Kendra Lee’s recently published op-ed, “Mind what you’re wearing, not what they’re eating,” has generated a lot of debate among the AU community about freedom of speech, feminism and appropriate gym apparel.
The Eagle recently reported that the Student Government Senate called for a ban on clothing at the Jacobs Fitness Center that violates the University Discrimination and Sexual Harassment policy.
To some this is a victory, while to others it is a ridiculous infringement on freedom of speech.
After reading Lee’s piece, I found myself torn. While I did not find the shirts “violent” and probably would have kept working out if I saw them, I also did find the overall message of the shirts concerning and wrong.
However, what was most concerning to me were the comments left by readers. The comment section quickly became a forum for name calling between “crazy feminists” and “misogynists,” and all hopes for productive discussion were killed.
While many urged Lee to “get over it,” one comment in particular stuck out to me. It thanked Lee for speaking up.
This automatically brought to mind Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, and the premise of her new book, “Lean In.”
When discussing the gender gap, Sandberg does attribute part of the problem to chauvinism and corporate obstacle, but in part to women who don’t aggressively pursue opportunities.
According to Sandberg, women “hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.”
Sandberg argues that women internalize the negative messages they get throughout their lives, particularly messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken and aggressive.
“When I lecture at universities, the first questions are invariably asked by a man — even at a women’s college,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said in a January piece. “When I point at someone in a crowd to ask a question, the women in the area almost always look at each other hesitantly — and any man in the vicinity jumps up and asks his question.”
Regardless of whether you agree with Lee’s point or not, she raised her hand and spoke up. She was assertive and “leaned in.” This aspect of her piece was completely overlooked.
While yes, Lee has to realize that the world is triggering and all-female gym hours aren’t the way to solve this issue, her op-ed shouldn’t be treated as “weak feminist garbage” but instead as a personal victory.
We, as the AU community, need to encourage more AU women to “lean in.” But we also have to be behind them, saying “yes,” and promoting discussion on complicated issues without reverting to name calling.
Julia Greenwald is a sophomore in the School of Communication.