Awards & Honors

Senior Consulting Editor
Senior Fellow
E. J. Graff

Where to Find 
  Graff on the Web

The American Prospect is an online braintrust of female experts on diverse topics designed to serve journalists, producers and bookers who need female guests and sources; and a program of the Women's Media Center.

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E.J. Graff

E.J. Graff

Investigative highlights 
Media appearances and public speaking  
Fellowships and research awards 
Other affiliations 
Selected Articles

E.J. Graff is a longtime journalist, commentator, and author best known for helping to pioneer the gender and sexuality beat, as distinct from the “women's” beat. She specializes in analytic reporting into the systemic underpinnings of social justice issues, examining news from every angle: investigative, analytical, sociological, historical, constitutional, legal, and human. Currently she is the managing editor of The Monkey Cage at the Washington Post, which brings political science research and analysis into public discussion. 

Graff’s pathbreaking reporting and commentary go back several decades. In the 1980s she wrote for and edited small feminist and gay newspapers like Bay Windows, Gay Community News, and Sojourner. In the 1990s, she was one of the first openly lesbian women reporting and commenting on lesbian, gay, and bisexual issues, with work appearing in such outlets as the New York Times Magazine, The Boston Globe, The Nation, Out, and The American Prospect. She wrote the first full-length American book on same-sex marriage, which was also the first historical look at how same-sex couples were following, not leading, changes in marriage’s shifting social history. Beginning in the early 2000s, she was one of the first to write in the mainstream media about transgender issues.

Over the last fifteen years, Graff has expanded her reporting and analysis to cover gender and sexuality more broadly, including discrimination and violence against women, children, and people of color, employment law, fraud and corruption in international adoption, media miscoverage of issues facing working families, women running for public office, and the emerging public health strategies to prevent family and sexual violence. She collaborated on former Massachusetts Lt. Governor Evelyn Murphy’s book, “Getting Even,” on gendered wage discrimination. The book was the basis of Murphy’s campaign to close the wage gap, an issue that reached the mainstream when President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, with Murphy attending. Graff’s comprehensive investigative reporting on malfeasance in international adoption has been used to train international child protection workers and to pass a federal law closing regulatory loopholes.

Graff’s widely praised work is often cited in legal journals, reprinted for use in academic courses and textbooks, entered as courtroom exhibits, and quoted by government policymaking bodies. Her articles appear in publications that include The Washington Post, The American Prospect, The Boston Globe, The Daily Beast, Democracy Journal, Foreign Policy, The Los Angeles Times, Ms., The Nation, The New Republic, Slate, The New York Times Magazine, Vice, and in more than a dozen anthologies. As an expert in social policy, Graff has appeared in several documentaries; is interviewed by public and commercial media outlets such as NPR, ABC, CBC, BBC, PBS, MTV, satellite radio, and cable news; and gives talks and engages in debates in public forums in the U.S. and abroad.

After joining the Schuster Institute as a senior researcher in December 2005, Graff served as the Schuster Institute's associate director until May 2011, when she became a senior fellow. In 2013 she returned to the Schuster Institute as a senior consulting editor. Since 2001, she has been a resident scholar at Brandeis University's Women’s Studies Research Center.


 Getting Even

"Getting Even" documented for the first time using government data that the wage gap between women and men is because of sex discrimination; exposed management indifference to women's equality; and delved into social science advances in understanding bias.

Graff collaborated on former Massachusetts Lt. Governor Evelyn Murphy’s book “Getting Even: Why Women Still Don't Make As Much As Men—And What To Do So We Will,” published by Simon & Schuster/Touchstone in October 2005. The book revealed the fact that the gender wage gap had remained steady for more than a decade, and that much of the gap was then (and continues to be) due to illegal discrimination, not motherhood or personal choices. The book brought together in one place—for the first time—a list of sex discrimination settlements and jury awards, exposing the extent of sex discrimination in the U.S. workplace and how that can be attributed to management indifference to active and passive injustice.

"Getting Even" launched Murphy’s campaign to close the wage gap under the auspices of her new organization, the WAGE (Women Are Getting Even) Project. The book was called “a compelling and convincing read” supported by “copious statistics” and “the testimonies of scores of women who have felt the sting of sex discrimination,” as Cecil Johnson wrote in The Salt Lake Tribune. The book was praised in such outlets as The Washington Post and the Boston Globe, and stayed on bestseller lists for weeks at a time. As a lifetime advocate for women’s pay equity, Dr. Murphy attended the presidential signing of the 2009 Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  

 What is Marriage For? by E.J. Graff

"What Is Marriage For?" brought a reasoned, historical perspective to debates over same-sex marriage.

