Fixing the Divide: Changing Perspectives Through Providing Information

Story Highlights:

  • What Iceland is doing right and why the rest of the world should follow.
  • How stereotypes effect you long-term in ways you never knew.
  • What needs to be done so we can experience progressive change.

The Start of Something New… and Progressive

Not only in America but all around the world perspectives are changing when it comes to

Citizens of Iceland demonstrating a protest against strip clubs.

Citizens of Iceland demonstrating a protest against strip clubs.

gender stereotypes. Recently Iceland passed legislature that banned strip clubs, why? Not because they felt they were too risqué, but because they over sexualize women. Iceland is in fact one of the most progressive countries when it comes to social liberties and equality rights and the first country ever to ban lap dancing and nudity based on feminist beliefs and not religious ones. While this is a very extreme example of a progressive movement, it is nonetheless a worthy one.

Why it’s Such a Big Deal

These inequalities, discriminations and stereotypes are not things feminists just like to complain about. In fact, feminists are not the only ones who care. This is a global issue that effects people on all levels of society whether it be economic status, race or gender.

“I’m in a major full of girls so when there’s a guy in our major, people make assumptions towards them. I feel like it kind of scares guys away from being in the major.” -Gillian Wooler, liberal studies junior

 

Gillian Wooler feels as though there would be more men in her major, liberal studies, striving to become elementary school teachers if it were more socially acceptable.

Gillian Wooler feels as though there would be more men in her major, liberal studies, striving to become elementary school teachers if it were more socially acceptable.

In an article from Psych Central titled, “The Long-term Effects of Stereotyping,” it is stated that labeling people has a long and profound effect on them and can also seriously contribute to them performing poorly in any situation where they feel negatively stereotyped. “People don’t cognitively realize it, but we live up to the stereotypes that are placed on us by society. Everyday when you decide how to dress, what to do or how to act, those decisions were shaped by previous things you have learned. Societies conceptions of how we should be play a larger role in our lives then we think,” said Nicole Hunter, comparative ethnic studies junior.

Who Should Take the Responsibility For Change

While talking about how to delete the myth of disposable women, “In our multiple roles as leaders, teachers and students in the world, we are the ones who have the power to create and ensure this [equality] democratizing takes place. In thinking of how we can help this process along we need to think about the responsibilities we all face as people coped by, and silenced in power networks,” said Dr. Lisberger, a guest professor of women’s and gender studies. This is a statement that we the people are the ones who choose to be controlled by these “power networks” instead of question the status quo, and that like Iceland, we should make up our own minds about what is right and wrong.

Dr. Lisberger speaks to a full house of students and professors ranging from ethnic studies to engineering departments about the disparities between genders in the workforce.

Dr. Lisberger speaks to a full house of students and professors ranging from ethnic studies to engineering departments about the disparities between genders in the workforce.

Ways we can change people’s perspectives:

  • Fight to stop the overrepresentation of sexualized women and masculinized men in all media (advertisements, TV shows, movies, etc.)
  • Educate youth by requiring gender and ethnic studies courses in the school system
  • Become more tolerant of those outside social norms through promoting different life styles and creating a less ignorant society.
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How What You See Everyday Tells You What to Think

Story Highlights:

  • Who it is that controls the media and how gender stereotypes started.
  • How media teaches men what women should and shouldn’t be.
  • The way society is changing.

Media: Setting the Standards for Society

A bulletin board at the California Polytechnic State University has so many ads on it, it can be overwhelming. Can you count them all?

A bulletin board at the California Polytechnic State University has so many ads on it, it can be overwhelming. Can you count them all?

It is hard to believe, but Americans are exposed to over 5,000 advertisements per day. We may think that these ads do not affect us, but that is not true. Studies have shown that advertisements can be very influential when it comes to a person’s choices and even beliefs.

Advertisements are just the tip of the iceberg. Media in general is what we are bombarded with every day. Media cannot simply be defined as one thing.

Media is:

  • The television you watch
  • The movies you see
  • The news you read
  • The radio you listen to
  • and let’s not forget social media

In 1983, 50 companies controlled 90 percent of the media that you see. Today that number has dwindled down to a sobering reality, only 6 media giants control that 90 percent.

