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By: Emily Current

When we take part in a group discussion we pay so much attention to what people are saying that we don’t really think about who is speaking. It wasn’t until I talked to a classmate of mine one day about classroom dynamics that I noticed that our tutorial often ended up being male dominated.

One of the reasons why it can be so difficult to see how gender dynamics play into classroom discussions is because these sort of interactions play into all aspects of our lives. Girls are taught from a young age that we should remain silent if we’re unsure of what we have to say. And when we are sure of what we have to say and do assert our thoughts, we often get criticized for doing so. Our society sends the message to girls and women that we are not welcome to say what we think, and this message has translated into university classroom discussions.

I’ve started to pay more attention to the way gender dynamics play out in class discussions and I’ve noticed that, overall, men seem more confident speaking in this sort of setting than women. I’ve noticed that men are more assertive when they contribute, and respond more confidently when another student argues with what they have said. While guys will simply assert their thoughts, girls seem to couch what they have to say with phrases like “I don’t know but…” or “this may just be my opinion…” adding an element of uncertainty to what they’re saying. Not only do men speak more confidently, they also speak more frequently. In one tutorial I took a tally of how frequently class members of different genders spoke, and found that there were similar numbers of girls and guys that spoke during the discussion. While this initially makes it seem like there is no issue, in the class there are twice as many girls as there are guys, meaning that in my tutorial, female students were speaking half as often as their male counterparts. Granted, I only tallied up one tutorial, but it is indicative of a larger problem.

Clearly these ideas are based on generalizations, because there are of course girls who do speak up in conversations and who make their claims confidently, just as I’m sure there are guys who don’t feel so confident speaking up. I think that it is important to be aware of our classroom dynamics regardless. There is no easy way to address the way that gender dynamics play into classroom discussions; therefore, it is crucial that at the very least we recognize the impact that they have. Even if nothing else can immediately be done, we should at least aim for an increased awareness of the space we take up in class discussions, and ask why we might participate the way we do.

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“I’m not a feminist.”

I was shocked to hear the words leave her mouth; I almost didn’t even believe it.

“I can’t tell, are you joking right now?” I asked.

“No. That’s just never a word I would use to describe myself.”

Hearing my mom tell me she didn’t relate to the term “feminist” was a blow to my whole understanding of society. For my entire life she has been the driving force that has taught me that women deserve equal rights when compared to their male counterparts and that I should always take care of myself and never rely on a man — or anyone else for that matter. And she is the one that is always the most disturbed and angry when she finds out I’ve faced sexism in the workplace. Yet for some reason, she wouldn’t call herself a feminist.

My parents, like many other students’, grew up in Canada in the ‘60s and the ‘70s. While they are both racialized individuals and these decades of their youth made headway for movements in civil rights, their greater understanding of things like gender and women’s rights, on the other hand, is slightly tainted with memories of what would have then been considered extremist activism.

Second-wave feminism was sweeping the nation at the time, and if youth were not actively involved in the movement (for a variety of reasons), they were often taught that this was something negative and over the top. Especially for people that were already being treated as pariahs for their skin colour, going into the street and talking about abortion and marital rape just brought up more opportunities for people to mock and abuse them.

The pivotal moments in my parents’ youth were restrained for various socio-political reasons. And because of these reasons, they now struggle with grasping the meaning of these terms in our modern society.

The actual semantics of the word “feminist” have gotten a horrible reputation over the years. And contrary to many a belief, some sampling in a Beyoncé song isn’t going to change everyone’s minds. Often I feel that my mission as a feminist is to overthrow the opinions of the people closest to me in age range, because they “are the future” and we should be focusing our time on them. But the harder mission may be to work with the people who raised me, and to educate people that I feel already know what’s going on, but don’t quite have the history to know what it means in our day and age.

The pivotal moments in my parents’ youth were restrained for various socio-political reasons. And because of these reasons, they now struggle with grasping the meaning of these terms in our modern society.  

When trying to create a society that is truly intersectional, I often forget the important role that age plays. While there are many older citizens who do not stand up in arms in our present-day activism simply because they’re assholes, there are also many who weren’t raised to have the same knowledge and understanding that is being promoted to us today.

