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Three graduate students win 2021 Clayman Institute prizes

Monique Harrison

Passionate work in art history. Research that helps us “rethink policy implications of private and public child-care.” A layperson’s retelling of gender and racial bias in AI. Each a description of a graduate student’s scholarship or writing, and each a 2021 graduate student prize winner of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research.

Cyle Metzger won the 2021 Marilyn Yalom Prize, awarded annually to a Stanford PhD candidate working in the humanities on gender issues. In his own words, Metzger explains his passion for his research that “investigates how marginalized identities—especially those of transgender, intersex, and disabled people—have been made to appear (or disappear) in Western art,” a focus “rooted in my lived experience of gender transition and disability.” Focusing on four American artists post-World War II, Metzger asks: “What happens to traditional narratives of gender in the history of U.S.-American art when we consider transgender artists and works that specifically illuminate transgender bodies?”

“Cyle has made clear that his academic career is closely linked to his personal and political commitments to equality and social justice,” wrote Richard Meyer, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History and a former Clayman Institute faculty research fellow, in his nomination of Metzger.  “What is especially impressive about this commitment is the way it exceeds any simple model of identity politics,” Myer contends. “Cyle’s research, writing, and teaching—in short, his intellectual presence--open onto broader understandings and communities of difference and diversity.”

Metzger stresses that his work, “by focusing on how these works of art undermine strict divisions between categories of ‘man’ and ‘woman,’ ... constructs a more comprehensive picture of gender in US-American art of the second half of the 20th century than has been presented thus far.”

Justine Modica

Justine Modica, a PhD candidate in history, received the 2021 Marjorie Lozoff Prize. She stands out as the first awardee to receive all three Clayman Institute student prizes and to serve as a Clayman Institute Graduate Dissertation Fellow (2019-20). In 2020, she was awarded the Strober Prize for her Gender News article on “How Women’s Oral History Collections Reveal the ‘Silent’ History of Sexual Violence," and in 2017 she received the Yalom Prize for her research on “Physical Resistance, Conservative Respectability Politics and Gendered Discourse in Operation Rescue’s Anti-Abortion Protests of the 1980s and 1990s.” In nominating Modica for the 2021 Lozoff Prize, Estelle Freedman, Edgar E. Robinson Professor in U.S. History, Emerita, explains, “Her study brings home-based paid childcare into a literature that has primarily explored other forms of domestic paid labor or childcare in the public sector.”

Modica contends that while “scholars of 20th century women's history have paid ample attention to the dramatic transformations of gender, labor, and the family, including the growth of women in the paid workforce...the traditionally unwaged labor of full-time childcare needed to be replaced through the parallel growth of a waged childcare workforce.” Her work “addresses this gap by exploring a series of childcare debates from 1970 to 2000 to show how, in the absence of significant federal intervention, Americans shaped a childcare workforce in piecemeal and often conflicting fashion.”

From “how childcare access for low-income families and the undercompensation of childcare workers in private households became intertwined labor problems,” to an examination of the “unique alliances between daycare workers, managers, and parent clients that centered a feminist critique of state and federal priorities,” to issues of race and migrant women, the “arrival and explosion of nanny schools in the 1980s,” then concluding with a focus on Seattle’s “Worthy Wage” movement, Modica sheds new light on the history and continued “undervaluation of caring labor” in the U.S.

The Myra Strober Prize is awarded not for the student’s own work, but for their ability to translate the gender research of an established scholar, in this case of a Clayman Institute Faculty Research Fellow, for the general reading audience of Gender News, the Clayman Institute’s online newsletter.  Monique Harrison, PhD candidate in education, is this year’s awardee for her article on the work of James Zou and his team auditing AI systems “to understand the potential biases embedded within these machine learning algorithms.” Harrison wrote how one particular example shared in the talk resulted in a shocked gasp from the audience: it revealed how Zou found “gender biases to be embedded in the matching algorithms - He: computer programmer, She: homemaker.”

Another important aspect of Zou’s work relayed by Harrison is “how it is possible to take this ‘bug’ in machine learning and use it as a feature to reveal biases and how they evolve over time,” which can expose trends in bias and provide insight into shifts in stereotypes. Read the full article for more on Zou’s work, as clearly described by Harrison. Zou is an assistant professor in biomedical data science as well as in computer science and electrical engineering, by courtesy.

Each awardee received prize money to use toward furthering their research, whether it be travel expenses for archival visits, conference attendance, or varied other uses. The Clayman Institute is grateful to our donors for their generous support of our student prizes.