Does female equal ‘vice’ in college?

by Diana Fu

Another season of campus-wide elections looms ahead. A familiar pattern feeds my tired eyes: pairs of male presidential candidates with female running mates for vice president. We can gape at statistics of unequal wages, protest the overwhelming number of females in poverty and marvel that every Asian female head of state had a male relative who held a top position in the country. But nothing hits home until you take a glance around the University campus. The female “vice” phenomenon pervades the air.

What do I mean by the female “vice” phenomenon? First, let us take the word “vice” out of it immediate context of “vice president.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the primary meaning of “vice” is “evil or immoral conduct” and its secondary meaning is “in the place of or in succession to.” I refer to this second definition in writing about the present phenomenon. Readers: In the organizations with which you are involved, how many females hold vice president or secretary positions?

Before you scowl at what might seem like another lame argument for female empowerment, consider not only how power is distributed in these college organizations but also how this distribution strikes the core psyche of young women and men.

Let me share a personal anecdote to demonstrate what I mean. I have been involved with student government “X” on campus since my first year and have seen three college males hold the president position while females cling to the secretary or

treasurer positions. In delegating the workload for a recent event, male chair members automatically gave female members arts and crafts jobs such as fixing bulletin boards, drawing posters and making shirts. On one level, this seems totally “natural.” Girls have more nimble fingers and can probably assemble better posters. But on a deeper level, these types of “natural” divisions of labor perpetuate the internalization of stereotypical gender roles.

In a sense, what is “natural” is biological. However, “natural” can also imply those traditions or practices that are familiar and therefore seem inevitable. By questioning seemingly trivial events such as the type of tasks college women are delegated in campus organizations as well as the societal perceptions of the value of those tasks (for instance, poster-making is usually valued as less important than setting meeting agendas) we can start to “denaturalize” gender roles.

The age-old anthropological argument that women should stay out of prominent

positions in their companies because the duties of motherhood disrupt capitalistic efficiency falls void at the college level. Young women in college are just as physically, emotionally and intellectually able as their male counterparts. Yet, many women hold back in pursuing prominent positions. A few female friends have told me that before they decide to run for leadership positions, they consider the amount of time they have, other commitments, the level of responsibility, perceptions of their peers, etc. On the other hand, college males seem to “just do it,” as the famous macho Nike slogan promotes.

It is about time both college-age females and males start to notice, question and rebel against daily practices and speech that ties us to the “natural” ways of life. For instance, popular language such as “what a chick-flick” indicates much more than another way to say, “This movie is insignificant.” “Chick” ties the concept of “female” to “infancy” and “flick” in turn ties “femaleness” to “trivialness.” In the same sense, males are also victims of pre-cast gender roles, which demand “real” men to restrain their emotional sensibilities and pay homage to “cold logic.”

In the end, I am not advocating for women to take on the roles of men for the sake of gaining sheer power. But I plead for women and men on this campus to constantly question and keep in check their own stereotypical behaviors that slip into daily events as small as deciding to watch “the chick flick.”

Diana Fu welcomes comments at “>[email protected]