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“It’s Okay…” Campaign: Now what?

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290 Interdisc. Gen/Sex

Professors Dalke & Lindgren
18 December 2009
 “It’s Okay…” Campaign: Now what?
            By going through with my feminist poster campaign I have made it clear to members of the Haverford community that I am indeed a feminist. The other day I had the pleasure of meeting with Donna Mancini, Haverford’s Dean of International Affairs, to discuss Haverford’s history with matters of gender inequality. I recall telling her about the anxiety I initially felt prior to conducting this survey. To be honest I was worried that I would be ostracized as a “man-hating feminist” on campus. One should note that I have no problem being called a “feminist,” in fact I am very proud of this title. However, I do fear that my peers will respond with resentment or retaliation to my decision to raise awareness about sexism on campus. In the end I decided to go through with my initial project proposal and luckily for me as of today I have received very little criticism from my peers. 
            Last week some of my classmates and I posted at least fifty of my neon pink posters around Haverford’s campus. These pretty little posters each included a controversial statement that brought attention to existing stereotypes/attitudes that Haverford students have about BiCo women. I also included an attention-grabbing prompt and a “reaction space” to encourage readers to respond to my statements. I then proceeded to wait for five days before I went around campus searching for any posters that had responses. Much to my surprise I collected a number of posters that contained responses from various people. These responses can be viewed in the document titled: “‘It’s Okay…’ Campaign: Findings.” Many of the responses I read contained questions or statements that either promoted or completely disregarded the stereotypes/attitudes I presented in my initial statements. It was very interesting to see that in some cases a dialogue developed between the individuals responding to my flyer. One particular flyer that questioned the appropriateness of ass smacking at a partywas quite memorable. At least five different people responded to the following prompt with very loaded comments, “Why do YOU think so many people tolerate this kind of behavior?”   As I had expected these responses expressed a range of perspectives that either agreed or disagreed with the appropriateness of ass smacking. All things considered, these posters proved to not only be successful in raising awareness about sexism as an existing problem in the BiCo but in starting a discussion about these issues on campus.           
            An online discussion about my posters started soon after I had posted my pink flyers around campus.   As I hoped students were having a very civil discussion about the controversial statements that I had included in my posters. This conversation took place on the
“GO! Boards,” an online forum that is limited to current Haverford students, faculty members, and administrators. From where I stand these students were trying to get to the truth of the matter by negating or validating the sexist beliefs that I had proposed. Either way one thing is for certain, people have a lot to say about sexism on campus. Moreover, students proved to be more comfortable with expressing their opinions anonymously on a non-Haverford owned online forum that is known for its anonymity. The posts displayed on this site were both shocking because of their offensive nature and inspiring. As the creator of this campaign I was thrilled to know that there are others like me who don’t support the sexist behavior that they witness on Haverford’s campus. Despite this good news a major problem still remains. Why are students so silent about the gender inequality that they observe in the Haverford and Bryn Mawr communities? Are my peers as fearful as I am when it comes to confronting our fellow students about their sexist attitudes? Why has sexism all of a sudden become a taboo topic that we shouldn’t respond to? These are all questions that I have been asking myself every since I started receiving feedback from my “It’s okay…” poster campaign.
            What I find to be particularly shocking is that individuals of older generations are completely oblivious to the sexist attitudes of my generation.   I was very fortunate enough to have a very fruitful discussion with Dean Donna Mancini. During the first half of our conversation Dean Mancini educated me on Haverford’s policies for admitting women into what had formerly been a single sex undergraduate institution in the late 70’s and 80’s. As the Dean of the first seventeen women to ever have been admitted to the College back in 1977, Dean Mancini demonstrated a breadth of knowledge for Haverford’s past. I was very impressed to learn of the great lengths that the Haverford administration went to in order to accommodate these female students. Hiring female professors and directors is just one of the many steps that Haverford took to create a welcoming environment for women.   Seeing that Haverford went to great efforts to ensure that women were respected on campus I am disappointed to see Haverford’s efforts go down the drain. While my fellow female students are for the most part respected by their male peers in everyday social and academic settings they are not respected during the social gatherings that take place on the weekends. After reflecting on the sexist attitudes of many of my peers I have come to the conclusion that my generation is ignorant to what sexism truly is. While we are educated on sexual harassment and sexual assault, sexism in general is overlooked. Throughout this project I referred to various texts, primarily those of a sociological nature that appealed to the notion of sexist attitudes. Unfortunately, I discovered that besides the fact that most of these sources were dated they also lacked any sort of mention to the sexist attitudes of college age students. With that said I have been inspired to continue researching this very interesting problem.   I hope to use the issues presented in this project as a foundation for my senior thesis. It is clear at this point that a great deal must be done in order to alter these sexist attitudes. Nevertheless, before I suggest any solutions for changing these mindsets I must first continue with the process of researching in order to achieve an accurate understanding of the problem at hand.