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American Sociological Association: Verta Taylor Award Statement
Dr. Taylor’s career is characterized by courageous and innovative scholarship, innovative teaching, and selfless mentoring that is evident throughout the field today. One of Dr. Taylor’s major contributions has been bringing gender into social movement studies and in connecting gender and sexuality studies. She did this, not just by her work on the women’s movement (Survival in the Doldrums), but also by a study of a movement by women that didn’t look like what we thought a women’s movement would be. Rock-a-by Baby: Feminism, Self-Help, and Postpartum Depression, her archival, observational, and interview study of the social movement started by women who mobilized around feeling that their postpartum depression was misunderstood and ignored, forced both the field of social movements and gender scholars to rethink some of their assumptions. It didn’t fit many gender scholars’ assumptions when women saw self-help groups, medicalization of their problem, and seeing postpartum depression as a sex-specific biologically-based affliction as empowering. The social movements literature took note too, when they had previously ignored most movements of women, focused on movements directed against the state (this one wasn’t), and, for decades, ignored the role of emotions in favor of “cooler” concepts such as resources, interests, and “political opportunity structures.” In this movement, expressing anger at doctors was key. The book also made contributions to the sociology of culture and sociology of emotions.
Her most recent book, Drag Queens at the 801 Cabaret, winner of the Sex and Gender Sections distinguished publication award in 2005, is about female impersonators. It is a qualitative study of their performances and off-stage life. In an innovation, she used focus groups of mainly heterosexual, conventional, non-cross-dresssing audience members from the performances to see how the transgressive aspects of the performances affected their thinking about gender. Her current project is on the social movement for gay marriage rights. Throughout her extraordinarily productive career, Taylor has brought an open mind and fresh perspectives to everything she has studied. She has mainstreamed gender into the field of social movements and brought more thinking about social movements and sexuality to the sociology of gender.
As an educator and mentor on gender issues, Taylor is also impressive. She was won many teaching awards at both Ohio State University and UC Santa Barbara. She is also the co-editor of Feminist Frontiers, one of the best selling anthologies for introductory Women’s Studies or Sociology of Gender courses, about to come out in its 8th edition. For each new edition, new articles are added. Through this effort, she has influenced generations of undergraduates.
Dr. Taylor is also an indefatigable mentor of graduate students, often publishing with students and helping them navigate the job market. Her efforts did not go unnoticed—she was awarded the 1995 SWS mentoring award. Today, many of her students are successful academics continuing to contribute to gender studies.