By Kellie Dietrich
Senior Jennifer Thuss and junior Lauren Trumbull, both communication majors, presented at the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC) annual Women & Gender Studies conference on Saturday, March 25 at Muhlenberg College.
Students from LVAIC schools, which include Albright College, Cedar Crest College, DeSales University, Kutztown University, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Moravian College and Muhlenberg College, presented research papers, videos, artwork, photography, poetry and dances.
Thuss and Trumbull both presented research papers that they wrote in their gender communication class from last semester. Thuss’s paper was “The Effects of Media Images on Young Girls” and she presented in the “Visual Culture” panel.
Thuss chose this topic because it’s something she’s always been passionate about throughout college. The main idea of her paper was how the media portrays bodies as unrealistic, which can have negative outcomes on young girls.
She hopes what audience members took away from her presentation is “that models in the media do not always look as they do in the picture,” said Thuss. “Photoshopping can completely change the appearance. Also, that media exposure should be limited for young girls since they are most susceptible to the images at a young age.”
Trumbull’s research paper was also a heavy topic, entitled “Sexual Assault on College Campuses and Its Effects on Reporting.” She presented in the “Gendered Bodies” panel.
Her presentation included statistics, such as that only 75 percent of colleges and universities have a procedure in place for reporting sexual assault. She explained victims aren’t reporting “because they know their documentation won’t result in punishment for the perpetrator.”
Trumbull also discussed the implementation of the Clery Act, which was put into place by the government and requires academic institutions to disclose data regarding campus crimes every year.
She explained how institutions skew their data to hide the real numbers of sexual assault on campuses. Other major points of her presentation included the impact of fraternities and sororities on hypermasculinity, traditional gender roles and believing in rape myths.
After watching the documentary “The Hunting Ground” on sexual assault for her gender communication course, Trumbull knew she wanted to focus on this topic for her paper.
“Watching this documentary shocked and horrified me,” she said. “It made me realize that I wanted more information on this issue so that I could learn more and maybe someday help make the statistics on sexual assault drop.”
Trumbull hopes audience members learned that sexual assault on college campus is a major problem and conversations are needed to fix that problem.
“We need to be open and honest and facilitate an environment in which victims feel comfortable to disclose their assault,” said Trumbull. “We need to start punishing our perpetrators and send the message that sexual assault is not at all acceptable, and that the victim is never to blame.”
Thuss and Trumbull both enjoyed meeting other presenters at the conference who also shared an interest in gender studies.
“I was surrounded by mostly women—maybe one or two men—that are intelligent and kind, and worked so hard to present on what they are passionate about,” said Trumbull.
“All of the women were nothing but supportive and gave me the sweetest compliments after I presented,” she added. “The environment was just overall proud. We were proud of each other for standing up and speaking and proud of ourselves for having the courage to do it.”
Thuss, who is also president of The Birkenstocks (gender club), was inspired by a presentation on an online blog called Her Campus, a global online community for college women.
“They explained how it worked and how to bring it to DeSales so I think it’s definitely something that the gender club will look into starting,” said Thuss.
Additionally, Thuss, Trumbull and Nadia Murray, all members of The Birkenstocks, plus senior Kimberly Semiday volunteered at the conference by checking in guests and participants, and stuffing their welcome bags.
Next spring, the annual Women & Gender Studies conference will be held at DeSales with Dr. Katherine Grasso, communication professor and Birkenstocks advisor, serving as the conference chair.