(Cross posted from blog: Feminists in Student AffairsThe featured photo on this post is of my mother, Susan Shea, and me on my 40th birthday)

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the array of women’s magazine covers at the grocery store check out line, but aging ISN’T actually the worst thing to happen to women. Consider the headlines on a recent SHAPE magazine: “Age-Proof Your Body: The Best Moves & Foods To Do It” and “Sharon Stone: 56 & Hotter Than Ever: Her Stay-Sexy Secrets Inside”. Statements like these contribute to the anti-aging, diet, and beauty mega-industry whose ads fill nearly every page inside. These products, ranging from wonder creams to hair dye, promise a more youthful appearance and are marketed nearly exclusively to women. It’s no secret that we live in a culture obsessed with youth.

Today, on my fortieth birthday, I feel compelled to share my thoughts on aging and how the blatant double standards in our society harms all of us but specifically targets and undermines women. Much of the focus on aging has to do, after all with appearance and how one presents to the world. As we’ve discussed in other posts on this site, professional dress standards also disproportionately impact women in the work place and specifically in student affairs. Regarding age and appearance – I contend that we internalize the pervasive anti-aging media messages and these in turn impact how, as we grow older, our effectiveness is perceived and judged in personal and professional contexts.

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(Cross posted from blog: Feminists in Student Affairs.)

A rallying cry of the women’s liberation and second-wave feminist movement is “The Personal Is Political.” The phrase charged legions of women who for too long had kept to themselves, thinking their private matters were just that… private. Therefore, highly personal topics like childbirth, sexual assault and harassment, and domestic violence were frequently hidden and consequently shameful. The feminists of the early 70s wanted these private matters to instead become matters of public concern. They established consciousness-raising groups with the hopeful outcome of increasing awareness of common experiences as a necessary precursor to broader social change.

The phrase, ‘The Personal Is Political,’ is also the title of a well-known essay by Carol Hanisch and was originally published in Notes from the Second Year: Women’s Liberation in 1970. The full text of the document, with a new introduction by the author written in 2006 is available here. more

Today, March 25th, is feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday! In October of 2012, I had the pleasure of spending a significant amount of time with Gloria as she was the keynote speaker at the Women’s Leadership Conference and 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Women’s Center at the University of Idaho. I was serving as the director of the office at the time of her visit and I consider her visit the highlight of my professional career and tenure at the University of Idaho. I will forever remember her inspiring message, her graciousness, her laugh, and her easy connection with an audience, how ever small or large. Ultimately, nearly 4,000 individuals packed into the Kibbie Dome at the University of Idaho on October 4 to hear Steinem speak about “Women’s Legacies, Inspiring Our Future”. The event was free and open to the public, and I’ve embedded the YouTube of her keynote below:

If the YouTube does not play, you can access the page here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoW2sHNRQ_M 

 

The idea to bring Gloria Steinem to speak arose after a group of us gathered at my house to watch the HBO documentary “Gloria: In Her Own Words” during its premier in August of 2011 (which is fabulous, by the way!). We made the connection that Ms. Magazine was founded the same year that the Women’s Center was founded (in 1972). We collectively wondered out loud “wouldn’t it be cool if…?” And, that’s all it took.  In this case, it was incredible how an idea could quickly take shape and move forward toward implementation. Once our collective and inspiring vision was shared more widely, may individuals, departments, groups (and even the President of the University) contributed funds.  A shared vision and an incredibly group accomplished much that semester. I am incredibly thankful for the committee of staff, faculty, volunteers, and students who partnered so collaboratively to implement the historic events in honor of the WCenter’s 40th Anniversary.

A bit about the HERstory of the Women’s Center in case you’re interested (you can read the entire story here): The Women’s Center at the University of Idaho was founded in 1972 to address the high attrition rates of female students on campus. Since then, the Women’s Center’s role and purpose has evolved to include a breadth of programming and outreach that addresses the contemporary issues U-Idaho students are now facing. Women’s Centers exist because gender equity has not been achieved in any country around the world. Women still earn less than their male peers, with women of color facing an even larger pay gap. Women hold fewer tenured faculty positions and continue to be underrepresented in many fields, which has a direct impact on female students within our own colleges and departments.

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. ~ Gloria Steinem

 

So, what change do you want to see? How do you support the work of your campus-based Women’s Center? How do you honor those who have come before us and also those who support our work? If you’re pissed off, do something about it.

As an undergraduate, I initially experienced the field of student affairs when, after serving as an RA, the housing department promoted me to the position of assistant hall director during my fourth year as an undergraduate at Colorado State University. A simple result of too few master’s-level graduate assistants and too many residence halls, exceptional undergrads were often recruited and promoted from the RA ranks to serve in a supervisory capacity. I was paired with a graduate student hall director in the SAHE (Student Affairs in Higher Education) program and together we ran Allison Hall. Meanwhile, I was double majoring in Fine Arts (Graphic Design) and Business (Marketing) and also seeking a minor in Art History. I was a classic overachieving and overly involved college student. The following year, I was promoted again and became a Hall Director, supervising the staff of the hall where I had lived as a first year honors student five years prior.

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