MHNews responds to professor’s sexist comments

November 21, 2013 6:06 pm4 commentsViews: 812

At the Students vs. Faculty Jeopardy Event, sponsored by C.A.U.S.E. on Nov. 14, members of the Mount Holyoke News team participated in a light-hearted round of questions with another student team and a group of male professors. At the end of the game, the Final Jeopardy category flashed on the screen, reading “Great American Women.” At this point, one of the male professors leaned forward into the microphone and commented, “Well, that should be easy, there are only two of them.” The remark immediately silenced the room; the audience and the players looked around to see if the professor was joking or apologetic. He was not.

This unfortunate event is a reminder that even at Mount Holyoke, a college dedicated to celebrating and promoting female leadership, the seeds of sexism in our culture remain deeply embedded. Whether or not the professor meant any offense, his comment reveals an attitude towards women and achievement that is all too familiar. Despite enormous strides made in recent history by female leaders in every facet of American society, when it comes time to assign recognition, women are often deemed unworthy.

As members of the news team sat and discussed this event, each of us offered our own personal list of great women who have inspired and emboldened us to strive to be great. Many of the names on our lists were professors at Mount Holyoke, and Lynn Pasquerella’s name came up more than once. That is why, although we suppose the comment was meant to be flippant, it is particularly hurtful not only to Mount Holyoke students, but to our president and the many exceptional women who teach and administer at our college. They may not be famous, but they are certainly great.

This incident reminds us why we came to Mount Holyoke in the first place. We chose Mount Holyoke to be bold, to actively seek leadership because we know that it is our responsibility to continue the work begun by previous generations of great women. The fact remains that inequality in the workforce is still rampant in America, and at Mount Holyoke we prepare to take on that inequality, and to be fierce and assertive. No matter how entrenched certain attitudes towards women may be, they are no match for the firestorm of passion and intelligence that Mount Holyoke imbues its students with.

As we move on from this event, we invite our fellow students to think about the great women who have influenced you, and to thank the great women in your life. The first step in creating positive attitudes towards female achievement is for women to acknowledge and celebrate each other.



  • Oh for god’s sake, you cannot call Lynn one of “great American women”. Is she comparable to Gloria Steinmen and Rosa Parks? No. I respect Lynn but we have to stop idolizing her.

    Also, I am not surprised about the comment mentioned in this article. More than once, I have heard a professor enforcing stereotypes about women by saying things like ‘Now if this was a male student body…’ in class. I also remember a professor saying men are on the extreme of the intelligence (IQ) spectrum: they are both the smartest and the dumbest. On the other hand, he said, women are always on the middle range (did he mean average? I don’t know).

    • Agreed. Lynn is fine – but, come on, it’s time we wake up from this mass delusion she is the GREATEST. THING. EVER.

      The only thing that has really stood out to me during her tenure as president is that she is an alumnae. I actually think some of the policies she’s instituted are very harmful for the college.

  • Barbara Ginader

    Don’t play defense. Your professor was unable to think of more than two great women because, regrettably, it takes a great man to recognize one.

  • Don’t know which professor said that, but maybe he was being sarcastic? I mean, honestly, no educated individual would say something like that seriously, especially after teaching at a women’s college.