Yik YUCK: Anonymous Social Media at a Student Affairs Conference

by Niki Messmore

Social media platforms that provide anonymity are rarely used for the force of good. The opportunity to step outside of social norms is tempting when provided an opportunity to be anonymous on the internet. So what happens when a small number of individuals at the 2015 NASPA Conference (#naspa15) begin using the app Yik Yak?

The following: Yaks complaining of sessions, trying to hook up, sexist and sexually suggestive remarks about women, body shaming, entitlement of a ‘vacation’, etc. However, on the positive side there are Yaks with thoughtful ideas and social justice education. A full list of screenshots has been compiled on Storify, along with some Twitter commentary.

Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with Yik Yak. This social media platform is like “The Force” from Star Wars – it exists and can be utilized by either the Light or the Dark Side, depending on the character and the choices of the people using it.

So why do a small number of individuals out of a conference of 8,000 people opt to embrace the Dark Side? Dr. John Suler of Rider University argues in the article “The Online Disinhibition Effect” (2004) that there are six factors why people engage in nasty antics on the internet – dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjection, dissociative imagination, and minimization of authority.

That’s deeper than my word count will allow. However, Suler had a nice summary: “Rather than thinking of disinhibition as the revealing of an underlying “true self,” we can conceptualize it as a shift to a constellation within self-structure, involving clusters of affect and cognition that differ from the in-person constellation.”

So it’s not necessarily that we are seeing the “true selves” of these likely Student Affairs professionals and graduate students when they make awful anonymous statements, but rather we are seeing an aspect of these folks under a certain set of circumstances.

That still doesn’t make the issue any less awful.

I am absolutely disgusted and appalled by the sexually suggestive remarks about women that were made [link]. Some appear benign, perhaps even categorized as compliments rather than harassment, but the individual who wanted to “call dibs” on the “Jennifer Lawrence look-alike” is a total creep. And the body shaming comment [link]? Please have several seats.

Besides exposing some sexism and sizism, the Yaks have also shown something that we already know – some folks believe that conferences are vacations. Now, sometimes people have to fully fund their conference attendance so I say they can vacation their little heart out. But the entitlement of some people, such as this Yak, is eye-wincing. Comments like this also go back to the issue of “work-life balance”. To be honest, we probably don’t have any balance because we waste so much time discussing this subject, but there is something seriously wrong when student affairs professionals feel their conference trip is the only time they get to be away from students…

The responses to these Yaks has been interesting. Many have harshly condemned the yaks, a few have joked about it and don’t take them seriously, and some see the Yaks as part of a larger professional crisis.

Regarding the latter, I have to say this: Student Affairs does exist in external formulas when it comes to the profession’s credibility. I’ve seen quite a few tweets worrying how these Yaks could ruin ‘everything we’ve worked for’ to make ourselves credible to faculty, administration, and other key populations (something I think we need to stop worrying about altogether). But let’s stop that hand-wringing right here: Student Affairs has problems, yes, but so does every other profession. Academic Affairs is always in the news for scandals, whether it is the behavior of professors smoking on airplanes or the many accounts of racism, and sexual harassment/assault. We’re gonna be alright, #SAfam.

So, how should we respond?

The statement by NASPA was a great addition to the chorus of folks calling out the behavior on Twitter. I hope we continue to have this conversation within professional development for staff and graduate students. Additionally, I hope that we can be professional in these conversations online and offline – already I’ve seen comments that I perceive as unprofessional in the method of how they are critiquing the #naspa15 Yik Yak people.

PLEASE watch this TedTalk by Monica Lewinisky (“The Price of Shame“) that has been receiving acclaim lately. Recognize that cyber-bullying hurts – this is for both the people that have been mentioned on YikYak as well as how we treat the people who made the mistake of posting harmful and sometimes disturbing comments.

In addition, please read this series of tweets by @BlackGirlDanger on how we shouldn’t publicly shame people who mess up and instead provide space for them to do better. Remember – even Darth Vader was able to redeem himself from the Dark Side.




Yik YUCK: Anonymous Social Media at a Student Affairs Conference

To the Complicated Women of Student Affairs: Thanks for Having Me

by Niki Messmore


For most of my life I’ve thrived from exposure to ‘strong women’ archetypes. At a young age I witnessed sexism (even if I didn’t quite have the words for it then) and I was in need of seeing someone like me, a girl, be a willful and fearless figure. It helped, of course, if they were awesome at martial arts (Buffy! Xena! My childhood heroes, forever).

