Brace Center Names 2009-2010 Fellows; Topics Include Spitzer, Gay Men and Women in Media

This summer, five Brace Center Fellows will research topics ranging from politician’s wives in society to Muslim women in politics. A committee from the Brace Center for Gender Studies recently selected five students to conduct research on gender studies. The scholars will then present their projects to the Andover community next fall. Ellen Blindauer ’10, who will research “The Roles and Public Expectations of the Wives of Important Political Figures,” formed the idea for her project after she read an article in the March issue of Vogue magazine. The article featured an interview with Silda Wall Spitzer, wife of Eliot Spitzer, former Governor of New York, who resigned when the public discovered that he was a client of a prostitution ring. “[Silda Wall] Spitzer was a woman that had to go through so much, but she still stood by her husband’s side,” said Blindauer. Blindauer will conduct extensive research on the response of wives of politicians, besides Spitzer, who have committed adultery. “My general goal for this project is to find out what it says about us as a society when we pay attention to figures that don’t necessarily influence us [such as the wives of political figures],” she said. Blindauer will also examine the wives of two American presidents—Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. “Everyone’s talking about [Michelle Obama’s] fashion choices and she’s landing magazine covers, but if you think about it, she doesn’t actually affect us [directly],” said Blindauer. Blindauer will conduct her research primarily by investigating archives of the New York Times and various magazines. She plans to look through issues mainly dating from the 1990s to the present. Meredith Rahman ’10 will study Muslim women in politics in her project “Muslim Women as Leaders in the Modern World: A Reality or a Paradox?” “I want to study how [Muslim] women function in a political world, and how their religion reflects in this political world,” said Rahman. Rahman, who is a Muslim and serves as co-head for Muslim Student Union, first received the inspiration for her topic when she traveled to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the hajj, a sacred Islamic pilgrimage. “I was talking to one of my teachers about my topic, and he said [jokingly] that it was going to be a really short paper [because not a lot of Muslim women are involved in politics],” said Rahman. In preparation for the summer’s research, Rahman has scheduled a number of interviews in the greater Boston area with “people who have studied Islam extensively.” Rahman also hopes to speak to Imam Talal Eid, the spiritual director of the Islamic Center of New England, who was also appointed to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, among other experts. She will also attend her mosque regularly and read books on the topic as part of her research. Taylor Clarke ’10 will investigate the depictions of gay men and women in the media, particularly films, in her project “QueerSighted: Portrayals of Gays and Lesbians in the Media”. Clarke cited instances such as the stereotypical gay man who is the perfect shopping companion, or Remy Hadley of the television series “House.” Clark formed her Brace proposal after she attended meetings of Women’s Forum and watched films and television shows with gay characters. “[This topic] means a lot to me as I’ve come out to my family and friends,” said Clarke. Clarke also said that gays and lesbians tend to be more feminized in television shows than movies. “Because the character is recurring, you can develop the character more,” she said. Clarke hopes to discover which types of media feature this phenomenon most. “It’s going to a pretty fun project. I’m basically watching television and movies,” said Clarke. Juliet Liu ’10, Executive News Editor of The Phillipian, will examine immigrant Chinese women working in New York City with her project, “Chinatown’s Working Women: The Effects of the Immigrant Labor Force on Chinese Women’s Choices and Gender Roles.” “When I considered my mother’s immigration experience, I began to question the female immigrant experience. I did a bit of research and learned that many Chinese immigrant women in Chinatown work under low-wage, labor-intensive conditions,” said Liu. “I basically want to see how this maybe challenges or reinforces traditional Chinese gender roles,” she continued. Liu’s hopes to interview Chinese working women in New York City to supplement her research. “I’m hoping to learn more about a group of women that are often overlooked and understudied,” said Liu. Mari Miyachi ’10 will study the historic problems of the modern Japanese company man in her project, “Hired for Life: Translating the Historic Problems of the Modern Japanese ‘Company Man.’” “I’ve been thinking about becoming a Brace Center Fellow for awhile now, and I’ve just been paying attention to current events,” said Miyachi. Miyachi said that her research will focus on the origin of the Japanese company man, the accompanying gender stereotypes and urban development in Japan since the World War II. “At the Brace Center among other places, I feel like people tend to focus on women and women’s rights, but it’s really important to recognize male gender roles,” said Miyachi. “Especially with the global economic crisis, we have to look at business practices carefully. It’s very relevant to this time period,” she continued.