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Susan Heck interns share summer research and mentorship experiences

Enshia Li
Enshia Li
Sep 15 2021

Susan Heck, one of the founders of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research and former Clayman Institute Advisory Council member, had a keen interest in two particular issues. One was the importance of including undergraduates in the Institute’s work and providing them with mentorship. The other was assisting underserved populations, such as low-income individuals and women of color.

The internship combines the two issues Susan Heck was most passionate about by enhancing our training and mentorship of undergraduates while they work on a project of their choosing that focuses on an underserved population.  Susan Heck interns must be Stanford undergraduates, and must be prepared to make a full-time commitment to their research.

Enshia Li

Interning at the Clayman Institute this summer was truly an invaluable experience--invaluable in that it gave me unprecedented time to think, explore, and learn about the issue of gender-based violence via close- reading literature by survivors. In addition, I learned what it was like to direct my own research project: I learned to plan, gather a preliminary reading list for myself, structure a thesis statement, plan my days around my research, edit my own writing, and, most importantly, grow from flaws in the process so that I am able to become a better writer and researcher in the future.

My research project centered primarily on one novel that came out in Taiwan in 2017, Fang Si-chi’s First Love Paradise, that has unfortunately not yet been translated into English. Its author, Lin Yi-han, wrote the book based on her personal experiences of childhood sexual abuse, and sadly committed suicide a few months after the book’s publication. The story centers around a young, precocious girl named Fang Si-chi: As a student, she is abused by her literature tutor, Li Kuo-hua, and kept quiet about it for years. 

My research broadly explores the roles of literature and educational institutions in facilitating an environment where victims feel powerless. I found that, as represented by Lin, the novel isolates the problem of androcentrism in the literary canon as both providing privileged narratives for (often male) perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence to draw upon to normalize their abusive behaviour as well as withholding narrative representation from victims. Without representation, it is sometimes impossible for victims to be aware of the injustices done upon them. In the future, I would love to develop this project further, drawing upon more texts and surveying a broader array of writing by women.

Research can often be lonely, but this was not my experience at all at the Clayman Institute. I had a phenomenal time connecting with the other interns, sometimes staying long after Zoom meetings to chat about domestic violence in China, queer politics, and the ideal construction of urban spaces. I especially appreciated the constant mentorship and guidance from both Shivani Mehta, our amazing director, and my mentor, Professor Adrian Daub, who talked with me at length about my project all summer. It was incredible to have this learning experience as I head into my senior year and beyond, before many more research experiences to come.! I am truly grateful for everyone who made it possible for me to have this opportunity. 

Enshia Li is a rising senior majoring in English literature and east Asian languages and cultures.

Gina Sanchez

My name is Gina Sanchez (she/her) and I am a rising senior studying international relations and human rights. I am from New Mexico and enjoy hiking and visiting with friends and family in my free time. My general academic interests are in international security, transnational and intersectional feminism, and youth advocacy. 

Gina Sanchez
Gina Sanchez

This summer, I analyzed women’s access to justice in the aftermath of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict. Increased attention has been turned to addressing the sexual violence many women experience in conflict within recent decades. On the international stage, humanitarian law has made monumental advancements in the legal interpretation of rape as a serious crime in war and genocide. Yet, pre-existing patriarchal frameworks continue to create barriers for women seeking retribution. My research sought to answer the questions, How effective are international efforts in achieving retributive justice for women in the aftermath of violent conflict? What role should the international community play? To address these questions, I researched the international community’s response to two genocides where sexual violence was instrumentalized: Bosnia and Rwanda. I used a variety of sources ranging from survivor testimonies collected by human rights organizations to international tribunal rulings. My goal in completing this project was to identify the most effective and expeditious mechanisms for women’s justice. With this research, I better understood the nature of the actors involved, and what mechanisms amplify women’s agency. 
My time at the Clayman Institute has been transformative. From getting to attend staff chats where I heard about the research being completed at the Institute, to having Zoom debriefs with the other interns, I enjoyed every aspect of my experience. One highlight of the internship was learning about various gender issues in Gender 101. I was able to learn about topics such as disability activism with the other interns. Through the various components of the internships, I was able to have unparalleled experiences and conversations with people who are passionate about gender studies. Previously, I struggled to find spaces to share my research interests. At the Clayman Institute, I found a place where the faculty was enthusiastic and supportive of my academic passions. I also had the opportunity to speak with my mentor, Postdoctoral Fellow Lin Li, at length about our shared research interests and receive her guidance. Being a part of the Clayman Institute has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had during my time at Stanford. The Susan Heck internship has been one characterized by validation and growth that has made me even more excited to continue this work in the future. 
Gina Sanchez is a rising senior at Stanford University studying international relations and human rights. 

