As part of their promotion of “Sweater Day,” an event designed to reduce energy use during the winter months, Simon Fraser University released a rather ill-advised video.
In the promotional video, an actress playing a female faculty member lowers the thermostat, takes off her glasses, puts on a pink sweater, and shakes out her long wavy hair. Finally, she settles in a for a thrilling game of solitaire (which is an accurate representation of what academics do during their office hours). A male student walks by and says “Miss Pinkham?” She responds, “Yes, Chad?” Chad leans up against her door, gives her the old eyebrow raise and says, “nice sweater.” Miss Pinkham smiles with the confidence that years of studying medieval manuscripts could never give her. The video ends with the tagline “saving energy is sexy.”
Inside Higher Education reports that faculty members at Simon Fraser are unsurprisingly upset by the video’s implications:
Elise Chenier, a gender studies scholar who is professor of history at Simon Fraser, used a blog post to summarize many of the objections. “[A] female teacher is in her office — she is supposed to depict an instructor but is addressed as ‘Miss Pinkham,’ not doctor or professor — and a young male student stops to compliment her in a sexually suggestive manner. She is flattered, and flustered. Really. No, really. Saving energy is, apparently, a huge turn-on for white heterosexuals, and don’t take my word for it, that’s what the video actually says.”
The university apologized for the video and removed it from their website. But Chenier raises a valuable point, “The collective outrage of female faculty resulted in the video being removed from the SFU website, and that is a very good thing. But how do we get to a place where such a thing never gets up there to begin with?” If anything, the video speaks to the often vast disconnect between the perception of academia and its reality.
Video via YouTube.