HerCampus.com is holding a competition for "Mr. Wellesley Freshman" at the women's college. Though transgender men attend Wellesley, HerCampus nominated men from other colleges to represent the school, since a transgender male obviously can't be the hottest guy on campus.
This isn't the first scandal to erupt a Wellesley, alma mater of Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright... and me. A few months ago, Dartmouth exchange student Jeremy Pham called Wellesley women a "bunch of whores" in an e-mail tirade. In a new twist, now Wellesley is facing discrimination from other women. Apparently, people of both genders agree: Single-sex education for women is threatening and confusing!
HerCampus.com is an online magazine for college women with branches representing 25 campuses across the country. The site, which launched in September, was founded by three Harvard undergraduates and features articles written by student journalists from each campus.
On March 4, the site announced it's first annual Mr. Campus Freshman Contest, which is based on a similar competition held at Harvard in recent years. Each school is hosting a competition on campus, then the winners will compete against each other on HerCampus.com for the title, and gift certificates to Jack Wills University Outfitters.
According to a statement from Wellesley's HerCampus representative, which was posted on a forum for Wellesley students and forwarded to us:
Seeing as Wellesley does not have any biological male students, the Wellesley correspondant assumed we were exempt from this silly contest. We were informed last-minute that we were indeed expected to participate in the contest. The Wellesley correspondent suggested that we nominate members of the Wellesley community, but the founders of HerCampus informed her that we had to include "real men" like every other competing campus, and suggested we ask around to find friends, boyfriends, brothers, etc. to represent the women they love at Wellesley College. We were required to get 3-15 contestants. We were able to get three.
Publicizing a new website for college women by making them pick cute boys to represent them is fundamentally dumb, but Wellesley women still didn't like being told that they had to nominate "real men."
One of the best aspects of attending Wellesley was spending four years in an environment where people of various sexual orientations and gender identifications were treated with respect. This is a school where one of the most well-attended parties is the LGBT organization's annual Dyke Ball, a "creative black tie" event where students vote for the "Big Dyke on Campus" rather than the prom queen. Since Wellesley students have a tradition of celebrating LGBT students on campus, the founders' alleged suggestion that only biologically male students are attractive enough to be included in what's essentially a beauty contest is particularly offensive.
As for the three nominees selected to represent Wellesley, each responded to questions like "Who is the hottest Disney Princess" and "It is sexy when girls wear..." on HerCampus, but their connection to the college isn't even explained. Shockingly enough, students didn't feel this young man from the University of Arizona epitomizes "Mr. Wellesley Freshman":
After many Wellesley students complained to HerCampus, the founders posted a message about the controversy saying, "It seems that this lighthearted contest has generated a lot of controversy over at Wellesley!," along with pages of e-mails they'd received from students without their permission, which have been taken down.
According the statement from Wellesley's HerCampus representative, the founders said Wellesley couldn't add their own students to the competition because redoing the nominations wouldn't be fair to the other schools. Then Wellesley students asked to be removed from the contest altogether (which would actually increase the other nominees chances of winning), but they refused.
Yesterday HerCampus' founders posted another response, claiming Wellesley students are at fault for failing to reply to a Facebook message asking for nominations (which students don't recall receiving). Therefore:
At this stage of the contest, it is now too late to redo the contest given the timing, timeline for the contest, logistics in collaborating with all of the different parties involved, etc.
The Harvard undergrads who run the site act like their hands are tied, but this is a "lighthearted contest" on a student-run website. It's not like adding a few students who aren't biologically male requires a ruling from the International Olympic Committee.
The founders of HerCampus insist that they did not mean to discriminate against any Wellesley students, and point out that they "have nothing against women who are not heterosexual" as evidenced by their two articles on queer and lesbian students! Why, that's not even counting the "Her Gay Best Friend" column, in which a gay male columnist advises college women who have sex with a lot of different people, "you've become a bit of a ho," and cautions women against getting too drunk in a column called, "Nobody Likes A Sloptart."
A website that deals with issues concerning college women and publishes their work sounds great, and to be fair, there are some good posts on the site. Even the Gay Best Friend's columns are intended to be funny, but jokes about how college women should stop being so drunk and slutty don't really accomplish the site's mission of serving college women. Wellesley women have made it clear that HerCampus doesn't reflect who they are, and women from all the schools with HerCampus branches should take a look at the site and decide if this is how they want to be represented.
Update: HerCampus has responded via e-mail. Co-founder Stephanie Kaplan writes:
The information provided here is extremely indirect- I think we all know what happens when we play a game of "telephone". The Wellesley Campus Correspondent in fact did not ask us whether male-identified Wellesley students could participate in the contest, and we certainly never said that the contest could only include "real men". This quotation is entirely fabricated. The Wellesley Campus Correspondent did not ask us who was allowed to participate in the contest. If she had, we certainly would have told her that transgender students at Wellesley were welcome to participate. We did not get wind that there was any issue until well after the nomination stage of the contest, during the voting stage of the contest. At that point, after figuring out the logistics to allow for an expedited new contest, we restarted the contest for Wellesley to give Wellesley students another opportunity to nominate contestants.
Kaplan adds that the e-mails from Wellesley students, "were posted anonymously, with the sender's name and all identifying information removed." More of HerCampus' response and information about the reopening of the nominations for Mr. Wellesley First-Year here.
HerCampus Hosts First Annual Mr. Campus Freshman Contest [HerCampus.com]
Controversy Over Mr. Wellesley Freshman Contest [HerCampus.com]
Mr Wellesley Freshman Controversy: Where We Stand [HerCampus.com]
Her Gay Best Friend: Sex — All The Cool Kids Are Doing It [HerCampus.com]
Her Gay Best Friend: Nobody Likes A Sloptart [HerCampus.com]
Mr. Wellesley Freshman Controversy: How We've Responded [HerCampus.com]