As I grew older, female representation in non-stereotypical jobs and in the media became increasingly important. Our society is saturated with men overwhelmingly in positions of authority, from the leadership team of my alma mater while I was a student there to the fantasy books/films I love (…at least Tolkien gave us Eowyn…). It is sometimes very difficult  to imagine what is possible for my life when society dictates that my possibilities are limited.

Student Affairs shocked me when I entered graduate school. Surprisingly, even after being a highly involved student leader and service-learning staff member at my alma mater, I still held this lofty idea that student affairs was all about social justice – one of the core components of our field. I learned quickly that was not completely true.

That’s not to say that the field is not down with social justice, but it’s more so with words than action. Ultimately, student affairs is a profession that operates within institutions that were birthed through injustice (after all, who were the only folk to attend colonial colleges?). It’s difficult to move past that, especially when there are social attitudes that affect higher education. We don’t operate inside a vacuum. Not only does systemic oppression affect the profession, but the profession is made up of individuals who each have unique life experiences influenced by systemic oppression.

Still, I was surprised to learn that even though women make up the majority of student affairs employees, the majority of leadership positions are white and male. It’s frustrating to have this gap between our espoused goals and our enacted goals. And this is just one example of how the student affairs profession does perpetuate systemic oppression rather than tear it down.

This is a difficult truth to swallow when one desires to advance to leadership positions over time and has a love for something that isn’t always seen as women friendly, i.e. technology.

That’s why it is so important that I see other women-identified individuals who take leadership in the profession. Fearless women who challenge themselves and their peers. Intelligent and savvy women who bring new ideas into play and think outside our standard processes. Strong women who balance so much in their lives. Vulnerable women who share their successes and failures. Authentic women who call it like it is. Really, as Maggie Gyllenhall said at the Golden Globes, what is important to see is “complicated women“.

Complicated women-identified folks. (because recognition of the gender spectrum needs to be made)

I’ve had the pleasure of blogging on SAWTT since September 2013 and the opportunity to become introduced into this amazing group of women leaders in blogging and beyond. I am so excited to join Kathryn Magura as Co-Editor, and thankful for Kristen Abell for giving me this opportunity.

I look forward to working with SAWTT crew in this new role and learning more from this wonderful community of complicated women-identified folks. If you’re interested in blogging or just want to chat, tweet me up at @NikiMessmore.

To the Complicated Women of Student Affairs: Thanks for Having Me

Follow Friday: #YesAllWomen

by Kristen Abell

Earlier this week, Valerie blogged about the #YesAllWomen hashtag movement on Twitter. I’m writing about it again because I think it’s that important for you to follow it. I’ve considered adding a few tweets to it myself, but as usual, I have more to say about this topic than 140 characters can contain. For this many women to be able to name their experiences with misogyny in a public forum is a huge deal – whether you realize it or not. Even claiming these experiences can feel shaming, and this hashtag has turned it into a moment for women to redefine that shame and direct it where it belongs.

I truly hope that this is a hashtag that speaks to all genders – not just women. Much of what is mentioned in the tweets is a result of stereotypical gendered socialization that doesn’t benefit any of us. I also hope that the sentiments behind this hashtag carry on for much longer than a few days, as Twitter hashtag movements are wont to do. There is so much we can all learn from this.

If you feel so inclined, use the comments below to share your #YesAllWomen tweets, comments and stories – 140 characters or more. Then go check out the hashtag on Twitter and learn what women face on a daily basis – or learn that you are not alone.

In more than 140 characters, here is my story:

Because when I was going to middle school for an education, I was made to feel shameful about the changes my body was going through. Because I was repeatedly harassed in the hallways at school. Because I was groped and touched in all the places I had been taught never to let a stranger touch me, and because they were not strangers but supposedly my friends. Because when I reported them, no one protected me from the retaliation. Because I was afraid to tell my mother any of this until I was much older because I thought it was my fault. Yes me. Yes all women.

Follow Friday: #YesAllWomen

Lean In with #femlead

By Brenda Bethman

Technically, this post is not really about technology (although Sandberg does work at Facebook) — but it is about women, which is the other focus of this blog. And it’s cheating a bit as it’s a cross-post from my personal blog, but it’s April and I’m sick, so it will have to do. Enjoy!! And join us tomorrow and May 14 on Twitter to talk about the book.

lean inIf you’ve been conscious and tuned in to the media at all over the last 6 weeks or so, you have probably heard that Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, wrote a book that people are talking about (just a bit). You may also have heard that there is a fair amount of disagreement in feminist circles about Sandberg’s book and whether it’s helpful or harmful to women.

