From the outside looking in, seeing the amount of diversity on this campus, it would be easy to assume that our progressive campus is a paradigm of equal opportunity and social justice. While we have taken many steps towards becoming a safe and inclusive campus, from anti-sexual assault activism to gender inclusive housing, we still have a ways to go. Instances of sexual assault still persist on this campus. Beyond that, we, as a community, often fail to see beyond the gender binary, contributing to stigma and discrimination against those who do not conform to our strictly set norms.
As first-year students in the Global Scholars Program, we were assigned the third of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. Throughout the year we have made it an effort to deconstruct the entire meaning behind this large and ambiguous goal. We researched what it meant for various communities around the world — from how gender plays a role in everyday life to the varying degrees of, often violent, oppression that result from an oppressive gender hierarchy.
But there is only so much that can be understood through literature reviews and second hand accounts of other cultures. We sought to explore this idea of gender equality, beyond just the gender binary, and beyond our own experiences. We went to members of our campus community to discover what “gender equality” in and of itself and as an ideal for our community really means. To extend women’s empowerment beyond campus, we raised money for The Empowerment Plan, a non-profit organization based in Detroit that employs homeless community members—a problem that disproportionately affects single mothers — full time to earn a stable income making jackets that also serve as sleeping bags and backpacks that are distributed to homeless communities around the United States and Canada. We hope that through amplifying the dialogue about gender on our campus and through empowering the community around us, we can spark a new wave of passion for a more inclusive campus and for the grander movement towards gender equality.
“Gender equality is letting everyone be themselves regardless of their gender and letting them do whatever they want. Gender is an assigned thing that shouldn’t impact how you view others. It should be something that lets you decide about yourself and lets you be you.” –Lauren Tamburro, LSA sophomore
Photo Courtesy of Shahnur Ahmed
“No, I do not think that we have reached gender equality on this campus. Until I can walk on this campus wherever and whenever, and feel safe, then we will not have reached gender equality. Until I can wear whatever I want without being judged, we will not have reached gender equality. Until I gain the same respect in the classroom as my male counterparts, we will not have reached gender equality.” –Armaity Minwalla, LSA sophomore
“Learning about feminism released me from the pressures that masculinity pushes on people, and that influenced my life dramatically and made me a happier person.” –German Gonzalez, LSA senior
“I have gone to seminars on gaming and computer science where there have been as little as 2 females in a group of 200 people. About only 15% of computer science majors are women and this is an issue that we have become accustomed to.” –Allie Cell, Engineering freshman
Photo Courtesy of Shahnur Ahmed
“I was raised by a single Black woman and witnessed the constraints of inequality first hand. My mom would often work far beyond the standard 40 hour work week and do hair as a side hustle to provide for me and my brothers. Many men may not see how this is relevant to them, but it is. The trend of single parent households is growing and the majority of these households are headed by women. If this norm persists and women aren’t given equal pay it may have a ripple effect on their children and our nation as a whole. If women raise young boys, like my mother did and circumstances force them to live in impoverished neighborhoods because of unequal pay or workplaces discriminating in their hiring practices (by refusing to hire mothers) it may impact the capacity for young boys to partake in upward social mobility, thus continuing the cycle of generational poverty. If one works full time they shouldn’t have to go to bed on an empty stomach. Also, women shouldn’t have to choose between having children and their career, it should be both and, not either or.” –Sean Smith, LSA junior
“Gender equality for me means having equal opportunity and chance to access the same education and jobs or any other opportunity.” –Olivia Patercsack, LSA senior
“I have become more aware of street harassment while on campus. I have seen a couple examples of it walking on and around campus. I try to intervene whenever I can.” –Johnathon Beals, Instructional Designer in the Language Resource Center
“Gender equality means taking gender roles out of the equation.” –Misha Shaikh, LSA sophomore
Thomas Friedlander, Noah Betman, Shahnur Ahmed, Amina Bilic, Tyler Underwood, Davina Buruchara, Sarah Twomey, Won Ju Kang, and Indulekha Ghandikota also contributed to this article.