We are more than our genders

I fully support gender equity. I find it incomprehensible that anyone genuinely feels that people should be denied opportunities due to their gender. What I have found, though, is that I, as a male, cannot participate in the discussion that’s taking place.

If I try to vocalise my support for the feminist movement, I am told that I don’t understand because I’m a guy. Thus my opinion, while appreciated, is worth less than that of a female. If I disagree with the approach that some feminists take, I am told I am sexist.

This is a point that Emma Watson recently expounded upon in her speech to announce the launch of the HeForShe campaign. The majority of her speech focused on the importance of recognising that feminism is an issue for both sexes, and in its current state, it is not treated as such. I fully agree with Watson’s sentiments.

Being told that I do not understand or that I cannot empathize with the struggles some women go through is insulting, and quite frankly, only reinforces the culture that they’re rallying against. I am much more than my gender, as is everyone else: I am James. Making the assumption that one’s personality is determined by their gender only perpetuates the polar nature of gender issues that seems to be pervasive these days.

As Watson said, “It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are.”

I do not think that I am alone in taking offense to at times being reduced to my gender, nor is this an issue strictly for males. I think it’s equally insulting to a woman to insinuate that their nature, behavior or achievements are in anyway caused by their gender. That is not to say gender has a negligible effect, but to claim it is the sole determinant of one’s personality seems oversimplified and fundamentally degrading.

To me, true equality means equal opportunity for all, assuming that there are structures in place to allow both women and men to pursue the same opportunities. At our school, this is the case. I believe men and women ought to be treated the same – and, as far as I can tell, they are. Day to day, the difference in opportunity for leadership between genders is imperceptible.

Our Head of School is a woman, as is the Head of Academic Advising and College Counselling, the Assistant Principal and several of the department heads. The Standard itself passes under the advisement of a woman. Then within the student body, women filling leadership roles are also easy to find: the Student Council president is female, as is the co-President of the Student-Faculty Disciplinary Board and scores of club leaders are also women. Additionally, the newly instated Captains’ Council – which is led by a woman – provides equal opportunity to both boys and girls sports to voice their opinions.

The aforementioned female leaders are clear counterexamples to the argument that our school is institutionally sexist, a sentiment that some constituents of this community endorse to be the case.

To me, however, it is insulting to the holders of these positions to reduce them to their gender. Head of School Coreen Hester has her job because she works hard and deserves it, not because of her gender. The same applies to each of the aforementioned female leaders throughout the school. No man should earn a position due to his gender, and nor should any woman.

The same logic applies to the male leaders of the school. For example, Principal Jack Phillips has his job because he is exceedingly qualified as an educator, and for anyone to suggest his employment is the result of a male-favoring system is downright insulting to him.

As a male, I fear that my future achievements will be discredited because of my gender; I don’t want people to view any accomplishments through the lens that I am aided by being a male. If I do succeed, that will be James succeeding, not another man succeeding. I would hope that that’s true for all at this school: If a student finds prosperity, it should be because of their own qualities, not their gender.

To me, that is true gender equality. Ideally, gender would be an irrelevance; instead of the current climate regarding gender issues, we would all co-exist without this polarising issue. Men don’t deserve special treatment, nor do women – we at this school are given equal opportunity, and we should all be taught that we are more than just our gender.