Women have been facing misogyny since they were young, being told that they can’t do something because they’re a girl, being told to sit like a lady, being discouraged from having passions in STEM because “that’s for boys.” This sexism doesn’t vanish the minute women turn 18 and become legal adults. In fact, some could argue the sexism women face gets worse once they hit their teenage years and transition into adulthood. College aged women face the brunt of it. From the essence of “alpha male” activity being at all time highs, to sexual assualt and harrassment still rampant on college campuses, women who are college students face hurdles that they must overcome to reach their goals of receiving their degree – hurdles their male counterparts don’t face.
While progress has been made in making sure that women on campus receive equity to their male peers, there is still an extent to what UNI can do to expunge misogyny from campus itself. UNI may be doing itsit’s best to help discontinue the perpetuity of sexist standards, the university still cannot control what their male students and staff do, say, or inflict onto others. Emma Pellegrino, junior biology and biochemistry major weighed in on the issue, sharing her own tribulations with misogny, “In my experience as a woman at UNI, misogyny is deeply rooted in higher education, especially when it comes to STEM. My first year at UNI, many of my professors and classmates incorrectly assumed that I was going into nursing – I was taking the introductory science courses that every first-year has to complete, and had never shown an interest in healthcare.” Within her own field, Pellegrino receives remarks from students and professors that are uncalled for and uncomfortable. “Female friends have been subject to sexual jokes from male classmates while in lab. We’ve been harassed while studying as a group by male classmates, and questioned on our abilities as ‘women is this class’ – not to mention the fact that in all of my years at UNI, I have only had one female science professor… These are just a few of the examples that have made me question whether I want to pursue a degree in STEM.” UNI can do everything it can to create an environment of equity, but unless men receive the proper education and consequences for perpetuating misogynistic standards, a culture of sexism will still thrive, not just at UNI, but at every college campus.
On Monday, All-Sorority speaker Alan Heisterkamp spoke to the women of sorority life at UNI, gathering them into groups to discuss sexual harassment, their experiences and how we can prevent sexual assualt on campus. He also displayed a graphic, which described a pyramid of sexual violence. The graphic explained how jokes, in the context of sexual violence, regardless of intentions, aren’t just jokes. They contribute to the pyramid of sexual violence, and normalize sexism to a disturbing level. Pellegrino described the sexist jokes made towards her and her friends, those contributions to the culture of misogyny make its harder for women to achieve academically, as they create an atmosphere of sexism – saying “women cannot succeed.” “This fall, I am planning to apply for doctoral programs in molecular toxicology.” Pellegrino elaborated, “My current mentor told me that many of his colleagues, meaning professors who conduct research but do not have tenure, will refuse to take on female graduate students due to the possibility that she may get pregnant and need maternity leave during the project.” The so-called “jokes” that Pellegrino’s male counterparts make in her field contribute to this issue, making it harder for women like Pellegrino to achieve higher education in male-dominated fields.
Women first started attending college in 1831, with the first two women attending Mississippi College. Shortly thereafter, in 1836, the first all-female college, Wesleyan, opened its doors. Almost 200 years since the first women attended college, women in America today still struggle to be able to break the boundaries set against them in higher education. Through this continued pushback against women, Abigail Saathoff, junior strategic public relations major has an optimistc outlook on the progress women can make. “I think the culture of misogyny not only at UNI but in the world makes it difficult for women to go toward their goals in a variety of ways. People may not offer up resources or support, they may find people who disagree with them or try to derail their success. It’s difficult to be a woman in this world, but not impossible, and if we as women continue to move forward and ignore the noise, we can change the culture.” Even though some men perpetuate a culture of misogyny on campus, women can still make room for themselves. As Alice Robinson and Cathrine Hall, the first two women to receive degrees show us, when women make the conscious choice to take up space, progress is made. Saathoff continued her positive outlook on the future, “I think women at UNI can fight against this culture by continuing to make themselves welcome in those areas where they’ve been told they don’t belong. Major in what you want to, regardless of the gender that dominates the field, and do what you want to do. As well as, don’t accept the words and commentary of others as law; if someone thinks you don’t belong or aren’t worthy, prove them wrong.” If the men that perpetuate the culture of misogyny on college campuses won’t make room for women, then women on college campuses will have to do it themselves.
But, it isn’t just a standard to break throughbreakthrough alone. Women are strong alone, but they are stronger together. When women help empower each other, women can make impressive breakthroughs. Pellegrino supported this idea, “I have found an amazing, endlessly supportive community of women through UNI sorority life – they empower and uplift each other in ways that are lacking in male-dominated fields.” Although a culture of misogyny damages women’s success, when women push each other to achieve higher and support each other, we can slowly flood the culture of misogyny on college campuses with a culture of positivity and upliftment. “I have primarily seen women be uplifted despite this through their campus involvement; specifically in female-only (or female-oriented) student organizations. When women find other women who are in similar areas and are struggling with the same issues, they are suddenly no longer alone and have someone to lean on. As well as women continuing to move forward regardless of the words from others and do what they love,” Saathoff commented.
While a culture of misogyny runs rampant on college campuses like UNI, perpetuated by male students, staff and faculty alike, women can and will continue to achieve higher. It isn’t fair that women have to put in more work to achieve the same as their male peers, with the comfort of the support and empowerment of the women around us, the work it takes begins to feel lessened. Being stronger together benefits every woman involved, and it begins to extinguish the culture of misogyny that works against women everyday.