Echoing national trends, gender equality at Tufts continues to evolve
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 05:04
Junior Eliza Ziegler, the treasurer of VOX, recounted a specific incident in which she stepped outside of her traditional gender role, to interesting results. While she was riding on the subway, she noticed two men looking at her, but not in a flattering way.
“They looked terrified, and I realized that they had just been staring at my hairy legs the whole time,” she said. “I felt empowered, because they looked pretty freaked out by it.”
Young, college−age women often believe they have the right, the talent and the ability to succeed as professionals, which gives them a tremendous sense of power and autonomy, Bauer said. She explained that once these women enter the workforce, they experience a rude awakening. Women run only around five percent of Fortune 500 companies and are greatly outnumbered by men in a variety of fields.
“I hear from my students, ‘We got a raw deal. We were promised something better, and it’s much, much harder than we thought it would be,’” Bauer said.
Bauer added that the balance women must strike between their personal and professional lives is especially difficult. While men’s role as breadwinners is embraced by society, women are still expected to be the emotional hearts of their families. They also face pressure not to work too many hours in any given week for fear that their families will be neglected.
Still, Bauer is not pessimistic about the situation. Her feminist philosophy classes are increasing in popularity among a wide variety of men and women, and she feels that there is plenty of untapped interest among students.
Associate Professor Sonia Hofkosh, director ad interim of Women’s Studies, agrees that the fight for gender equality has gained a societal foothold, but that it still has a long way to go.
“I don’t feel that as an academic discipline at Tufts, that we’ve made all that much progress,” she said. “But we certainly have in academics more broadly, through both the county and the world. Now, there are Ph.D. programs in women and gender studies.”
Women also earned an important victory when they gained wider access to contraception. Students might take for granted the huge bowls of condoms and dental dams that await them at Health Services, but this availability is still a relatively new concept.
“You just need to read the paper to learn that there is a huge movement to limit access to contraception [of] poor women, and that there’s a whole problem being debated and voted on in Nebraska about whether those some call ‘illegal aliens’ should have access to prenatal care funded by the state,” Hofkosh said.
She also pointed out that women’s studies does not get the same recognition as other fields such as the natural sciences, partly because women’s studies and feminism have historically been grounded in a fight against the status quo.
“It’s by no means a done deal,” Hofkosh said.