“Sierra girls": a close reading

Here’s a closer look at the student opinion piece that’s bringing Sierra College national fame. Throughout “One person’s view: Sierra girls really aren’t all that ‘hot,’” author Nicholas Louis refers to young females attending Sierra College as “girls” 11 times but never refers to their male colleagues as “boys.” Many critics cite Louis’s semantic asymmetry as sexist. (See related story.)

They also claim his use of colloquial references to women and his descriptions of women are dehumanizing because many of them have animal-based derivatives. Louis refers to female students as “chicks” and asserts that the majority are “bitchy.” He also writes:

“The majority of Sierra College girls are insecure.”

Although this was stated in an opinion piece, Louis never conducted any sort of polls to determine whether or not the majority of female students really were insecure. Protesters denounce the comment as speculation based on unsubstantiated personal experiences.

“This superficial compensation is achieved in some of the following ways: going to tanning parlors, getting their hair dyed, smoking to look cool, having a cell phone stuck to their ear, talking in a stuck-up manner, getting stupid tattoos, piercing the navel area or tongue, wearing tight-fitting clothes and short skirts, and showing off cleavage.”

Louis is criticized for stereotyping students and then passing value judgment on that basis. Many protesters argue that tattoos and piercings are a form of self-expression and that having a cell phone is a useful and common means of communicating.

“Directly affected are the girls that can’t compete; they naturally lose their self-esteem due to corporate media’s exploitation of women and the art of social conditioning.”

Louis makes the argument that societal pressure forces women to feel like they have an unrealistic standard to live up to. He says that females who don’t look like the ideals they see in corporate media underestimate their self-worth as a consequence. He says women should be judged on what they have to say rather than on how they look while they’re saying it.

“Many males find the girls to be a distraction from the learning environment, affecting their ability to concentrate.”

Many who were offended claim this statement reveals a misogynistic mind-set that implies education is for and should cater to men. They say it blames women for male-discipline issues, and they challenge supporters of the article to propose a solution. Perhaps a community college with a dress code?

“What makes a hot girl? I believe the most significant quality in a girl is an attractive personality.”

Here, Louis explains his criteria for evaluating female attractiveness. Although he acknowledges that looks do play a role, he says it’s a relatively small one.

“I find the majority to be stuck-up, bitchy and self-centered.”

This phrase has been quoted most frequently and attacked most rigorously.

“Girls need to stop flooding their minds with concern about what people think of them. … Does it really have any consequence if one has passed judgment of you?”

Louis is again saying women should not care about other people’s opinions of them because their intrinsic self-worth isn’t predicated upon what other people think.