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Female BC Students Report Lower Self-Confidence When Leaving College

Heights Editor

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 02:02

“I used to see people holding hands on campus,” she said. “My students used to get married—to each other. And that’s totally disappeared.”

She also believes that students today feel more pressure to look perfect all the time. “Ten years ago the women weren’t as groomed as they are now, and you just notice how much more time women are putting in,” she said.

Both Fleming and DeLeeuw are concerned about the body image issue at BC because they view it as a “girls being mean to girls” problem.

“You can say that the hookup culture maybe, arguably, favors guys, and so that’s male-dominated,” DeLeeuw said. “And the football culture here at BC—okay, male-dominated. The body image stuff is women doing it to women. Guys don’t care what you’re wearing, by and large. And 10 pounds this way or that way, that’s a girl thing.”

Other members of the committee had other ideas on what could have caused a drop in women’s self-esteem. Lemon, upon noticing that the drop was less pronounced in CSOM than in A&S, suggested that perhaps having a clearer career path aided in maintaining self-esteem.

Fleming and DeLeeuw both entertained the idea that the increasingly negative connotation of the word “feminism” may encourage females to keep their problems to themselves.

“When I was in college, there was nothing wrong with being a feminist, and so women talked a lot about their problems, and there was a kind of solidarity in knowing that maybe you weren’t the only person who felt that way—and that has somehow disappeared,” Fleming said. “I just wish there was more communal feeling where female students could actually figure things out together.”

DeLeeuw refers to herself as “an aging feminist” and remarked that perhaps her generation was partially guilty for the bad reputation feminists now have.

“We have just not done a very good job of convincing women of generations after us that the battle isn’t over, and that the struggle for women’s equality goes on,” she said. “It changes from generation to generation. We have different issues, I suppose, but it’s certainly not over. And we need to pay attention to it.”

When examining the possible causes behind the statistic, the committee realized quickly that most of them were not unique to BC, and that, as a result, the phenomenon is not particular to BC. Several other universities, such as Duke and Princeton, have done similar studies on female self-esteem. Some committee members did point out BC-specific aspects that they believe contribute to the problem, however. For example, Keenan expressed his concern about how few women hold senior administrative positions at BC.

“We’ve gotten this far because there is one woman vice president, and you have to say that this has some impact on the life of the school, because the people who can appreciate this are usually the people who can understand it experientially,” Keenan said. “Things change when there are people in the room bringing things up.”

The members of the committee will spend the next few weeks looking over the proposal, and after it has been finalized, it will be released to the public. The main goal, according to several members of the committee, is to raise awareness of the problem so that students, faculty, and administrators alike can be attentive to it and work to solve the problem.

“I think the bottom line … it came from one of the faculty members, who said that this is a University known for sending its students to do social justice work,” Keenan said. “Maybe we should be doing social justice work here on this campus.”

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