Every year on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, the Feminist Resource Center at Chellis House celebrates all the nominees for the Feminist of the Year Award. On May 11, 2019, a large group of Chellis House friends gathered in the backyard to celebrate the strides we made during another successful school year. Integral to making these strides are the many feminist activists and knowledge producers who never tire of investing their intellectual and emotional energy towards making this world a more equitable place. After enjoying delicious treats and the poetry of GSFS major Sam Boudreau ’19, we honored the award winners. Language in Motion Coordinator Kristen Mullins garnered the prize in the staff category. Her nominator noted that “Kristen [had] devoted the past five years to promoting and deepening cultural understanding on this campus, in the local communities through her K-12 outreach, and in Japan through her Japan Summer Service Learning program. For years now she has led community-focused anti-bias response trainings. Students and staff alike have found them tremendously helpful.”
This year, the committee decided to distinguish two professors in the faculty category. Eliza Garrison, Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture, was lauded for “consistently bringing a feminist lens to her classes in the Art History department. In particular, her class ‘Medieval Bodies’ in fall 2018 analyzed how women and other (literally) marginalized people were treated in medieval art and what the social and political ramifications of these representations were.” In all of her classes, Professor Garrison makes a point “both to assign feminist analyses of works of art and to discuss misogyny and othering in art.” The other professor who won the award was Lana Povitz, Visiting Assistant Professor of History. Her nominator highlighted her ability “to craft socially conscious and relevant syllabi in all of her classes, which require students to engage with the highly political world around them, allowing no one to remain apathetic or ignorant of the issues that dictate our lives. Her assignments allow students to self implicate, explore their own narratives, and counter traditional modes of history that sustain patriarchy.”
This year, the selection committee decided to distinguish five students with the award although many more had been nominated. Throughout their four-year career at Middlebury, Miranda de Beer ’19 and Mika Morton ’19 often engaged in activism in tandem. By conceiving the “Middlebury 5K: Steps Towards Reproductive Justice” three years ago, they created an event with staying power. The event now draws close to 100 people who learn about reproductive justice through signs on the golf course while running or walking. They expand their knowledge at t-shirt making activities after the event where the event leaders are on site to talk about reproductive justice and hand-out pamphlets. Mika and Miranda also created a template for other students to continue their effort.
Mika and Miranda often collaborated with Toria Isquith ’19, Grace Vedock ’20 and Rebecca Wishnie ’20. Toria raised awareness about the reproductive dangers associated with the proliferation of crisis pregnancy centers that pose as health care facilities to spread misinformation about pregnancy and abortion. For her senior project with Professor Carly Thomsen, Toria developed the “Bonefish” animation series, which brings to light the realities of abortion access and lived experience for women seeking reproductive healthcare.
In addition to being an activist against sexual violence and helping establish a digital archive for feminist activism at Middlebury, Rebecca Wishnie investigated the power dynamics of the Charles Murray visit throughout the past school year. In the course, “Gender and the Making of Space,” and at the student symposium, she examined how the architecture of McCullough helped to lend an air of legitimacy to Murray’s visit. For the 2018 Student Summer Symposium, Rebecca, together with Professor Sujata Moorti, investigated state-sanctioned violence and state-sanctioned mourning by comparing the film series The Handmaid’s Tale with the Charles Murray visit.
Over the past three years at Middlebury. Grace Vedock has demonstrated a great passion for combating sexual violence. Tirelessly collaborating with Taite Shomo ’20.5 in the “It Happens Here” speak-out, she also testified before the Vermont State Committee on Education in favor of a bill that supports victims of campus sexual assault in Vermont. Grace also is a strong advocate on behalf of all queer students who were affected by this voices contesting their humanity on this campus.
Please congratulate all the winners when you see them.
Caption: 2019 Feminists of the Year Toria Isquith ’19, Miranda de Beer ’19, Professor Lana Povitz, Grace Vedock ’20, and Mika Morton ’19. Not pictured: Professor Eliza Garrison, Language in Motion Coordinator Kristen Mullins, and Rebecca Wishnie ’10.