Writing For Her Campus as a Minority: A Queer Person Reacts

On December 16th, 2017, Her Campus national launched a front-page article entitled “17 Signs You're the Man Repellent of Your Friendgroup”. I think that my queerness took tangible form and guided my mouse to the article when I could have just as easily ignored it, like some sort of gay phantom limb. The age of the article as I sit comfortably in 2019 matters not. The unfortunate truth is that Her Campus National is littered with incredibly heteronormative articles, and this one was just another drop in the bucket.

 

Of course I knew that not a single one of the “signs” would be “you’re not straight”. Ten years piloting this earth from a queer perspective, and I’ve learned to not have expectations when it comes to my sexuality.

 

What I didn’t expect was that the “signs” would be so strangely anti-feminist. Bizarrely, the article cites owning pepper spray, using makeup “never to make yourself look pretty but as a statement piece”, and reading Cosmo as being equitable with feminism and empowerment, in addition to a few other unusual connections that made my eyebrow raise. I sent the article to my roommates, and they agreed-the reasoning behind the author’s points was offbeat at best, damaging at worst.

 

And it seems that I wasn’t alone in this assertion. Just one day later, an article from Her Campus  @ St. Olaf emerged, addressing the situation in a neat six hundred words:

 

“[This article] makes it seem that one cannot be a feminist while at the same time be attractive to males . . . This kind of rhetoric, I believe, is the reason why many women are afraid to identify themselves as feminists . . . [and the author] frames these behaviors within the context of whether or not they are man-approved. Her Campus offers an amazing opportunity for college women to get some experience in journalism/social media . . . however, I still do believe that HC national should be pay more attention to the content they are publishing given that the main demographic of the company is young women.”

 

So why bother throwing my hat into the ring? Because as a gay woman, a few talking points emerged from the offending article that I believe warrant a more in-depth discussion, and as a woman in general, the entire article needs to be addressed. If something of such dubiously “feminist” nature appeared on the front page of what is supposed to be a feminist publication, perhaps there are some larger misunderstandings that should be discussed.

 

Now, I am aware that “17 Signs” is no feminist manifesto, nor is it meant to be. It was a silly listicle probably meant to pass time between an international Trump incident and a Kardashian popping out another kid. The problem here is that “17 Signs” is just one of many of these types of articles that assume its reader is a straight, cisgender white woman. It is interesting to me that a quick browse through Her Campus’ many affiliated campuses retrieves hundreds of articles written by women of color, queer women and women from all walks of life, with some entire chapters being dominated entirely by minorities (such as our queer dream team over here at Her Campus @ Geneseo). But when it comes to Her Campus National’s front-page articles, these identities do not seem to be the focus.

 

This is not to say that there is no discussion of diversity: in fact, quite the opposite. There is a discussion of racial issues and sexuality on the front page. But these come mainly from hard-hitting and often depressing news, such as this article of a Floridian republican accusing his black opponent of “monkeying things up”. Where are minority women’s “fun” articles where we aren’t forced to think about the consequences of our identities in such rigid and often morbid terms? Even more positive articles dealing with these identities are often clouded in a depressive layer, like this article about a harassed trans woman in high school receiving money to move away from her abusers from GoFundMe. Every once in a while, we’re thrown a bone, but not nearly enough as Her Campus’ diversity warrants.

 

Do not think that I am encouraging you to revoke Her Campus. I’ve enjoyed my time as a contributing writer here greatly. But I’d like to see them start posting more positive stories about minorities to their front page, or consider the wide profile of writers that access their site every day even when they post silly, throwaway listicles. It’s the least that they can do.

 

 

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