We at #femlead decided these were questions worth pursuing — so the next two #femlead chats (4/30 and 5/14) were be dedicated to a discussion of Lean In as well as the discussion around it. The chats will be facilitated by me and the fabulous Liana Silva. We hope you can join us and below are some links in case you want to do some pre-reading.

Joan C. Williams and Rachel W. Dempsey, “The Rise of Executive Feminism” in HBR

Anne Marie Slaughter’s review in the NYT

Lean In and One Percent Feminism” in Truthout

Feminism’s Tipping Point: Who Wins from Leaning In?” in Dissent

Jill Filipovic, “Sheryl Sandberg is More of a Feminist Crusader..” in The Guardian

Catherine Rottenberg “Hijacking Feminism” on AlJazeera

Jessica Bennett, “I Leaned In: Why Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Circles’ Actually Help,” in New York Magazine

On Lean-ing In” at Racialicious

Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean in” Message Not Enough for Women, Especially Professional Latinas” at Huffington Post

The Feminist Mystique” in The Economist

Joan Walsh, “Trashing Sheryl Sandberg” at Slate

Questioning Sheryl Sandberg: We’re Not “Trashing,” We’re Exploring” at The Broad Side

Tressie McMillan Cottom “Lean In Litmus Test: Is This For Women Who Can Cry At Work?”

Elsa Walsh, “Why Women Should Embrace a ‘Good Enough’ Life” in the Washington Post

Originally published at http://brendabethman.com/2013/04/22/lean-in-with-femlead/

Lean In with #femlead

F-word at Simmons College: Gloria Steinem’s powerful speech on feminism today (#Storify)

by Jess Faulk

In order to pull together a comprehensive picture of the amazing visit of Gloria Steinem on our campus, I did my very first Storify. This platform was ideal because it allowed me to easily pull in media from Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, and Boston news media.  In a week or so, I will also be able to easily add video posted by our Simmons College marketing team.  Storify always seemed like an interesting concept to me, but until I had an event of this scale I hadn’t found a practical use for this social media story telling tool.

After completing the story, Storifty immediately helps you get the word out by sending out a tweet to everyone whose tweets you used as part of the story.  Also, folks who have storify accounts can sign up to “follow” your story and receive updates when new information is added.

Check out my storify of feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s visit to Simmons College for an example of  how you can use this technology on your campus!


 An example of two tweets pulled into Storify:


F-word at Simmons College: Gloria Steinem’s powerful speech on feminism today (#Storify)

Offbeat (feminist) bride

by Jess Faulk

I just got officially engaged this weekend. I am so excited about the person I will be sharing my life with that I feel spoiled with love.  Beautiful ring, wonderful partner, friends and family who are happy for us – everything should be perfect right?

Well, it turns out that I am quite the reluctant bride to be. At the beginning of our discussion about getting married, I started to pin ideas on Pinterest, but felt it necessary to pin 4-5 geeky items each time to “cover up” my wedding posts.  This weekend it took quite a lot of encouragement to post pictures of my engagement ring online.

I have come to realize that I have a “feminist bridentity crisis.”  As soon as I became part of an engaged couple I began to be peppered with questions that made me question what is important to me and what is not.  Ultimately in thinking about my answers, I am wondering what it means to be a strong feminist woman planning a wedding.  Do I take my partner’s name?  Do I have my father give me away?  What role do I have in planning the wedding and what role does my groom play?

While I struggle with these questions, I also continue to process my feeling about my feelings.  It turns out that I actually like looking at wedding magazines, pinning wedding dresses and decorations.  Does that mean that I am buying into the wedding industrial complex, and is that okay?

I also marvel that my partner, who is totally comfortable in his excitement for the wedding.  While he does not feel like his identity as a feminist man is at risk because he is willing to adopt many wedding traditions, he honors the fact that I am struggling with it, and has the patience to talk through my endless philosophizing.

Together we have started to read a book called Offbeat Bride by Ariel Stallings, the story of the woman who started her own website/blog about planning a wonderfully unique wedding that bucks tradition.  This website’s blog posts give language to a lot of what I have been feeling.

Posts from other off-beat brides include:


I do take a comfort in the fact that we don’t fit the hetero-normative and traditional patterns of engagement.  My partner is a trans man who loves that I scooped him by unofficially proposing with a paper ring before he proposed to me with a beautiful blue sapphire that I helped pick out.  He is an event planner for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) and is taking on the large majority the logistics (he already has the photographer, caterer and venue almost booked – yes,  it’s been just 3 days!).  I am taking care of all the design details, including the wedding website, invitations, infographics (maybe?),  and the geeky details, including phone apps and social media.  We both feel we’ve gotten the better part of the deal – it’s really quite perfect.

