Curveball: Girls are from Venus, Boys are from Mars

Feminism gets a bad rap. Any utterance referring to “women’s rights” is sure to elicit groans. Why do we have this attitude? We’re not explicitly bigoted – most people would support legal action in favor of women’s rights – but more complex, implicit discrimination is often overlooked.

When I was little, the division between the genders didn’t really make sense to me. I always had both male and female friends and coed birthday parties. One Halloween, I proudly showed up in my firefighter’s costume until I realized that all the girls were princesses and all the boys… firefighters. At age seven, I naively assumed that gender inequity was a thing of the past.

But it’s not. In my entire four years at WJ, there has been one female SGA officer and she ran for secretary on the platform that girls make good secretaries. I’m sure most people would be supportive of a girl’s candidacy. But asked if they would actually vote for a girl, a common response would be that, well, girls aren’t funny. Or that they won’t make strong leaders. And SGA presidents must be funny. I know enough humorless, irresponsible guys to know that this is a worthless statement. Yet both boys and girls accept it as true.

In the classroom, gender lines can alter the atmosphere. Being in a testosterone-heavy science class with only two other girls is not inconsequential. I’m not treated differently, but the jokes and references are directed at the male sector of the class. Girls aren’t blatantly excluded, but they’re not included, either. As a result, I feel slightly alienated, left out of jokes because it’s “a guy thing.”

Every year, a group of senior boys don cheerleading uniforms and pom-poms to form the Male Poms. It’s a bizarre phenomenon of American humor that everyone laughs when men pretend to be women. Sure, it’s a joke. But cross-dressing as a form of humor trivializes and mocks femininity. It wouldn’t be funny if a group of girls wore baggy pants and t-shirts and tromped aboutlike boys.

Women propagate certain female stereotypes perhaps just as much as men do, which is worrisome and problematic. Women are taught that they must dress and act a certain way to be an attractive female. Intelligence, athleticism and humor are not included in the job description. I once babysat a girl who said she hates being a girl; girls are stupid and bad at sports. This is why girls “aren’t funny,” why they are “dumb,” why they are “bad at sports.” They’re afraid to act differently or think they can’t.

Women were given the right to vote in 1920 by the 19th Amendment. But 90 years later the fight for equality is not over. The next step is more complicated – implicit discrimination. Laughing off feminism and failing to challenge stereotypes only perpetuates the problem.

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