British Columbia

SFU videos promoting energy conservation criticized as sexist

An SFU professor says she's hurt that a video produced by the school about conserving energy, of all things, is filled with sexist stereotypes about female professors.

SFU agrees videos were “inappropriate, sexist and not in keeping with our equity commitments.”

A still from one of the offending videos. SFU history professor Elise Chenier said the stereotypes in the video were "deeply upsetting and disappointing.” The videos have now been removed from SFU's social media channels. (SFU)

A video produced by Simon Fraser University two years ago to promote energy conservation is being criticized for sexist overtones.

History professor Elise Chenier came across the Sweater Day videos on Wednesday when SFU's facilities department sent out a link to the old videos.

She said she was shocked by the videos and the way they portrayed female professors.
"I was horrified but more than being horrified, I was really hurt," she said. "To see that my own institution was perpetuating the very stereotypes that harm us … was so deeply upsetting and disappointing."

When breaking down one of the videos, Chenier objected to the stereotypical appearance of the female professor, the fact that she is referred to as "Miss" Pinkum as opposed to doctor or professor Pinkum and the way she becomes a sex object for the student's attention — which she apparently enjoys.

"And then at the end, the tagline is, 'save energy, it's sexy,' so the video doesn't hide what it's trying to do. It's trying to be the ol' 'nudge nudge, wink wink,'" she said.

SFU Sweater Day video

6 years ago
University pulled down video after it was criticized for sexism 0:50

Chenier and others demanded the videos be removed from YouTube, and the university complied the same day they received her complaint.

Still, she says an apology is owed from university president Andrew Petter.

"I would like them to acknowledge that the video they produced was sexist and as such is harmful and damaging," she said. "I'm hopeful that will be forthcoming."

SFU vice-president for external relations Joanne Curry later released a statement addressing some of Chenier's concerns. In the statement, Curry agrees the videos were "inappropriate, sexist, and not in keeping with our equity commitments."

"As the video was produced by an external vendor, I had not seen it. When I did watch it, I immediately agreed with the feedback we had received," the statement read.

"We took steps to remove the video as quickly as possible and have followed up with the group who produced and distributed the video to ensure it will no longer be used."

The statement said an investigation was planned to determine how the videos were posted and also said the school will develop procedures to make sure it's not repeated.


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