The use of scantly dressed sexualized women in the 50's to sell cigarettes was very common and one of the first stereotypes seen of women n the media.

The use of scantly dressed sexualized women in the 50’s to sell cigarettes was very common and one of the first stereotypes seen of women n the media.

The problem with this is that means only 232 media executives have the power to control what 277 million Americans absorb everyday. When a fact like this is so prevalent, it is easy to see how stereotypes have been created especially when taking into account factors such as male privilege or the glass ceiling.

These stereotypes started with using the sexualization of women to sell products. When society constantly sees illustrations of women looking a specific way, it teaches the idea that it s how every woman is supposed to look and should strive to look, “I still see examples of sexism and racism in media, even though it is more hidden

Flash forward, and now there's a portrayal of over sexualized virtual women in video games, reinforcing even more ideas of how women should look, act, and be.

Flash forward, and now there’s a portrayal of over sexualized virtual women in video games, reinforcing even more ideas of how women should look, act, and be.

today then, say, in the 1960s, because, on the surface at least, it is considered politically incorrect. All you need to do is look at fashion magazines to see the continual promotion of women as objectified objects of beauty-or worse. Or the depictions of women in recent Super Bowl ads. And certainly during Hillary Clinton’s run for president, the sexist comments about her looks, her boobs, how she dressed and what her husband thought, were blatantly sexist,” said Teresa Allen, journalism professor at Cal Poly.

How Media Has Created Sexist Men

Beer ads are a major target, specifically for males, and they often use women to sell their product. When we are shown this is the way something is done, over and over again, it is easy to simply become used to it and accept it for what it is.

beer sellAfter asking Brittany Graham, a journalism junior, how this advertisement made her feel, she said, “It makes me upset because it puts a certain portrayal on women that makes guys especially, assume that girls look like that underneath everything. If they were to get a nice push-up bra or if they were to get a short miniskirt that they would look like that if they were to be holding beer. I just think its very degrading because women are beautiful and they shouldn’t have to dress and look like that in order to get attention.” Women are often portrayed exactly like this beer girl in movies, TV shows, and all media facets. Seeing these images of women really influences men. They see this and assume it is how all women should look.

“I think it does influence men just as much as it does women, and it’s the society we live in.” – Robert Oswaks, journalism professor

Something Has Got to Change

Robert Oswaks has worked in the advertisement industry for over 35 years, and is now a journalism professor at Cal Poly. He believes the gender stereotypes reinforced in media are very controversial and that some are even changing in positive ways, “Ads for cosmetics, it’s all about beautiful women, models, movie stars, athletes, making them look as beautiful as they can. In some cases airbrushing them, which is a big controversy right now because in certain countries that’s not allowed, it’s against the law. That’s reinforcing gender stereotypes by putting women in this box that you have to look a certain way,” said Oswaks.

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Robert Oswaks has spent the last 11 years of his 35 year long advertising career at Sony and now teaches contemporary advertising to journalism students at Cal Poly.

Though still alarmingly intolerant and sexist, societies overall views are starting to improve, “take gay marriage today and the public’s general acceptance of a gay lifestyle. Recently PEW (research) released information that stories about gay marriage today are five times more positive than negative,” said Allen. There have also been many successful campaigns such as Dove’s “love the skin you’re in,” which shows real women in all their advertisements and encourages women to embrace their natural beauty.

Just remember, the media does not reflect reality and don’t let it control yours.

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The Guy’s Perspective: How Stereotypes Affect Men

When considering gender stereotypes, it is easy to assume they only effect women. This is simply not true. Men are stereotyped everyday just like women, and even the stereotypes imposed on women can effect men. Here’s a few different takes on the issue.

Alvaro Matias, mathematics junior

Q: What are some double standards that you see?

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“Some of the things that I feel that it’s a double standard is usually if guys maybe approach a girl and they ask them out, it’s different from a girl asking a guy out. I don’t think there should be a double standard there.”

Andrew Mancini, manufacturing engineering senior

Q: What do you think is expected from a female student versus what is expected from a male student?

