Gender Studies students write research papers instead of taking final exams

Marcella Park

Instead of taking a final exam, the two students who took Gender Studies this year each wrote research papers, one of the effect of media on men and women, and one on a female artist.

Liza Wohlberg ’13 wrote on Artemisia Gentileschi, a baroque artist and in Wohlberg’s own words, “one of the first very successful female painters.”

“I’m looking at her portrayal of women in her paintings and also how she is similar and different to other women of her time, and also how she was a career woman and a mother,” Wohlberg said. “She was raped by her art teacher, actually, and her art changed a lot after she was raped, it became much more violent, so it’s interesting; I’m looking at how she could express herself after that, and also how people’s reception of her art was, seeing as she was publicly humiliated by the rape trial because at that time, convicting someone of rape was just really embarrassing for the woman because it showed that she’s lost her dignity.”

Wohlberg first learned about Gentileschi in art history class, becoming interested in her because she was one of the few female artists her teacher spent much time on. After reading a little bit about her, Wohlberg said she stopped researching Gentileschi for a while, at least until Gender Studies teacher Malina Mamigonian mentioned writing a paper to end the year. Once she had decided to write on Gentileschi, she was able to find a lot of information in the school library, Wohlberg said.

Marielle Bagnard ’14 wrote on the effect of media, positive and negative, on both men and women, focusing on magazines, television and movies. She was inspired to choose this topic when she watched “Miss Representation,” a documentary on how the media presents women, in class.

Bagnard said Mamigonian wanted them to choose topics that interested them and to research them individually. She gave them some help, suggesting some paintings for Wohlberg to compare against Gentileschi’s versions and some magazines for Bagnard to look at.

The project was like a normal research paper, with guidelines, a rubric and deadlines before the whole paper was due. Mamigonian said the project required historical research, comparative analysis and personal response relevant to each student’s topic.

Though the two students’ paper topics are different, they say they are always “bouncing ideas off each other” in class.

“I actually really like it because Liza and I get to share our own opinons and we get to discuss things and it gives us an opportunity to argue against each other and even argue against Dr. Mamigonian,” Bagnard said. “We do that a lot too just because all three of us are so different…we all get along really well and it’s actually a great environment. You’d think it’d be awkward if one of us was absent, but it works out.”

“It’s just like a conversation in class,” Wohlberg said.

Gender Studies will not be a class next year because the enrollment was too low – two students signed up for it, the same number as were in this year’s class. Both Bagnard and Wohlberg want the course to continue on.

“Even if there are only two people [who signed up], I think it’s really important; I mean, influence can come in big numbers or it can come in small numbers and I think it’s really important that people have the opportunity to take this class if they want,” Bagnard said.

Wohlberg won this year’s Yellin Family Award for Women’s Studies at the all-school awards assembly.