If you come down to the Women’s Center, you will see that we have two bathrooms right down the hall. These are, you might note, slightly different from many other bathrooms on campus. With blank doors that just say, “Restroom” on them, they are missing the typical markings of, on one, a person wearing a skirt, and, on the other, a person wearing pants. If you continue to walk down the hall to the Women’s Center (from which you will probably hear a loud and somewhat-cackling laugh if I am working), you will see a sign that says, “All Genders and Perspectives Welcome.”
At that point, you may start thinking, “All genders welcome? Why not BOTH genders welcome?” Or maybe you are pondering, “Which bathroom am I supposed to go into? WHERE IS THE FIGURE WITH THE PANTS/SKIRT????” Luckily, after you enter the Women’s Center, where you can grab some free coffee and sit down on a couch, you will probably feel a bit more relaxed. So, perhaps you turn to a WC intern and ask about the bathrooms, about the sign “All Genders Welcome.” After talking about it for a few minutes, you may realize that gender is a bit more complicated than you had previously thought…
Or maybe, you haven’t made it down under Canaday B yet. Maybe you are just running an ice breaker for the student org that you run. You put a hat in the middle of the circle, and tell everyone to write on a slip of paper the name of a celebrity they would want to go on a date with, and put it in the hat. Then, you explain, the hat will go around in a circle and each person will read off the name of a celebrity, so the group can guess who put the name into the hat. As people begin writing things down, you see that a couple of people look a little uncomfortable. Or a LOT uncomfortable. A close friend, who has recently expressed to you that they are questioning their sexuality, comes over and whispers in your ear, “I don’t want to write which celebrity I would go on a date with, because I don’t want to ‘out’ myself to the group.”
Maybe you just woke up this morning and wanted to put on jeans, but the figure on the door to the bathroom says put on a skirt. Or maybe, you wanted to put on a dress, and the figure on the door to the bathroom says wear pants. Or maybe when you looked in the mirror this morning, the body looking back at you just didn’t feel right.
Whether you are trying to create an inclusive environment in a student group, or you are just trying to figure out how the color of your baby blanket relates to your present-day feelings about your body and your decisions about how you want to walk, speak, or act (or who you want to make-out with this weekend), gender affects our everyday lives in an infinite number of ways. And gender is complicated! It can make us feel embarrassed or elated, empowered or degraded, stressed or oppressed. It can make us the center of attention (in a way we may enjoy or despise), and it can place us on the margins, too nervous to speak up.
How does gender affect your everyday life? How can you shape your interactions and your behavior (as a peer, leader, teammate, or friend) to be as welcoming and gender-inclusive as possible? This may not be something you think about very often, but the Women’s Center would love to help you start brainstorming, and putting your ideas into action. Gender 101 is a workshop developed by the Women’s Center to empower you to start doing just that.
Schedule a Gender101 for your organization, or contact the Women’s Center to learn more about the workshop!