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“I think men are expected that their job is to get their education, get their degree and get out and get a career. Women are encouraged to do that, but I don’t think it’s as enforced as it is with the men. I mean I guess with me, with my career and what I do there’s not really all that many females present in it and to be honest I haven’t met any that could really do what I do and to be able to perform at the same levels. So I mean I’m a metal worker, I work with steal, welding, machining, all kinds of stuff like that and agriculture, farm work, and women aren’t usually present in that. Some are, but they’re not expected to do the same thing as the men are. I mean you don’t see a bunch of women walking around a welding shop carrying a hundred pound piece of metal.”

Nicole Hunter, comparative ethnic studies junior

Q: How do you feel men specifically are gender stereotyped?

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“At least in the U.S. we have a problem with hyper masculinity to the point where men are seen as weak if they show any bit of sensitive emotion or even dress nicely. men who take care of themselves as in grooming are also seen as feminine, waxing eyebrows, but there’s a rise of the metro-sexual man who’s also seen as some kind of a pansy. Most of the hyper masculinity I see is the aggressiveness and I think this comes as a result of oppressed emotions that they get from trying to always seem like the ‘top dog’ where as women are more able to let their emotions flow freely, and I think that’s another problem that makes them crazy cause they feel like their [laughs] I’m a woman, but I feel like some girls take it to the extreme when they know, oh I’m allowed to be hyper sensitive or hyper emotionalized, so what I’m doing is fine when it’s completely irrational.”

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Let’s Talk About Sex, or Not. Depends on Your Gender

Story Highlights:

  • If you’re a man, sexual deviance is not only accepted, but often times encouraged. For women, even talking about sex can brand you as a slut.
  • In society women can partake in homosexual acts more carelessly and are less judged than men who do the same.
  • College campuses need to do a better job spreading awareness about these topics, or nothing is ever going to change.

“You’re the Man” versus “You’re a Slut”

One of the most controversial subjects when dealing with gender stereotypes are sexual double standards. Studies have shown that American women are taught that it is not socially acceptable to act on a level of sexual deviance that is equal with a man’s. Men are encouraged to partake in heterosexual acts while women are ridiculed and slut shamed for doing the same things. Women are also not only shamed for doing sexual acts, but for simply even talking about them does not happen, “I don’t see it being something that’s talked about on a day to day basis, or people questioning on a day to day basis about why these specific taboos, or why these specific expectations for different genders are there,” said Kat Beglin, graduate assistant at the Gender Equity Center.

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Lesbians are Hot, Being Gay is Not

There are also similar double standards in place for men and women who are apart of the Two_homosexual_man_holding_handsLGBT community, where it is more socially acceptable for women to participate in homosexual activities, than men. Men will often be severely more ridiculed and judged for experimenting in the same ways. Psychologist Alfred Kinsey claimed that humans are rarely ever 100 percent straight or homosexual. He argued that most people fit somewhere on a scale of 0-6, in which they are on some level bisexual. His argument has been critiqued by many psychologists after him, but isn’t it interesting to think of sexuality in that way? Not just cut and dry, but having many different levels. Perhaps if people were more aware of the different forms of sexuality a person could have, whether male or female, more accepting public opinions would follow.

Kinsey Scale:

  • 0-Exclusively heterosexual
  • 1-Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
  • 2-Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
  • 3-Equally heterosexual and homosexual
  • 4-Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
  • 5-Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
  • 6-Exclusively homosexual

Take this quiz to see where you are on the Kinsey scale.

“There’s definitely a double standard. I think it’s pretty messed up that it’s not socially acceptable for guys to kiss guys, but girls can kiss girls and it’s hot or a turn on,” Michelle Van Riper psychology junior.

Spreading Sexual Awareness on Campus

Kat Beglin, graduate assistant at the Gender Equity Center, struts in a vagina costume to promote women's sexual awareness at Cal Poly.

Kat Beglin, graduate assistant at the Gender Equity Center, struts in a vagina costume to promote women’s sexual awareness at Cal Poly. The Vagina Monologues are just one of many female empowering programs that touch on subjects ranging from personal sexual experiences to rape prevention and awareness.

Students at Cal Poly aren't comfortable talking about their sex lives, especially women. When talking about it is considered a social taboo, women are less likely to seek help when it involves a sexual assault.

