Gender issues have been a big problem on Goshen College’s campus this year. Students have spoken a lot about how power dynamics have been more evident in every day interactions, like catcalling, and on social media, like Yik Yak. The issues have been big enough that Student Senate is talking about them, the administration is concerned and a group of students formed to discuss future actions.
Monday there was a bonus convocation and a panel talk-back session, put on by this group of students, to bring together the disjointed conversations about gender happening around campus, and then pull them together with some practical definitions and applications. The students defined terms like feminism, sex, gender, sexism, ally, power and privilege.
I left the evening event, a panel and large group discussion, feeling uplifted and fulfilled, partially because of the fact that at least 80 people showed up and partially because of the vulnerability students showed. Though the group received many positive responses about the positivity and format of the event, there were some questions about this discussion’s effectiveness.
The biggest problem people had was that there was no call-to-action. I would argue that there wasn’t an explicit call to action but that there was an implicit one. Events like these don’t necessarily give solutions or long-term plans, but rather they disempower ignorance. The implicit call-to-action was to hold others and yourself accountable.
Everyone who attended the events can now be held accountable for their actions and words, because they heard, first-hand, the degrading effect they have on the women and men in their community. Both men and women spoke to how power dynamics create gendered spheres as well as difficulties to overcome in one’s respective gender group. The overall message was that everyone is affected, that these issues hurt males and females.
So, if you want an explicit call-to-action, you’ve got one. Hold yourself accountable. Think before you speak or act and apologize and own up to anything you do that offends someone. Hold others accountable and call them out when they say or do something that offends someone.
It’s not huge. It won’t change everyone. It won’t transform this campus. But this little step, this little action of accountability, can be the catalyst for bigger change on campus.