Anybody who knows me would not argue with that statement. Today I am sitting at home nursing a sore throat (I think I actually have a legitimate case of laryngitis). I have been watching the live stream of the Women's March that many of my friends across the nation are attending, either locally or at the national march. It is really quite breathtaking and is causing me to pause about what my role is in the world as a woman, as a teacher, as a friend, as a colleague....as me.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to present a session on "Diversity and Inclusion in Music Classrooms" at an honor band event (this is what put my voice over the edge. It was a rough go, but I made it). I was a bit nervous because the session was at a University that is outside the metro area of the Twin Cities. I knew, having previously traveled in that direction, that the political environment was a bit different compared to what I am used to. However, I am extremely passionate about what I do and I think that these conversations are happening for a reason.
Overall, the presentation went well, really well. I left feeling as though perhaps I offered some different perspectives on what it means to be an educator in 2017, even if the diversity of the school is less than 5%. However, there was one conversation that has left me wondering what more I could have done.
There was a question from the back of the room that was somehow related gender, specifically the slide that discuses "Anti-Sexism Education". The individual shared that the majority of band members were female (hell ya!), that the majority of the section leaders were female (bonus!!) and that in his drumline of 16, only 2 were male (umm.....yesssss!!!). However, this individual was concerned with the way in which the girls seemingly 'ran the room' and there wasn't a lot of room for the boys to offer opinions, or rather, the boys were complacent with the decisions the girls made. In my mind and I was jumping for joy because I believed that this individual had created a space where the young women felt they had a voice and a say, that they were not inferior to their male peers. However, this individual was wondering how he might empower the young men to speak up, because "quite frankly the girls often act like bitches...." That is a direct quote. I stopped and said, not loudly enough "let's try a different word please" because I was so shocked that this person would refer to his students in this way. Indeed, he, right there was doing the exact OPPOSITE of what my slide read: "challenges gender stereotypes that are based on performing gender and cultural identity binaries". #facepalm
I shared with him that perhaps he consider an alternate point of view, from the female perspective, that for years we have been wanting to be heard and wanted to feel respected. That perhaps maybe he take initiative and invite both parties to the table and he facilitate conversations in his room that encouraged everyone to participate. But I still could not shake his use of the word "bitch" to describe these young women. He is playing to the stereotype that confident, strong, and empowered women are undesirable. This is NOT what should be happening in our classrooms. In that moment, I was quickly wondering what he thought about me, standing in front of the room-a confident, strong and smart woman-and outspoken. Am I immediately a "bitch" because of that?
This reminds me of another conversation I had with an administrator once, where I was describing my master's thesis and that there is a perception of women who are strong, confident and strict and are often labeled "bitch". His response to me was "well, you just have to prove you aren't". I mean, what the heck?!
So. I am a feminist. I am strong. I am confident and I am gaining the courage to call people out for saying demeaning things about women, gays, lesbians, trans* individuals....any minority. I am NOT a bitch. Neither are the young girls who have the confidence to speak their opinion. Sure...there might be an attitude (teens...they can be special that way) but they are NOT bitches. I hope I never hear another educator refer to young ladies, EVER again like that.
I didn't intend for this to be a rant, but this is my position and I will stick to it :)