Published five years before any U.S. state granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Graff’s first book "What Is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution," examined 2,500 years of a central pillar of social life—and asked why, for the first time in history, Western society is opening the institution to same-sex couples. In writing "What Is Marriage For?" Graff researched the history of marriage and the family over the millennia. Her entertaining book makes vividly clear that over 6,000 years of history, marriage’s policies, customs, theology, and laws keep shifting dramatically to suit each era and economy, each culture and class. The book is a historical primer for many contemporary marriage and family debates: about love, sex, and money; mothers, fathers, and others; living together versus taking vows; pre-nups and divorce decrees; first vows and last rites; and how, between 1850 and 1950, love triumphed over money as a reason for getting and staying married.

"What Is Marriage For?" offers groundbreaking and extensively researched arguments about contemporary marriage philosophy, and was the first book to examine the question of same-sex marriage from the point of view of women instead of men. As a result, Graff repeatedly appeared as a guest expert in film and television documentaries, and on radio and television talk shows, both in the U.S. and abroad. "What Is Marriage For?" has been extensively cited in almost all work on same-sex marriage published since. The book was summarized on the floor of the California legislature throughout the 2000s as it debated domestic partnership and marriage proposals; was distributed to members of Vermont’s senate judicial committee when they were debating their breakthrough civil unions law in 1999; and was quoted by the Canadian Law Reform Commission in its 2002 recommendation that the Canadian government open marriage to same-sex pairs. The Unitarian Universalist Association created a group study guide for "What Is Marriage For?" and recommended that member congregations read and discuss the book. Evan Wolfson, founding director of Freedom to Marry, called Graff’s book “the bible of the same-sex marriage movement.”

Reviews, commentary, excerpts, and interviews with the author appeared in major publications nationwide, such as The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, Utne Reader, and in several social issues anthologies. The Chicago Tribune called it "an enlightening romp through the history of marriage in western Europe and the U.S.," while Kirkus Reviews called it “a well-organized work of thoughtful popular history that displays considerable wit and verve, and that is in equal measure instructive and entertaining.”

Investigative highlights

Corruption and fraud in international adoption

The story of abandoned or orphaned infants and toddlers in developing countries who need to be whisked away to adoring moms and dads in faraway lands is, unfortunately, largely fiction. That’s what Graff exposed in her award-winning series on the myth of the world orphan crisis. As her work revealed, the disproportionately large amounts of Western money offered in poor or corrupt countries can too often induce unscrupulous middlemen to buy, coerce, defraud, or kidnap children away from families that would have raised them to adulthood. Her in-depth series of articles, resulting from several years of research conducted while on staff at the Schuster Institute, exposed the fact that while millions of children are in dire need around the world, the ones who need new families are overwhelmingly either five or older, or have extensive special medical needs. In "The Orphan Manufacturing Chain," The Washington Post, January 11, 2009, Graff outlined the steps by which Western adoption agencies’ money can induce unscrupulous middlemen to buy, defraud, coerce, or even kidnap children away from their birth families for sale into international adoption. Other work in the series showed the faces and told the stories of families harmed by wrongful adoptions, and reported on experts’ suggested policy proposals for fairer adoption practices. 

Graff’s anchor article in the series, “The Lie We Love,” Foreign Policy, Nov./Dec. 2008, won four awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists’ prestigious Sigma Delta Chi award for the Best in Magazine Investigative Reporting. As part of the investigation, Graff published “The Baby Business,” Democracy Journal, Summer 2010, which reported on policy proposals for fairer international adoption practices. "Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis," an accompanying article posted in Foreign Policy Online, reported on the State Department’s difficulties in ending the 2007-2008 adoption fraud crisis in Vietnam, based on hundreds of pages internal of documents received under Freedom of Information Act requests. In "The Makeni Children," Slate, August 9, 2011, Graff told the story of how Americans adopted 29 children from civil war-torn Sierra Leone—only to learn later that the children’s birth families spent more than a decade insisting that their children had been stolen, and agitating for information about their whereabouts. That series was the first anywhere to include perspectives from every point in the chain of a fraudulent adoption: birth family, adoptive family, adopted child; American adoption agency, African adoption facilitators, and Sierra Leone’s government officials.

