Mar

20

DSpar Addresses Misogynistic Comments

Written by

The immediate and chaotic reaction to Obama’s decision to speak at Barnard’s Class Day may have died down over the past week and a half, but in an email sent to Barnard students this afternoon, DSpar reflects on its impetus:

Thankfully, these attacks have now subsided, diluted by both the natural forces of attention entropy and a sharp, well-reasoned counterattack by outraged students on both sides of Broadway, who insisted that disrespectful comments are not representative of our community. The echoes of this incident continue to reverberate, however, as well they should.

One theme of this refrain relates to the ongoing rivalry between Barnard and Columbia College or, more precisely, to the sparring that occasionally erupts between students from the four undergraduate colleges, each of which is different, and differently linked to the complex constellation of Columbia.

The second theme is darker, and relates to the misogyny that emerged in some of the viler online postings. The actual words deployed in the worst of these were shocking and disturbing. Even more shocking and disturbing, though, was that they were sprung in 2012 — roughly 50 years after the sexual and feminist revolutions; 40 years after the passage of the ERA; 40 years after the battle for women’s rights ripped across this very same campus.

DSpar ends her message with a call to action—one with which we couldn’t agree more. We strongly encourage commenters to keep her words in mind when engaging with one another below.

And, more important, I hope that we continue these vital conversations among ourselves. Contemporary sexism is often a more subtle attack, veiled as a rebuke to some kinds of women or some forms of behavior. But attacks based on sex remain as cruel in their impact as they’ve ever been, and equally devastating in their longer-term effects. Fighting back against them is not a crusade owned solely by women’s colleges. It is a fight we all share, and a goal we cannot afford to neglect.

The full email from DSpar:

Dear Students,

It has been a busy month. Late in February, only several weeks after Barnard had enthusiastically announced Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, as our commencement speaker, the College received an unexpected call. It was the White House, and they wanted to know if President Obama could speak at our commencement. What does one say? Yes. Of course. We would be delighted. We would be overjoyed, actually, dancing down the halls on a campus positively bursting with pride.

Soon after word spread, however, our campus was hit by an outbreak of mudslinging, a nasty online outpouring of gloating, rivalry, and insult. Most of the postings were actually quite benign. Many expressed little more than glee, the sheer joy in hearing that the President of the United States would soon be returning to Morningside Heights.

Yet, as many observers — both on campus and off — have noted, there was also a sharply misogynistic strain that ran through some of the comments; mean, virulent attacks, spurred on by the anonymous nature of online commentary, that veered in a few instances toward the salacious and obscene.

Thankfully, these attacks have now subsided, diluted by both the natural forces of attention entropy and a sharp, well-reasoned counterattack by outraged students on both sides of Broadway, who insisted that disrespectful comments are not representative of our community. The echoes of this incident continue to reverberate, however, as well they should.

One theme of this refrain relates to the ongoing rivalry between Barnard and Columbia College or, more precisely, to the sparring that occasionally erupts between students from the four undergraduate colleges, each of which is different, and differently linked to the complex constellation of Columbia. I must confess that I still find these fights puzzling. Because Barnard is distinctly not GS and SEAS is not Columbia College. Instead, each of the colleges is a highly distinctive entity, marked by its own intellectual culture and educational mission. I never encourage a high school student to apply to both Barnard and Columbia. Instead, I encourage her to think about what she wants: a small independent liberal arts college or one located within a large research university? The shared Great Books curriculum of the Core or the wide ranging distribution requirements of the Nine Ways of Knowing? None of the four colleges’ models is inherently better or worse — but they are explicitly different and should be celebrated as such. Together, they make the Columbia campus, on all sides of Broadway, a diverse and glorious jumble of people and ideas; an agglomeration truly unique in the world of higher education.