Students at Cal Poly aren’t comfortable talking about their sex lives, especially women. When talking about it is considered a social taboo, women are less likely to seek help when it involves a sexual assault.

The main problem with women not feeling comfortable talking about sex in today’s society, is that it transcends into women never feeling like they can talk about it, “If you start to look at statistics, especially with gender based violence, it becomes something that’s like look, if we can’t even talk about it when it’s good, then how can we talk about it when something is going wrong. If people are already confined by the taboos that they think are there about [sexual] topics, then how do you expect them to speak up and to fight against things like high statistics in sexual assault,” said Beglin. This is a huge issue on college campuses, and Cal Poly is no exception, as rape rates in San Luis Obispo are twice as high as the national average. Programs like Safer and The Vagina Monologues are raising awareness on campus for men and women about safe sex, rape statistics and how to have healthy relationships. Although these programs are great, a majority of students are still not being educated about these taboo topics.

“The differences around sexual practices between men and women, and also the different risks of being a student on campus as a man or a woman are related to things like sexual violence. We as an institution, it’s a place where we can work,” said Jane Lehr, assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and ethnic studies.

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Gender Inequaltiy in Majors

Story Highlights:

  • It’s all about the facts: A large underrepresentation of women in STEM fields.
  • Double Standards: Why men and women choose the majors they do.
  • Stereotypes weren’t started in college, but they don’t end there either.

The Fact of the Matter

It’s nothing new, there are many gender inequalities on college campuses and in the work place. According to a report by the Untied States Department of Commerce, although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25% of all STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs. At California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, the most popular STEM major is engineering. The average percent of women in engineering at Cal Poly is 14%, even lower than the national average of 17.2%. There will never be a higher percentage of women working in STEM if they do not first choose majors that don’t fit the cliché expectation of their gender.

“I think there are a lot of expectations related to gender at Cal Poly, both related to femininity and masculinity, and also expectations about additional gender identities. These intersect not only with things like race, class and sexual orientation, but really with the disciplines.” – Jane Lehr, associate professor of ethnic studies and women’s and gender studies

Double Standards Setback Both Genders

While we see a large underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, gender stereotypes affect men when choosing their majors as well. According to Lehr, “There are many male students at Cal Poly who find themselves in professions, or disciplines, that if what it meant to be a man were different and if all disciplines had the possibility of similar earning potentials, they might have made different choices. For male students it’s both personal and professional gender politics here.” Men are discouraged to major in the liberal arts because most of the fields are considered to be feminine. Also, the careers that are female dominated are lower paying. Men feel if they choose a liberal arts major over one in STEM, they are settling to make less money. The troubling thing is, they are correct. A recent data report taken from Cal Poly students who graduated in the 2010-2011 school year asked students their starting salaries:

  • Mechanical Engineering: 23 Females;  213 Males ($60,000)
  • Industrial Engineering: 8 Females; 50 males ($63,000)
  • Environmental Engineering: 8 Females; 14 Males ($56,000 in 2006-07)
  • Materials Engineering: 6 Females; 25 Male ($55,000)
  • English: 49 Females; 22 Males ($32,640)
  • History: 17 Females; 27 Males ($28,000)
  • Liberal Studies: 97 Females; 7 Males ($41,000)
  • Psychology: 75 Females; 16 Males ($35,000)
  • Biological Sciences: 74 Females; 55 Males ($30,000)
  • Economics: 9 Females; 48 Males ($53,000)
  • Industrial Technology: 2 Females; 46 Males ($62,000)

Most of the fields that are dominated by men are paid a significant amount more in yearly salary. This makes men extremely hesitant when deciding to choose a liberal arts major, and women extremely intimidated to join a field that is dominated by men.

Kat Beglin, graduate assistant at the Gender Equity Center, promotes creating a safer environment on campus for both genders by organizing events and spreading awareness.

Kat Beglin, graduate assistant at the Gender Equity Center, promotes creating a safer environment on campus for both genders by organizing events and spreading awareness.

