Women assess leadership

by Jack Vaitayanonta | 11/23/94 6:00am

The recent controversy surrounding the resignation of Student Assembly President Danielle Moore '95 has sparked debate about whether Dartmouth students need to rethink how it treats their women leaders.

In speaking to about six other student women leaders on campus, the prevailing sentiments were supportive of Moore's decision to resign but opinions were divided on whether she was justified in doing so.

Most of the women interviewed said there are ample opportunities for women at the College to be as great leaders as they want.

Freshman Class President Randi Barnes said she feels her gender has not been problematic as proven by the mere fact she has a leadership position.

"I have found that, here at Dartmouth, anyone has the ability to lead ... I do not feel that sex, race or background is an obstacle to be overcome in attaining such status," Barnes said.

Sabrina Serrantino '95, the news director at WDCR and WFRD radio stations and chair of the government department student steering committee, echoed Barnes' sentiments.

"I'm skeptical that sexism is prevalent on this campus. I think that this is a rather liberal institution and I do think there is ample opportunity to thrive in any environment and any sector here," Serrantino said.

Serrantino said that while many women supported Moore's decision, she said the resignation is actually counterproductive and that Moore should have remained in the organization and dealt with the issue.

"If an organization is sexist, and she and others recognize a commitment to change that, the most appropriate point for doing that is from within the organization than from without," she said.

But other female leaders say sexism is more prevalent than what meets the eye and the position a woman takes may contribute to a lack of respect.

Claire Unis '95, former editor of Spare Rib, a women's issues publication, said people have to be careful because sexism is rarely overt, but subtle and often unintentional.

Unis said this subtle sexism can cause problems with women in leadership positions because "women are expected to be more flexible and understanding and receptive to others' viewpoints ... it is more acceptable for men to make executive decisions without consulting anyone."

"I think there is a definite difference between just being a woman and being a woman in charge of something. When you are in charge, you are more threatening, and you receive more abuse," Unis added.

Unis said her negative experiences with sexism have involved individuals rather than organizations. She cited one instance in which a male belonging to the same organization as her but in a higher office felt intimidated by her because she spoke forcefully for her beliefs.

Amy Barnhorst '95, president of the Dartmouth Outing Club, said there is still some disrespect for her leading an organization that conducts traditionally hardy male activities.

She said problems mainly arise from certain individuals of the "old-boy realm of Dartmouth" and not the organization.

Barnhorst said the existence of sexism in an organization is dependent upon the position of women and the attitudes of people in different activities. She said many people believe the people in the DOC are "more progressive than those in the Assembly."

Yun Chung '97, a member of the Assembly and an activist for Asian and women's issues, said there is less disrespect towards women who do not address any issues of gender, while those who do advocate strong positions on issues of race and gender are dismissed as "special interests" oriented and are ignored or viewed with contempt.

Both Unis and Chung agreed women who are more outspoken than other women get involved in the most confrontations on campus. Unis said the sexist abuse may involve an attack or simply disregard for the woman.

Chung said she supports Moore's decision to resign because she has seen firsthand the lack of respect for women in the Assembly.

"I've worked very closely with her ... I've seen the effects it has on [Danielle] ... I've seen the attitudes and the behavior that have been projected not only to her but to other women -- she's the only one who happened to act upon it," Chung said.