When we’re looking to talk to people and to promote diverse causes, it’s important to remember that age is also a point of privilege and the terms and ideas we’re bringing up may take more effort to understand. My mom is a feminist, but she refuses to call herself one because of the time she grew up in. Here’s to hoping our current efforts towards education in feminist activism can start to turn back time.

Photo Credit: Diana Davies

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It’s clear that the year old MSU Women & Gender Equity Network is settling comfortably into the fabrics of the campus. From November 16 to 20 WGEN ran a weeklong campaign for Trans Visibility Week. Events revolved around awareness, acceptance and the promotion of open discussion.

Hayley Regis, WGEN coordinator, is enthusiastic about the support.

“Last year we ran a little event on trans visibility, trans programs and trans rights, but that was only a pilot. This year we wanted to do something on a larger scale,” she said.

The week opened with events like Trans Archive and mini information sessions geared towards teaching people how to be better allies.

“I want people to know what trans is,” explained Regis. “I did Welcome Week training and a lot of people didn’t know that being trans is not a sexuality. We want to be able to explain things to people who have never been exposed to this kind of stuff before, making it accessible while still doing advocacy.”

Monday ended with a screening of the Marsha P. Johnson documentary ‘Pay It No Mind.’ This is not the only movie made in the name of revolutionary trans activist Johnson; The 2015 film Stonewall has been critiqued for promoting cis-whitewashing, a topic of conversation that came up in the discussion period after the viewing. “A lot of people who came out were already engaged in conversations about trans identity,” gearing the event more to those already immersed and familiar with the community.

Wednesday’s activities largely revolved around self-care, with activities such as yoga and a storytelling circle. Friday featured a talk with a talk from keynote speaker Dr. Carys Masserella. Dr. Masserella leads the team of physicians at the Quest Community Health Centre, a care clinic specifically for transfolk located in St. Catherine’s.

“I think people from a lot of different areas of McMaster would be interested in seeing a talk by someone that works as a doctor but works as a doctor that runs one of the only specialized clinics in Canada.”

The week ended with a vigil for those who have passed in acts of hate and anti-trans violence. Candles were decorated in the WGEN office before hand, sparkles and markers strewn about by those who walked in to show their support.

Moving forward, Regis hopes to have similar events sprinkled throughout the year.

“While we have the underying rhetoric of supporting survivors and transfolk and anyone really, we are working towards showing that more outwardly.”

Downsizing to a single day or hour of events instead of a whole week would allow for more frequent events as well as the potential for repetition of the events that garnered the most support. For Regis, she would love to see have another viewing of ‘Pay It Forward,” her favourite event in what was a successful week of advocacy by WGEN.

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By: Trisha Gregorio/Andy Writer

Last Wednesday, Nov. 5, right in the middle of our very own Mac Pride week, Uncanny X-Men No. 600 came out with an important reveal nestled in its pages: character Bobby Drake, better known as Iceman, is gay.

As one of the X-Men franchise’s oldest and most beloved mutants, the Iceman’s sexuality has been a contested topic since the release of All-New X-Men No. 40 on April 22 of this year. Time travel and its many capabilities in the X-Men universe has allowed two versions of the Iceman to exist — a younger one and an older one — and last April, the younger Iceman officially came out as gay. While this alone is a big step for Marvel and the superhero genre, long-time X-Men fans are quick to point out one issue with this sudden revelation: why is it, then, that the older Iceman is dating Shadowcat, a female teammate?

The explanation that Wednesday’s issue provides is simple: Bobby “Iceman” Drake has been in the closet for 52 years. Vol. 600 features the older Iceman’s tell-all confession as the younger version of himself calls him out on his sexuality. The coming out scene, though monumental in many ways for characters and readers alike, is casual, even quirky. It’s a tad underwhelming, considering the six-month wait for the issue, but the lovely characteristic portrayal gets the point across. The older Iceman admits that, having spent most of his life ridiculed simply for being a mutant, his sexuality was not something he wanted to be reason for even further judgement. “And the years go by and it gets easier to put that part of yourself away,” he says, frustrated, “And then so much time goes by that you say to yourself late at night: one day, maybe.”

Uncanny X-Men writer Brian Michael Bendis adds his own touch to the confession, and what readers get is a touching scene framed by humour and dialogue that’s not too out of place in the universe as a whole. It’s simple, shockingly realistic and human from a character in a genre that’s usually as detached from reality as the plot would allow. A superhero he might be, but the Iceman’s sexual orientation goes far beyond whatever fantastical plot Marvel could have cooked up for his situation. It’s straightforward: he’s gay, and though he’s long past the insecurities of his younger, teenage self, he is still as terrified of the ridicule he might face.

