Women and Gender Studies Concentration

Combining research, teaching, and activism focusing on the intersections among gender, sexuality, race and class.

Molly Hoke, 2018

Molly Hoke

Meet one of our graduate students, Molly Hoke who is pursuing the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies.

How did you decide on the MAIS with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies program?  

I took my first women’s studies course the last semester of my senior year at Mason. I took Women’s Studies 100, Representations of Women with my best friend as a sort of “filler class.” We believed our outstanding intellectual progressive feminism would indefinitely outshine the other students in a 100 level course. And we needed the extra “easy” credits. What I initially believed was going to be an “easy filler class” spitting out basic feminist ideas, turned out to be an introduction to the ever-changing and complex nature of gender, sexuality, and other forms of identity that exist within a systemically oppressive and patriarchal society that I had never truly considered before. For the first time, I could use specific terms to put a name to the types of ingrained discrimination and inequality I had witnessed and experienced my whole life. The blinds were off, and I wanted to learn more.  It was a bit of a bummer to realize these intricacies of feminism on my way out of the academic door, but it also was an opportunity I passionately wanted to capitalize on. I applied to the Women and Gender Studies program before I graduated and met with the brilliant and energetic Dr. Angela Hattery, who enlightened me on the additional opportunities to study outside of the program as a part of the advantages of the Interdisciplinary Studies degree. I could mix courses from communication, media, social justice, and whatever else I wanted to study through a women and gender studies lens. I was sold.   

What have you learned that has really surprised you?  

One of my first graduate level women’s studies courses was Gender and Racial Ideologies of Early Jim Crow America. It was exactly as mind-blowing and unfortunately depressing as the title suggests. In that course, taught by the genius Dr. Yevette Richards Jordan, I learned about the truly systemic nature of racism in America post-Reconstruction era and the role, to my privileged surprise, white women played in the disenfranchisement of black men to amplify their own marginalized voices. It was a bit of another wake up call for me.       

Tell us about your dream job. 

After my time in the Women and Gender Studies program, and my undergraduate studies of journalism, media, and film, it would be a dream to be able to do journalistic and/or media consultation and content creation for a social justice non-profit. Especially for an organization like Planned Parenthood or the National Abortion Federation since my research focuses on women’s reproductive justice. It’s also a dream of mine to do freelance film reviews from a feminist perspective.     

How have courses in Women and Gender Studies helped further your plans? 

Really due to the discovery of the Women and Gender Studies program, and the amazing and supportive professors here at Mason within the MAIS concentrations have I wanted to build a professional future around the passions I’ve cultivated in these courses. In every course, I’ve learned something new, exciting, upsetting, unacceptable, and fascinating. Also, every course has inspired me to want to include the knowledge of these issues in further plans of activism through personal and professional means.     

Please share any internships, jobs, or volunteer experiences that you have taken part in? 

I have volunteered my time to the Walk to End HIV and the Women’s March both held in D.C. Unfortunately, past donating I haven’t had the time I wish to volunteer at shelters and other local programs which I hope to become more involved in after graduation.  

My internships have included research work and veteran’s affairs assistance for Senator Joe Manchin’s office on Capitol Hill, as well as donor outreach and speech writing for the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Headquarters in D.C.  

One of my current jobs is here at George Mason for the Forensics Team, where I teach undergraduate students how to research, write, and deliver original speeches that focus on social justice issues, as well as dramatic pieces to perform across the country for competition.        

Please share any accomplishments or opportunities that you are proud of. 

I came to Mason as an undergraduate all the way from southern fresh-biscuit-baking West Virginia because I was recruited to be on the competitive public speaking team know as the Forensics Team at George Mason University. This inclusive community of young people with the heart and talent to speak out on issues that truly affected them, and were immensely passionate about, was my first real introduction to the world of advocacy. I had the opportunity to write many original speeches over the years and put together many dramatic performances which focused on social issues that gave a voice to the voiceless. I garnered numerous achievements throughout my four undergraduate years on the team as a competitor, but my senior year at the final national tournament run by the American Forensics Association, I was named one of the members of the 2016 All-American team. This accolade was the one that meant the most, as it felt like a representation of all the issues I had brought attention to have some sort of impact on people. It was a good feeling knowing people, even a small group of people, were listening.  

Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you. 

I played The Cat in the Hat in my last high school production of Seussical the Musical. I think that’s when I might have peaked.  

Tell us about your current research project/thesis.  

Cross my fingers, but I hope to graduate in May 2018 with my research project focusing on abortion rights in media. More specifically, my research is on navigating abortion rhetoric in political satire and how to find one’s own voice of advocacy and reclamation through narrative comedy. Previous research shows Americans are turning to political satire for accurate information on political issues, therefore I wanted to find out if these shows (like Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, John Oliver, etc.) accurately discuss reproductive issues and abortion rights, and how they’re using comedy as a platform for openness and persuasion. Then based on this content analysis, I wanted to illustrate how using comedy, which I plan to demonstrate through a prepared stand-up performance, can be a useful platform to find one’s own voice on taboo issues and how one can use comedic rhetorical tools to facilitate difficult discourse.         

What are you looking forward to after you graduate? 

I love the academic world, at least I love the wonderfully supportive environment supplied by the Women and Gender Studies family, but after going straight from undergraduate degree into my master’s studies, I’m excited to begin putting everything I’ve learned into practice. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity of pursuing my dream job. And if any kind-hearted and well-networked soul would love to assist me in that pursuit, I would never say no. (Know anyone with a job offer in the social justice sphere?)  

You can reach out to Molly by email: mollyhoke@yahoo.com.

***Applications for Fall 2018 for Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies are due June 1, 2018.

To learn more about the program click here.

You can also email our Graduate Director, Rachel Lewis at rlewis13@gmu.edu .