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Commission on Status of Women asked to take down Facebook page

Arts Editor

Published: Monday, March 5, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 16:03

Women Vagina


The above photo led to an editorial in the Union Leader, which led to the UNH President’s Committee on the Status of Women being asked to take down its Facebook page, where the photo was displayed.

The debate over reproductive rights has become the 2012 presidential campaign's hottest topic. Birth control and abortion legislation have angered liberals and conservatives alike. Amid the national controversy surrounding women's bodies, there is controversy happening at UNH as well.

Recently, the UNH President's Commission on the Status of Women was asked to remove its Facebook page following an editorial posted by the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tues., Feb. 28. The editorial criticized UNH for maintaining "countless boards and panels" for unnecessary reasons, as well as allowing these boards to participate in "one-sided political activism through social media."

The editorial also called out the Facebook page's profile photo.

"There's also a ridiculous photo of five women in absurd, sexually explicit costumes that will outrage readers while sending others into fits of laughter" the editorial stated.

Just hours after the editorial was posted on the newspaper's website, the Facebook page was deleted. Prior to deleting, the commission posted a status update explaining that the university had asked them to remove it.

According to Wanda Mitchell, vice provost for faculty development and inclusive excellence, the page will return once details are discussed and guidelines for posting are developed. She said Facebook is a useful tool, but that it is difficult to regulate. A meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday to discuss these concerns.

Meanwhile, one proponent of the commission and women's rights has created a Twitter account to vent her frustration. @frustratedNHfem, who asked to remain anonymous given her current position at the university but will be identified as Leslie for the purposes of this article, said the forced deletion of the commission's Facebook page was the last straw.

"Basically they were censored because some outside people were offended by women's issues," Leslie said in an email. "They thought the awareness that the W.C. provides around very controversial issues was being too political. Of course when you make something as personal as health care a political issue like birth control coverage, what can you expect? If lawmakers weren't all up in my lady parts all the time then we wouldn't need to be talking about them so much."

Leslie said she found the Union Leader's editorial offensive, but was more angered by the university's response. Leslie graduated from UNH in 2004 with a degree from the College of Liberal Arts. She said she is not part of the Women's Commission, but that she was able to keep track of several women's issues because of the regular posts made on the commission's Facebook page. Its removal is unjustified censorship, she said.

"If learning about sexism and attacks on women's health makes people (like the Union Leader) uncomfortable, well ... Then it should," Leslie said. "It makes me uncomfortable that I get paid less because I am a woman. It makes me uncomfortable that I have to think about my safety on a regular basis and how to reduce my risk of getting raped. It makes me uncomfortable that my health has become political."

Mitchell said many changes in university policies and practices have occurred because of the commission's work. Its mission statement is to "create equal educational and employment opportunities for all UNH women."

"Our Women's Commission has educated the campus and individuals throughout the Granite State on issues that are important to women, knowing that if these issues are not addressed, they will have a devastating impact on the entire campus," Mitchell said.

She added that she believes these issues will be resolved soon. Mitchell said that the commission is a women's group focused on taking action, which she said is especially important now. March is Women's History Month, and women's health is an increasingly hot topic for debate in the U.S. political sphere.

Leslie's Twitter account also focuses on these national issues surrounding women's health. She created @frustratedNHfem the same day that the Union Leader posted its editorial and the commission deleted its Facebook page. She has been tweeting steadily ever since, using a combination of sarcasm, retweets of various women's organizations and news sites, and tweets targeted at those she believes should be more instrumental in the feminist discussion.

"Want to censor Rush Limbaugh? Ask the @UnionLeader to write a cry baby editorial. Worked w/ censoring the #UNH Women's Commission," she tweeted on March 3.

In an email, Leslie said she thinks the current legislation discussions are setting progress back by several years. Despite accusations in the Union Leader's editorial that the unequal rights issues discussed on the commission's Facebook page are nonexistent or at the very least inaccurate, Leslie said the debate surrounding women's health suggests otherwise.

"I can only hope that more women and MEN start recognizing that times like these where we take away a person's right to choose what is right for them and their health, when that choice is taken away it is a very dangerous time."

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Tue Mar 6 2012 19:57
people are so damn sensitive nowadays, we try to ban everything that makes one person's skin crawl for whatever reason. vaginas are great and censorship in america is DISGUSTING
Tue Mar 6 2012 16:31
Thank you for continuing to serve up well thought out articles on women's health, and representing a voice that needs to be heard. Women's Rights are extremely relevant right now more than ever and need to be protected. Women's rights are human's rights. Suppression is still suppression and it's really incredible how unnoticed it goes in our political system today. It's also unfortunate how apolitical many students are and how uninformed many are about these issues. In the midst of tnh I am happy to see at least some articles touching on this topic and bringing it to light. Thank you.
Tue Mar 6 2012 14:05
Personally, I find the Photos Humerous and not at all Offensive.....QUESTION - what could possibly be offensive obout the Human Body?
Muriel M. Lucas
A reader
Tue Mar 6 2012 12:01
You misquoted the Union Leader. What the editorial actually said was: "There's also a ridiculous photo of five women in absurd, sexually-explicit costumes that will outrage some readers while sending others into fits of laughter."
Tue Mar 6 2012 11:00
I know what I'm getting for my new work wardrobe, that's right a big vagina costume. I hope women on campus come to class as vaginas, especially since the current political climate in Concord seems to think we're all just life support for our vaginas.
Tue Mar 6 2012 08:44
Hmmm. Something like 60% of college students are women, now. Maybe it's time we had a commission on the status of men, now that we're a minority.

Personally, I'd like to see the Supreme Court reverse it's decision - fat chance, since all the right-to-lifers AND most women would oppose it - on making men's lives dependent upon the decisions women make about abortion and adoption. If women don't *have* to bear children, men shouldn't *have* to support them. The argument about the body - that's crap. Men have to use their bodies to support children they didn't want. Somehow, that's not an issue of control over our own bodies and lives.

About rape: that sucks. It also sucks that so many women are distrustful of men. Do you have any idea how often I've heard guys, who've done NOTHING wrong, described as creeps.? Actually, that seems to have become the epithet of choice for any man whose attention is unwanted. The way women might feel about being called a skank, might be an analogy for men being called creeps. Do you have any idea how often I've heard men, who've done nothing wrong, described as possible pedophiles? Most women have to worry about rape; most men have to worry about scaring any woman they come into contact with. The fact is, most men would help and protect any woman being attacked or bothered. But, that's not how we're treated. It sucks for everybody.

Men really do have issues. Women mostly don't want to hear about them; only their issues are important. They've been telling us that for over 40 years, and it annoys them when we notice that there are bad and unfair things for men also.. If we had paid researchers at every college and university in the land, we'd hear more about those. Fat chance, hey?

Tue Mar 6 2012 08:31
Why is the Women's Commission the only group at UNH who has to submit to "guidelines" for posting on Facebook? Both the college and the department I work in have Facebook pages, and neither of them have been subject to this sort of censorship.
Tue Mar 6 2012 08:02
Sexism is sexism is sexism.
Tue Mar 6 2012 01:33
The UNH admin is just worried that someone may lose their job and then they'd be short one vice-president of road paving or some other ridiculous position. What are they afraid of? Someone getting sued for vagina costumes? It's not like the State can take any more money away.

Seriously, what a bunch of chickens.

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