In this case, the significance truly lies in the X-Men franchise’s decision to take one of its fan favourites, instead of just as easily creating a new one, and explore issues of sexual orientation using a character that’s been a familiar face to the comic book community for decades. Hints have been around in the X-Men universe long before April’s All-New X-Men issue: Iceman apparently having to deal with bigotry in the family, his love interests implying a fluidity in his romantic and sexual orientations. And it’s nice to know that Marvel did not shy away from the controversy that’s sure to follow this reveal, and instead hammered the revelation home without room for half-hearted implications and unfortunate queer-baiting. It’s adding a new layer to a character that’s been dear to fans from the beginning that really makes a difference. In doing so, Marvel also peels back some of its history to make room for significant representation of the LGBTQ+ community. With this revelation, Marvel brings down the walls that the stereotypes of the action genre have built, and reminds all its LGBTQ+ readers that the comic book community is no less accessible to them than other forms of entertainment and pop culture are.

For a series that has relentlessly tackled themes of being ostracized, this reveal adds on to a long history of it being an allegory of sorts for recent and relevant civil rights issues. The X-Men universe is full of rich, diverse characters that each represent problems that are very much real in the world we live in, whether it be personal insecurities or politics. X-Men is defined by the differences of each character — differences that make them relatable to readers, and allow them to be multi-faceted beings with their own human fears and desires. None of the characters are perfect, and Iceman’s coming out scene is simply yet another realistic addition to what is only the beginning of increasing representation in the media.

In changing the X-men history, Marvel has also contributed to the history of the LGBTQ+ members of the comic book community. In changing the Iceman’s history, Marvel is also changing ours.

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Eugenie Bouchard asked to twirl by a male reporter, an entire university team suspended due to allegations of sexual assault and FIFA subjecting female athletes to a literally inferior playing field. It is apparent that women are not treated equally as men in sport. But The Silhouette wanted to find out, does this systemic discrimination manifest at McMaster?




“Well I’ve been around for 28 years and it’s never occurred to me until this second that male teams have been more successful than female teams at McMaster, and I can’t actually come up with a reason [...] they could have a half day retreat to think about [gender disparity] for the staff and coaches to sit down and say, ‘we seem to have this discrepancy, and what is it, and can we do something to address it?’”

- Philip White, Professor of Kinesiology, researcher on the sociology of sport.


The Football Conundrum

“There’s no comparable women’s team to men’s football so it does throws the comparison a little bit out of whack, if you take football out of the equation it’s fairly balanced, in some sports, the AFA numbers are more heavily weighted to female teams. Football set aside it’s a fairly balanced picture.”

- Gordon Arbeau, Direction, Public & Community Relations, McMaster


Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 12.50.45 AM


“How do you try to balance things out with football? It’s an issue throughout sports, the gender equity issue… We try and fund women’s sport a little bit better than men’s sport, absent football. But we have limited resources. The next sport if we were to bring out a varsity sport would probably be women’s hockey”

- Glen Grunwald, Director of Athletics and Recreation, McMaster

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(For more information on this story please visit the original Spectator story here by Susan Clairmont. )

Last Friday Jan. 28, McMaster flew its flags at half-mast in honour of the death of Ljubica Savic. Ljubica Savic was a McMaster cleaner, a mother of two, and a Croatian immigrant. On Jan. 20, she died of cancer at Juravinski Hospital. I was saddened to hear of her passing, but angry to see such a short post in the university’s Daily News sharing this news. And I want to tell you why.   

Last year, Ljubica Savic complained to the university that her supervisor, Godson Okwulehie, had physically assaulted her during a late-night shift. She claimed that he had yelled at her and then proceeded to physically harass her. The university dismissed her allegation against Okwulehie, and he continued to work for the custodian services at McMaster. Human resources and the security department did not report the incident to the police.

With the help of the Building Union of Canada that currently represents some workers at Mac, she laid a private charge against him in court. Unfortunately, because of her death, she was not able to testify and all the charges against him will be dropped.

