She said what? Where? A psychologist should know better!

As a new/returning student to UWI, I decided I’d go to UWI’s Student Life orientation on September 2. Full disclosure: I went for the free stuff they give out afterwards, but that’s no reason not to take in what’s being said to a new generation of UWI students, right?
The program was decent, with Makesi Peters and Professor Brian Copeland making some good points, although to my mind, Peters was overselling what the Guild will actually do, especially after his (non)stance on the GATE recommendations.
But what really flabbergasted me, and made me take a breath and LEAVE THE ROOM, were some of the remarks made by the feature speaker, Dianne Douglas, a psychologist (I think she’s a Dr., but I’m not sure).
To be clear, there were good points to her speech, but the parts I’m about to outline just overshadowed them, at least for me. The first thing that made me perk up my ears was when she started talking about how the transition from high school to university can be difficult, which is true enough. Then she said “girls, you know the scrawny, immature guys you used to know in high school? They’ve transformed” and showed a male model, eliciting some ooo’s and ahhh’s from the crowd. She went on to say, and this is where my jaw dropped “guys, you know those girls who used to giggle and whisper behind their hands with their friends when you passed? Now they have to humble, because there are more women than men on campus.” Even now, five hours later, I can’t get over that statement. What kind of utter rubbishness is that to tell an incoming class of young adults? What kind of entitlement are you conferring on young men to women and their bodies? What are you telling women who might be feeling insecure about rejecting the advances of men, knowing as we do that our society promotes getting married or at least having a boyfriend/husband as the be-all and end-all of life? What does that remark mean on a campus and in a society where sexual assault is rampant and under-reported? My Facebook comment was… this is what you’re going to tell young people at the beginning of their degree? #steups
The one that had me leaving the room was this: “Some of you had your breasts grow over the summer. Dress nicely when you come to class to be nice to your lecturers because if you give them a full show, it might kill them.” I was dumbstruck, dumbfounded, my eyes rolled back, everything. I looked around, did no-one else hear that?
Besides the fact that we don’t have summer, I was just overtaken by the overt sexism of this second remark. Like, really? Who was she talking to? What 18-year-old had just had a growth spurt? Did she think she was talking to teenagers who had just entered high school? Because that’s what it sounded like to me.
Now, I’m acknowledging that there can be women whose cleavage is out of sight and can be distracting, not to mention the men who want to parade around in singlets and wifebeaters, but there are ways and means to ask everyone to cover up! Why single out the women?! And in such a vulgar way no less. It’s just another way of telling young women that what they wear is of more importance than their education. Not to mention that the implication is that it’s their fault if the male teacher is distracted, or the guy sitting next to them in class. It’s these sorts of remarks, by persons in authority no less, that contribute to “what were they wearing” questions after women are assaulted.
Her final remark that made me mad was when she exorted the students to hold on to their values when meeting people who were different. I was like… excuse me, do you know what society we’re living in? She had made some remarks earlier about not being racist or xenophobic, which I appreciated, but this just ground my gears once again. What values? The xenophobic, racist, homophobic, ableist, ageist society we live in implant certain values in children before they ever reach University, these are not the values we want them to keep as they grow and mature.
I said as much when they asked for questions. I said, considering that the society we have teaches us to treat those who are different negatively, wouldn’t those be values that we needed to lose? She said yes and stated she was talking about positive values, blah blah blah.
I just have serious problems with this kind of language coming from a psychologist talking to impressionable young people. I’ve seen people who want to give her the benefit of the doubt, in that she may have been trying to lighten the atmosphere, but there is a time and place for “jokes” of that nature, and that platform is NOT it! I understand she’s a Christian psychologist, which of course would influence her views, but why bring her to talk to an incoming year at UWI, where there are all types of people from different religions and cultures? I’m convinced we’re only multi-cultural when it suits us. Also, I would not trust her to counsel anyone who was in true crisis, because who knows what she would tell a rape survivor, a trauma survivor, someone who’s questioning their sexuality? And, as a woman, how do these things come out of your mouth? (internalized self-hate and misogyny answer that question, which was totally rhetorical)I don't want to live on this planet anymore
Suffice it to say, that presentation left a sour taste in my mouth, and I hope the young men and women present do not take her words to heart as they begin their University lives.


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