On Her Campus is Haverford

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.”

Calling the 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.

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18 thoughts on “On Her Campus is Haverford

  1. No sooner did I see this new blog than I despaired of it. Perhaps there *are* valuable articles on it, but I made it no further than the top link (one of the aforementioned horrific and, frankly, quite embarrassing “Mr. Straight Shooter” ones) before I cringed and went anywhere else for Haverford news. How repulsive.

  2. Spotted: people who need to chill out. The way I see it, if you don’t like Her Campus then don’t read it.

  3. Jesus. Relax. Half the stuff is written in the parlance of our time, and to deal with the health consequences of taking such offense to such trivial things is going to require heavy doses of blood pressure medicine when you are older. Have you never heard of flirting or playing hard to get? Have you never thought, hmmmmmm this outfit or style I am choosing to wear makes me look like an actual prostitute, but HEAVEN FORBID IF SOMEONE CALLS IT SLUTTY! Sheesh.

  4. I’m really appalled by the Mr. Straight Shooter articles, and the posts entitled “Spotted.” First of all, as I hope I’ve made clear by signing my posts, I believe in taking ownership of my words. Obviously, as the CIS blog demonstrates, there is great power in anonymity- it CAN be used for good (to share your story, to voice a difficult opinion). However, as Her Campus Haverford has repeatedly demonstrated, it can also be used maliciously (and yes, I would call the far-from-subtle name dropping in conjunction with slut shaming malicious).
    Especially since this blog is associated with Haverford, I think writers should be held accountable for what they produce. Gossip mongering is bad enough on its own, but when it’s associated with our school, it just reinforces the idea that Haverford is complacent in perpetuating heteronormativity and rape culture.

    -Jen

    • Theres a reason for using anonymity, its because your group will crucify or attempt to crucify anyone they see as not conforming 100% to what you have to say. I think that using anonymity allows people the courage to say what they actually feel, without fear of the sh*tstorm that will come of speaking their mind on this campus, and on this subject.

  5. On one hand, these articles are obviously intended in good fun. I seriously doubt that the writers of the blog intend to be malicious to the men and women of Haverford, and my guess is that at least some of the people implicated by “Spotted” are friends with the writers and see it all as in good fun. Additionally, though the “Mr. Straight Shooter” articles have clearly been worded in the wrong way and lean towards misogyny, I don’t think that the average person would view them as such because they are on such a frivolous topic. I gotta say, while I thought the articles were stupid and untrue, I didn’t notice any shocking sexist underpinnings when I read them. I read them as completely consistent with the skewed views of women that men in general have, but didn’t attribute it to the author in particular. Yes, he may be perpetuating the stereotypes of women that (some) Haver-men have, but some women care what guys have to say about their outfits, and this would make it easier to ignore his careless, and probably unintentional, sexism.

    However, while their blog may not be malicious, it is careless and disrespectful. As someone personally called out by a “Spotted” post, I have to say that these posts can be very embarrassing and awkward, especially since they are so public! I didn’t appreciate seeing the article posted on a hookup’s Facebook wall when I’ve been so obviously implicated, even when it’s clear that the authors are only teasing. I can tell that Her Campus has been more wary about explicitly using names, but in such a small school, their hints are too easy to guess. I’m sure its funny for the authors to share these stories within their friend groups, but maybe Facebook and Her Campus are not the best places for them. Have you considered that our families and professors can read these?

  6. Loving the Bill Maher article cited in an earlier comment:
    “When did we get it in our heads that we have the right to never hear anything we don’t like?…If you see or hear something you don’t like in the media, just go on with your life. Turn the page or flip the dial or pick up your roll of quarters and leave the booth….I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone. That’s why we have Canada.”
    Amen to that. Don’t like Her Campus? Don’t read it.