Since Savic was brave enough to come forward, an internal security report conducted by McMaster found that since 2000 there have been ten individual complaints against the same supervisor by women who worked for him, creating a pattern of sexual and physical harassment.

The university released a report last year that stated that the female cleaners thought that these allegations had not been addressed properly. The supervisor is only now on leave, and a McMaster spokesperson says there are no plans for his return. These allegations are not proven in court. And because of Savic’s death, Okwulehie will not face his day in court, and maintains that all allegations are false.

But the gravity of the situation lies in the number of allegations against Okwulehie, ten to date, and the university’s inactions when faced with them. All of these allegations were made by the most vulnerable members of the McMaster community, who have to support themselves and often other members of their family on a job that only recently started paying a living wage.

I’m not writing this to speak on behalf of Savic’s relatives, her children or her family. But as a member of the McMaster community, I am nothing short of disgusted. When we talk about gender issues, violence against women, we’re not just addressing sexual assault or harassment against female students. All women should be safe and respected at McMaster, and sexual harassment or assault allegations should never be ignored. It shouldn’t take 14 years and ten allegations to start treating the people who clean up after you like they mean something.

This case shows not only a complete disregard for the wellbeing of workers, but also a despicable level of disrespect towards staff members. The Ministry of Labour conducted an investigation which concluded the university has the programs in place to deal with these issues. Yet Susan Clairmont, a reporter for the Hamilton Spectator, reported that the investigation “failed to determine whether the program is being implemented.”

In my opinion, the university did not act to protect these workers, and in doing so, failed to show its commitment to creating a safe and equitable campus.

Savic died without getting her day in court. She also died without the university acting to protect her. To lower the flags in “honour” of Savic and fail to address the issue at hand is utterly hypocritical. To have honoured Savic would have meant to have treated her with the respect and due diligence she deserved when she came forward. It would have meant to not let ten instances of sexual and physical harassment go unaddressed by failing to react to each individual case. Andrea Farquhar, a McMaster spokesperson, said that the President and Vice-President of the university were not aware of the internal report and “this has to change in the future.” There is no excuse for this lack of responsibility and the university needs to be held accountable.

So I’m asking the university to address this issue publicly. I’m asking them to release a statement explaining how something of this degree could take place and why it’s taken 14 years for the university departments to finally see “the big picture” as Farquhar said. Why should we believe that we attend a university where this will not happen again? And what will it do in the near future to show its commitment to the fight against gender-based violence and to address issues of sexual harassment and assault on campus?

Of course, the issue does not lay solely in gender-based violence. This is, above all, a labour issue. It is utterly despicable to pay Labour Studies professors hundreds of thousands of dollars to research inequity in the workplace, and to run a university that appears to perpetuate these very same problems. As a student, this event tells me that our academy doesn’t believe in its own theories, and more importantly, that it doesn’t value the lives of our workers.

By: Alon Coret

I usually spend holiday dinners with my girlfriend and her family. And of course on such occasions it is important to create good impressions, as well as partake in the specially prepared meal. From my experience, however, this often involves the consumption of meat.

The awkward thing is, I am vegetarian.

Wait. Pause. Why did I think of this as an “awkward” situation? I mean yeah, sure, I may be that slightly annoying guest who does not partake in the central component of the meal. But at the same time, Sarah (my girlfriend) and I have been dating for three years, and her family is not the type to take offence to such trivialities. There must be something else at play, and it took me a while to understand what exactly it is.

After pondering the issue some more, I realized that refusing meat is not about dinner table etiquette so much as it is about gender roles – at least, from my perspective. I have often been told that I “eat like a girl.” Sadly, my liking of quinoa, soy milk, and multigrain cereal is not helping my case. On date nights with Sarah, waiters often confuse our meals: “no, no, no. The steak is for her; I ordered the butternut squash quiche.” Moreover, Sarah’s father formerly served in the Canadian army, towers a good two or three inches above me (and I am already 6’2”), and can probably knock me out with one small punch. He also loves football; I can’t even name two players. Therefore, my choice of dinnertime veggies is the cherry on top of a deficient-in-masculine-gender-stereotypes-yet-needs-to-impress-girlfriend’s-father cake.

So here comes yet another question: why is it that food is gendered in this way? What makes steak and beer “male” foods, and what exactly is “feminine” about fruity drinks and chocolate cravings? And why is it that women outnumber men in meat-free diets – 2:1 among vegetarians and 4:1 among vegans?

