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Sexism on International Women’s Day

What do golf, feminism, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have in common?

On March 8, 2017, better known as International Women’s Day, the official Rollins College Instagram (@rollinscollege) posted a picture of Head Women’s Golf Coach Julie Garner. The picture, which you will no longer find if you go onto Instagram looking for it, featured her at a checkered picnic table, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the girls on her team.

The original post, via @rollinscollege

If you have had even a cursory interaction with feminism in the past five years, perhaps you find this as troubling as I did when I saw it at 3:22 p.m. that day. Women have had to deal with years of being told to “get back to the kitchen” as a response to entering the workforce and demanding equal pay for equal work. The men who shout this command—sometimes defending it as a joke—seem to come from a time where women were expected to be the homemaker to a man’s breadwinner, only leave the house to grocery shop and pick up the kids from school, and prepare a hot dinner every night that is magically ready as soon as her husband arrives home from work.

Obviously, we do not live in those times anymore, and so-called “traditional family values” comprised a set of short-lived cultural ideals which few women in the 1950s were able to live up to—ultimately a reason many young wives of the era turned to drinking and prescription drug abuse. So why, in the 21st century, are these “jokes” seemingly more prevalent than ever? Why is any demand for equal pay and fair hiring practices met with a dismissive, derogatory, “go make me a sandwich” remark from an ignorant or uncaring man?

Portraying Julie Garner as a sandwich-making housewife on International Women’s Day, of all days, is especially unacceptable. The woman who, by that same Instagram post’s caption, has “Six Division II Championships, four national coach of the year awards, [and a] legacy that spans three decades” deserves to be portrayed actually playing her sport, or holding her numerous awards and accolades in the same way that any man would be depicted for the same accomplishments. Diminishing her incredible achievements through a picture that can at best be described as “cute” is an insult not only to her work ethic, but to women across the world who have fought against stereotypes and discrimination since the first International Women’s Day in 1911.

The updated post, via @rollinscollege

I considered, at 3:22 p.m. that day, letting this post slide. And on any other day, I probably would have. But on a day meant to celebrate women’s accomplishments in spite of traditionally patriarchal society, this was a particularly disturbing and egregious blemish on the face of the liberal arts institution that I am typically proud to call my home.

I typed an abbreviated comment expressing the sentiments I have listed above, and honestly thought that would be the end of it. But when I checked Instagram again at 5:37 p.m. the same day, the original post was deleted and a new picture of Julie Garner coaching her team with a club in her hand (instead of a club sandwich) was racking up likes.

While I would have preferred some recognition from the college of their error, instead of simply deleting it and pretending it never happened, I am proud of Rollins’ Office of Marketing and Communications for accepting criticism and implementing more empowering and women-friendly changes in such a quick time frame. Hopefully, this is a sign of better things to come.

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