Her Campus Bates is a blog dedicating to guide “collegiette” women, an intentional misspelling of the word “collegiate” in order to feminize it. The website defines the “collegiette” woman as “a college woman who is on top of her game—strategically career-minded, distinctly fashionable, socially connected, academically driven, and smartly health-conscious, who endeavors to get the most out of her college experience on every level.”
There are two main components to the blog: the first part is an advice column for college students around the country. Its advice sections are sorted into the following categories: Style, Beauty, Health, Love, Life, Career, LGBTQ+, Real World, and High School. The second component is a version for individual colleges. These advice columns are specifically tailored to the women at the college in question. For this reason, I am going to explore Her Campus Bates.
I would like to start off by saying that I think that Her Campus, although riddled with some conventionally sexist norms of femininity (the hot pink splattered on the main page, the crown on the logo, and style and beauty being the first two sections mentioned to read about), I think that, for the most part, this is a really good idea. It seems like it is aiming to be a positive outlet where women can read and relate to other women through a community based on respect, support, and guidance. I also think there is an important goal of female empowerment. And I think that Her Campus Bates achieves these things in some ways. I think, though, there are some concerning aspects of Her Campus Bates that need to be addressed.
Based on the content of the articles, the Her Campus Bates guidance caters to upper-middle class, privileged, heterosexual women that like to party. While a large part of the female population at Bates (like me) falls into these categories, not every woman does. I think that the demographic that Her Campus Bates is writing about needs to be extended.
In addition, I would like to point out some striking moments of sexism that this blog is promoting. I will first look at a couple of “Feature” and “Blog” articles and then move on the “Campus Cutie” section. I think it is also important to note that two important sections that the general scope of Her Campus has are missing in the Bates-specific version. There is no section on health and there is no section on LGBTQ+. Both of these sections talked about mental health and sexual health. By not including these sections, the Bates blog writers are inherently silencing any potential conversation of these topics on its blog.
The first article I would like to talk about is “10 Important Literary Quotes for College Women.” I love the title of this article, and think it has a lot of potential. I am a deep admirer of the books chosen to quote, and think that this article could have spoken to some genuine issues collegiate women go through.
Some obvious points of sexism sprinkled throughout this article are the quotation choices and the authors they come from. Out of ten literary quotations selected “For College Women,” only three of them came from a female author. Furthermore, every author selected was white. With this selection choice, 70% of the advice given comes from a white man, furthering their dominance and power in a context of advising young women how to live.
The content of the quotes is equally concerning. The #1 quotation mentioned is: “I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.” This quotation is introduced by an explanatory paragraph ending with: “Here are some quotes from famous literary writers that speak directly to us as college women.” So, the first quotation that speaks directly to college women is one that essentially tells women that they can’t read, no matter how much they have read.
I understand that this quotation was taken from a male author, but there is something inherently oppressive about throwing it into an article about relatable words for women, a group of people who have historically been silenced and labeled as having thoughts that hold no merit.
The second quotation is about partying, supplemented by a GIF of a group party scene in which three blonde white women are at the front, raising their drinks. The “relatable advice” given through the remaining eight quotes addresses a few problems that collegiate women might face. The problems addressed here include dissatisfaction with hookup culture (“So, ladies, remember that sex is not as important as communication and respect. Don’t rob yourself of a romance based on truth, because you deserve as much”), feeling homesick, procrastinating, how not to be bored and the importance of mischief, and lastly, how to “discover you” by “doing your own thing.”
By addressing these problems as the most significant and relatable ones a female Bates student could face, and by selecting authors all white and primarily male, Her Campus Bates is catering to upper-middle class, heterosexual, white women who like to party.
In another article, “The Top Five Reasons Why Every Girl Feels Good Wearing Glitter,” the title left me much less hopeful, as it is already making a sweeping generalization that all women like to decorate themselves in flashy ways as if they are ornaments or props for attracting attention. The first reason noted is that Ke$ha does it, followed by a slippery slope fallacious sequence that concludes that wearing glitter “leads to backstage pass, selfies with Adam Levine, and an Insta shout-out from The Bachelorette fan page.”
We are confronted with another generalization, this time that every woman at Bates must deeply desire a selfie with Adam Levine and an Insta shout-out from the Bachelorette fan page. The second argument that glitter is the “adult version of Lisa Frank” is furthered by the statement, “If you didn’t own a Lisa Frank pencil case, Lisa Frank notebook, Lisa Frank lunch box, Lisa Frank fuzzy poster in first grade—you just weren’t cool.”
This generalization is a bit more sophisticated in its oppressive nature than the last two: If you do not appreciate the hyper-feminization of horses that Lisa Frank promotes, if you don’t like a bright rainbow array of colors, not only are you not cool, you are also not a woman, because all women want to wear glitter because all women love Lisa Frank.
The third reason supporting the female fetishization of glitter is the last I will point out: “Real World becomes Fairy Tale World.” This supports every hetero-normative, misogynist fairy tale including the image of Prince Charming rescuing his damsel and fulfilling her every need. This is exactly the kind of systematized oppression that feminism is trying to derail.
Moving on, I am going to focus on only one more section, titled “Campus Cuties.” While this blog is aiming to empower women, it is dedicating its time to gush over cute boys instead of focusing on important issues that women face. Of the current 10 “Campus Cuties” listed, only two of them are women. This supports the hetero-normativity consistent with the whole site. In an interview with one of the female “Cuties,” two questions were asked about boys (consistent with hetero-normativity), and in both of the women’s interviews, their relationship status is mentioned, furthering the notion that men make up a part of a woman’s identity.
In addition, both of these women are sexualized by the words of the interviewer. One of the “Cuties” is asked questions about her hair and her workout plan, suggesting that her sex appeal correlates with her success.
There are obviously quite a number of oppressive attitudes supported throughout the blog, but the one that is most concerning is how this blog is portraying women, specifically the women of Bates. Women are portrayed in every aspect of this blog as I pointed out earlier with the articles. The female authors interviewed just two women by picking questions highly inclusive of the men in one, and of their beauty regiments in the other. The female authors wrote about women of Bates that they admire by sexualizing them and describing them with words such as “bombshell.” These choices supports the oppressive notion that a woman’s appearance contributes to her worth, which is extremely concerning.
Lastly, I would like to note that I only looked four articles in total, however, there were more than that which I could have explored only to find the same injustices. I see a lot of value and a lot of good intention in the Her Campus Bates blog, but I think that without being a little more mindful of the way things written on the blog, it will continue to misrepresent the women of Bates as well as support deep systems of sexism and dominance.