A quick Google search came up with an answer I expected: it’s all about evolution. Men, who were traditionally hunters, have grown to see meat as a valued prize. Women, on the other hand, were more involved in gathering roles (e.g. grains, fruits), and thus prefer sweet tastes to bitter ones (strawberry daiquiri, anyone?). Another explanation has to do with protein intake requirements, which are somewhat higher in men than women (and meat is an obvious protein source).

These conjectures left me frustrated. They evoked biological reductionism, and reinforced the notion that we are living 21st-century lives in the bodies of hunter-gatherers. And, of course, they gave backing to the gender stereotypes associated with food – men prize meat, women like sweets. So, then, what does a vegetarian man say to himself? “Yeah, evolution dictates that I should consume meat…but evolution is SO passé. I am, like, post-evolution.” No. And how does a woman who likes traditionally male foods and beverages (e.g. steak, beer) affirm her femininity when our food culture encourages her to eat a zero-percent fat probiotic yogurt?

These are some good questions to which I currently lack answers. But I think that being conscious of the sociocultural context of our foods can help us make choices that step beyond the constraints of evolution and gender. So, whether you choose Turkey or Vurkey, I would like to wish you a wonderful holiday season.

Photo Credit: Levon Biss

I consider myself somewhat of a magazine junkie. I use the word “somewhat” in an attempt to not oust myself as the magazine-loving nerd that I am. My lack of attention span in combination with my love of creative nonfiction writing led to me to the discovery that I would rather stare at a computer screen for hours, reading article upon article, than read a novel for the same amount of time.  The change in topic and introspective style makes me feel like I’m doing many things at once instead of one monotonous task. Of all the magazines and websites that I frequent, I only subscribe to one: GQ. GQ is arguably my favourite magazine. At the end of each month, I await the arrival of my issue.

My love for GQ started years ago in the aisles of grocery stores sneaking peaks at it while my mother shopped. Whenever my mother would find me reading the men’s lifestyle magazine, she would ask me why I was interested in a magazine titled “Gentleman’s Quarterly.” I would reply with one of two things: either, “well it’s not a quarterly magazine anymore so maybe the gentleman doesn’t apply either?” or “hot guys in suits, mom, duh.” The truth was somewhere in between the two. I did love seeing men in men’s clothing but not because I was necessarily attracted to them, but more so because I wanted to emulate them in any way I could while still staying in the very deep closet I built for myself.

GQ is the magazine for those of us who don’t fit into gender categories. I love fashion, but often I have a hard time finding fashion that feels right for me, or at least finding representations of this fashion. When flipping through fashion magazines targeted at females, I can appreciate a few items of clothing, but when flipping through magazines geared towards men, I find myself falling in love with many more items.

GQ doesn’t just exist to show us how to dress impeccably well; it also has some hard-hitting features. Recently, GQ wrote about the issue of male sexual assault in the army and the pressure to be silenced. They’ve also written about Matthew McConaughey revival – commonly known as the McConnaisance. GQ has also looked at the difference between male and female nudity on television.

My two favourite GQ writers are Devin Friedman and Jeanne Marie Laskas. Friedman has written about “middlebrow” culture, about war, the awkwardness of highschool, race and the token black friend, and the culture around things going viral. Laskas has written about the impact that football has on players’ brains, one of my favourite pieces of all time. She has also written about Richard Norris’ face transplant, hitmen, gun culture in America, immigration, and many other stories that need to be told.  The magazine’s piece on David Foster Wallace following his suicide was a poignant piece of literary genius.

Sure, GQ can be misogynistic at times, but I wouldn’t say that it’s more misogynstic than Cosmopolitan, a magazine geared towards women, or The Globe and Mail which has on many occasions featured opinion articles that invalidate the struggles that women commonly face in society and tried to debunk the “myth of rape culture.”  On the surface, GQ looks like a magazine for bros sporting high fashion suits and naked girls on the pages, but once you pick up a copy and actually read it, you discover that behind the misguided perceptions of the magazine, it actually is a collection of the best writing about life, sports, technology, culture, entertainment, politics, and everything in between.

