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Gabriella Valdivieso ’20 Wins 2017 Fraker Prize

March 14, 2017

Gabby Valdivieso ’20, winner of the 2017 Fraker Prize.

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. –  Gabriella Valdivieso ’20, has won the 2017 Alison G. Fraker ’89 Essay Prize, an annual award presented to a student or group of students for excellence in writing or a project on a topic in the field of gender, sexuality, and feminist studies. At a March 7 reception, 50 students, faculty, and staff members gathered in Coltrane Lounge to present the honor to Valdivieso for her essay, “The Lesbian Gaze in ‘Carol,’” which she wrote for the class Foundations in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies with Professor Sujata Moorti.

Valdivieso’s paper traces the lesbian relationship in the 2015 movie “Carol,” which was directed by Todd Haynes and featured Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in the lead roles. “Carol” depicts the pervasive heteronormativity of the 1950s, a time when homosexuality was classified as “a sociopathic personality disturbance” by the American Psychiatric Association and considered a political subversion by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

In her essay, Valdivieso highlights the cinematic devices used to emphasize the isolation of its protagonists: “Haynes frames scenes through doors, windows, and mirrors, looking at Carol and Therese askance to convey that they are skewed and misrecognized through the lens of the dominant culture.” These framing devices disappear when the couple is alone, finally freed from the confines of society. Gabby describes the two women’s agency and unashamed stance in spite of societal pressures, yet also criticizes the film for “not addressing the intersections of race and class with gender and sexual identity.”

This year, the Fraker Prize committee also gave out two honorable mentions: Becca Brown ’18.5 was honored for her paper “Lhakpa Sherpa: Disrupting the Male Gaze, the Postcolonial Gaze, and the Tourist Gaze in the Climbing World,” which she wrote for Moorti’s class “Foundations in Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies.” Imogen Arzt-Jones ’18, Miranda Max de Beer ’19, Mika Morton ’19, and Hannah Redmon ’20 garnered another honorable mention for their group project “Steps Towards Reproductive Justice” for Carly Thomsen’s class “The Politics of Reproduction.” Last November, the group organized a 5K run on which participants learned important facts about reproductive rights and justice.

The Fraker Memorial Prize was established in 1990 by Drue Cortell Gensler ’57 and named after Alison Gwen Fraker ’89, a much-beloved, vocally feminist student, whose life was cut short in a car accident a few weeks before her graduation.