  7. I think that the Bill Mahler article makes a lot of good points, but the thing is that Her Campus is different from when you hear a public figure make an inappropriate comment. Her Campus is directly related to and representative of Haverford to both those within and those outside of the Haverford community. While the Mr. Straight Shooter articles are no more offensive than something you would read in Cosmo in any given month, I expect more from a publication written for and by Haverford students, and I think that in general Haverford students hold themselves to a higher standard of social conduct than the editors of People. Gossip is really tempting to participate in because in some ways it can make a community more tightly-knit, but again: as Haverford students we should try to rise above that to a higher standard of social conduct. I am sure that we can find other, less-harmful, more respectful but still light-hearted ways to bond as a community. One example that comes to mind are the Havermemes on Facebook. Yes, it’s easy to say ‘if you don’t like it don’t read it’ or ‘it’s not intended to be harmful’, but in light of the recent and on-going discussions of rape culture on campus and what we can do to change it, I think that this is an instance in which we shouldn’t dismiss the complaints against Her Campus as oversensitive and instead should address the issue with the trust, concern, and respect that we have all pledged ourselves to.

  8. I love Bill Maher, but his points are irrelevant within the context of the Haverford Community. America does not have an honor code. Our broader nation (and Canada for that matter) don’t hold themselves to a higher level of respect for others, awareness of the social implications of our actions/statements/thoughts/beliefs. Haverford does. Haverford is supposed to be founded on tenets of trust, concern, respect, and social justice. Her Campus blatantly disregards all of these. My issue goes far beyond beyond not finding their articles funny. I find them offensive, degrading, and disrespectful to a variety of people, not just women. They also go beyond offending people– the messages put forth (as highlighted by the OP) can have very serious consequences– body image issues, rape culture, gender inequality, etc. etc. If we have any faith at all in our community values, don’t we have an obligation to call this what it is, rather than just avoiding the problem?

    • WAAAAA. Don’t read it then! If I had a nickel or a dime for every time my feelings were hurt I’d be poor, because I don’t let it bother me! And I don’t believe you about the fact you find it offensive to more than just women. What other groups do you think are offended? Just because you nitpick and find any possible reason to claim something is offensive to women doesn’t mean it is. Hmmmm if the magazine is edited and written almost entirely by women, what makes you think that you somehow have a SUPERIOR claim to them on what is offensive to women? The fact that you find everything offensive? I find that to be daft and as, if not more Un-Haverfordian as you claim HerCampus to be.

    • If we really do have an “obligation to call this what it is,” then aren’t we so obligated even when we enter non-Haverford America? I’m not sure what to make of your statement that “Our broader nation… don’t hold themselves to a higher level of respect for others, awareness of the social implications of our actions/statements/thoughts/beliefs. Haverford does.” Does this mean that we get to stop standing up for what we believe in when we leave campus?

      • I think that is a responsibility that is really up to each of us. Personally, I do feel an obligation to call people out on what they say in the broader world, and even after I graduate in May I will continue to hold myself to the higher standards of trust, concern, and respect that I learned at Haverford. This is my personal philosophy that I have developed as a Haverford student. Not everyone may share this belief. However, everyone DID sign the honor code before coming here, and have committed to upholding those values at least for the duration of their time as a student here. For that reason, I hold students at Haverford to the same standard I hold myself, because we have all already committed to it, in writing. If you choose to come here, it should be with an awareness that there is a higher expectation of behavior than the “free speech, I can offend anyone I want and not give a shit” mantra that goes on in the outside the Haverbubble.

  9. If any women want to tell me how I can look better on a Saturday night, please do. While hooking up may not be my only goal when I go out, it certainly plays a role in terms of what I wear and how I act. You have six days a week to wear sweatpants and do homework. Girls on this campus do it just as much as guys do. Saturday nights are about having fun and making mistakes. If that’s not what you’re looking for, that’s fine. Just don’t go to a sweaty grindfest in Lunt basement when you knew before you ever walked in the door exactly what you were getting yourself into. If you don’t think dressing to impress the opposite sex is entertaining then just don’t do it. But don’t complain about men being shallow when no one offers to walk you home at night. If I showed up at a party in sweats and a T-shirt I wouldn’t expect much attention either. Also, just because someone tries too hard to make a few puns about squash doesn’t mean there’s rampant sexual harrassment going on. Please don’t try to tell me that no girl has ever attempted to hook up with/date a guy that initially (the first ten minutes of conversation) rebuffed her advances.

    • “If I showed up at a party in sweats and a T-shirt I wouldn’t expect much attention either.”

      I was wearing an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt, with no makeup on, the night I was walked to Lunt Basement and back to Gummere by the guy who took advantage of me when I was drunk.

