Undergraduate Dissertation Prize
The GFGRG invites entries every year for the best undergraduate dissertation on any issue relating to geography and gender.
We have now awarded the prizes for the 2022 entries for the best UK University based undergraduate dissertation on any issue relating to geographies, feminisms and gender.
First prize is £100 and £50 is awarded to two further highly commended dissertations.
Please contact Rachel Colls (Durham University, UK) for any more information about the awards: firstname.lastname@example.org
2022 winning or highly commended dissertations (with titles and abstracts)
FIRST PLACE PRIZE of £100
Maggie Bao, Cambridge University
‘To live under lower skies: An investigation into the lived experiences and quiet resistance of China’s ‘leftover’ women’
In 2007, the All-China Women’s Federation, a state-affiliated feminist organisation, declared that all unmarried Chinese women above the age of 27 would be identified as ‘leftover women’. Over the next decade, this label would become the cornerstone to a government-led media campaign problematising and shaming late marriage amongst women, reinforced and justified by a resurgence in patriarchal, Confucianist beliefs throughout the country. Listening to the stories of twelve unmarried Chinese women aged 26-34, “To live under Lower Skies” explores the physical, emotional and biopolitical consequences of living under ‘leftover women’ stigma from the positionality of a ‘liquid inbetweener’. Turning towards an intimate, feminist reading of the everyday as a site of agency, it is revealed how ‘leftover women’ stigma operates in the everyday lives of China’s unmarried women as ‘verbal violence’, exacerbated and reinforced by Confucianist, collectivist cultural values. It highlights how the consequences of such violence are internalised, hidden and normalised, as often is the case with women’s lived experiences within patriarchal societies. The last chapter explores the nexus between gender, power and resistance, uncovering the array of tactics of quiet, everyday resistance deployed by the women that allows them to challenge ‘leftover women’ stigma, carving out their own trajectories, paths, and spaces within the constraints presented by a society that deems a woman to be incomplete without marriage. It is a story about how twelve strong, aspirational women utilise what is available to them to navigate, negotiate, and live the best they can under a ‘lower sky’. Finally, this study hopes to highlight the need for more intimate, culturally-grounded explorations of the experiences, voices and agency of non-Western women, from a non- Western viewpoint.
HIGHLY COMMENDED PRIZES OF £50
Jessica Slater, Bristol University
“It’s scandalous really”: Discussing Embodied Experiences of the Menopause a Work.
This dissertation undertakes a geographical inquiry into the embodied experiences of menopause at work. Menopause refers to the permanent cessation of menses due to declining oestrogen, characterised as a natural stage in life and just part of the ageing process. However, menopause can be incredibly distressing for some women as they experience symptoms such as low moods, anxiety, and insomnia. Despite this, it has remained largely enmeshed in silence, excluded from academic research and public discourse. This dissertation aims to make the individual, embodied experiences of the menopause visible by drawing predominantly upon geographical gerontology, which considers the social construction of age, feminist labour geographies focusing upon the body at work, and geographies of the body to argue that the menopause is a rich site for geographical inquiry. Two key methods were used to achieve this: body mapping and semi-structured interviews, theoretically framed by a corporeal feminist approach that sought to uncover the socially constructed nature and materiality of the menopausal body. Through these methods, themes of uncertainty, feelings of loss and the body as a site of resistance were uncovered. Secondly, women’s experiences at work were revealed, determining that menopausal bodies engage in a form of ‘body work’ to conceal their bodily symptoms. Finally, embodied experiences of menopause are inherently spatial, and space and place can impact how menopausal bodies are excluded from and navigate the workplace. The discussion indicates that menopausal bodies are excluded from work based on social constructions of age and gender, and the ‘messy’, unwelcomed materiality of their bodies. Concluding that the geography of menopause is a space where this can be made visible and hopefully provide insight for organisations to adjust how they treat menopausal bodies at work.
Ségolène McKinnon, Oxford University
“We will respect your walls when you respect our bodies”: Reclaiming the urban through feminist collages in France.
Urban public spaces have always been used to express anger in France. Indeed, whether it be through graffiti and posters, used to express the revindications of students during the Mai 68 movement in the Latin Quarter of Paris, or protests, exemplified by the recent Gilet Jaunes movement, France has a long tradition of enacting common grievance through spatial and visual demonstration in urban spaces. Such dynamics are also inherent to French feminist struggle, and its inherited scholarship. Indeed, French feminist movements, from that of 18th century activist Olympe de Gouges, to the more recent Mouvement de libération des femmes, most commonly known by the acronym ‘MLF’, have extensively used slogans and posters to spread their ideas and raise awareness on the status of women in France.