To enable interested readers and policymakers to examine and weigh the evidence for themselves, Graff and the Schuster Institute organized and posted online scores of pages of background documents that included news reports, academic research, and government and NGO materials. Both the State Department and UNICEF have said they use this material to train staff in these issues. Congressional aides say that, prompted by Graff’s work, Rep. Albio Spires (D-NJ) drafted the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act which was passed and signed into law in 2012. 

Sexual harassment of teenage workers

In the 21st century’s first decade, regional attorneys at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) started seeing a sharp increase in the number and severity of sexual harassment complaints from teenage workers on their after-school, weekend, and summer jobs. Graff’s groundbreaking investigation into this unreported problem was published as "Is Your Daughter Safe at Work?" Good Housekeeping, June 2008, and revealed that, if academic estimates are correct, more than 200,000 teenagers a year are being sexually assaulted by coworkers, supervisors, and managers. That investigation led to a collaboration with journalist Maria Hinojosa at NOW on PBS. NOW’s broadcast, "Is Your Daughter Safe at Work?" which aired on February 20, 2009, was based on Graff’s in-depth reporting and featured an interview with her as an expert source. Graff and the Schuster Institute created a microsite full of what parents, journalists, employers, and policymakers need to know about sexual harassment of teenage workers. 

Reporting and analysis on injustices toward lesbians and gay men

Graff has been writing about what are now called LGBT issues since 1980, first in small-circulation gay and lesbian newspapers, and later on the Scripps-Howard newswires and in mainstream and thought-leader publications. In 1993, she was the first to write as an open lesbian in The New York Times Magazine’s late “Hers” column, and was a pioneer in writing for mainstream publications about injustices facing lesbians and gay men, and for the next decade, was writing about same-sex marriage, parenting, and custody issues, antigay campaigns, and state and federal court cases about gay and lesbian life for such publications as The Nation, The Boston Globe, and Out magazine. In 2005 in The New York Times Magazine, Graff was the first national reporter to write about the bifurcated tax filing status that faced Massachusetts same-sex couples who were married under state law, but single to the United States government. She has written widely about the current status of same-sex partnership recognition laws around the globe, from Amsterdam to Israel to India, leading to invitations as a keynote speaker at international human rights conferences in Turin, Italy and in Toronto, Canada.

In 2004, Graff covered the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court oral arguments, after having reported extensively on the unjust ways in which American sodomy laws were used. For instance, men and women who acknowledged being gay or lesbian were denied employment or child custody on the grounds that they were admitted felons—i.e., that they violated state sodomy laws. Ten years later, on assignment for The Advocate and The American Prospect, she covered the Supreme Court oral arguments in the Proposition 8 and DOMA cases—and on the court’s historic decision to strike down DOMA (the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage for federal purposes as between one man and one woman). In a March 2013 issue of The Advocate, she published the most thorough investigation ever conducted of allegations of campaign finance improprieties by the National Organization for Marriage, the chief opponent of marriage equality. 

Looking beyond XX and XY

Early in the 2000s, in a series of articles, Graff researched, reported on, and analyzed the creation and rise of the new social identity called “transgender.” Outlining this new movement’s history and legal and moral claims, she reported on such cases as a teenage girl incarcerated for three years in a mental hospital (where she was twice raped) because she refused to wear a dress; a man fired from his truck driving job when his employer learned that, off the job, he sometimes wore feminine clothes; and cross-dressers wounded in car accidents or beatings who were laughed at and left to die when paramedics discover their “real” sex. Funded with a research award from The Nation Institute Investigative Fund, Graff’s reporting into research on how nature, nurture, and culture intersect to create a variety of gender identities was widely reprinted and anthologized.

Graff returned to this subject a decade later, when the transgender movement had come much further, reporting on such issues as the basic struggle to find a bathroom and the “masculinity patrol” that worked to enforce childhood gender conformity among boys. In her groundbreaking September 2013 Newsweek cover story, "What’s Next for the Gay Rights Movement?" she outlined how the new gender movement could and should open room for transgender and “genderqueer” people—but must go beyond that to help everyone. Such a movement would “reevaluate how strictly our nation organizes every activity by sex and gender, from having separate school activities for girls and boys, to putting M or F on our driver’s licenses and other ID cards when pictures reveal identity just fine, thank you.” Such a movement would help free boys otherwise squeezed into a vise of toxic masculinity, and would remove remaining strictures on girls’ destinies. As she wrote, “At its heart, the gender border patrol is an attempt to keep us more fully divided by sex than is truly natural. Social conservative crusader Phyllis Schlafly, it turns out, was right when in the 1970s she warned that if the Equal Rights Amendment was ratified, we’d have homosexual marriage, women in combat, and unisex bathrooms….Here’s what Schlafly got wrong: those weren’t things to warn against, but to embrace.” 

