Her Campus Haverford describes itself as “an online magazine for the college women of Haverford” (taken from Weekly Consensus 3/29). Many of the articles in this newly-formed e-zine are great, spotlighting the artistic and volunteer activities of Haverford students (i.e. an article about the Women’s Lacrosse team’s work on the Pulsera Project.) These articles remind me of a student version of the Haverford alumni mag. However, some of the features are a bit more disconcerting, leading a follower of this blog to ask my opinion, and suggest somebody post something about it. The first article she pointed me to was titled “A Guy’s Guide to Choosing Your Saturday Night Outfit” written by “Mr. Straight Shooter.” This article claims to be a “guy’s perspective on what is hot and definitely not.” The implication here, whether intended or not, is that he speaks on behalf of all Haverford men. Aside from purporting to represent how an entire gender feels about the opposite sex (need I even point out the heternormativity in this?), this article reeks of female objectification. The entire basis of the article—telling women what guys want them to wear so they can oblige— acts as if the sole function of women wearing clothing at all is for the satisfaction of men. This anonymous writer also clearly purports a specific idealized body type as the only kind that can be attractive. Some gems include:
“If you have attractive legs you should be showing [sic] because guys will go weak for a nice pair of legs.” (original emphasis)
“Watch out though, because tucking [a blouse] in can set you up for failure if you don’t have the right body.” (my emphasis)
“If the outfit is not accentuating the right parts it’s an issue.”
“If you’re going to wear pants out, you must wear heels.” (original emphasis– yep, didn’t even have to point out the sexism here—he did it for me)
“Showing cleavage can turn into slutty pretty quickly…” (italicized original, bolded by me)
“Generally, the shorter [the dress] the better but if it gets to the point where you can see a little much then that’s a problem.”
“It’s definitely a sexy thing to show some bra because it’s a little tease and gets you looking. It’s pretty fragile because it can turn slutty if you’re showing too much.” (my emphasis)
My goodness, where do I even start? How about with the impossibility of women to meet the demands of the sexualized male gaze? Wear a short skirt to look attractive, but not to short or you’re a slut. Show a little bra to be sexy, but not too much or you’re a slut. And if you’re going to wear pants (you lesbian feminist you) you damn well better wear heels.
This article also advances the idea that there is a “right” body. Women are beautiful in all shapes and sizes, and none is any more beautiful than the other. The typical “ideal” body type of many models, celebrities, and famous female figures (i.e. tall, thin, “perfect” breasts) represents less than 5% of women (see Killing Us Softly on YouTube). If having the “wrong” body to tuck in your shirt is “failure,” none of ever had much of a chance at success anyways.
Mr. Straight Shooter, what do you think about before going out on the weekends? Do you have an internal dialogue, staring endlessly at your closet, making sure your outfit says DTF but not “man-whore,” that it is masculine enough, that it’s not too “plain”? Do you worry that you don’t fill it in the right way, and that it might be accentuating the wrong parts? Based on my freshmen boys and every boyfriend I’ve ever had, I doubt it. Most of them complain when I tell them to wear pants with buttons.
As I was writing this blog post and discussing it with one of my freshmen, she pointed me to another article by Mr. Straight Shooter titled “How to Balance Sexy With Sporty.” This article is a bitter reminder of why we need Title IX—because for women, sexy and sporty are conflicting attributes. Some gems from this article:
“But, if it is to the point that she is more knowledgeable and into sports than you are then it is off-putting because she loses her “feminine qualities” and it feels like you are talking to another bro.” (original emphasis)
Don’t eat food “that can drip that isn’t [sic] good because girls can’t eat it cleanly or attractively…. Be aware of stuff that can drip on your outfit.”
So now women can’t love sports and be feminine, and we have to be feminine to be attractive to you. We must also be attractive at all times, so no sloppy food for you, unless you can eat it like Kim Kardashian in a Burger King commercial. And don’t spill on you outfit, you need it to cover up that less than ideal body.
The other article called to my attention by this other reader was “Spotted: Jammin’ ‘Jocks’ and Flirting Folks” submitted by “Anonymous.” In describing the concert in Lunt last Saturday (3/24), the author describes:
“a certain athlete smooth talking some fine ladies and zeeking a partner to hold his racquet. Although they may have squashed his advances at first, these groupies were obviously powerless to his tousled hair and may have even ended the night in his court.” (my emphasis)
A number of issues here. Calling women groupies, a term which implies their cheap, disposable use for sex, is incredibly offensive. Second, the author nonchalantly reports a man continuously pursuing women who have made it clear they are uninterested, as if it is not a big deal. This is sexual harassment. When someone makes sexual advances towards you and you “squash them,” but they refuse to take the hint and leave you alone, that is harassment, no matter how tousled the person’s hair is. Further, describing these women as “powerless” takes away their agency. Rather than describing this situation in a gossip column, why didn’t the author step in? If a few of my friends were being harassed by some guy who was “seeking a partner to hold his racquet,” and he had continued harassing them until they gave in and felt powerless, I would damn sure do something about it. And if this bit is made up, it’s just as bad. Not only does it make light of sexual harassment, but it also implicates some poor dude in the process. Their references are far from subtle, which is a whole other issue (respect & privacy) in and of itself. On to the next highlight:
“Coincidentally, as their party was getting started a gaggle of lax ladies were seen heading across the apartment road. I wonder if this night ended in a little laxtitute incest…but what happens in 19 stays in 19.”
Women’s Lacrosse Team any women laxtitutes is incredibly offensive, sexist, and reeks of slut-shaming. Amazing how they went from philanthropists to whores in 0.5 seconds. Further, it is really none of the author’s or anyone else’s damn business who has sex with whom, and it is a violation of community trust to blog about it publically in a way that promotes slut-shaming and stereotyping against athletes. This article is completely objectifying to women, and offensive to the Women’s Lacrosse team in particular.
Admin edit: Recent commenters have clarified that “laxtitute” does not refer to the Women’s Lacrosse team, but rather to a separate group of women. The paragraph above was edited to reflect that.
In light of the above articles, the messages I see coming from this magazine are in no way beneficial to the women of Haverford, or the greater Haverford community. These articles are soaked in themes of idealized/unrealistic beauty standards, female objectification, stereotyped gender roles, slut shaming, and complicity towards (to the point of endorsing) sexual harassment. This magazine is not for, but against the women of Haverford. Haverford men also have a right to be offended, as the articles depict them as a homogenous, sexist pack of pigs (wonderful Haverford men, I am offended on your behalf). As one of the commenter’s on the “Spotted: Jammin’ “Jocks” and Flirting Folks” article noted, we must think about the vision of Haverford that this sends to prospective students, parents, alumni, and the general public. The messages represented in this magazine represent a stark violation of our community standards of trust, concern, and respect.
Her Campus Haverford has a great opportunity to do something’s meaningful for our community, and the existing articles on student artistry, philanthropy, and style demonstrate its capacity to do so. I encourage the editors to reflect on the messages they are sending through the articles they post. You have been given a platform from which to speak, and I strongly encourage you to consider more thoughtfully how you will use it. To the members of the Haverford Community who may read (and agree) with me, please comment on these and other Her Campus articles. As you have done with the Consent is Sexy campaign, share your frustrations, reservations, suggestions, and support. Incorporating outside perspectives can prove an invaluable means of improving an organization. Together, perhaps we can help Her Campus overcome its present state to become a positive social resource for the women and men of Haverford.