The second theme is darker, and relates to the misogyny that emerged in some of the viler online postings. The actual words deployed in the worst of these were shocking and disturbing. Even more shocking and disturbing, though, was that they were sprung in 2012 — roughly 50 years after the sexual and feminist revolutions; 40 years after the passage of the ERA; 40 years after the battle for women’s rights ripped across this very same campus. As women, and as society, we have made massive strides since the tumultuous days of the 1960s, and certainly since the 1880s, when Barnard and the other Seven Sisters were created to provide young women with the educational opportunities otherwise denied them. Yet lurking still below the surface of women’s advancement is a sexism that refuses to die, a sexism that rears its frightful head in anonymous online commentary and Congressional testimony on contraception; on hate radio and in electoral contests that still focus on female candidates’ looks rather than their achievements. What transpired during this pre-Obama fracas should raise alarms — at Barnard and Columbia, among women and men — about the sexism that still exists in our society and about our shared responsibility to root it out. I hope that President Obama will address the issue of sexism when he comes to campus. And, more important, I hope that we continue these vital conversations among ourselves. Contemporary sexism is often a more subtle attack, veiled as a rebuke to some kinds of women or some forms of behavior. But attacks based on sex remain as cruel in their impact as they’ve ever been, and equally devastating in their longer-term effects. Fighting back against them is not a crusade owned solely by women’s colleges. It is a fight we all share, and a goal we cannot afford to neglect.

Sincerely,

Debora Spar

Tags: ,

72 Comments

  1. Anonymous  

    Here we go again

  2. Anonymous  

    UH... THE ERA NEVER PASSED. It's a problem

  3. CC10  

    President Spar's remarks on the misogynistic nature of some of the commentary is completely valid, and such attacks are uncalled for. However, what troubles me about this email is the passage describing the 'rivalry' between Columbia and Barnard, in their 'complex constellation' with the university. Barnard is a fine institution of higher learning, but ceased to serve a role as part of Columbia University in 1982, becoming instead - from the university perspective - an easier way for 600 female students to participate in a Columbia education. Barnard gains far more from it's relationship with Columbia than Columbia does. I have believed for years that the university should offer two alternatives to be debated by the Barnard trustees: either become absolved into the CC/SEAS/A&S body, or dissolve all ties with Columbia and exist as a separate institution. Either option is fine from a CU perspective, and Barnard should be given the choice. But there remains no reason for Barnard students to be occupying space in Columbia classrooms 30 years after 1982.

    • BC15  

      Who are you to speak for the "university prospective"? Barnard contributes classes, majors, sections, peers, clubs, leadership, dining halls, and more that serve the CU community, especially the undergraduate colleges. We pay (significant) fees that fund CU resources - and those funds do not only enhance our experience but also yours, from library materials to additional faculty and resources. Maybe it's not visible - but I hardly think that an extra 2k students, and the advantages that come from the diversity of resources and opportunities that serve a larger student body, do not affect the CC/SEAS experience.

    • GS nationalist  

      Barnard students, the status quo is obviously not equal; and that's not fair to you either. Remember that a merger was eventually blocked by (among many other things, I know) power-hungry BC trustees, not Columbia. Their insistence on dividing you from the broader community weakens our campus and cheapens everyone's degree. If you're as worthy of the Ivy League as you say you are, then you (and my fellow GSers) need to be relentlessly fighting for equal treatment by bringing about the inevitable merger.

      • hmm

        Of course, it would not be "equal" to include as part of the university a division dedicated exclusively to the education of people of only one particular demographic, with no counterpart dedicated exclusively to other demographics. Is this obvious truth now some sort of heresy?

      • no  

        The problem with your comment is the phrase “worthy of the Ivy League.” As a Barnard student, I’m honestly proud NOT to be a student at an Ivy League college. What makes someone worthy of the Ivy League? A sense of entitlement?

    • Alum

      If Columbia felt it wasn't getting substantial benefits from its affiliation with Barnard, it would have ended the affiliation long ago. Instead, it has renewed the inter-corporate agreement every time it has come up for renewal. The "university perspective" is thus that Barnard is a valued part of the Columbia community. What you wrote is your perspective, not the university's.

      • observer

        this may change once the pre-1987 alumnae start to die off. After all, before the College went co-ed, Barnard students were the only female undergrads (with a few engineers and GS) on campus. They rightfully identify with Columbia - as they had no opportunity to enroll in Columbia College. Once the Barnard Alumnae who had a choice to be in either CC or BC are in prime giving years, the relationship will change again.