We’ve talked about the fact that all of his side of the wedding party will be women, and at least one or two of mine will be men.  We love that we get to plan something that is about us, and celebrating every aspects of our uniqueness. While I am still coming to terms with my bride-to-be status, I am appreciating that I am not alone in this storm of feelings.  It helps to hear others who have come up against these same questions and how they sorted everything out.  I hope you will comment and share your own stories.  Did you, or do you expect to have a feminist bridentity crisis too?

Offbeat (feminist) bride

50 yrs after the Feminine Mystique: What’s Next for Women?

Binders Full of Women Costume
Binders Full of Women Costume

In 2013 we will reach the 50th Anniversary of the Feminine Mystique, the ground-breaking book by Betty Friedan. In those 50 years things have changed a lot, but the question by many is, have they changed enough?

This weekend, while attending the Boston Book Festival, I had the privilege of attending a panel with professor Anita Hill, former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin, and author of The End of Men and the Rise of Women, Hanna Rosin. All three offered unique perspectives on where we are today in regards to women’s rights.

Kunin reminded us that “[Women are] most invisible at the tables where decisions are made about our lives.” Which means, as Kunin put it, “If you aren’t on the table you are on the menu.” Not having women as a part of the panels, around the boardroom, or in positions of power to make decisions severely impacts the ability of women to be able to advocate for women.

All three panelists talked about an interesting fact that I had not spent a lot of time thinking about up to that point. Women resumes are different than most men’s and “we can’t expect women to have similar life stories” said Kunin. If women take time off to have children, both men and other women almost always view those gaps as negative. However, when there are gaps, women can be involved in communities in other interest ways that help develop them further and make them even more valuable in the workforce.

When it comes to women in the workplace, Rosin and Hill spoke about women never asking for raises, and never ask for additional benefits. This means that in some places women are being passed over year after year and raises are given to men who ask. It takes confidence to ask for more money and believe you deserve it, and women need to learn how to take that step.

Similarly, women do not have the same confidence as men when it comes to running for public office. Kunin tells us, “Men look at themselves in the mirror and say I can run for governor. Women look in the mirror and say, “I need to take 3 more classes to run for school board.” Women are so focused on qualifications that we talk ourselves out of something before we try.

Rosin shared interesting research that had been done by Google as they were struggling to find more female applicants. They found that when they advertised a position with criteria, women were not applying. If they listed 10 requirements of the job, women were saying ‘I cant do #3 and #7’ and men look at it and say ‘I can do #4.’

While it was great to listen to these three strong women talk about their books and the state of women in this country (and how we compare to the Netherlands), it was disheartening to hear we have so much more work to be done. In a year where a presidential candidate has to be presented with “binders full of women” in order to bring enough women into his administration; at a time when legislation is being made taking away our rights, it means we need to be thoughtful about how we can both gain confidence in ourselves, and encourage our female students to be more than what they think they can be.

What do you think of what the panelest said?  How do you think we can develop the confidence women need?  What do you think is the “problem with no name”/The feminine mystique of today? 

50 yrs after the Feminine Mystique: What’s Next for Women?

Anonymous Commenting and Authenticity

By Anitra Cottledge

Recently, a colleague of mine was interviewed for the local news regarding a retention initiative for students of color. It was a great segment, and I told him so. A day or so after the segment aired, he emailed the link for the clip to several people, and pointed our attention to the comments.

I groaned. Lately, I dread reading the comments sections of online blogs, newspapers, and other publications, particularly when the story has to do with social justice in some way or another. I’m sure you’ve seen comments of this ilk; just see some of the commentary surrounding Naomi Schaefer Riley’s comments about eliminating black studies.

Some of this is part of being a citizen in a democratic society; we are expected – at least, in theory – to engage in healthy discussion in which we can respectfully debate and disagree with statements if we so choose. I think that social media, including blogs, can be a powerful site of rich, public discourse. For instance, whether or not you identify yourself as a feminist, I would hope that most of us can see the role and impact of blogs like Feministing or Crunk Feminist Collective in activism, conversation and thought-creation.

That being said, a lot of times, the comments on social justice-focused articles make me want to bang my head on a desk. When I read comments that I feel are trollish, bigoted, over-the-top, or just downright hateful, I just sigh. Or growl. Or throw something.

Lately, the phenomenon of anonymous commenting has brought up a few questions for me: Is anonymity a boon or a curse? Are people who use anonymous commenting as a platform to talk trash or share their racist/homophobic/sexist/classist/ableist/etc. views just acting out? In other words, is there a performative aspect to anonymous commenting that doesn’t accurately reflect a person’s views? Or is anonymous commenting a way for people to showcase the way they really feel about an issue? Does it give voice to those who would not otherwise be heard, and those who feel like they can’t express the way they feel in face-to-face dialogues about social justice topics?

