Gender Roles On Campus

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

download word file, 6 pages 0.0

We live in a world where everyone is treated equally, right? This is the year 2001, where no matter what gender we are, we are considered the same.

This could not possibly be any more incorrect. Although by law, men and women have the same rights, there will always be a high level of inequality. Simply observe a classroom discussion, or a workplace where both males and females are present. Men still receive higher pay for the same job that a woman has, and in a classroom, the male students still receive more attention from the teachers, more often than not. (I am referring to a classroom where there is a pretty similar distribution of both genders). Sexual harassment cases are still prevalent- read the newspapers, watch the news. Women shouldn't have to feel inferior, but the reality is that gender roles play a huge part in everyday life.

Sitting outside the Adele H. Stamp Student Union one day at the University of Maryland, I secretly spied on all sorts of people walking by.

My sorority had a table out there for the day to promote our philanthropy, so it was easy for me to be there without being caught. Standing up against the wall was a group of African-American men, who seemed to just be taking a break from classes. While they were standing there, two female students walked by- one Latino and one African-American. One of the men started to make kissing sounds at them as they passed, and the Latino girl turned around to them and giggled in a sweet, "girly" way, almost as to give them permission to act the way they do. I could not believe what I saw. I had thought that when women would pass by men, they would just ignore any degrading actions that were performed towards them, but instead these men received the women's approval! It is just like when women walk by a construction site: the men will keep whistling and passing remarks if the women responds. If they ignore it, the men will stop. The bottom line, though, is that men shouldn't be doing this at all. A woman should be able to feel like she can walk around and not have passes made toward her.

I attended my College Park Scholars (CPS) colloquium class that meets once a week for an hour and a half. There are approximately 60 students in the class- about 65 percent male, 35 percent female. The two professors in charge of the program are both male. The day that I chose to observe the class, I walked into class and sat toward the back, where I sat alone at a desk for three. (The classroom has enough desk space for about one hundred students). When I first sat down, "Anthony", a boy whom I am acquainted with from one of our brother fraternities makes a comment at me from across the way, where he was sitting with another boy at a desk for three (the middle seat was left open). Anthony shouts, "Hey Baby Jacks [my America Online screen name], we saved a seat for you right here!", and pointed to the seat between him and the other boy. I kindly declined for two reasons. One is that I wanted to sit alone and observe the classroom for this paper, and the other reason being that I didn't really feel comfortable being smushed in between two boys I barely know for a very long class. Anthony gets up and walks over to where I was sitting, stands behind me and puts his hands on my shoulders, and jokingly says, "Oh I see! Jackie is just too good for us. I see, I see. Well fine then, you just sit alone." He proceeds to tell me how good I look and how my highlights in my hair are so pretty, etc. He made me feel very weird, and I couldn't help but think that if the genders were reversed, that scenario probably would have never happened.

As I sit through my colloquium, I see the male students getting all the attention from the two professors. The only time I saw them call on a girl was when they asked "Nancy", who was in charge of collecting money for a CPS softball game, if everyone had given her the money yet, and if not, to please do so by the end of class. The female students barely raised their hands at all, and didn't even cause any commotion during the class. Some of the boys were rowdy during the slide show that was being shown and got reprimanded, but it was attention nonetheless.

Like in Peggy Orenstein's School Girls, the male students are the ones who show dominance in class, despite the vast difference between middle school and a lecture at a university. The gender roles seem to still be playing their part, no matter what age. This is something I expected. I was in a gifted program from kindergarten through the end of eighth grade, and then went on to all honors classes in high school. I have been witnessing the passive female gender role my entire life. I was one of those females more often than not.

What do college kids do on a Saturday night? Why, we go to fraternity parties of course! It's a common situation- hundreds of people standing around in a dirty house with a wet floor (obviously from spilled beer), and it is about 90 degrees inside the house, although it is only about 50 degrees outside. It is so early in the school year, and the freshman girls are making their way around Fraternity Row. While I am standing with some friends, both male and female, I notice a group of out-of-place girls standing nearby. There are about five of them, all holding a large red plastic cup filled with beer. They are giggling, smirking, and telling secrets as sophomore and junior boys walk by; they are blatantly freshman girls.

Two junior boys from this particular fraternity walk up to the group of girls, and start to hit on them. Soon enough, each boy had a girl under each arm, getting them to drink their beers, and then going to get them more once they finished. The boys kept putting their arms around the girls as the girls just smiled and laughed with a twinkle in their eyes. One of the girls starts to twirl her hair around her finger for about ten minutes straight, and then the boy she is with embraces her and says, "Oh, you are just too cute! Come, I'll show you around the house". I'm sure we can all guess what went on between them after that.

I will never for the life of me understand why female allow themselves to be so naïve and inferior around men. These girls that I watched are apparently not stupid girls- they are attending a great university. But, if you watched this whole scene that I watched, you would think these girls were the most shallow, dumb girls around. Gender roles that society has provided for us has given the message that women are inferior. In order to make the male feel better about his masculinity, the woman has to lower herself and become "˜below' him.

I have been in a social scene like this many times, and I always see the same thing. Being a female, I am sure that I have acted like that before without even realizing. It is a behavior that society has taught us to practice and accept as the norm. I was expecting to see girls act this way, as well as the way the boys acted also. Men always seem to feel the need to express their manpower as often as they get a chance. Women accept this exertion of manpower, and incorporate it into the way they feel they should act too.

I doubt that gender roles will ever disappear. They give some sort of structure to society. I am not saying that they are correct or that women and men should act in the way that they are "˜supposed' to. All I am saying that things have been the way they are for centuries, and I do not think things will ever change.



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