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MC alumna discusses chauvinism

March 27, 2015

On Monday, March 23, 71-year-old Donna Sproston led a discussion titled “Brainwashed from Birth: Chauvinism vs. Choice” as a part of The F-Word Speaker series sponsored by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

AAUW stands for the American Association of University Women and has functioned on a platform of empowering women as individuals and as a community since 1881. Sproston, along with the majority of the audience members at the discussion, have fought for nondiscriminatory equity through the AAUW for decades.

“AAUW has been a broadening experience for me,” said Sproston. “Getting together with women from all over the state to talk about equity has made me more of an activist.”

The Monmouth branch of the AAUW began 90 years ago. The branch was founded by a group of women that experienced the ever-growing movement of feminism throughout their lifetimes. These women lived in households in which their mothers were expected to stay at home, yet they had the opportunity to leave home, get an education and create households without defined gender roles. The members of the AAUW branch in Monmouth have conquered the cognitive dissonance about their roles as women in society, and make it their mission to help other women and also men do the same.

The F-Word Speaker Series was created by Dr. Marlo Belschner in 2007 to explore the varied feminisms of faculty, staff, administrators and alumni with Monmouth College faculty and students. Sproston recalls that at the very first session, the majority of the audience was under the impression that the discussion series would revolve around the f-word that rhymes with ‘duck’ rather than feminism. However, in the past six years the purpose of the AAUW has developed an acclaimed status on campus.

At this discussion, Sproston depicted how her interpretation of feminism began with her perspective of her parents’ marriage.
“I never saw my mother not dressed for the day,” said Sproston. “I will never forget the moment in the summer of 1952 when she blurted out that my father expected too much of her.”

Despite her attainment of a degree in journalism, Sproston’s mother was expected to tend to the children and the household full-time and abandon the idea of a career after she got married. When she passed away in 1952, the community of Prairie Village, Kansas began to tend to the emotional and physical needs of Sproston and her brother, as their father still did not feel as though it was his duty.

Along with the definitive gender roles in her parent’s marriage, Sproston felt a lack of feminism in both her high school and college experiences. Her high school contained over 3,000 students, and while hundreds of males had the opportunity to play sports, females were only able to participate in the cheerleading squad or the dance drill team.

Sproston entered Monmouth College in the fall of 1962, where the women students were required to uphold the standards established by the campus’s Association of Women Students. These standards included signing in and out of the dorm after 5 p.m. and being back in the dorm by 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, only wearing skirts and dresses and facing expulsion for drinking. Alternatively, the men on campus had very few rules to follow except for the campus-wide ban on alcohol.

Sproston’s discussion of her slow awakening to the importance of feminism inspired everyone in attendance of The F Word Speaker Series.

Penny Flynn
Contributing Writer

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