Abortion Stress Syndrome
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Goes to College
Wanna know what college is like for a feminist?
We go to the source with essays by students.
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Page: Blood Money
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African American women photographers turn the "gaze"
Kathy Najimy Takes on Hollywood Every Day In Every Way
Brenda Starr Goes to the Hall of Fame
Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
After losing much of her family to the Khmer Rouge,
one woman fights against land mines and her own demons.
is the Love?
Maybe the world needs a Black Love Day, according to the
author of this provacative essay.
My Life as a Woman, by Diane di Prima
-Arts of the Possible, by
- The Hero's Walk, by Anita
-Misogyny: The Male Malady,
by David D. Gilmore
-YELL-Oh Girls!, edited
by Vickie Nam
-Even Dogs Go Home To Die,
by Linda St. John
-Days of Awe, by Achy Obejas
-So Vast the Prison, by Assia
Millet: A book excerpt
Daisy Hernandez, Patricia Smith and Gloria Steinem
Academic Discrimination Lives On
eva | kathleen | maria
| college home
Richter, Graduate Student
California Institute of Technology
In its November 7, 1968, issue, Caltech's student newspaper
announced, "The Board of Trustees has now approved girls,
in principle." More than three decades later, there are
still urinals in some women's bathrooms. But the problems
women encounter here are bigger than that.
For those of you who have not heard of it, Caltech is
an esteemed school of science and technology in Pasadena.
Its faculty has included Richard Feynman, Linus Pauling,
and numerous other Nobel laureates. And Caltech is fond
of bragging that U.S. News and World Report ranked
it the best university in the nation in 2000. The question
is: the best university for whom? Caltech is overwhelmingly
white and male. As a woman, I was shocked when I first
Shortly after arriving on campus, I started hearing about
the bizarre undergraduate phenomenon called glomming,
which involves a man or a group of men stalking a woman,
usually a first-year student. The glommer might follow
the woman to class, wait for her afterward, sit at her
cafeteria table, or enter her dorm room and refuse to
leave. Some men are e-glommers who send tons of e-mails,
or constantly "finger" a woman's account to find out where
she is logging in from.
Glommers say all they want is for a woman to hook up with
someone; once she has a boyfriend, they generally leave
her alone. At the same time, some men have called women
sluts while they were glommed, as if they "asked for it."
Students who have objected to or reported glomming have
been ostracized. One undergraduate told me, "It's the
isolation that really makes it bad." Kathleen Schulweis,
former director of the Women's Center agrees, pointing
out that many Caltech first-year women, who were lonely
in high school because they were among the few women involved
in science, find it difficult to fight glomming because
"they end up alone, all over again." Some women have left
Caltech because of this "tradition."
But glomming remains a big part of undergraduate culture,
and too many people don't take it seriously. A male graduate
student got very defensive when I referred to glomming
as stalking. He told me glomming was "normal and natural"
behavior. Too many men agree: a recent study, funded by
the U.S. Department of Justice, found that women on college
campuses are twice as likely to be stalked as women in
the general population. And I know men at Caltech who
have taken ideas like these to their logical conclusion
and argued that rape is "natural" behavior.
I'm surprised at how some undergraduate women play down
glomming and make excuses for it. Women recognize the
culture of disrespect but are unwilling to rock the boat
because they are afraid to be seen as man-haters. A few
years ago, a small group of undergraduate women created
"The Girl's Guide to Glomming," a short book for first-year
women on how to protect themselves. They got funding from
the administration for it, but the school forced the authors
to make the guide's language gender-neutral and to change
the title to "The Geek's Guide to Glomming," as though
both women and men were doing it. Still, many upperclass
students were vehemently opposed to the guide, saying
that it would bring negative press to Caltech. At one
point, the e-mail account the authors had established
for the guide was hacked. Finally, they gave up and stopped
Glomming isn't the only problem women have on campus.
Recently, the Women's Center sign was defaced, with the
"W" and "O" painted over, making it the Men's Center.
Schulweis says she didn't mind the prank even though
the center had to pay for the repairs but she was
angry that no one took responsibility for it. This was
a violation of Caltech's Honor Code, which applies to
all aspects of campus life and is generally taken seriously
except when it comes to the Women's Center or issues
of sexual harassment, it seems. And this wasn't the first
time the Women's Center was vandalized. An administrator
who asked not to be identified told me people used to
break into the center and take down posters, use computers,
and leave dirty dishes and used condoms lying around.
And the little t, the Caltech undergraduate student
guide, once ran an insulting description about the Women's
Center instead of the ad it had written and paid for.
If you visit the seven campus "houses," where all new
students must live and which are structured more
like fraternities than dormitories you can see
how the problems women face have evolved. Take Page House.
Last year, according to our student newspaper The California
Tech, Page House had to remove its Web site from Caltech's
server because the administration had received complaints
about sexually explicit photos. Students were being awarded
titles like "House Pussy-Whipped" and "House Child Molester."
Then there's Ruddock House, which publishes a satirical
newsletter featuring crude sex jokes, and in the past
also has included pornographic material. An article advising
students to visit Costa Rica during spring break read:
"When you're looking for a whore, don't go to the ones
near the beach towns; they're overpriced at $20. Go to
the capitol, and you can get some for $5. Saying 'Mi
madre coge mejor que eso' [My mom fucks better than
that] afterward can get you a discount."
What strikes me most about the newsletter is how it is
so clearly written by men, for men. A reader might not
be able to tell there are any women in Ruddock House.
This is a big part of the problem at Caltech somehow,
women seem to become invisible, and everything centers
around what men want to say, what men want to put on Web
sites or in newsletters. As Kim D. West, director of residence
life, pointed out, sometimes people assume that if women
don't complain about these things, that means they don't
mind. But it is important to understand how hard it is
to be a dissenting voice in an environment like Caltech's.
There's a lot of denial about what's happening to women
on campus. According to several people I talked to, there
was a meeting about sexual violence several years ago
in which participants responded to women's stories of
rape by saying, "That doesn't happen here." And when I
said I was writing this article, some people advised me
not to discuss glomming or other problems because it might
scare away potential students, and we desperately need
a more diverse student body. It never seems to occur to
anyone that maybe women should be wary about coming to
Caltech. We do need more women students here and
more students of color but they will be better
prepared to deal with the atmosphere if they are warned
about it instead of being deceived into thinking Caltech
is some kind of utopia for aspiring scientists. That is
the first step in transforming Caltech into a school where
the administration rigorously enforces its own sexual
harassment policy, where women and students of color do
not feel like oddities.
eva | kathleen | maria
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