“Something that bothers me from both sides is double standards with specific emotions. Certain people will think that men can’t show certain emotions. It’s interesting because anger is fine, but certain types of anger aren’t. Obviously something like sadness or vulnerability is frowned upon for men. It’s against the stoic nature, or stereotype for men. Also, with women being angry it isn’t okay. Even that idea of being bossy versus being bitchy.” -Kat Beglin, graduate assistant at the Gender Equity Center

Choosing majors goes deeper than just a yearly salary. It all starts with the foundations on which stereotypes are created. Men are not going to join female dominated majors, when they are told that acting feminine at all is wrong. Women are not going to join men dominated majors when they have been conditioned to think that they are not as good as men in STEM fields.

Doesn’t Start or Stop with College

analicia rogel

Analicia is an animal science major, one of the most popular majors for women in the science field.

Discrimination between genders in majors is just a
product of decades of societal gender discrimination. “I don’t feel it as much personally, but there is definitely gender stereotyping out there. I don’t think it’s necessarily the school, I think it is widespread. You always have the computer people are males, or engineering, doing things like that. Then in my major definitely it’s dominated by females,” said Analicia Rogel, a fourth year animal science major. Many of the stereotypes students face everyday at Cal Poly, come from a much broader spectrum. Juliet Saunders, a third year journalism major, feels as though gender discrimination starts with what we see in the media, “We talked about in class, the Hilary Clinton thing, how all [the media] cared about is her wardrobe, if she’s going to be emotional or if she’s crying. If she’s too harsh then she’s too manly, but if she’s too soft she’s too womanly, she can’t really do anything right. Women are still paid less, respected less, harassed and ignored. I really don’t think it’s changing.”

The more college students stand up for change, the brighter the future will be for future generations. Imagine how many brilliant aspiring women engineers never pursued their dreams because they were overwhelmed by the expectations of their gender. Think of how many men feel trapped in a profession they are not passionate about, just because they didn’t think they could venture past what was expected of them. We shouldn’t let these gender norms and overrepresentation of men and women in specific fields conduct what we are going to do for the rest of our lives. We need to start teaching people that these stereotypes are false truths, and do not hold anyone back unless you let them. Don’t let them.

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The Stereotype Standard

Story Highlights:

  • How stereotypes start when you’re young by the toys and clothes your parents buy for you.
  • Saying things like “ladylike” and “boys will be boys” just reinforce stereotypes.
  • The pressures college students feel to fit in and how it effects them socially and academically.

What’s the Difference Between Boys and Girls?

It all starts from the minute you are born. Before you even come home from the hospital, you are stereotyped. Pink for baby girls, and blue for baby boys. Little girls are dressed in bows and dresses, boys in sneakers and shorts. We as a society are taught based on gender norms what it is to be a boy or girl, masculine or feminine. Some may say, What’s the big deal? Girls have always loved dolls and pink, while boys have always had their race cars and Legos, that’s how it has always been.

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Children from a young age are usually taught to choose to play with the baseball glove or the stuffed animal, and hardly ever encouraged to play with both. This is one of the first gender stereotypes that are learned from an extremely early age.

Imagine how it can be extremely difficult for that little girl that prefers blue over pink, or better yet, that boy that wants a doll instead of a baseball for Christmas. Why do we reinforce these gender stereotypes everyday, from birth through adolescence? Who was it exactly that said these were the norms and what is to be expected?

“That’s Not Ladylike” v. “Boys will be Boys”

One of the most controversial issues with gender stereotyping is the fact that it creates double standards. Certain behaviors that are acceptable for boys to do, may not be okay for girls and vice versa.

The saying “that’s not ladylike” is something a girl hears often after cursing, or IMG_7718exhibiting crude behavior. Usually when a boy does the same thing, it will be justified as “boys will be boys.” Parents don’t realize it, but by saying these things, they are simply reinforcing stereotypes for their children. Brittany Graham, a third year journalism major explains, “I really hate when I curse and my mom says, ‘that’s not ladylike Brittany.’ Then two seconds later my younger brother says the same thing and get’s away with it! I just roll my eyes and walk away because trying to explain to her how wrong that is would be pointless.” This teaches boys their behavior is acceptable, while showing girls they are not equal.

Being ladylike means hitting these marks:

A group of college age girls practice being ladylike at a friend's birthday celebration.

