All posts by Heather Shea Gasser

(In)visibility of Sexism

by Heather Shea Gasser

In Is Everyone Really Equal? Sensoy and DiAngelo identify sexism as a form of oppression that is particularly difficult to see partially because of the effects of socialization, institutions, and culture. One example for one of the ways in which sexism is both visible and invisible in our culture is the tendency of advertisers to use feminine sexuality to “sell” products, ideas, and experiences. Sexuality in advertising is the topic of the series of videos by Jean Kilbourne called Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women. Kilbourne discusses how the use of advertising that objectifies women to sell products is so ubiquitous; we’ve nearly become desensitized to its effects.

As microcosms of larger society, campuses are not immune to these cultural messages. And, those who design and implement campus programming can unknowingly replicate these same tactics in advertising campus events. I argue in this post that our awareness and then action (or activism) can be important tools in counteracting the pervasiveness of sexist advertising.

In this post, I will share a personal case as an example of the (in)visible sexism on campus and explore how we, as feminists in student affairs, might disrupt sexist advertising within our spheres of influence. Continue reading (In)visibility of Sexism

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Where do Women’s Centers fit?

by Heather Shea Gasser

Campus-based women’s centers hold a special place in my heart. The five+ years I spent as the Director of the University of Idaho Women’s Center, as you may have read on my personal blog, were incredibly transformative for me as a feminist, as a student affairs educator, and as an activist. Now as a scholar and doctoral student in a higher education program, I keep going back to the tensions I experienced in the women’s center as I consider my emerging research interests. Somewhere in the long list of the potential topics are the questions: What is the continuing role of women’s centers as organizations within institutions of higher education? Where do women’s centers fit?

I bring this topic to the #SAfeminist blog today because the professional association home to women’s centers since the 1990s (thank you to Juli Parker for the history), the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), just removed all formal representation of women’s center professionals from their governing council. The co-chairs of the Women’s Center Committee have resigned and submitted this open letter to the NWSA governing council. InsideHigherEd.com carried the news story today.

In the letter, former co-chairs, Dr. Gina Helfrich and Dr. Adale Sholock state “NWSA has failed to center the work of Women’s Centers professionals, the front line practitioners of feminism in the academy and so often those who carry the burden of translating women’s and gender theory into action for and alongside students. Instead of providing a welcoming and sustaining home for Women’s Centers professionals, NWSA has repeatedly marginalized Women’s Centers professionals, their research, their work, and their needs.” Continue reading Where do Women’s Centers fit?

#EqualPayNow: Do More Than Wear Red

by Heather Shea Gasser

I always find conversations with people of all genders who generally believe that the work of the feminist movement is over to be “interesting.” They say things like, “wasn’t that a thing in the 70s? Didn’t we solve all the problems then? Of course!” they cheer… “women’s liberation has been won! Women have it great these days! A woman can even run for president! No more need for protests, bra-burning (which is an urban myth anyway), and certainly no more need for angry feminists! What do you all have to still be so upset about?

I’ll tell you. For one, I am upset about pay inequity. It is indeed absurd that this type of inequity still exists.

Today, April 14, 2015 is the day we “celebrate” Equal Pay Day. A symbolic day representing the day that women* must work to make the same amount of money that men made in 2014. Continue reading #EqualPayNow: Do More Than Wear Red

#SAfeminists: One Year Later

By Jennifer Keup, Jodi Koslow Martin, Sara Hinkle, Jennifer Stripe,
and Heather Shea Gasser

Just over a year ago, the five of us gathered at ACPA at a 5 p.m. ed session in Indianapolis hopeful that a few folks would straggle in at the end of the day to talk with us (roundtable-style) about feminism in student affairs. Much to our surprise, the room was full to the gills, spilling out into the hallway. Shocked at the much larger audience than we expected, we proceeded with openness and vulnerability to tell our stories under the title Wonder Women: Leaning In as Women in Student Affairs. Clearly there was a need and an interest for opening up space within our professional development for the intersections between our personal, political, and professional lives as feminists working in student affairs.

After the session, we wondered out loud, where else can we continue this conversation with all of these fabulous people? and, how can we invite more voices to this discussion? and further, how can we move this forward for the purpose of social change?

And so in April 2014, we launched this blog, Feminists in Student Affairs, to provide a forum to continue the invigorating feminist conversation, connection, and activism. In the 11 months since, we’ve gained over 200 followers, received over 18,000 views, and posted nearly 50 contributions from over 21 different authors. We’re thrilled to welcome Amy Howton and Kristen Abell to the core editorial team. Continue reading #SAfeminists: One Year Later

My Thoughts on “Women Doing ‘Office Housework'”

by Heather Shea Gasser

This blogpost was also cross-posted on Heather’s personal blog

This article, Madam C.E.O., Get Me a Coffee: Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on Women Doing ‘Office Housework’, has appeared in my newsfeed several times in the last 24 hours. Clearly it is striking a painful chord and resonating – yet, in tracking who is posting about it, it is more often women than men. Some of the comments are particularly interesting:

