Having attended an all-girls' school for over half of my life, I thought I would be immune to sexism at school and in my activities until I reached college. I have been fortunate that I don’t have to deal with sex discrimination on a daily basis when it comes to my studies and in the classroom like most girls do both in school and on the athletic field. Much to my dismay, I began experiencing gender inequality during my work with Model United Nations, which is a club that thrives on collaboration of peers and being cooperative.
For those who are not familiar with Model United Nations, it is a club that acts like the real United Nations. Every student is a delegate from a country and the delegates work together in a committee to solve international problems. Most of the boys in my competitions are not sexist but the few who are make it exceptionally difficult for girls to win awards, work with others, etc. The sexism has been a significant obstacle for my friends and me to be able to work together and participate as part of the is team since some of the male delegates will simply ignore our presence and important contributions and ideas.
On many occasions when I have stood up to speak and eloquently stated detailed solutions for the problem at hand, I have been met with some of my male colleagues making disparaging remarks under their breath or rolling their eyes. Often one of my male counterparts will restate what I just said, and he will be commended and praised for his idea. It is almost as if I am invisible and what I just said was completely negligible. Then when I fight for credit for ideas that I brought up, I am seen as “too aggressive” or “crazy.”
This scenario happens to me during every simulation, and it’s something very relatable for other girls who participate in Model United Nations. One of my friends was ignored while stating her stance and possible solutions. A male then took her ideas and actually won an award for his contributions, while giving her no credit. Another time the same thing happened to another female delegate and when she confronted the boy about it, he completely denied it. In addition, when she was working on a resolution paper and did the majority of the work she was removed from the author list. Other times female delegates like myself will get talked over or interrupted by boys, which is plain disrespectful and rude, especially in the business-like setting we are put in.
In another instance a female delegate was listening to a discussion trying to solve the problem at hand, and as she walked away, she heard a boy comment about the height of her heels. This male delegate felt the right to make a very inappropriate judgment based on her heel height, not on how effective her resolutions were, etc.
All of this is immensely frustrating, and the sad thing is, for us girls, this is something we will have to suffer the rest of our lives. The infamous “boys club” of various professions, and the male superiority complex of many future bosses and co-workers, proves just how far we are from reaching gender equality, and that women will have to fight for things handed to some males. Many of my female Model United Nations counterparts and I agree that facing this prejudice now, is a good learning tool, so when we become older we will know how to make sure we are heard.
Written by: Marissa Thomas, Oakland/Macomb MI NOW Intern