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Lessons from the Loster Pages

March 3rd, 2011

The Loster Facebook pages have received much attention, I would like to call attention to responses that have been given and the lessons that those responses could teach students about sex roles and about who they can count on within our university. The Loster pages are typical of the general attitude toward women that exists in our society. I’m including the second page created to vote on men in this because objectifying people by rating their physical attractivenes falls into the patriarchal thought paradigm — male students objectify female students and female students respond in kind.

The message sent by the response given by administration is somewhat more problematic for a few reasons. First, the response informs these young women that they are being left to deal with their objectification on their own. Since students at JCU tend to be of traditional college age this means that these are very young women who are being told that it is their responsibility to deal with this treatment based on limited experience in the world, even though it seems that they are asking for assistance.

Secondly, this response is problematic because, instead of holding the young men responsible for their actions, it holds the young women, who did not initiate this, responsible for dealing with the behavior of the young men who are involved. This is a typical response to patriarchal behavior, women have to deal with sexism because any other response would hold men responsible for their own behavior and that is contradictory to patriarchal social norms. Historically, women have been held accountable for the patriarchal behavior of men.

Thirdly, this response further entrenches patriarchal ideas about sex roles by teaching female students that the status quo precludes appeal to authority figures for support against sexism.

Finally, leaving students to influence each other also allows administration to refrain from policing student behavior by expecting students to do this for themselves. It seems to me that, as a student at a Jesuit university, I should be able to expect the administration to deal with the behavior of students who engage in public sexist behavoir.

This holding up of the influence that students have on each other also does not do justice to the effort that many faculty members put forth in mentoring students. Many faculty members spend a significant amount of time with their students. The feminist scholars who have mentored me here, both while I was an undergraduate and as a graduate student and new adjunct professor, have had more of an impact on my life than the rest of the campus put together.

This response seems as if it could discourage students from seeking support from the university. As a new adjunct professor at a nearby women’s college, I model the mentoring of my own students on the support that I have received at JCU. I wonder how the new lessons that are now being taught will affect this generation of undergraduate women.