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AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Op-ed: Watch out for subtle instances of sexism

Updated: May 29, 2015 at 11:02 a.m.

Samuel Meisenberg graduated in the Class of 2015.

Hidden in the torrent of this month’s graduation emails were two instances of subliminal sexism.

The first came from the director of undergraduate studies in the political science department when she invited students to apply for the National Political Science Honor Society. In encouraging us to apply, she explained PSC honor members would receive membership certificates. She then added, “(Moms love to frame these).”

The second came in an email to graduating seniors from GradImages.com, which sells graduation photos, featuring the subject line: “Hurry! Forward your photos to Mom!”

The appendage from the PSC chair contributes to an ancient, prevalent and damaging stereotype: Women’s occupation of the domestic sphere. “Moms love framing these,” implies moms will frame them to be hung in the house.

This makes it seem like moms, not dads, are the ones making decisions about home decorations since home decor falls in their jurisdiction. If men frame anything it’s a fastball or a picture of themselves on the golf course for their office.

Not only do both emails have sexist undertones, but they are insensitive to those students who may not have a mom, or to students who have two.

It is the duty of forward-thinking students to identify, publicly point out and confront sexism, however subliminal, wherever it may occur. I believe that only through identification is eradication possible.

Both emails represent an ancient and damaging stereotype that has been plaguing women since Eve and Pandora succumbed to emotional temptation: Women are somehow more given to emotion and more interested in sentimental things than men are.

So we should send our photos and certificates to mom, but why not dad? According to the logic of the two emails, it is because mom is more interested in such superficial symbols of accomplishment. Men, by contrast, have the stoic ability to understand that certificates are paper and the real work you can’t frame has been accomplished over four years.

After reading these emails we can almost see dad quietly appearing from his study, nodding, to seriously shake our hand while mom is enthusiastically hugging and kissing us before leaving to show her framed certificate to the neighborhood ladies. Both emails serve to reinforce gender roles. Unintentionally? Perhaps. Unseemly and harmfully? Definitely.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
This op-ed incorrectly reported that the chair of the political science department sent students an email about the National Political Science Honor Society. The email was sent by the director of undergraduate studies. We regret this error.

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