Fitting within a wider historical context of French feminist struggle (Bard, 2020), collages represent a novel form of protest. The medium of street “collage”, slogans spelt in black capital letters pasted on walls, originated in Marseille, France, in the spring of 2019 and was used initially as a way to raise public awareness around the issue of femicide – the intentional murder of women because of their gender (United Nations, 2012). In 2021 in France, violent acts of femicide resulted in the killing of 119 women (Nous Toutes, 2021). Collages are now present in more than 150 French cities, and the medium has spread across international borders, from London to San Francisco, as Internet has extended the physical public space (Garrett, 2006). Collages are the work of intersectional feminists named “les colleur·euses” –literally, “those who paste”, in inclusive French. The colleur·euses define themselves as “an intersectional and horizontal movement without cis men […] that fights against violence against women and gender minorities, anti-fat bias, slut-shaming, ableism, racism and classicism” (Collages Féminicides Paris, 2021, p. 14). Organized at a local level into collectives, the colleur·euses have no established leader, and operate without cisgender men.
Using mobile methods, such as participatory walking interviews, this dissertation seeks to answer the following research question: How are feminist collages used to reclaim the urban in France? The term “urban” is used here to go beyond the simple physical manifestation of the “city’”, but rather in reference to the experiences of space embedded within urban environments (Merrifield, 2013). Inspired by Masood (2018), who used Lefebvre’s spatial triad (1991) to explore the mobility of women doctors in Pakistan, this dissertation will argue that feminist collages (re)claim urban space in France on three separate levels: spatial practices, representations of space and spaces of representation(Lefebvre, 1991). This dissertation will argue that feminist collages are used to reclaim spatial practices expressed through “physical landscapes and infrastructure” (McKittrick, 2016, p. 14) and the “man-made” (Bondi, 1991, p. 161) built environment, by occupying the streets and taking up space to develop a vernacular experience of the urban. This dissertation will also address the symbolic experiences of the urban as feminist collages are used to reclaimrepresentations of space. Third, this dissertation explores lived experiences of urban space in France through the examples of public transport, and the urban night, as well as by reflecting upon the accessibility of the practice of collage itself.
Sadie Levi University of Edinburgh
A Feminist Analysis of Eco-Emotions and Environmental Activism Among Young Women in the UK
Climate change, which disproportionately threatens the lives of women and poses an impending existential threat, constitutes a gendered and emotional environmental crisis demanding sensitive feminist solutions. Indeed, in a society where ‘mother nature’ is ascribed a female identity and hegemonic discourses reinforce expectations that to be feminine is to be nurturing and environmentalist, there has emerged an eco-gender gap, a division whereby women are disproportionately pursuing pro-environmental behaviours and experiencing climate concern. As such, whilst women’s socialised emotional intelligence, resilience and reflexivity provide vital resources sustaining activism, this paper will explore how naturalised associations between femininity, sensitivity, and environmentalism have seen women’s climate activist labour overexploited and underappreciated. Employing an emotion-centred analysis, this thesis will specifically examine eco-anxiety and eco-anger, highlighting how the climate-induced mental health pandemic is relevant not only to individual wellbeing, but to wider society, as these emotions have the capacity to either impassion or dispirit activism. To interrogate these themes, this thesis will closely analyse qualitative data collected in eleven in-depth interviews with young, self-identifying female climate activists in the UK, conducted in the wake of the COP26 Climate summit. Ultimately, within the poignant mosaic of these women’s voices this paper finds a hopeful message; that solutions to climate concern and climate change reside in valuing women’s engagement in climate activism, in building activist spaces which are imbued with stereotypically feminine characteristics of cooperation, empathy and solidarity.
Other Entries to the 2021-22 Dissertation Prize Competition:
|Sophie Utteridge||“Sport is a reflection of society and culture” (Hignell, 1999): examining spatial gender inequality within and between Suffolk cricket clubs.||University of Birmingham|
|Tilly Wax||Born out of Necessity, Assisting after Legality: The Role of Southern Cone Feminist Accompaniment Services in Abortion Provision after Legalisation||University of Leeds|
|Laura Bilk||The Girl Child: constructions of global imaginaries and identities in development discourse||Queen Mary University of London|
|Megan McKenna||“An exploration of the impacts that Covid-19 has incurred on the female workforce within the City of London”.||Nottingham University|
|Natalya Yakusheva||New Horizons: Women in Non-Traditional Occupations in Russia||University College London|
|Alice Wilson||Reproducing, Resisting, and Reworking: An Investigation into how Femininity Emerges within the Space of the Nightclub||Durham University|
|Molly Gentry||How are the identities of surfing women (b)ordered, negotiated, and enacted? A case study of the female experience of surf-riding in South Devon.||Cardiff University|
|Erin Fitzgerald||Male human trafficking in the UK media: an analysis of the everyday news media frames and the impact on support for male victims||University of Reading|
|Niamh Gallagher||Exploring the perspectives and lived experiences of “Western” Muslim revert women through feminist and post-colonial frameworks: A qualitative investigation.||University of Newcastle|