        • Anonymous  

          "...the Barnard Alumnae who had a choice to be in either CC or BC..."

          LOL

        • Alum

          Unlikely. You presume that all (or at least most) Barnard women before the Class of '87 would have gone to the College if they could have. There is no reason to believe that. If it were true, Barnard's applicant pool would have become both much smaller and much weaker after the College went co-ed. That didn't happen.

          But even if you were right, it makes no sense to say that Barnard remains affiliated with Columbia because older Barnard alumni feel differently from younger ones about their school. Why would they? And even if they did, why would it affect either Barnard's or Columbia's interest in remaining affiliated? Do you seriously believe that post-'87 alumnae would donate substantially more if Barnard severed the relationship?

          Despite all its strengths, Barnard depends heavily on its ties to Columbia. If it severed those ties, many of its faculty would leave and many prospective students would go elsewhere. That would seriously weaken the school. I see no reason to think it would increase donations from alumnae. But even if it would, the increase would not justify the cost.

  4. Jl  

    Screw you guys/gals I am going to the low steps.....

  5. Seriously  

    Why won't this issue fucking die already? I would prefer to be reading Senior Wisdom at this point.

  6. Anonymous  

    "Thankfully, these attacks have now subsided, diluted by both the natural forces of attention entropy and a sharp, well-reasoned counterattack by outraged students on both sides of Broadway, "

    Keeping in mind this was a series of comments on one, single Bwog article.

    "have subsided": so we've thwarted them for now, but they might return, in one giant swarm?

    "sharp, well-reasoned counterattack": are we really supposed to think that a Jezebel article is the only thing that stopped more comments from coming? How about just general boredom with the subject?*

    *This should also be noted by bwog: we don't care anymore.

    • CC '13  

      If, rather than picking out a few choice phrases, you had decided to read the entire email and had thought about what the Dean was saying for more than three seconds, you might have understood that the fact that "we don't care anymore" is exactly what she was addressing. Please note that this statement has come after the shitstorm has settled, and that, despite the fact that one might be inclined to think of this as an isolated incident, in reality it reflected a conventional misogyny that is so pervasive within our society that it is still decidedly present (and unaddressed) on our own intellectually progressive campus. While it may be true that the offensive and uncalled for comments written on that single Bwog article will be forgotten sooner rather than later, it behooves all of us to consider the motivations behind them, which is exactly what the Dean was trying to communicate in this email. It would be easy to write off the comments as a result of simple rivalry or jealousy, but many of those comments were ones which used hate-speech against women, despite the fact that only half of the Columbia undergraduate population is also made up of men. Ask yourself why, and maybe you'll understand why Bwog continues to post about this issue. It is not isolated and the comments do not exist in a vacuum; the ideologies expressed therein are pandemic and subversive, and the only way we can seek to eradicate them is through open discussion and self-reflection. Take a minute and see where it gets you.

  7. I blame

    Debora Spar for reigniting the fight, and Bwog for perpetuating it. Seriously, this was soo last month. My affection towards Barnard and Columbia women increases in the spring when they wear less and less clothing.

  8. To all my CC peers  

    All that BC wants is fucking attention; don't you get it its a women's college. Just ignore them and enjoy the beautiful day.

  9. Leadership  

    is waiting until a moment is no longer pertinent to make grand statements

  10. Anonymous  

    I kind of want to be more than friends.

  11. ...  

    the years i have spent at columbia have been some of the worst years in my entire life. i'm pretty sure this has a lot to do with some of my own character flaws and an unfortunate interaction between them and the inherent biases that come with the territory of running a "complex constellation" instead of a university.

    it's a shame, because returning back to school was something that i had planned for years to do and i had really high hopes for it coming in with the best of attitudes. all i can think now is: at least it will be over soon and i can put it behind me entirely.

  12. The Mysterious Cloak  

    Why not attack at the *hive* of sexism? THE SPECTATOR. It is run by misogynists from top to bottom. You are only attacking the symptoms... attack the DISEASE!!!

  13. Just the tip

    Slutty Barnard girls should merge with Columbia but the prude ones need to leave... Nobody wants them.

