I teach at a university, and this week we have orientation. We orient. We get the students, you know, "oriented."
Yesterday outside my office I heard the frail but organized shouts of forced group interaction. It was not a happy sound. Students were told to yell "yeah" or "go" or whatever at certain moments, and they did so, but you could tell they were ambivalent about it.
This morning the first thing I saw on campus were little gangs of students in yellow hard hats. The little gang that I encountered first was carrying a huge papier-mache key -- you know, like a highly-stylized skeleton key, about six feet long and a foot in diameter.
The funny thing is, the key had been fashioned to look an awful lot like a penis. It had twin spheres at the base, and the kid carrying it had it sticking out at about hip level. It was painted gold. A giant painted gold penis. Awesome.
The penis was really the only bright spot of the morning. The yellow hard hat kids, it turns out, are engineers, and their orientation required them to march around in groups and then converge on a hill, shouting rhythmically. It creeped me out: the forced conformity, the militaristic aspect, the expressions on the students' faces.
I know there are worries about the number of women interested in engineering. The Extraordinary Women Engineers website complains that only 20 percent of engineering students are women. I looked at the hard hat gangs: yep, there were a few women there, not very many, lurking in the back.
I don't know how guys feel, but if I'd been forced to march around like that I would have been like, "Excuse me, but where's the art department? I'm out of here."
And as long as we're doing papier-mache, could we please have a giant vulva for equal time? Something, maybe, like this?
Photo by Flickr user texas_mustang, here.
I see on the WEW webpage that Laura Bush is the honorary chair. Maybe she can get the ball rolling. Thanks Laura!