Media appearances and public speaking

Graff is widely interviewed on radio and television, and invited as a public speaker on gender and sexuality issues that include international adoption, sexual harassment, the dearth of women’s bylines in the mainstream media, gender and social justice, the history of marriage, and LGBT rights. Graff has spoken at conferences, law seminars, government presentations, churches, synagogues, and colleges, including the Nieman Foundation, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s annual convention, the Demos Institute, Stanford University, University of California at Davis, Reed College, Quinnipiac Law School, New England School of Law, George Mason University, Ohio University, the Radcliffe Institute, and The New School. 

Graff has been interviewed or has offered commentary on such programs as ABC's "Good Morning America,", New England Cable TV’s "Nightly News," WBGH’s "Greater Boston," BBC’s "The World," MTV’s documentary series, PBS’s "In the Life," Amy Goodman’s "Democracy Now," Pacifica radio, CBC radio, and on numerous NPR programs, including "The Connection," "Talk of the Nation," "On the Media," and the "Diane Rehm Show."  

Fellowships and research awards

Graff’s research and analysis have been furthered by prestigious fellowships and research awards. During the 2000-2001 academic year, she was a Liberal Arts Fellow in Law and Journalism at Harvard Law School, where she examined the intersection of law and social values. In 2001, she received The Nation Institute Investigative Fund Research Award to investigate injustices based on gender identity and presentation. From 1997 to 1999, she was a Visiting Scholar at the Radcliffe Schlesinger Library, where she wrote her first book. From 2001 to 2016, she was a Resident Scholar at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center.  

Other affiliations

Graff was a cofounder of and senior advisor to the WAM! (Women, Action, & Media) conference held annually in Cambridge, Mass., for six years. WAM! now exists as a loosely-organized community dedicated to improving the quality of the American news media by ensuring that a diversity of women’s voices are adequately represented in today’s public policy discussions. 

Graff has been a board member of JAWS (Journalism & Women Symposium) which works to advance women in journalism, and remains an active member.

Selected articles

"Trump's Victory Inspired Thousands of Women to Get Involved in Politics," Mother Jones, July/August 2017. 
What we talk about when we talk about terrorism,” Vice, December 10, 2015

"What’s Next for the Gay Rights Movement?" Newsweek, September 27, 2013

"A Queer History," The American Prospect, June 28, 2013

"Dirty Money: the National Organization for Marriage’s campaign finances," The Advocate, March 25, 2013

"Purity Culture is Rape Culture," The American Prospect, January 4, 2013

"The News On Abuse," Newsweek, June 25, 2012  

"Elizabeth Warren: Yes She Can?" The Nation, April 3, 2012

"The Makeni Children," Slate, August 9, 2011

"Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis,", September 10, 2010

“The Baby Business,” Democracy Journal, Summer 2010

"Roman Polanski's rape," Oct. 17, 2009, The Boston Globe

"The Adoption Underworld'," January 11, 2009, The Washington Post

"The Lie We Love," Foreign Policy, Nov./Dec. 2008

Is Your Daughter Safe at Work,” Good Housekeeping, June 2008

"The Mommy War Machine," The Washington Post Outlook, April 29, 2007

"The Opt-Out Myth," Columbia Journalism Review, March/April 2007

"Striking back," The Boston Globe, September 3, 2006

"Till Hardships Do All of Us Part," The Boston Globe, July 25, 2006

"Fighting for Fair Treatment," The American Prospect Online, April 27, 2006

"The Skinny Pink Paycheck Syndrome," E.J. Graff and Evelyn Murphy, Los Angeles Times, February 12, 2006

"Too Pretty a Picture,” The Washington Post Outlook, November 13, 2005

“The Line on Sex,” Columbia Journalism Review, September/October 2005

"The Wage Gap: Why Women Are Still Paid Less Than Men," The Boston Globe, October 9, 2005

"The Working Mommy Trap,”, October 5, 2005

"Review: Bait and Switch by Barbara Ehrenreich," The Boston Globe, September 18, 2005

"Marrying Outside the Box,” The New York Times Magazine, April 10, 2005

“A Few Good Men?” The American Prospect, May 2003


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