I’ll give you the short answer – yes, absolutely.
Some people think that gender equity isn’t a concern anymore for our students – or at least a serious one. We have a majority-female cabinet, this year ASW leadership was mostly women, and we’ve won an award for LGBT inclusion.
All of these things are important, and I do not discount them. I am grateful for those things, and feel lucky to have seen so many examples of strong female leadership in my time at Westminster. It wasn’t until visiting other campuses and speaking with students across the state that I realized just how ahead of the times Westminster is in comparison to other schools. Of this, I am eternally grateful.
But that doesn’t mean we can stop working.
Trans and non-binary students on campus struggle to find bathrooms, are frequently misgendered by professors and peers, and lack resources to help them navigate the complexities of being in a predominantly cigender space. Queer Compass is an amazing group run by Faith Staley (she/they), but it reaches students across the LGBT spectrum and can only do so much.
When I hear people say that gender equity is important, but it is time to focus on other issues, I grow in concern that these students will continue to get left out of conversations, decisions, and efforts to build a more inclusive campus. This is a gender issue.
Another issue of gender on campus is sexual violence. Victims and survivors of sexual violence are more likely to be female, transgender, or genderqueer ages 18-24 according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). It is well known that college is a time in which many people experience sexual violence.
Appromimently 70% of survivors experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime (RAINN) which may result in a significant impact on a students’ ability to live and learn on campus. This is a gender issue.
Just because we are a more liberal campus does not mean we are free of sexism. I have seen and experienced plenty of misogyny in my four years here. Women all over campus are held to different standards, more openly criticized, and spoken to differently. Some of this is in more subtle microaggressions, but plenty has been blatant in-my-face misogyny. It always takes me aback to see my peers not recognizing their own sexism. This is a gender issue.
I have spent my last two years in student government to advocate for gender issues on campus and been able to work with incredible people like Kenzie Campbell (ASW Vice President) and Kat Thomas (Title IX Coordinator), pass legislation in favor of the ERA, and teach LGBTQIA+ inclusive sexual education. I’ve been able to continue the fight for a gender equity center, which was started and continued by two incredible female student leaders before me (Jane Jerman, Sabi Lowder). This fight should not die off. This is a gender issue.
People of color lack representation in leadership and decision-making. People who use wheelchairs have inadequate access to buildings and have to fight to have their concerns heard. Low-income students who have to work several jobs to afford living are passed over for opportunities so people with “more time” take their place. These are all issues of gender.
When people say it is time to focus on other issues, we completely discount intersectional experiences. We lose the fact that people can be both transgender and female, a person of color and female, disabled and female, or not female at all. We lose the good work that has started, but cannot afford to end. We lose the fact that gender equity is not just about supporting cisgender females in their experiencces, when we need to be fighting for the livlihoods of our trans and non-binary siblings.
So, Westminster. Gender equity is still an issue on campus. We cannot afford to give up this fight. Keep talking, keep pushing, and keep checking the everyday sexism you see on campus.