      (I say “taken advantage of” because I do not call what happened to me rape. However, I am sure that there have been other people in similar situations to me at Haverford who do call what happened to them “rape.” I think that every guy and girl should have the common sense not to engage in sexual acts while drunk, because it clearly causes a lot of problems in this department. Therefore, “take advantage of,” to me in this context, means “understanding that the following actions are not a good idea but will do them anyway.” (Although I cannot speak for the guy who took advantage of me and whether or not this thought process went through his head…and here I go overanalyzing again.) I’m not a member of SOAR; but, as their name indicates, not every member of SOAR has been raped. However, I support SOAR and their campaign for awareness and respect.)

      Your comment at first made me angry, but now just makes me sad. Bad things can happen at Haverford. Bad things do happen at Haverford. It’s great that it hasn’t happened to you (as I can only assume such), but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the evidence that it happens to plenty of other girls and guys in our community. I hope you can agree with me that even “plenty” is too many. I don’t appreciate the angry, accusatory tone of your comment. I don’t appreciate you saying that going to Lunt basement is “getting yourself into” something. I am ashamed to think someone with as little tact or concern as you goes to Haverford College.

      No wonder your name is “asdf” – are you afraid to own up to your words? Because I’m not afraid to own up to mine.

  10. I also am offended by imprecise use of language. You insinuate that all women’s lacrosse players are laxtitutes. That is patently false. While a few may fit into the female lax player AND laxtitute category, they are not one in the same. You really should make your language more precise if you want people to take you seriously.

    • But they don’t want to be taken seriously, that’s the point. These articles are not supposed to be your guide for life, they are supposed to be silly little pieces that are just jokes- it is a gossip column. Not the Haverford newspaper. I am seriously concerned for some of you when you graduate and go into the real world if you think anyone is saying Mr. Straight Shooter is the complete guide for the only way to ever be attractive to any man or that Spotted was created to be the new Haverford college news. This is one man’s opinion about what he likes to see on a girl, and it is crass for a reason. It is a JOKE. If it is not your sense of humor, that is fine. Just don’t read it. But it is not fair for you to attack those who do find it funny. And making a pun about squash doesn’t mean that girls were being sexually harassed. At a school like this I would have expected people to tell the difference between a joke and a serious article (like the one supporting the Consent is Sexy campaign).

  11. “I am ashamed to think someone with as little tact or concern as you goes to Haverford College.” Just because there are students at Haverford who enjoy reading Cosmo and who follow mainstream culture, I do not think they deserve to be judged so harshly. While I understand that going to Lunt should not condemn you to being taken advantage of, I personally believe that even when we are drunk, we have agency. I get drunk a lot. I make decisions that are questionable when I am drunk, but I believe that these actions are my fault and not the fault of whatever boy I am making them with. I also think that if I dress in provocative clothing, I am more likely to get this kind of attention than when wearing sweatpants and a ratty T-shirt. While you say you are “ashamed” that people who think this way to go to Haverford, I find that kind of judgement to be extremely hurtful. Saying that going to Lunt is a good way to get hit on by drunk people is merely an observation taken from experience. I don’t understand why voicing that makes “asdf” somebody you are ashamed to go to school with.

    I think a big issue is the fact that students are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions. If I do something stupid at a Founders dance or in 19 basement, I am doing it in public…so if Spotted spots me, that’s fine – instead of accusing Spotted, I think we should understand that what we do in public is public. Also, with regards to Mr. Straight Shooter, he does not represent what every guy thinks and I do not think he claims to. How can we blame him for saying that he doesn’t want to see food all over a girl’s face? I mean, it’s fine for a girl to get food all over her face but I cannot imagine that a girl does so to look attractive. While there have been a lot of critiques of this article for being “heteronormative,” I think that hercampus would be responsive to anybody who wanted to write an article with different viewpoints if others wanted to get it out there. Mr. Straight Shooter is meant to be a fun, light-hearted advice column from a certain kind of guy…it’s not telling girls they must look a certain way.

    Honestly, I am disheartened by the need at Haverford to take everything so seriously. Making a pun about “squash” does not mean that a boy was sexually assaulting a girl and to take that from the spotted article seems to me like an active effort to twist words into assault. So little at Haverford reflects mainstream gossip opinion and I think it’s fun for a change! I totally understand others thinking it’s a waste of time, but isn’t it an even bigger waste of time to analyze everything HerCampus says and antagonize it? Just don’t read it.

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