  14. This makes no sense  

    Why are criticisms of Barnard misogynistic if some of the biggest criticizers of Barnard are Columbia College women? There may be some misogyny mixed in but the larger (and in my view frankly more important) issue is one of a (flawed) university structure which allows a certain group (happening to only consist of females) that is not held to the same standards as other members of the university a back door to the rest of the university and its reputation.

    • Alum

      That you wish the university was structured differently doesn't mean that the actual structure is "flawed". It just means you disagree with the administration and the trustees. I'll bet they know a lot more than you do about university administration in general, and the Columbia-Barnard relationship in particular.

    • anon  

      You know, I agree without the slightest doubt that Barnard is less prestigious than Columbia. I also find it astounding that so many Columbia students are incapable of wrapping their heads around the fact that most Barnard students don't see their college as a "backdoor" to Columbia, don't wish they secretly went to CC, do not consider themselves Columbia students, and do not stay up most nights drowning in a vale of tears at the thought that Barnard isn't an Ivy League school. I know, I know. Radical.

  15. okay

    i'm officially done reading bwog. it used to amuse me with its irreverence, but now it sickens me that it encourages this continued "debate" with as many posts as can possibly be written. and then the editors pretend like they care by trying to "change the comment policy!" i call bs. have fun talking about whatever inane issues please you, guys, i'm out.

  16. Anonymous  

    Could you Columbia people please stop criticizing Barnard? We don't criticize you, yet you continue to treat us like we aren't your equals. Barnard women are just as smart as Columbia students. Barnard is not a backdoor way to get into Columbia, so please stop saying something that is simply not true.

    • sorry love...  

      ...but it's true

    • Excuse me  

      where is the proof for your assertions? The 25% to 75% range of SAT scores at Barnard (1898-2190) is much lower than the 25% to 75% range of SAT scores at Columbia (2080-2350). Yes, you can get into a debate about the use of standardized testing, but few people debate that Harvard students (2080-2380) are smarter than University of Michigan students (1840-2150) who are smarter than University of Montana students (1440-1800)--bearing out the differences in SAT ranges. Just because you wish that you are as smart as a Columbia student doesn't make it true. And saying liberal arts colleges are different from universities or "you Columbia students just have an inferiority complex...if you really were better you wouldn't be saying these things, etc." doesn't change the facts.

      *all according to 2011 data as found at collegeapps.about.com

      • Anonymous  

        I earned a 2380 on my SATS. I literally got 1 question from perfect. I'd like to see just one fucking Barnard girl who scored within 40 points of me... oh that's right, there are non, because if there were, they'd certainly be at columbia instead. (AKA Where the actually qualified students go!)

        • BC15  

          Hi! BC '15 here! I got a 2340, and a 35 (superscored) on my ACT. Like most of my friends, I applied ED to Barnard and didn't apply to CC at all. We both go to fucking excellent colleges, get over yourself.

      • Alum

        Barnard is harder to get into today than the College was 15 or 20 years ago. Unless you think your predecessors also weren't worthy of a Columbia degree, there is no reason to see current Barnard students that way.

  17. BC 1754  

    I once engulfed an entire canister of spray cheese in my anal cavity. Rodents have been nibbling at my sphincter to chance for a sampling ever since..

  18. no  

    The problem with your comment is the phrase "worthy of the Ivy League." As a Barnard student, I'm honestly proud NOT to be a student at an Ivy League college. What makes someone worthy of the Ivy League? A sense of entitlement?

  19. CC '13 woman  

    this whole debate has blown up so much because there are SO many issues that exist in the columbia college-barnard relationship, mainly issues of clarity. I am very involved, and know the administrative structure of the school very well, but still have no idea why Barnard remained a part of the University when Columbia College became co-ed. I have nothing against this, and will not tolerate any sexism from my classmates. However, the following questions beg to be answered in a large scale public arena, so that people can be more aware of the situation:

    -why is Barnard an affiliate of columbia rather than one of its undergraduate institutions?
    -why did Barnard continue to exist after columbia became coed, as opposed to other ivy/sister schools like pembroke/brown? (please do not take this as offensive, i just want to know!)
    -how is barnard/columbia cross-registration handled? Why is columbia capped to barnard but not vice versa (I was kicked out of one of my classes at columbia even though barnard girls were allowed to stay, has this happened with columbia students at barnard?)
    -how are our fees used? do columbia student fees go to barnard amenities, and vice versa?
    -are there a cap on the number of courses that can count for your major from barnard as a columbia student, and vice versa, across all departments?
    -what do the trustees at both schools see as the advantage of staying affiliating?
    -why does JTS have to take classes at columbia (i know they are GS), while barnard does not? Why do JTS students not have the right to live in columbia dorms if they are the same relationship to columbia college as barnard is?