‪Jamie Perkins‪, an educational assistant at an elementary school in Colorado writes: “Yes. And it’s not just women stepping in to these situations. I find that I am voluntold to do these tasks whereas my male co-intern gets to volunteer.‬”

‪Jodi Koslow Martin, a vice-president of student affairs in Illinois wrote: “I sent this article to a staff member at work. She thanked me and said it aligns with what I’ve said in the past – No Cupcakes! Honestly, I can’t remember instituting that rule but I’m all for it.‬”

‪Melanie-Angela Neuilly, a faculty member at a university in Washington state said to another commenter who raised the concerns about stereotypes, “Yes! It’s like: women, you are doing it wrong… Just be more like men.‬”

So, the article brings to our attention and raises awareness about a reality that I would guess many of us who identify as feminists have observed and pushed back against for some time now. Continue reading My Thoughts on “Women Doing ‘Office Housework’”

My Reflection: It’s Time to Talk About Race

by Heather Shea Gasser

My overall philosophy in serving as a host of Student Affairs Live is to bring to the forefront the topics and issues that we as student affairs educators, need to have open conversations about in order to better serve our students and the profession. Late last fall in the wake of the non-indictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, it was clear to me that we needed to host a conversation about Ferguson and confronting racism on campus.

As soon as an opening in the schedule was available, I scheduled the episode and began looking for panelists to address the topic “#BlackLivesMatter: Confronting Racism on Campus” which aired yesterday on the Higher Ed Live network (a recording of the show is available here). Continue reading My Reflection: It’s Time to Talk About Race

On Being Silenced

by Heather Shea Gasser

In the past two days, I received two different pieces that discuss the effects of silencing. Please take a moment to read the Feminist Wire article Feminists We Love: Dr. Kristie Dotson and the New York Times piece Speaking While Female.

The arrival of these two articles in my inbox also coincides with my preparation for a Higher Ed Live show that I’m hosting on the topic of Confronting Racism on Campus, during which I plan to ask the following question of the panelists:

“As a white person engaging in this conversation [about Ferguson], I know that silence by some white people inhibits authentic dialogue with one another and with our students. How can we assist those who may feel unable to engage, for whatever reason, race being one, to enter this important dialogue? How can we draw in those who either choose not to contribute or are silent because they fear saying the wrong thing? And, how can we ensure that white people understand the implications of choosing NOT to enter into a conversation in which they need to participate?”

As a response to my proposed question, one of the panelists made the remark that perhaps some individuals are coerced into being silent. He wrote in an email “I can’t help by wonder how many of our colleagues are stifled….how can we help those who may feel/be professionally, politically or socially strong-armed?”

Continue reading On Being Silenced

In Praise of Strong Women: A Tribute to Mabel

by Heather Shea Gasser

I can directly point to the presence of strong women role models during my formative years as contributing factors to my current feminist identity. If you’re like me, the presence of elder women—be they our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, or godmothers—had a direct impact in shaping who we are to become. While the younger generations watch, they deal with loss, transition, triumph, and sadness. We observe and we learn… and maybe we become a little bit like them in the process.

I’m reflecting on the presence of strong women because my 94-year old grandmother recently passed away. Born just months before women got the right to vote in 1920, she was one of eight children (two girls, six boys) who grew up in southern Colorado near Lamar. My grandmother had two children, my Father and nine years later, my Aunt Timi. She had four grandchildren, of which I am the oldest and the only girl.

Continue reading In Praise of Strong Women: A Tribute to Mabel

Going Grey – Reflections on Turning 40

by Heather Shea Gasser

(The 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.

Continue reading Going Grey – Reflections on Turning 40

Lactivism: Breastfeeding Activism on Campus

by Heather Shea Gasser

I’ve written in a previous post about the personal being political and professional — and breastfeeding is a perfect example to further explain my point about how these three intersect.

My choice to breastfeed was highly personal. It was an individual choice I made on behalf of my child’s health and my personal desire. Any woman’s choice to breastfeed is likely wrapped up in her identity as a mother as well as socially constructed perspectives about motherhood. And, how long we continue to nurse is also highly personal and laden with cultural and societal expectations. I want to be clear that my perspectives on breastfeeding coupled with my personal experiences that I share in this post are not meant to alienate or exclude women who can’t breastfeed or who chose not to for any number of reasons. The personal and political nature of women’s choices around pregnancy, birth, postpartum care, and parenting are just that … individual choices to be respected and valued. Certainly there are plenty of perspectives about whether “breast is best”, just as there are about natural childbirth. While these are vital topics to explore, in this post, I move beyond the personal factors to discuss the political and professional intersections with our work in student affairs as feminists and as parents.

Breastfeeding, for many, is also political. Some would say it borders on activism at times. I identify as, know, and support many “lactavists” who see breastfeeding as an outlet for their feminist activism. For others, just breastfeeding discretely in public feels like an outrageous activist act. Continue reading Lactivism: Breastfeeding Activism on Campus