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Shepherd grads hear feminism's lighter side

May 20, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Regina Barreca, a popular media expert who has appeared on television programs including "20/20" and "48 Hours," kept her commencement address at Shepherd College on the light side Saturday.

About 600 Shepherd students graduated this year, school officials said.

Barreca, a professor of feminist theory at the University of Connecticut, relayed how much things have changed since she was a student at Dartmouth College.

When she arrived at Dartmouth, Barreca said girls were told they should not laugh in the presence of men they hoped to impress. Instead, women were to act as a "creature of mystery," she said.

The problem is, laughter has always been a central part of Barreca's life.

"A day in which you laugh is a day which you have not wasted," said Barreca, who is frequently quoted in publications such as Time, Life, USA Today and Cosmopolitan.

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Barreca said she was the first woman in her family to go to college and the first one to graduate from high school in a "timely fashion."

She said girls in her neighborhood were not preoccupied with school as much as with their "big hair."

Barreca said when she told her family she was going away to college, they quizzically looked at her and said, "You're pregnant, right?

"It was the only reason a girl left the neighborhood," Barreca told students during the college's 127th commencement ceremony in the Butcher Center. "I went to college thinking, 'I got nine months.' ''

Barreca related other trials and tribulations in her life, such as the time she was invited to England to compete in a television quiz show.

The quiz show started by letting contestants compete in their areas of expertise, and Barreca's was playwright Tennessee Williams.

She did well in the category, but then the game switched to American history, and she was in trouble.

"I grew up in Brooklyn. That has nothing to do with America," she said.

But Barreca said the game show taught her a lesson: That excitement in life is about taking challenges. And don't get too anxious about what you will face, Barreca told students.

Sometimes the intimidation will prevent you from stepping forward.

"Take a risk. Take a chance. It's what life's all about," she said.

After her speech, Barreca was presented with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from college President David Dunlop.

"This means we're going steady," Barreca quipped.

Barreca is also the author of a number of books, including "Sweet Revenge: The Wicked Delights of Getting Even" and "Perfect Husbands (and Other Fairy Tales)."

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