Last semester, the editorial staff committed an offense, an offense that has reignited a discussion of the sexism found on campus.
We referred to our women’s basketball team–who went 15-1 in an impressive conference–as “Lady Lions,” which as it turned out, did not go unnoticed by the department of Athletics.
The new staff writer was attracted to the fun alliteration this title offered, and our editorial team neglected to find issue with it. However, conversations with Athletics and Dr. John Wilson revealed that Vanguard has decided against referring to their female athletes as such for a very specific reason. To signify there are lady lions without noting gentlemen lions inherently implies the lesser status of the former.
The regret for the error ran deep, and I felt a deep remorse we had not taken the time to learn about this decision from former editors. Yet after thought and consideration, I was actually pleased that Vanguard had taken the steps to prevent the subliminal discrimination against its female population.
But then I got to thinking, have they really?
It’s November, which means it’s time for the annual mating ceremony of Vanguard University: Woofest. The yearly performance of males on campus in song and dance in order to “honor” the women of Laguna and Catalina Halls.
. . . Seriously?
Please, don’t misunderstand me; I’ve had many friends that have been RA’s and residents that have poured their hearts and souls into this performance. They bond with floormates, engage in their gifts, and dedicate time and energy into what they think will truly lift up their “sisters in Christ.” In theory, it sounds great. In practice? Let’s deconstruct.
For starters, this event is literally called “woofest,” as in a festival of winning over women. Excuse me, but in no universe does respecting women include dancing seductively in order to make them fall for you.
And then there’s the ratio. We all know that women outnumber men here at Vanguard. So we are encouraged to dress up in our best (in order to be, you know, respected) and ignore the looming fact that there is going to be competition when our student population includes two women for every male.
Once the event begins, freshmen and sophomore boys get up there and, for the most part, dance. Which is fine, because it’s obviously not sexual and respects the guidelines we are expected to follow by AG standards.
Last year’s performance took the stage with the audacity to mock the previous issues with oversexualized dancing. Under the theme of “Decades,” the hosts warned any twerking would not be allowed…only to have enough boys twerk to “break” the time machine. Classy.
If this event is truly meant to give the men of Huntington Hall the chance to esteem their “sisters in Christ” (which is the promoted language for the event), then why are they getting up on a stage and boosting their own egos as hundreds of girls scream and cheer for their performance?
This does nothing but create pride where gratitude for God’s gifts should be in the men, and create insecurity, jealousy, and lust in the young women. If you think I am exaggerating, then you haven’t heard the girls at the After Party held each year. And my question to Resident Life is, why aren’t you listening?
Perhaps at this point you believe I am just a fanciful hater, avowed to destroy a fun-loving event, which I am taking far too seriously. What if, God forbid, the women did it for the men?
If “Lady Lions” unequally separates the sexes in a discriminatory way, how does allowing the men to dance and seduce the women without allowing the latter an equal opportunity reflect the same issue?
Because let’s be honest: if women got up there and did the same exact thing, everyone would lose their shirt. Women would be “objectified,” and it would be promoting themes that Vanguard wants to separate itself from entirely.
It’s unfair and demeaning to have an event that, at its core, allows women to objectify men in the name of ceremony, while creating anxiety and competition among the young women present. And yet, this is an esteemed and glorified event at Vanguard, because, on the surface, it’s all fun and games.
Moving past Woofest to another upcoming event this semester, let’s consider Mr. VU. If having “Lady Lions” belittles women, how do you think nominating a man to represent all of Vanguard makes us feel?
There are two females for every male on campus, and yet we nominate a man to represent every aspect of Vanguard life, including the girls’ dorms. When I’ve voiced this concern, I’m usually met with the assurance Mr. VU is mocking beauty pageants, which sounds nice in theory. However, from my experience, it looks an awful lot like a normal one to me, besides a few of the men performing funny talents which, God forbid, the women could do.
If the women were up there doing the same thing, it would be blasphemy, but because it’s guys up there, it’s all fun and games, a satire. However, no equal opportunities are offered to the women on campus.
And yet that isn’t the only opportunity Vanguard offers for its male residents to show off while their counterparts are left to watch. Each year, Laguna Hall performs their Res Rally dances in the privacy of Needham Chapel, before heading to the gym to watch the boys of Huntington perform in front of whomever would like to watch.