Glede Wang

Glede Wang
Glede Wang

My name is Qixuan (Glede) Wang, and I am a rising junior from mainland China. I am planning to double major in FGSS (feminist, gender and sexuality studies) and economics, with a minor in data science. My main research interests include Asian sexual politics and digital humanities with big data analysis. 
This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the Clayman Institute’s summer internship program. Under the mentorship of Dr. Melissa Brown, an amazing postdoctoral fellow at the Institute, I spent the summer completing my very first independent research project. My research topic was focused on the sexual politics of Asian/Asian American female massage workers, who belonged to one of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups. I was inspired by the social media outrage about the Atlanta shootings, which reminded me of the incident with Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots football team, being charged with soliciting prostitution in an Asian massage parlor in 2019. I wanted to explore the change in social perception of Asian/Asian American massage workers in the past three years. Thus, I collected more than 16,000 comments on Reddit under the posts about these two news articles and conducted data analysis to discover some very intriguing patterns. For example, although the Atlanta shootings were committed by a white male toward women of Asian descent, the Reddit users often mention African American men and their violence against Asian women as a rhetorical strategy. I theorized that they are attempting to evoke the “Black brute” controlling image to justify for the white supremacist narrative and absolve the white assaulter’s accountability. These findings were not only crucial to fill the gap in the field at the moment, as there was no precedent to study digital data as well as responses rather than the media itself, but they will also lay the groundwork for my senior thesis and my graduate school career.
Thanks to your generosity, I had tremendous growth this summer as a feminist writer and scholar. Although the program was partially influenced by the ongoing pandemic, I grew familiar with the staff members and other interns in the program despite our geographical locations being all distant. Dr. Brown taught me many essential research skills, such as the techniques for literature review, article layout and quantitative data collection, that will most certainly benefit my entire academic career. Moreover, the “Gender 101” class with Dr. Lin Li truly expanded my horizons. I especially enjoyed our discussion on disability studies, which included readings and dialogue that disassociated obesity with laziness and offered an alternative to the hegemonic beauty standard. I was also fortunate enough to work with four outstanding colleagues, who brought enthusiasm and perspective into each of the class discussions, creating fertile soil for in-depth dialogues on various topics that benefitted my range of knowledge. Although we had diverse interests and backgrounds, it was a reassuring experience to acknowledge that we were all united as one team in the pursuit of furthering gender and sexual equality research. 
Thank you again for this precious opportunity at Clayman Institute. I cherished every moment of this summer and felt certain that I will carry them with me to the next level of my path as a gender scholar. 
Glede Wang is a FGSS major and a rising junior from Shenzhen, China. 

Mikah Sánchez 

Hi there! My name is Mikah Sánchez, I use they/them/theirs pronouns, and I am a rising junior in the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. My passion for advocacy through media stems from my experiences as a queer and trans Latinx/Indigenous person who has always struggled to find positive representations of my communities in mainstream media. I believe media are our most powerful tools for liberation. It is the anchor which influences exactly how individuals view, interact with, and make decisions for entire communities. The intersections at which I exist has a rich history with a community whose stories need to be told. My responsibility as a queer and trans storyteller is to be in spaces where I can do justice to these narratives, and the Susan Heck Summer Internship Program has provided me with this very opportunity.

Mikah Sanchez
Mikah Sánchez

My research seeks to identify the tools that creators of children’s television use to code gender in non-human characters. To do this, I watched 27 children’s television shows that were animated, rated TV-Y or TV-G, created within the past five years, and are available for streaming  on Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+.
Many of the ways that gender is communicated in children’s television is through the visual design of characters. The use of color, clothing, and species are the most frequently utilized tools to communicate gender in characters. These tools allow young audiences to easily and immediately separate characters into binary categories of gender, based entirely on visual appearance.
It is not that these designs are in themselves problematic. Instead, they become harmful when their personal characterizations and interactions reinforce negative gender based stereotypes and biases. Because these approaches to design are so pervasive throughout children’s media, kids learn from an early age to value men and masculinity over women and femininity. These media messages then influence children’s ideas, expectations, and interactions in the real world. This not only has the potential to lead to negative psychological effects, such as low self esteem, in children whose identities are underrepresented or negatively portrayed, but it has the potential to completely stunt children’s creativity and understanding of the self. My work seeks to inspire creators to tell stories that do justice to the experiences and imaginations of their young audiences. The overly simplistic and often stereotypical portrayals of gender in children's media deprive children of realities that they could create themselves. Creators have the opportunity to raise tomorrow’s generations of thinkers, teachers, and liberators through media that inspires exploration and freedom.
I am grateful to my mentor Alison Dahl Crossley for her support and wisdom throughout this project. I am honored to have spent my summer with the Clayman Institute and the generous, kind, and motivating individuals who make it so special. I have grown immensely from being a part of this unique and passionate community, and it is an experience that I am forever grateful for.
Mikah (they/them/elle) is a feminist, gender and sexuality studies major and sociology minor. 

A gender lens
exposes gaps in knowledge,
identifies root causes of barriers,
and proposes workable solutions.