    I am honestly confused and upset that there is another affiliate undergraduate institution solely for girls. As a columbia college woman I do feel upset when oprah goes to barnard to talk to woman leaders, when columbia girls are just as capable. If oprah came to columbia and ousted barnard girls, I would say that that was unfair also! Please dont think that I dont value the existence of barnard, more than half of my closest friends are barnard girls! I just think clarification all around is necessary. This confusion spurs issues like these, and that falls on the administration. However, the student body, no matter how upset people are, must realize that their anger is not at barnard girls or any other population, but at the lack of clarity !! I did not know that barnard girls pay fees to use columbia amenities, and that definitely makes me feel better about the relationship.

    Hope some people agree.

    • BC '13  

      your lack of knowledge is exactly the problem. Barnard PAYS Columbia to let us use your facilities, but Columbia doesn't PAY Barnard anything. Barnard students can take as many classes at Columbia as they want and vice versa. Barnard is an affiliate because we are proud of being an all female institution, and would never want to go co-ed (this is largely because of a strong influence from Alumni who wouldn't donate to Barnard if our school went co-ed). Hopefully this answers some of your questions.

      • Have you ever wondered  

        WHY "Barnard PAYS Columbia to let us use your facilities, but Columbia doesn't PAY Barnard anything" even though Columbia students can take classes at Barnard? Maybe it's because Columbia and its trustees and administrators have determined that they do not benefit as much from the arrangement as Barnard does, so they require compensation in order for the arrangement to continue to be mutually beneficial. This suggests that inherently Columbia offers more value to the arrangement than Barnard does and thus benefits less from it, at least when money is not factored in.

        • Alum

          Barnard and Columbia each pay the other for the credits their students take via cross-registration. This results in a net gain for Columbia, but that does not mean there is no money flowing the other way.

          Barnard also pays Columbia for access to its libraries. It could have used the same money over the years to build a major research library of its own (the one it actually has is much smaller than its peers' libraries), but then it would have needed another large building. That would have cost money and taken space that Barnard needed for other purposes.

          There are other payments back and forth. I don't know all the details, and neither do you.

          Columbia does get money from the relationship, but the money is in exchange for services it provides in return. And money is not the only benefit Columbia gets from the relationship. Its faculty get additional colleagues nearby. Its departments get to offer a wider range of courses through cross-registration. Its students get more peers and thus a better campus life. Its women's sports teams get more athletes. And it gets to support single-sex education for women, which is something it believes in but doesn't provide on its own.

      • Anonymous  

        5 MILLION PER YEAR. Columbia's operating budget is 3.3 BILLION PER YEAR. Tell me that's fair.

    • Anonymous  

      Thank you. i agree completely.

    • Harry Lime

      "I am honestly confused and upset that there is another affiliate undergraduate institution solely for girls." Why does this upset you? Some students want a small liberal arts single sex college and others want a large coed research college. BC students experience some of both. Having four undergraduate colleges (BC, CC, GS & SEAS ) allows students to pick the one that works best them.

      "As a columbia college woman I do feel upset when oprah goes to barnard to talk to woman leaders, when columbia girls are just as capable. " Yes, Columbia women are just as capable. Oprah's visit to BC was part of an interview with Gloria Steinem. If BC had been a coed college the visit by Oprah would never have happened. Instead the interview would have taken place at Wellesley College or Smith College. Steinem is a graduate of Smith.

      "If oprah came to columbia and ousted barnard girls, I would say that that was unfair also!" In this particular case almost everyone was excluded. Only 60 BC students took part in the interview. This was at the request of the television production team.