Now, I’ve heard stories of parents complaining that their young, freshmen daughters were dancing in front of a bunch of boys. Which is understandable, but what makes us think it’s okay the other way around?
Additionally, when I participated as a freshman, we were only allowed a minute to perform, while each of the boys’ floors spanned for five minutes or more. Granted, they now allow Catalina girls to participate along with Huntington for the school to see, but there is still a message Vanguard is sending here, whether they mean to or not.
There are many more offenses and questionable decisions that lie within this argument. Yet this discussion is just beginning.
This conversation is not meant to condemn the students here who enjoy participating in or attending these events. Though I hope this has sparked a period of self reflection; my main concern here is the allowance of our university.
We are meant to be a school dedicated to serving our Master. Whether you believe in allowing dancing, God has by no means sanctioned women to be treated lesser than men. If women are meant to be celebrated as “sisters in Christ” through these events, then it is time that Vanguard considers what truly honors the ladies of their university.
It is a step forward to recognize our female athletes as equal to their male counterparts, but we cannot lose momentum. This conversation has begun, but it is our duty to insist it continues. Whatever the outcome may be, we must strive forward together with Christ’s heart to love and respect one another.
Samantha De La O says
Tess, this is excellent! So well put. Loved every word of it.
Abby E. says
YES YES YES YES girl GO INNNNN. I completely agree and have been thinking this since my Freshman year. Thanks a ton for expressing your voice and so many others!!!!!
VU Student says
Good points, I appreciated your article. However, it truly seems like your struggling to pervert a non-problem. Much respect to pushing for equality but stop being so incredibly dramatic. Woofest isn’t meant to give girls insecurity and Mr. VU does everything BUT ‘elect’ a man to represent the whole of Vanguard. If you asked the question, “who is the current Mr. VU?” I promise you the results will tear that argument of yours right up. All this to say, push for equality where it matters—you have people, myself included who want to push with you. Stop creating problems and focus on profession of solutions.
Daniel Cook says
I want to start by saying kudos for having the courage to write an article that isn’t cookie cutter and may ruffle some feathers. As an alumnus, and more specifically a former writer and editor for The Voice, I am aware of the difficulty of writing an article like this and waiting to see how it would be received.
However, as a male alumnus that participated in multiple Woofest’s and Res Rally’s and always enjoyed the Mr. VU competitions I do have to challenge some of your points. I fail to see how these events become a sexist issue as described, when the vast majority of the guys on stage are barely doing a two-step shuffle while their time is going. Sure, I’ll give you twerking is too far, but I can’t imagine anyone in the audience seeing a handful of awkward 18-year-old guys trying to twerk and having a legitimate crisis of faith because of it. These events are not and have never been mandatory for anyone to participate in or attend.
To imply that this event is nothing but a male breeding ground for pride and developing insecurities, jealousy and lust is as fair as saying the women on campus who wear painted on leggings to class are doing it for those same reasons.
To try to call out the school and everyone involved with it by essentially depicting these as approved misogynistic events is unfair. In all my years affiliated with this school never once has a single or group of female students ever tried to start a “Mrs. VU” or a female form of Woofest. Equal rights are available throughout the campus, aside from Title IX, the Center from Women’s Studies ensures that. In addition, the President of Vanguard while I attended was Carol Taylor who undeniably saved the school from shutting down. We were on the brink of bankruptcy and losing our accreditation and would have ceased to exist altogether if she hadn’t worked miracle after miracle for the years she was in charge.
It truly saddens me if you actually believe that women at Vanguard are “treated lesser.” In my 15 years of affiliation with Vanguard that could not be further from the truth. While on staff at the Voice, both of my editor-in- chiefs were women, as well as most of our other auxiliary editors, the faculty supervisor and majority of our writing team. From Carol Taylor, to Amanda Lebrecht, Beth Renkoski, and Karen Nishie to name a few (full disclosure, I do not speak on behalf of any of them), women have always been a strong and influential presence on campus. I feel the point you are trying to make is good, fair, and appropriate, however, I believe the way in which you are trying to make that point, I fear you may have alienated many of your classmates and alumni.
Madison Jones says
Perhaps you should consider that you, as a male and as an alumnus, do not have plenty of experience and knowledge about how the current female students of Vanguard feel about and perceive these events.