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The Color of Gender

Many toy stores and manufacturers divide their merchandise by color and gender. Typically, toys for girls are associated with the color pink, and toys for boys with the color blue. However, some stores this holiday season have announced they are doing away with gender segregation when it comes to toys. And Mattel has released a Barbie doll commercial featuring a boy playing with the doll.

The traditional separation of toys and colors according to gender is not a natural phenomenon, according to CSUN Sociology Professor Dr. Amy Denissen.

“Something like wanting to play with a particular toy — we have really good research that demonstrates that that is something that is socially learned,” she said. “It is not an innate trait or interest that we’re born with, but it’s something that children learn.”

Communications Professor Dr. John Kephart III said these toys, and the expectations that go with them, can affect people into adulthood. Kephart said boys are expected to play competitive sports or games like ‘cops and robbers’, which condition their mind to accomplish set goals. On the other hand, girls play games such as ‘tea party’ or ‘house’, which encourage communication and nurturing. Kephart said this might be one reason why about 50 percent of women who enter into the male-dominated field of technology tend to leave, citing a hostile work environment as the reason. “And so women are tracked into [technology fields] less often in their education; they’re hired less for it structurally; and they feel less comfortable and able to communicate with coworkers once they are there,” Kephart said.

Women who exhibit the so-called masculine behaviors valued in the workplace are stigmatized and sanctioned as being ‘bossy’, rather than becoming the leaders men do when they exhibit the same behavior, Denissen said.

“It’s equally concerning that young boys aren’t encouraged to be emotional,” Kephart said, “or encouraged to show a softer side, or think that they have to compete, or be assertive and to dominate other men and women in order to succeed.”

“I think it would be good for boys to be encouraged to play with dolls,” Gender and Women Studies Professor Dr. Kristyan Kouri said. “It would develop their nurturing skills. When they grow up to be fathers, they will take a more active role in nurturing their children. And girls need to develop those visual spatial skills that things like Legos, Lincoln Logs, and Bionicals teach them as they are building them, and that will maybe be a small step in helping them move into fields like engineering, which is still a male dominated occupation.”

“It’s not that we will be able to get rid of gender,” Kephart said. “But instead [we should] stop saying ‘this gender is better than this gender’, or ‘this sex has to perform this gendered behavior or this gendered role’.”

“Difference isn’t the problem,” Denissen said. “It’s when difference is transformed into distinction, which is when we use difference to create hierarchies, when we use difference to say that one group is superior to or better than another group [that’s the problem]. And I think gender is one of these differences that we’ve created, that is used to create distinctions to say that one group is better than the other.”

“We need to make gender roles more flexible,” Kouri said. “You can be male or female by not conforming to these rigid notions of what a male and female should be, or also maybe creating other genders.”


Moderator: Stephanie Lopez

Anchor: Sara Vong

Producer: Teresa Barrientos

Reporters: Teresa Barrientos, James Lindsay, Stephanie Lopez, Veronica Perez, Sara Vong

Social Media Editors: Veronica Perez and Sara Vong

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Yes Means Yes

The Association of American Universities’ new Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct reports that approximately 23 percent of college students have reported instances of sexual assault.  It should be noted that this percentage does not include students who didn’t report instances of sexual assault.

Susan Hua is the Title IX Coordinator in the CSUN Equity & Diversity Office. Title IX is a federal statute stating that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Because CSUN receives Federal financial assistance, this statute applies to the whole university.

A recent incident of sexual assault during CSUN’s Big Show on October 3rd, has led to growing concerns over the safety of students on and off campus, as well as what should be done to prevent future attacks.

“I think these last couple of years we’ve felt that we really need to take a collective stance and position that these types of behaviors are not tolerated and not acceptable,” Hua said.

Measures are being taken to ensure that CSUN employees and students are informed of the issue at hand.

“CSUN employees are also required, just as our students, to take a training course,” Hua said.  “[The course includes] sexual assault prevention, what consent means, what the laws are that apply, how to speak about rape culture, and recognizing that [students and employees] play an integral part in sustaining a safer campus community.”

As far as dealing with sexual assault when it does happen, there are also resources available on campus to students who need assistance.

“I think our role in that is to help find ways to process that and [allow survivors of sexual assault to] heal on their own timeline,” Hua said. “We have hired, in the university, a campus care advocate, who is housed in our student health center.  She functions and acts as an advocate and confidential resource for survivors who need advice and want to talk to someone who can keep what they talk about confidential.”

Melissa Realegeno is a former member of Project D.A.T.E. and the current coordinator of the Peer Education programs in the University Counseling Services.

Realegeno advised students to “download safety apps, be aware of your surroundings, know your limits of alcohol, walk with confidence, know where you’re going, have your keys ready to go, and walk with someone you know.”

“[Sexual assault] can happen to anyone,” Relegeno said. “People assume that it’s just a women problem, but no, it’s everyone’s issue.  It’s about educating people and trying to understand the situation more, instead of assuming what happened or assuming it’s what they’re thinking, when sometimes it’s really hard to understand the psychological point of it all.”

Hua and Relegeno recommended that discussions of sexual assault should begin within families, before students head off to college, where many experience independence for the first time and struggle to figure out their own identity.

“It would be great to have pipelines in between high schools and higher institutions to have that kind of dialogue,” Hua said, “and those kind of efforts be comprehensive, instead of reactive if something happens.”

Moderator: Sara Vong

Anchor: Stephanie Lopez
Producer: Teresa Barrientos
Reporter: James Lindsay
Social Media Editor: Veronica Perez
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