By Letter to the Editor
It is currently National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and March 1 marks the beginning of Women’s History Month. Both are intended to raise people’s awareness about important issues regarding women in our society. In this spirit, we offer the following observations about representations of women, not only in the national media, but also on Union’s campus.
The media bombards females of all ages with advice about their appearance and their sexuality.
Not only are girls and women told that they must be prettier, thinner and sexier, but also that these are their most important qualities.
The underlying message is that females must aspire to these ideals in order to attract a male. In addition, this implicitly denies any sexual identity other than that of heterosexuality.
Scholars have demonstrated that these messages are harmful to girls, dangerous to adolescents and detrimental to women of all ages.
They have also found that these messages have not improved women’s status in the U.S., despite the sense of empowerment that individual women might feel if they base their self-worth primarily on their physical appearance.
Moreover, these messages also help shape men’s expectations of and interactions with women.
Here are some questions that ask how these messages play out on Union’s campus:
Is there a problem with body image among Union’s female students?
Of the 400 students that the counseling center sees each year approximately 7 percent qualify for the diagnosis of having an eating disorder and 31 percent of all students who have sought counseling indicate that they engage in at least one behavior related to an eating disorder, including binging, purging, restricting what they eat, over-exercise, and/or feeling fat.
Studies have found that 90 percent of those with eating disorders are women, and that both women and men who seek the attention of males are more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies than women and men who want to attract women.
Can playing hard to get be confused with “no” when it comes to sexual consent? Faculty, staff, students, and professionals at the counseling center know students, primarily females, who have learned firsthand that male and female students are sometimes fuzzy as to whether consent was given during a sexual interaction. Nationally, one in four college students is sexually assaulted, and based on statistics from Union’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Survey and anecdotal evidence, we have no reason to presume that Union’s rate is far off of the national figures.
How welcoming is Union’s campus community to a female who isn’t out to attract a male or would rather attract a female, or, for that matter, a male who doesn’t want to be the target of a female’s attention or would rather that another male indicate his attraction?
To assume that everyone identifies as heterosexual fails to recognize the sexual identities of some of Union’s students, as well as those of the college’s faculty and staff.
We believe that Union’s female students are more than “girls” who are mostly concerned with their appearance or ability to attract “guys”; we believe that Union’s female students are women who are intelligent, articulate, talented, compassionate and valued for more than their femininity. Do you?
This letter was submitted by 53 members of the Union faculty and staff. The following is a complete list of contributors:
Andrea Foroughi, Women’s & Gender Studies Program Director
Michele Penner Angrist, Political Science Department
Kenneth Aslakson, History Department
Valerie Barr, Interdisciplinary Studies Director
Charles Batson, Modern Languages Department
Suzie Benack, Psychology Department
Jason Benitez, Director of Multicultural Affairs
Claire Bracken, English Department
Denis Brennan, History Department
Deidre Hill Butler, Africana Studies Program Director
Michelle Chilcoat, Film Studies Program Co-Director
David Cotter, Sociology Department
Lorraine Cox, American Studies Program Director
Bonnie Cramer, Jewish Chaplain
John Cramsie, History Department
Barbara Danowski, Biology Department
Gail Donaldson, Psychology Department
Kara Doyle, English Department
Patrick Duffy, Residential Life
Andrew Feffer, Film Studies Program Co-Director
Megan Ferry, Modern Languages Department
Benjamin Foster, Minerva Programs
Ellen Foster, Economics Department
Kristin Fox, Chemistry Department
William Garcia, Modern Languages Department
Gail Golderman, Schaffer Library
Janet Grigsby, Sociology Department
Elizabeth Hoppe, Schaffer Library
Alvaro Jarrin, Anthropology Department
Melinda Lawson, History Department
Judith Lewin, English Department
Tom Lobe, Political Science Department
Kathleen LoGiudice, Biology Department
Molly MacElroy, Director of Residential Life
Joyce Madancy, History Department
Lori Marso, Political Science Department
Victoria Martinez, Modern Languages Department
Jennifer Matsue, Asian Studies Program Director
Louisa Matthew, Visual Arts Department
Andrew Morris, History Department
Daniel Mosquera, Latin American & Caribbean Studies Program Director
Jillmarie Murphy, English Department
David Ogawa, Visual Arts Department
Zoe Oxley, Political Science Department
Anastasia Pease, English Department
AJ Place, Residential Life
Linda Relyea, Sociology Department
Michele Ricci Bell, Modern Languages Department
Audrey Sartiaux, Language Center Director
April Selley, English Department
Linda Stanhope, Psychology Department
Guillermina Seri, Political Science Department
Amanda Tommell-Sandy, Health Educator
Junko Ueno, Modern Languages Department
Zhen Zhang, Modern Languages Department
Jared Zeidman, Residential Life