Brace Fellow Aya Hamano ’04 chose to spend her summer somewhat differently from her Phillips Academy peers, engaging in an intensive independent research project into the role and expectations of women in our society. Given the incredibly broad nature of the topic, Hamano narrowed her research by focusing specifically upon the gender specific suggestions and implications of The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Edible Woman, two works by the acclaimed writer Margaret Atwood. Over the summer, Hamano read the two books many times, and analyzed them at length, delving into the nuances of Atwood’s language and exploring the intricate roles of women in the works. Although Hamano discussed a variety gender related topics in her presentation, she focused specifically upon the influence of mass media on society’s perception of the ideal woman. Hamano spoke on the participation of two Harvard graduates in this year’s Miss America Pageant. Although the women probably realized that the system was corrupt, trying to cheat the system and capitalize on their good looks this was was not effective in the long run. In reality, the women were allowing themselves to perpetutate stereotypes and were abused by the very system they were trying to take advantage of. In addition, Hamano took the implications of Atwood’s work and related it back to real life. Because Atwood’s books were written over 20 years ago, one might assume that the issues they discuss would be largely inapplicable today. However, Hamano stressed that we might not have come as far as we think in twenty years in regard to the issues of gender; stating that the points and ideals Atwood brings up in her book are still very much relevant in today’s world. Matters such as male domination, the glass ceiling, and the expectations of the standard housewife, are both discussed in Atwood’s books, as well as pertinent to the day to day issues of our current society. In conclusion, Hamano said that women need not conform to the strict, oppressing demands of societal expectations in order to be successful, urging women today to think outside of the three major female stereotypes: the corporate executive, the housewife, and the sex symbol, and strive for something more unique, more reasonable, and more true to themselves. Hamano said that Atwood’s works interested her on a deeper level and that she was intrigued by the issues they brought up.”
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