      "Why is Barnard an affiliate of columbia rather than one of its undergraduate institutions?" Remember that 100+ years ago the trustees of Columbia did not want female students. And they did not want to be responsible for a women's college. The only way BC was permitted to affiliate was a financially separate institution.

      "Why did Barnard continue to exist after columbia became coed?" One it is financially separate from CU and two it continues to attract students.

    • Anonymous  

      BOX HER COMMENT, BWOG.

    • Alum

      "-why is Barnard an affiliate of columbia rather than one of its undergraduate institutions?"

      Barnard is a separate entity and always has been. It could merge with Columbia if both institutions wanted a merger and could agree on terms. That has never happened. Barnard values its independence. The two schools could end their affiliation if they were unhappy with it, but that has never happened either.


      "-why did Barnard continue to exist after columbia became coed, as opposed to other ivy/sister schools like pembroke/brown? (please do not take this as offensive, i just want to know!)"

      Some women's colleges saw themselves solely as co-ordinates of men's colleges. When those men's colleges went co-ed, the women's colleges felt their missions were over and there was no reason to remain separate. Other women's colleges were never truly separate to begin with; instead, they were owned by the parent university which decided to close them in order to form a single, co-ed undergraduate division. This is an oversimplification, but it will do.

      Barnard did not see itself just as a women's version of Columbia. Perhaps it did at the beginning, but that perspective was long gone by the time the College went co-ed. Barnard didn't want to close or merge with Columbia, and the university had no authority to make it do either of those things.


      "-how is barnard/columbia cross-registration handled? Why is columbia capped to barnard but not vice versa (I was kicked out of one of my classes at columbia even though barnard girls were allowed to stay, has this happened with columbia students at barnard?)"

      I don't know enough details to answer that question. It may have been due to something about your class in particular rather than the Barnard-Columbia relationship in general. For example, your class may have been a requirement for Columbia students in your major but not for Barnard students, in which case it would make sense to limit Barnard enrollments.


      "-how are our fees used? do columbia student fees go to barnard amenities, and vice versa?"

      Each school pays the other for each credit its students take via cross-registration. As far as I know, those payments are used in the same ways as regular tuition payments.


      "-are there a cap on the number of courses that can count for your major from barnard as a columbia student, and vice versa, across all departments?"

      I believe each department makes its own rules in this area. Remember that some programs (computer science, for example) are based only at Columbia while others (like dance) are based only at Barnard. In those programs, majors from one school will take all of their credits at the other.


      "-what do the trustees at both schools see as the advantage of staying affiliating?"

      There are many. I've listed some in my replies to other comments in this thread. A more detailed answer would take more time than I have at the moment.

      "-why does JTS have to take classes at columbia (i know they are GS), while barnard does not?"

      Columbia's agreement with JTS is very different from its agreement with Barnard. I don't know enough about it to answer your question.


      "Why do JTS students not have the right to live in columbia dorms if they are the same relationship to columbia college as barnard is?"

      Your premise is false. The two relationships aren't the same.

  20. Bold Beautiful CCer  

    Anyone noticed the nice weather lately?

  21. Anonymous  

    Get your facts straight...Barnard was founded as a college of Columbia University...it wasn't financially independent until after CC went coed (an it, at the time, was the very last school at Columbia to go coed).

    • Anonymous  

      "In 1900, Barnard was included in the educational system of Columbia University with provisions unique among women’s colleges: it was governed by its own Trustees, Faculty, and Dean, and was responsible for its own endowment and facilities, while sharing instruction, the library, and the degree of the University."

    • Alum

      Get your own facts straight. Barnard has always been financially and legally separate from Columbia. It was never part of the university, even though it has always offered Columbia degrees. Its current relationship with Columbia is basically the same as it has been since the 19th century. Some important specifics changed when the College went co-ed, but the changes were not as fundamental as you claim.

  22. Anonymous

    Bwog--you make me sick! Stop hurting our school Bwog.

  23. Anonymous  

    oh look, it's this thread again

    too bad there's no "sage" option

  24. Van Owen

    Bitches be crayyyyyy...

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