A group of college age girls practice being ladylike at a friend’s birthday celebration.

  • polite
  • soft spoken
  • articulate
  • cross your legs
  • wear dresses/skirts
  • ability to walk in heels
  • ability to do hair and makeup
  • don’t swear, be perverted or sexually deviant

That sounds terribly boring.

College Gender Expectations: Socially and Academically

At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo there is a lot of pressure for students to look the part of their gender stereotype. Male students display masculinity as being fit, having a defined musculature and showing hardly any emotions. Female students are feminine if they are thin, wear makeup and show compassion. These stereotypes are inbred long before college according to Madeleine Aitchison, a second year history major,

“Mainly in high school, you get put into a certain box where you have to be feminine. A lot of people say women have to wear makeup, but at the same time don’t wear makeup because it doesn’t look natural.”

When students arrive at college, they are expecting to be introduced to a whole new world that is more accepting and diverse than high school. Unfortunately, most students find that this isn’t exactly true. According to Jane Lehr, an Associate Professor of women’s and gender studies, stereotypes do not only effect students socially but academically as well, “Many female students at Cal Poly struggle with how their sense of gender identity will map on to what it means to be a student or professional within their field.” Gender norms are not only carried over from high school to college, but follow you for a life time.

Unfortunately, the solution to squashing stereotypes is not as clear as being pink or blue, but there are ways that society is developing to become more accepting of those who do not fit the “norm.” Although there has been some progress, we still have a long way to go.

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Stereotypes Affecting Everyday Life at Cal Poly

At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students feel pressured to live up to their gender stereotype. Social expectations are so extreme, they are known to lead to eating disorders, depression and even suicide.

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Fraternities set up booths near Dexter lawn to attract new members for recruitment. Male students who do not look like the members running the booths have a hard time finding the courage walk up to them.

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Samuel Holzer, a sophomore history major, works at the Gender Equity Center as a student assistant, “Thanks to our great California climate, you have a lot of guys that are wearing tank tops all year round and really exhibiting this masculine standard of musculature. The physical stereotype is very forced here at Cal Poly.” The GEC strives to create a safe environment for students who do not want to feel this pressure of living up to their gender stereotype.

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Cal Poly has many sports teams as well as a state of the art recreation center. It is not uncommon to see students running around campus half-naked, or in athletic gear. While walking around campus, seeing people exercise often makes students feel guilty for not doing the same.

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“Femininity is a very strictly defined thing at Cal Poly. It is women who are very skinny with long hair.” -Samuel Holzer, sophomore history major.

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A majority of students at Cal Poly do not fit into the mold of their gender stereotype. Overweight female students often feel inadequate and pressured to loose weight, while male students who do not have what is considered a masculine musculature also feel the pressure to change.

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Underneath a t-shirt that states, “I love consensual sex,” Madeleine Aitchison, a second year history major, works as the Gender Equity Center’s head of the donations committee. When describing how she is stereotyped she said, “Sometimes the way I speak, like when I curse, people will be a bit shocked because of my appearance, or the fact that I am a women. It’s not a very feminine, or womanly thing to curse.”

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Fitting in is something not only Cal Poly students, but most adults, try to accomplish their entire life. If a man does not fit into the stereotype of strong and unconsumed by their emotions, it is hard for them to find a place in society, “I really don’t think anyone should be asking one of the genders to be the stronger one.” -Madeleine Aitchison, a second year history major.

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Brittany Graham, a third year journalism student, feels uncomfortable doing things that are typical of her gender, “Sometimes I don’t want to get Starbucks when I’m on campus because it has become so cliché. People expect the ‘common white girl’ to drink it.” Constantly on students’ minds is not only the need to fit the mold, but also the fear of being judged when you do.

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Jane Lehr, an Associate Professor in women’s and gender studies as well as ethnic studies, feels as though gender stereotypes at Cal Poly start with the disproportionality within majors. “I know that female students in engineering that I’ve talked with sometimes see the choice they have is really trying to assimilate and be one of the guys, or to stand out as the woman or the feminine person. Even female Cal Poly students who say, ‘I don’t want to be treated like a woman, I just want to be treated like a student,’ still find themselves needing to engage with that discourse.”

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