The lines of gender are blurry. People express or identify in so many different ways that categorizing clothing and style into strictly “men’s” or “women’s” becomes antiquated. The reason that I like GQ so much is a direct result of societal expectations that make me feel like I don’t fit into the box of “woman”. The magazines out there for women don’t feel like they’re created for me. GQ gives me the mix of everything I like from fashion that I would actually wear to stories that I can get lost in. Simply, GQ is my favourite magazine and I will continue to wait by the mailbox at the end of every month.

There is a noticeable gap in the percentage of women that make up the McMaster Student Representative Assembly.

Only 34.3 percent of the SRA is female and none of the executives on the Board of Directors are women.

These results put McMaster eighth amongst nine major research universities in Ontario compared in terms of representation of men and women on student governing bodies.

In the last SRA election, almost all the female students who ran won their seats, so the absence seems to be from a lack of female students putting their names forward rather than students being unwilling to elect women.

The gender gap has led some to question whether targeted strategies to create a more diverse student government should be considered.

A male dominated history

Although McMaster consistently ranks among Ontario’s best universities, McMaster is the second worst when it comes to gender equity in student government.

Of the 35 students and elected executives on the SRA, only 12 are women. Furthermore, of the six SRA standing committees elected by the SRA, only one has a female commissioner.

The Student Representative Assembly is the MSU’s legislative body and it plays an integral role in creating MSU policy and running services on campus. The MSU has a budget of over $13 million dollars.

The lack of female representatives is most apparent in the highest-ranking positions of student government. There are currently no women amongst the President and Vice Presidents.

This trend has been fairly consistent throughout McMaster’s history. The MSU President has always been male, with only four exceptions. One recent exception, Siobhan Stewart served as president from 2011-2012.

“It’s important to have the voices of many not just women, but different communities and different perspectives” said Stewart. “It’s not just an issue within the MSU it’s an issue within society.”

The Vice Presidents have also been predominantly male.

Of the 33 Vice-Presidents over the past 11 years, only ten have been women. Moreover, women have been significantly underrepresented in the VP-finance position (no women elected in 11 year) and VP-administration (only two women in eleven years).

Although the gender imbalance might have been a product of a predominantly male student body in the past, this is no longer a possible explanation, because female students now outnumber men in most faculties, and overall at an undergraduate level at McMaster.


A problem stemming from socialization

The majority of the women elected as vice-presidents have served under the education portfolio. However, even in this sub-field women have been underrepresented compared to men.

This trend is evidence of the way socialization affects people’s choices.

“You may choose an area where you think there will be less dissonance between who you are and what people think of that role, it may be that people think that people may be more likely to see me as suitable candidate for the education portfolio rather than the finance portfolio, so it may be that ‘rational’ choices about what’s the place where your profile will have less disassociation with the position you’re aiming for,” said Professor Caroline Andrew, the director of the Institute on Governance at the University of Ottawa, and an expert on women and inclusivity in local governance.

The gender gap at universities might not only be a product of social norms; it may also contribute to the lack of women in leadership positions in society more broadly.

High ranking governance positions can lead to other important opportunities. For instance, last year’s MSU president David Campbell now studies at Harvard’s school of government.

“Deciding to run even at a municipal level, or provincial or federal, takes an act of deciding that you would be better than other people at doing this,” said Andrew.

“And I think that’s still, in terms of socialization for a lot of women, that’s a hard leap to make.”

In total, 80 percent of the female candidates who ran for SRA in the last election received seats.

This seems to indicate the lack of female representatives is not due to students being unwilling to vote for female students, but rather, a lack of women being willing to put their name on the ballot due to systemic barriers.

One way to address these systemic barriers is by creating an ad-hoc group of SRA members. And yet, currently the SRA doesn’t have any such group.

“The SRA is elected by the students, for the students. By virtue of the election process, the SRA is representative of the student body. The creation of ad-hoc groups is completely governed by the will of the assembly,” said Mike Cheung, Speaker of the SRA.


Should underrepresented groups be specifically targeted?

Zaynab Al-waadh and Lindsay Robinson are McMaster student researchers involved in the recently published Women and Diversity EXCLerator Report.

They see McMaster’s underrepresentation of female student leaders in the most visible positions as symptomatic of a lack of women leaders in other sectors in Hamilton.

“When you constantly see the same kind of person, the same kind of people holding the top positions in clubs or student groups… you have the assumption that’s the kind of person that is a leader,” said Al-waadh, who is in her fourth year of her Bachelor of Social Work.

They say strategies to specifically engage women should be considered at McMaster.

“Gender quotas can be a good idea if representation is really low,” said Robinson, a fourth year Political Science and Labour Studies student. But she says these tools should be implemented cautiously.

“At the same time I don’t think we should have token females only representing female interest.”

Without a culture of inclusivity, gender quotas can be divisive.

“The SRA has discussed having seats for marginalized groups… and we always end up shooting [those ideas] down,” said Naomi Pullen, a former SRA member and the current Deputy Returning Officer of MSU Elections.


Various ways to increase diversity

The elections department is interested in increased promotional strategies.

“We are working with the advocacy street team and looking at how we advertise our elections,” said Pullen. “We are really just starting to talk about it right now.”

She notes that women are fully represented among part-time managers, which are non-elected positions.

“It’s not the women aren’t interested in being part of student leadership positions, but there seems to be something about the election process that’s prohibitive,” she said.

Andrew said that peer-to-peer encouragement might be the best way to engage women.

“I think you could have some of the people who are part of the student representatives and some of the women who are on them to maybe directly try to seek out likely candidates, and to say ‘I think you’d be good at this, have you ever thought about it?’”

This strategy could be particularly effective for engaging diverse students from other underrepresented perspectives.

“I think the MSU should take a more proactive stance in perhaps holding information sessions, or reaching out to different groups... because no one really knows how to be on the SRA. It’s very ambiguous—you have to be really involved in the student union to know,” said Al-waadh.

“They can tell people, ‘by the way it’s important that if you’re a woman, or you’re this, or you’re that, we want you.’”

Given that this imbalance is not unique to McMaster, the Ontario University Student Alliance might be equally interested in systemic solutions.

“OUSA has to report to the SRA every so often, and I haven’t heard of them doing anything like this,” said Pullen. “Even OUSA leadership is male heavy.”

It is up to the current student leaders to take initiative not only at McMaster, but at all universities in Ontario to ensure the next generation of student government accurately reflects the student body.

By: Suzy Flader

On Sept. 20, 2014, actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson gave a speech at the New York UN headquarters discussing the new HeForShe campaign. HeForShe is a “solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other of humanity, for the entirety of humanity.” In her speech Watson argued that in order for women’s rights to be taken seriously, society needs to start tackling male issues that seem to be underlying causes. In her words, “it is time that we all start to perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of as sets of opposing ideals.”

Despite the initial positive responses and its big splash on social media, critics have found flaws with Watson’s argument. Mainly, it is argued that the type of feminism she is supporting is too “watered-down” and “mainstream” to have an actual effect. While it may not have been a perfect speech, it did bring up an interesting point: how do our prescribed gender roles affect us and others in ways we do not necessarily think about?

Globally, we see examples of how gender norms and values are negatively affecting our health. In various parts of the world women are unable able to get to clinics because they are not allowed to travel alone. Teenage boys die in accidents because they are expected to be “bold” risk-takers. Women contract HIV because societal standards encourage a husband’s promiscuity, while preventing women from insisting on condom use. Generally, a country’s lung cancer mortality rate is much higher for men, because smoking is considered an attractive marker for masculinity while it is frowned upon for women.

Evident in these examples is that the gender issues in healthcare are not restricted to developing countries. As Watson reminded us in her speech, there is not one country in the world that can currently claim women and men are given equal rights. It can be easy for us as Canadians to forget about this, as it seems strange for a developed country to lack something as basic as equality for all citizens. Also evident from these examples is that gender norms do not exclusively affect women; societal expectations of men can also negatively impact their health.

The WHO Gender and Health Department’s goal is to “increase health care professionals’ awareness of the role of gender norms, values, and inequality in perpetuating disease, disability, and death, and to promote societal change with a view to eliminating gender as a barrier to good health.” While it is great that a global organization is attempting to solve these problems, it is up to us to start making actual change. Emma Watson’s address may have its flaws, but there were certainly aspects of it that should make us reflect on how we perceive both others and ourselves. Are there certain expectations that we have that may not be conducive to promoting gender equality?

Love it or hate it, Watson’s speech should make us think about how we might want to change our gender norms – not only because it’s the equitable thing to do, but also because it’s the healthier choice.

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