And if people’s actual views are more in line with the vitriol or ignorance they spout anonymously on the intrawebz, where does that leave us when we need to have face-to-face conversations about these same topics?

I have heard some people argue that people should be forced to login with their Facebook or Twitter account to post comments to some websites, but I’m not comfortable with that, nor do I think that’s the answer. For one, people could be using pen names or fake names on FB and Twitter. Also, that’s a little too much policing of people’s privacy.

Privacy is another element of this conversation. When the cast of The Hunger Games became public, there were several racist remarks made about the casting choices. There was even a Tumblr site created to expose “Hunger Games fans on Twitter who dare to call themselves fans yet don’t know a damn thing about the books.”

Should we call out these folks who make these comments? Some would argue that if your Twitter stream, for instance, is public and attached to your name, then you don’t have a leg to stand on when your comments pop up on popular blogs the next day a lá Gwyneth Paltrow.

As usual, I don’t have definitive answers, just a backpack full of questions. What say you, Student Affairs Women Talk Tech readers?

Anonymous Commenting and Authenticity


As I was preparing for my NEACUHO presentation “Breaking through the firewall: #womentech” I was very excited to find a number of videos and articles that highlighted fabulous female technologists, shed light on the gender dynamic in the industry, and opened my eyes to a new ways of thinking about the growing online world of women 2.0.

In this week’s linkage love, I would like to share with you some of my favorites.

When I began my search for articles on my presentation topic was incredibly impressed with the enormous number of pieces aggregated on the Huffington Post “Women in Tech” page.  I am definitely book marking this page and coming back often!


This article raises some interesting questions about technology company trends, and technology companies downward movement in regards to women in leadership positions.  The article shares 2010 Reuters data and at the bottom has a series of video clips from a “Women in Tech” series.  One of my favorites is Marissa Mayer, the first female  engineer at google.


The first thing I noticed about this website when I arrived was how beautiful it was.  In particular, I was drawn in by the header, which really made being a “women who tech” seem so fun and whimsical.  On the front page they share the why it is important to have this space for women.  These three ideas are becoming my own mantra as I begin to talk more and more about this important topic:

  • Women are underrepresented
  • To Break Down Barriers
  • To Mobilize a network of Women

Easily my favorite part of the website of course of their <fact> Women Rule. </fact> infographic!


From the womenwhotech.com website I also found the #women2follow hashtag, created in 2009 in response to the lack of women profiled on top 10 tech and social media lists.  I look forward to using this one in the near future.

On the women 2.0 entrepreneurial-focused website I stumbled upon a enjoyable keynote speech from Kara Swisher, Co-Executive editor of All things D, on “4 Reasons why females will rule the future.”  Her message about “pushing harder” when things get tough instead of making excuses as to why you shouldn’t step it up really resonated with me.


Bragging Versus Celebrating: Is there A Gender Gap in How We React to Accomplishments?

By Kathryn Magura

In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, we were discussing how men and women tend to react differently when they win something. The conversation stemmed from the fact that I recently won an award from ACUHO-I for the Article of the Year for an article I wrote for our Talking Stick Journal with a colleague.

During our conversation, my friend asked me if I had shared the news with my colleagues at work. I responded that I had told my supervisor and a few coworkers, and had posted the news on Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t feel it should be my role to send something out to our department, because I didn’t want to be perceived as bragging. My friend pointed out to me that I should be very proud of my award, because it is a reflection of all my hard work and commitment to my national association. My friend further pointed out that if I were a man, I would have shouted my achievement from the rooftops.

This comment really got me thinking. Why didn’t I share my achievement more broadly? If I did “shout it from the rooftops” would I come across as egocentric and bragging? Would this perception be the same if I was a man? What role does gender play in how we approach celebrating accomplishments?

Since we had this conversation, I have been continuing to think about the perceived gender gap in celebration of accomplishments. In the past, whenever I have accomplished a big goal or won something, I have been quick to share credit with others, and often belittle the level of honor I deserve. Do I do this because it is a female tendency? Do my male counterparts do the same?

If there is a gender discrepancy in honoring awards and accomplishments, how do we change it? How do we make it okay for everyone (man, woman, whatever) to be proud of what they have accomplished?

Oh, and for the record: I AM SO EXCITED AND HONORED TO HAVE WON THIS DISTINGUISHED AWARD! There, that felt good.

Bragging Versus Celebrating: Is there A Gender Gap in How We React to Accomplishments?