MERC effort falls flat

NW Staff

Below this editorial, we have reproduced the table tent flyer that NMU’s Multicultural Education and Resource Center (MERC) deemed appropriate to honor Women’s History Month.

The most disconcerting aspect of the flyer is the photo – initially used in a Dove cosmetics advertisement – that takes up nearly half of it. Evidently, MERC felt that a photo of women laughing in their underwear accurately represents the multi-faceted history of women in this country.

During the month of March, MERC did organize many valuable events – including presentations by NMU Provost Susan Koch and a few professors – that appropriately reflected on women’s history. But a lot of good can be quickly undone by a foolish mistake.

According to the National Women’s History Project (NWHP), which spearheaded the creation of Women’s History Month in 1987, the month of March “provides an opportunity to educate the general public about the significant role of women in American history and contemporary society.”

Through time, women have been influential authors, politicians and social reformers; they have certainly contributed as much to society as any other group of people. To trivialize this contribution by resorting to understated, oversimplified and sophomoric stereotypes goes against the purpose of Women’s History Month and is irresponsible on the part of MERC.

Shirley Brozzo, associate director of MERC, says the photo represents the fact that all women are beautiful, regardless of shape, size or color. Apart from the inadequacy of such a clichéd defense, it doesn’t apply to this photo, which includes only traditionally attractive young women who seem relatively fit.

Even if a person can get past the odd picture, they will have a much tougher time making it through the text without stumbling. The second and third questions on the brief women’s history quiz make no sense grammatically, and the rest of the text is littered with typos. The eight possible answers to the first two questions are the names of famous women. Three of the names – Virginia Woolf, Phillis Wheatley and Betsy Ross – are spelled incorrectly. And while Women’s History Month was first recognized in 1987, MERC claims that it started in 1978.

This appalling inattention to detail serves as an exclamation point on MERC’s carelessness. How can you even pretend to honor a group of people if you can’t check the facts on a simple quiz?

Again, The North Wind acknowledges the fact that during the past month, MERC has done much to honor the historical contributions of women. But by attaching that photo to the Women’s History Month quiz and by publishing and distributing the information without so much as proof-reading the document, MERC disrespected women, rather than honoring them.