Union faculty speak out against female stereotypes

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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

 

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