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Brace Center for Gender Studies Selects Six Scholars For Next Year

The majority of Phillips Academy students are probably not spending their summers studying village dynamics in Senegal, looking at high abortion rates in Russia, or exploring women’s place in the Korean corporate world. This summer, Brace Center Fellows Eli Howe ’09, Curie Kim ’09, Jennifer Morgan, ’09 Elizabeth Patino ’09 and Zoe Weinberg ’09 will research topics relating to gender studies and present their findings in a 10 to 15 page paper and a presentation open to the all members of the Phillips Academy community. Morgan will question why teenage girls today are afraid to call themselves feminists. After watching a movie at the Brace Center last year entitled “I Was a Teenage Feminist,” Morgan asked several female friends whether they considered themselves to be feminists, and nearly all of them answered that they did not. However, all desired the things that self-identifying feminists strive for, including equal pay and equal rights regardless of gender. Morgan will explore this discrepancy through her research. She plans to examine why teenage girls today are afraid to call themselves feminists and to look at the contrast between the extremely passionate and activist feminists in the 70s and the suffragists of the early 1900s and girls today who shy away from the feminist label. Morgan will attempt to uncover an explanation of their choice, whether it can be traced to a desire to fit in with societal norms, to avoid offending their male peers, because they do not believe in feminism, or some another reason. Howe was inspired to apply for the Brace Center Fellowship when his History 300 teacher encouraged him to apply for the fellowship to continue researching the topic of a paper that he wrote for class. Howe’s teacher is E. Anthony Rotundo, Director of the Brace Center for Gender Studies. Howe wrote an essay on gender prejudice in journalism with a focus on trends of the way in which women were portrayed in the media during the 20th century. Howe plans to study New York Times and Time magazine archives, focusing on Harriet Quimby, the first female pilot and Sally Ride, the first female astronaut, to examine the manner in which different media forms covered their stories and how invention of new types of media changed the way women were portrayed. He also said that he wanted to study gender in a way that does not automatically incriminate males. “It’s a little intimidating to be the only male working on a Brace Center Fellow Project this year,” Howe said. Kim, who lives in South Korea, will look at women’s changing role in Korean corporate culture. She will interview people who work at different companies and compare their work environments, considering whether corporate culture is adapting to women or if women are conforming to corporate culture. This topic feels particularly relevant to her because of the recent increase in the number of women in the workplace and in dominant business roles, which displays a significant departure from past decades. “I never really thought I’d be interested in gender studies before,” Kim said. However, she added that she is now “really excited” to begin her research. Kim first became interested in the role of women when she interned with ABC News and The Washington Post and studied the same issue. There, she also identified a concept she calls “hoishik,” that indicates that work does not end once people leave the office, since they are expected to eat with their coworkers. Women are expected to drink a potent vodka-like drink called “soju.” This custom places women in a vulnerable position, because refusing to drink is considered socially unacceptable, said Kim. However, a recent law forbids a man from forcing a woman to participate in a “love shot” drinking game. Kim said this new legislature demonstrates a growing awareness of the sexist custom. Patino plans to explore the phenomenon of unusually high abortion rates in Vladimir, Russia through personal interviews with women and outside research during her travels to Russia this summer. Personally, Patino said she is unsure if she identifies herself as “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” Her ethnic origin is Colombia, where abortion is illegal and considered murder. However, Patino has heard both sides of the argument in the United States. Patino, who is currently taking Russian-420 at Phillips Academy, considers her research to be a great opportunity to learn about Russian culture. “Throughout my three years at Andover, I’ve heard great things about the Brace Fellow presentations, and so this year I decided I wanted to apply to be one of [the presenters].” Patino said. “I’m psyched.” Weinberg, also Executive Editor of The Phillipian said. Weinberg will spend six weeks of June and July volunteering for Tostan, a health and human rights organization based in Dakar and Thies in Senegal. She plans to research how women’s role in village decision-making impacts a village’s social dynamics and progress.