Sexism alive at Chapman? Oh, you betcha, some women say

Catcalling the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a loud whistle or a comment of a sexual nature made by a man to a passing woman.” But sophomore political science major Kyle Butenhoff says it’s also just what men do when women aren’t around.

But they’re good about covering it up, he contends.

  “If you were to talk to any average guy in a fraternity, I don’t think you would find a lot of people who are catcalling or saying openly aggressive stuff. You would meet a lot of stand up gentlemen,” Butenhoff said. “But at a party, the testosterone starts flowing — especially with the introduction of alcohol. Then you hear stuff not the most gentlemanly.”

Which opens the door to the argument of sexism vs. feminism. That kind of catcalling may not be a big deal to the men. But it’s a HUGE deal to many Chapman women. At catcalling is just a small part of the problem.

It’s the kind of atmosphere that adds to the old double-standard, said sophomore creative writing major Danielle Shorr.

“There are so many double standards women face. Guys are allowed to talk about drinking freely, while if a girl mentions how much she drinks, she is considered trashy,” Shorr said. “Men are allowed to be at the gym with very low cut shirts. You don’t hear girls saying, ‘Are you wearing a crop top? That’s kind of risky,’ to guys.”

Some sexism may seem so subtle to men they don’t even know they’re doing it.

Most irritating to Lara Repko, a junior theatre performance major, are men jumping in out of place when she’s trying to make a point:

“Very often, I have to deal with men explaining things to me, interrupting and explaining ‘what I meant’ to another person.”

It’s especially bad in the classroom, she said:

“In an (integrated educational studies) class about social construction, whenever sexism was mentioned, there were guys saying not all men are rapists, as if that was correlated with sexism in anyway and stop me from talking to explain how things work,” Repko said.

  Repko felt that the sexism affected her outside of the classroom on a regular basis, especially when referring to her reproductive rights:

“When I say that I don’t think about having kids and it is just not something I aspire to pursue, people freak out and ask me if I want to be alone for the rest of my life.”

  Some Chapman women, such as Shorr, use coping mechanisms to deal with the discrimination and sexist comments.

  For Shorr, poetry is “a great outlet for expressing sexuality, freedom and all things feminist.” She said she is very expressive in her poetry and doesn’t hold back.

And here’s one a lot of women gravitate to: “The Vagina Monologues.” An Eve Ensler play shown every year at Chapman, it enables women to participate and perform in front of an audience.

Ensler interviewed hundreds of women across the country and around the world prior to forming her now infamous monologues. The monologues celebrate the female body, sexuality, power and feminism while bringing attention to sexism, sexual assault and all struggles women face on a daily basis.

Senior communication studies major Lindsay Robb has been part of “The Vagina Monologues” cast for two years, and sees it as one of her favorite Chapman experiences.

“The community of women talking about important issues and making peace with their bodies is so rare and truly empowering,” Robb said.

Robb said she found it to be an incredible space because it’s a committed group of women coming together to be better individuals and make campus a more inclusive space for women.

It’s not just students who’ve had to deal with sexism. Faculty too.

 Students aren’t the only people on campus who feel the need for more female inclusivity, political science professor Lori Cox Han said.

  “I dealt with some sexism, I can tell you that,” said Chapman political science professor Lori Cox Han.  

 Cox Han said that academia is still male dominated simply because of tenures.

“Like congress, you get into the best positions through seniority,” Cox Han said. “While so many more women are going to grad school, taking Ph.D.s, it is still taking time for that generational shift a while to happen.”

  Cox Han’s first year at Chapman wasn’t as hospitable as it should have been, she said. As a woman who was younger than most in the department, Cox Han was brought in as department chair. She said the department was a mess, the curriculum had to be updated and there was no research.

  “I have the battle scars to show for this because I came up against all the men in the department who didn’t want to make those changes because that meant more work,” Cox Han said. “I said, ‘I am sorry but I have a high standard and I am not going to apologize for that.’”

  Cox Han also said there are specific gender-charged terms, such as “overreaction” and “being too sensitive,” that men use against women.

 “I was once told by one of my older male colleagues that I was being hysterical about something,” Cox Han said. “When I told him he can’t speak to me like that, he was very startled.”

  Some professors have reportedly used such terminology toward students.

  Repko said she has been told multiple times by professors to smile and that she had a “resting bitch face.”

  “There are male students in class who never smile and just sit there and look not interested,” she said, adding that the situation was uncalled for and unfair.

“I was called out in front of the class multiple times and it is humiliating,” Repko said. “I don’t feel like I should go around smiling when I am internally happy or put on an act. I still haven’t found the perfect way to express myself to a professor without offending him.”

  Cox Han offered advice for any students who feel uncomfortable by remarks or actions by a professor.

  “For me, all students deserve respect and they should know if a professor is not a tenured, he or she doesn’t have as much as power you think of,” she said. “If you have complaints about a faculty member, go talk to the dean of that faculty.”

  Ultimately, she felt students could help remedy sexism on campus by speaking up.

  “Stand up for yourselves, the least you could do is create awareness,” Cox Han said.

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