Molly Shank '14

Author: Andrea Martinez Dominguez

Graduation year: 2014

Majors/Minors: English and Gender Studies majors


Towards the end of the fall of my sophomore year a friend recommended Gender Studies to me saying, “I think you would like it.” Never has a simple sentence been so accurate or a recommendation so changed my life. Needless to say, when I did take Introduction to Gender Studies soon after, I fell in love with the subject and almost immediately picked up the major. Besides the allure and importance of studying gender at a place like Notre Dame where the gender relations are so unique and, at times, troubling, what really drew me into GS was the interdisciplinary nature of the major and supportive faculty.

With my other major, English, I felt like the classes I was taking were too stringent, too narrowly focused on one aspect of a text with no mention of other points of view. With my background in GS, I was able to enrich my own readings for my English classes and found myself better able to consider the intersectionality of human experience present in the texts. Additionally, because Gender Studies as a major is so interdisciplinary there were many English classes that were cross-listed with GS, allowing me to fuse my two majors together directly in the classroom. In fact some of my favorite English classes, and classes in general, I was only able to take because of my Gender Studies major such as Jane’s Heirs, Caribbean Women Writers, and Gender and Popular Culture.

Two of those classes, Jane’s Heirs and Caribbean Women Writers, actually inspired my interest in what is now the topic of my senior thesis: sadomasochism and the expression of female agency in Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother. This past summer I applied for and was awarded the Genevieve D. Willis Research Grant through the Gender Studies Program, which allowed me to spend the entire summer researching and working on my thesis, something I could never have afforded to do otherwise.

The best advice I could give anyone considering Gender Studies? Take Introduction to Gender Studies; I think you would like it.