Based on the results of a study presented in April 2012 by Vice President for Planning and Assessment Kelli Armstrong, undergraduate female students at Boston College experience a decrease in self-esteem over the course of their four years, while undergraduate male students experience an increase in self-esteem. The study was conducted using senior exit interviews and surveys administered by the Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment every four years at freshman orientation.
This study, Alison Takahashi, Lean In president and MCAS ’16, said, is particularly alarming because admitted females have higher GPAs and SAT scores than their male counterparts. Females at BC, she said, are also better at maintaining their GPAs than males.
The study that was conducted on female students’ self-esteem has led to numerous initiatives on campus to encourage dialogue and educate students on this issue, Takahashi said.
One such initiative is Feminist Coming Out Day, which was held on Stokes Lawn on Monday. It is an annual event on campus that aims to promote dialogue on feminism. The sponsors include the history, English, psychology, and sociology departments, the Institute for Liberal Arts, the Women’s Center, and UGBC.
The event first began in 2012 under the direction of history professor Arissa Oh.
“In my first couple of years at BC—I arrived in 2010— I noticed that a lot of the female students I met were really reticent to identify as feminists,” Oh said.
She wanted to let students know that it’s okay to voice their beliefs in gender equality.
The collaboration of many groups, Katie Dalton, director of the Women’s Center, said in an email, made the event more visible and widespread than in past years.
This year, they had 300 participants. Students who visited the tent could pick up stickers and buttons that said “This is what a feminist looks like.” There were also pieces of paper that said “I am a feminist because…” and participants could fill out their responses. Participants who then posed for a photo with their completed poster got a Georgetown cupcake.
“Our goal for this event is not to exclusively showcase student who already identify himself or herself as a feminist, but to also extend the conversation to students who may be questioning or in opposition to a feminist identity,” Takahashi said.
They also hope to provide a safe space for students to talk about their different views on feminism, to raise awareness on feminism, and to educate students on feminism.
“I want the people who are feminists to be proud of it and not to run away from the stigma of calling themselves ‘feminists,’” Oh said. “I want people who say, ‘Oh I’m a feminist but …’ to embrace that they are feminists … I want people to talk about why they don’t want to identify as feminists, and then I want the people who are actually sexist to have their assumptions shaken, even if they’re not converted.”
Because the freshman and senior surveys are only conducted every four years, they will not know the extent to which Feminist Coming Out Day and other events on campus have affected self perceptions until next year, Dalton said.
Although it is hard to tell scientifically if there have been any changes on campus with regard to feminism, Oh said, she does think that students are more willing to express their beliefs.
“I do think the energy and enthusiasm of this year’s event shows that there is a significant population at BC that does celebrate its feminism,” Oh said. “That’s really good to see.”
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor