an audience of professors, alumni, Gender Studies seniors, friends and family experienced at the reception for the Dorothy Berkson Writing Award in Gender Studies.
Laura Houlberg (’14) and Gus Wolff (’14) won the award for work completed during their senior year. Houlberg’s Environmental Studies thesis “illuminates the ways in which transmisogyny and mainstream environmentalism inform each other, which creates an environmental movement which excludes trans women, either implicitly through rhetoric around ‘un/naturalness’ and purity.”
By creating a culture of “corporeal disgust,” popular science, the media and organizations like Deep Green Resistance objectify trans women by “reducing them to their bodies and then constructing their bodies as unnatural or ecologically othered,” said Houlberg. Houlberg illustrated this concept in her presentation by talking about male fish that presented oocytes.
“I am so honored to have received the award,” Houlberg said. “Dorothy Berkson helped build a department that has given me and so many of my friends and peers validation, hope, inspiration and purpose.”
Wolff’s project, written for his Feminist Theory class, is “an exercise of interweaving personal experience with academic and theoretical literature.” Wolff questions campiness, an aesthetic that asserts that something is “good because it is awful.”
“To be campy is to be very flamboyant, stereotypically gay,” Wolff said. “I tie in my own personal experience of the daily structure in both rejecting and embodying/identifying with being a gay stereotype.” Wolff’s personal reflection followed his journey out of the closet and into the world of the stereotypically “gay.”
“I was thrilled to receive the award,” Wolff said, “It was such validation of the hard work I put into my Gender Studies scholarship. The program is such an important part of this campus and an overall liberal arts experience.”
All Gender Studies program seniors were honored at the event.
Professor Emerita of English Dorothy Berkson taught at Lewis & Clark between 1981 and 2004, and presented at the first Gender Studies Symposium. She designed a course entitled “Gender and Aesthetic Expression,” which is still taught in the gender studies curriculum today. Berkson passed away in 2007.
Zibby Pillote is the editor-in-chief of the Pioneer Log. Her work has also appeared in The Portland Mercury and the Lewis & Clark College webpage. She likes to write about music and culture. Follow her @ZibbyPillote