A Little Case Study

She said something along the lines of, “they told us girls are like a piece of tape, the more partners they have, the less sticky they are,” and she did this kind of motion with her hand, as if she was repeatedly slapping her fingers against an imaginary piece of tape held in her other hand.

Last weekend, I took a three-day seminar on social change. The university invited a woman from Senegal to come and talk about the social movement that was started in her country called Y’en a Marre, which means “enough is enough” or “fed up”.

On the last day of the seminar participants were asked to create a three to five minute video on social change in the United States. I partnered up with a male who agreed on the issue of “women’s inequalities” and took to the downtown area where we knew patrons would be shopping at the local Farmers’ Market. After several refusals by both men and women alike, my partner suggested changing the topic to “gender inequalities”. Once we refined our topic, it was slightly easier to engage people in conversation. After three hours of rejection, with only five interviews to show for it, I wanted to address how this experience proved the difficulties of social change.

We essentially asked people to write, on our white board, an issue associated with gender inequality and briefly describe their personal experience with what they wrote. Not one person was interested in publicly recording their opinion on gender inequalities or social issues with women. The people that were willing to talk with us let us take their picture with the white board and, when prompted, they gave a semi-personal account of their chosen issue, but all refused to tell their story or opinion on video. Our interviews of each other, and the pictures of people we interviewed are included in this post.

Slut Shaming

I begged one of my friends at the market to help us out, she ended up sending over this girl, one of her friends. She was reluctant to talk with us at first, also refusing to have her face shown in the picture. However, she got pretty excited after writing “slut shaming” on the white board. To me, slut shaming is when a person is raped or assaulted in any way and people (be it police officers, friends, or family) make him/her feel ashamed by suggesting the attack or incident occurred due to the way they were behaving or the way they were dressed. I asked about her personal experience but, because she is an elementary school teacher, she chose instead to talk about sex education.

“I grew up in Moscow. We didn’t have a sex-ed class, instead we had people come in and talk to us about abstinence. I remember they used this example of girls being like tape…”

Though this volunteer was unwilling to reveal her personal experience with slut shaming, I wanted to share a really interesting article that would give an example of slut-shaming, and show its transformation into a social movement. This Huffington Post article by Taylor Pittman says a lot about the issue and how some are choosing to address it: “After A Woman Was Slut-Shamed Online, Her Friends Had An Amazing Response.”

cultural injustices

The next people we approached with success was a Hispanic family. The male volunteered his companion, suggesting that it was right up her alley. She was more than willing to participate. She wrote “Cultural Injustices” and told us about seeing different cultures’ set views on how women should behave and be treated. Something that I have studied quite often is this concept of one’s own culture confining members to a specific role within their gender. I honestly wish I could have talked with her more about her personal experience of, essentially, gender roles. It must be strange living within one culture while belonging to another culture, with separate rules and expectations.

gender inequality in the workplaceThis girl actually took the seminar with us, and we were truly interested in hearing her point of view. Her project was on how our society needs to improve the treatment of people with mental illnesses. She brought up an important issue about “gender inequality in the workplace,” which she wrote on the white board. She told us a story about working security at a concert. This was an interesting example given that our society tends to see security jobs as being extremely masculine. She talked about being referred to as “the female” and the discrimination she encountered in that sense. This topic made me curious about females in law enforcement. So I sought out the two officers patrolling the Farmers’ Market.

unjust and unfairThe first male officer I approached was uninterested in participating and volunteered his partner instead. He, a middle-aged, white man, was willing to participate, and jotted down “Unjust and Unfair”. When I prompted him to discuss injustices in the workplace, he said, “not the workforce, just the stereotypes and other injustices women face on a daily basis.” I think he was more interested in acknowledging gender inequalities as a social issue than he was discussing his personal experiences.

The reason I was so curious about his take on female police officers is because I truly believe that they are necessary. When it comes to sexual assault or domestic violence, female police officers play a special role for victims and survivors. A really cool article on an all-female police station in India discusses the benefits of females in law enforcement a little more in-depth.

market engineer

Our last interviewee I will save for another, separate, discussion. He, a former professor of engineering, discussed with us the discrimination women face in the engineering field, and his difficulties recruiting female engineers. He was the sweetest old man, I gave him a big hug, asked for his information, and have every intention of getting an in-depth interview on his experiences in the engineering field.

I wanted to include my partner and I’s interviews. Because we had a very difficult time extracting public opinions from patrons at the Farmers’ Market, we were left with strong opinions about both gender inequalities and social change. I would love to use this platform to share both a male and female opinion on gender inequality, and remind all of my readers that social change can only come from being open and willing to talk about the difficult issues:

In regards to my partner changing the phrasing of our social issue, I will say this: Feminism is not just about women finding their place in this world; feminism is about finding an equal balance in our treatment of people across genders.

“My feminism is humanism, with the weakest being those who I represent, and that includes many beings and life forms, including some men.” -Sandra Cisneros

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