By Shinae Lee ’19
How much of what you think and believe has been influenced by family, friends, your culture and society? It can be easier, or safer, to adopt sets of values that have been created by others. However, it is important to have your own beliefs, and having variety in morals makes you who you are: all your experiences allow you to discern the differences between what is right and what is wrong. What kind of issues do you tend to notice or care about?
This year at Gordon, women make up 63% of the student body. So why not talk about that? What have you always believed, what have you always been taught about what it means to be a man or a woman? Everything that has shaped your understanding of the world, I respect. However, I challenge you to look at these questions and maybe put yourself outside your comfort zone. Push the boundaries of what you already believe and question it.
- First, do you ever think about gender or do you not worry about that kind of stuff?
- Do you believe we have gender equality in our society? Is one sex considered superior than the other? Why do you believe that?
- Would you agree that having equal rights in writing does not always mean that they are followed in practice? Or would you argue that cases of discrimination are anomalies that are exaggerated and blown out of proportion?
- Are there things that you want to do, but can’t because your gender restricts you? Have you ever felt discouraged from pursuing something because you are a man or a woman?
- Are both women and men constrained by society’s creation of femininity and masculinity? Do you think that “feminism,” or “sexism” is only about women?
- Do you try to stay away from the word “feminist” because it has negative connotations?
- Should people be allowed to do things that make them happy and healthy? The right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?”
- Birth control pills consist of low doses of two important hormones naturally found in the human body, specifically women. How would you think of them if they were called “hormone regulation pills” instead?
- Did you know that birth control is not just for contraception? The pill is used to treat women with moderate to severe, often painful, medical conditions, that have nothing to do with sexual activity. In fact, you probably know women who need it for medical reasons. Did you or would you think of people differently if you found out that they are on the pill?
- Were you aware that birth control can be an effective treatment to help reduce the monthly visits of pain, cramps, PMS, PMDD, acne, bloating, heavy flows, unpredictable cycles (and much more) that women experience? If you weren’t aware, has this knowledge changed your perspectives in any way?
- Do you ever feel offended by things others say based on generalizations about your gender?
- How much do you know about planned parenthood and the services they provide?
- What do you think of the name “planned parenthood”? What do those words imply to you?
- Do you think men (who aren’t medical professionals) are qualified to decide what women can and cannot do with their bodies? Do you think women (who aren’t medical professionals) are qualified to decide what men can and cannot do with their bodies?
- Do you think it’s acceptable to admit a wrongdoing?
- Should women walk alone on the streets at night? What about men? Why?
- Do you know that occurrence for sexual assault, sexual and physical violence are significantly higher for people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ+?
- Have you ever been taught about consent and safe sex? Why do you think that is?
- If you are a woman, do you feel pressured to get married? Why or why not? If you are a man, do you feel pressured to get married? Why or why not?
- Do you ever feel obligated to do something for someone of the opposite sex? Do you ever offer help to someone of the opposite sex? Would you offer that same kind of help to someone of the same sex as you? Why or why not?
- Do you think models and the media present unrealistic expectations on how men and women should look or behave?
- What did you want to be when you were younger? What was your dream job?
- How many times do you say “sorry” in a given day? Is it a habitual reaction? Why?
- Do you think that women should be always be polite? Is that same expectation placed on men?
- Have you ever changed your mind or beliefs because of an experience or learning something new? If so, has that been a moment of growth for you?
- Would you ever let go of all your pride and comforts in order to stand up for what you believe in? Would you respect someone else who did, even if you disagree with them?
- Have these questions changed the way you think about gender?
These questions are just the beginning. I only hope that reading them, perhaps even answering them, has pushed you to places of thought that you are not familiar with. I care about these kinds of questions, not simply because I am a woman, but these topics apply to everyone: men, women, and everyone else in between. It affects all of us and as the incredible and complex creatures that humans are, we have a responsibility to question the world around us. Asking questions is not a disrespectful act. To question the world is not to undermine or ridicule anyone, rather it shows initiative and desire to learn without fear of what may be discovered.