By August Kissel and Julia Skeval
Every Wednesday, dozens of Jamesville-DeWitt High School students pack into the Large Group Room for a Gender Equality Club meeting. This club seems to be the one place where students are not limited to the restraints of a classroom where they need to be careful to not sound too opinionated or worried about upsetting someone. These meetings are meant to establish a dialogue concerning issues prominent in the society teens today are growing up in.
On April 22, a group who calls themselves The Flock presented on doubts they have about a gender gap existing between the sexes in the workforce. As a rebuttal, seniors Hunter Siegal and Emily O’Conner and sophomores Giovanni Antonucci and Kate Salvo spoke about how the wage gap does exist and the problems it creates.
A major talking point was the issue of discrimination against women before they even enter the workforce. Women tend to have fewer options thanks to factors such as occupation selection, hours of work required for a certain career, and whether or not a woman wants to have children later in life.
The decision to have children can lead to what has been named The Mommy Track, which Seigal described as the diminishing opportunities of women in the workforce upon becoming mothers. The presenters argued that there needs to be a better way of getting women back into the workforce after their maternity leave. Women are often accused of not being committed to their jobs just because they left to have children while for men, having a child has virtually no effect on his work or earnings.
Once the presentation was finished, the floor was opened up for students on both sides of the argument to voice their opinions. Members of The Flock in the audience were allowed to voice their opinions once more after having seen a different side of the topic. Students in the general audience asked questions to Siegel, O’Conner, Antonucci and Salvo such as what solutions do you have to fix the gender gap? and do you think men should receive some sort of paternity leave?
On May 20, presenter Julia Dettor spoke about rape culture. Wikipedia defines rape cultures as a concept in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_culture). Social studies teacher Donna Oppedisano spoke to the group on this issue comparing rape culture from when she was younger to today. She addressed the male students, asking if they ever felt unsafe while out alone at night. The point she was trying to make was that this society is a patriarchy, valuing male over female dominance.
Mrs. Oppedisano also brought up the dress code, saying that, due to hypersexualization of women in the media, girls at J-DHS are brainwashed to believe that they need to wear revealing clothing in order to be accepted by their peers. It is up to the school, Mrs. Oppediasno believes, to put a stop to this through the employment of a dress code.
On May 27, senior Josh Gutmaker presented Why Men Need Feminism, a speech about loosening the gender roles; especially as it applies to men. His main point circulated around the stigma that men aren’t supposed to cry and that playing with or being seen doing anything that society has deemed “girly” or “gay” makes them less of a man compared to their friends.
He played a trailer for the upcoming documentary The Mask You Live In, which follows men of all ages as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America's narrow definition of masculinity. Then the floor was once again opened up to questions and comments from the audience. What followed is what can be seen at each meeting: all kinds of students voicing what they think about the chosen topic. Some are more on the shy side but chose to speak up because they feel strongly about the issue and others are known to always speak their mind. While not everyone can agree on any presentation, students say that having a designated place to meet and be free to say what they want is a big step towards actually doing something to solve these problems once a for all.
The Gender Equality Club meets on Wednesdays in the Large Group Room right after school. The floor is always open to anyone with a voice willing to share what they believe in.