Student Profile: Trish Yeh

Sophia Fox-Dichter | Contributing Writer

Courtesy of Sophia Fox-Dichter
Growing up in a family defined by strong women initially gave Washington University senior Trish Yeh her passion for gender issues. Since her childhood, the women, gender and sexuality studies and psychology double major from Taiwan has embraced gender equality and prevention of sexual violence. Yeh is devoted to fostering a community free of violence and abuse at Wash. U. and participates in V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women that puts on the Vagina Monologues; Community Organized for Rape Education; and RAVEN, a not-for-profit group that aims to intervene and prevent domestic violence in St. Louis.

Yeh hails from a female-dominated family. Though her maternal grandfather initially had hoped for sons and grandsons (a typical cultural bias for many Taiwanese men of his generation), Yeh’s female lineage served as an inspiration for her, making her attentive to gender issues from an early age. Yeh’s grandmother plays a key role in running the family business, and her mother is a dentist. 

From her primary school education in Taiwan, Yeh noticed subtle gender biases. In her report cards, her teachers would praise her and her female peers on their intelligence but added “special emphasis on being considerate and sweet,” Yeh said. Yeh doubted they noted this on the boys’ report cards. Additionally, Yeh noticed a trend in which boys tended to hold the highest leadership positions in the classroom.

In junior high school, her mother provided strong support for Yeh’s desire to attend high school in the United States, a challenging boarding school experience that was not available to her mother’s generation.

When Yeh came to the U.S., she entered into high school at the Hotchkiss School, a boarding school in Connecticut. In her experiences at Hotchkiss, she noted that gender bias remains a problem in American culture, too. Yeh’s time at Hotchkiss, though, marked her discovery of gender studies. She took a course on economics with a focus on women’s roles, Yeh’s first opportunity to study gender directly.

“This class had opened my eyes and given me conceptual frameworks and understandings to address the issues I’d noticed growing up and moving to the U.S.,” she said.

Yeh’s first encounter with gender issues at Wash. U. was “The Date,” an incoming student orientation performance dealing with issues of date rape. “The Date” embodies what Yeh sees as a key component in preventing sexual violence—a venue in which to discuss and educate the student body about what she describes as “the harms that violence does to the community.” In her Washington University career, Yeh found herself drawn to classes in the women, gender and sexuality studies major.

“I would recommend everyone take Violence Against Women with professor Jami Ake and a sexuality course with professor [Susan] Stiritz,” Yeh said. “The classes confirmed my interest in majoring in WGSS and provided me with tools to address issues of interpersonal violence in our community.”

As a starting point in diminishing sexual violence at Wash. U., Yeh suggests educating and engaging the whole University community in addressing issues of violence. In this vein, Yeh designed and co-facilitated sexuality education to interested members of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity in the fall of 2011 through her Contemporary Female Sexualities: Designing Sexuality Education course.

“It is important to engage the entire community—both men and women—in addressing issues of violence,” she said.