Students who attended Tuesday’s “How it Feels to be Another Gender” discussed what it means to identify as one gender versus another and what society expects from gender labels. The event took place at the Greenfield Intercultural Center. Credit: Connie Kang

What makes you who you are?

Yesterday, the Race Dialogue Project hosted a discussion in the Greenfield Intercultural Center on how race and culture have shaped views on gender-based issues. The RDP is a student-run grassroots organization that seeks to explore and raise awareness on racial issues through dialogue and discussion.

At the discussion, called “How it Feels to be Another Gender,” RDP board members asked participants to engage in an interactive identification activity on their personal views on gender equality, feminism and the consequences of gender versus culture in shaping identity.

“We’re hoping that some of the activities we do tonight will get us to think about gender equality in a different light,” Engineering junior and RDP board member Ayinde Alleyne said.

He asked attendees, “Does gender factor into your sense of identity? Do you think you exhibit the norms of what women and men are ‘supposed’ to be?”

Many of the students’ responses reflected the sentiment that throughout their childhoods, society had set rigid gender structures.

“I feel like I’m confident in my gender, but I think that I don’t necessarily fit gender norms,” Wharton senior and RDP Director Stephanie Johnson said. “I’ve never questioned my gender, but I can say that I have heard statements like, ‘You’re a chill girl, you’re able to hang out and identify with guys’,” she said. “I’ve heard that I’m very direct, and those are just some of the things that girls are supposedly not.”

The discussion also touched on the importance of redefining feminism in society.

“For me, the definition of feminism is equal rights for men and women. Feminism is good for everyone because it breaks down these gender stereotypes and these masculine and feminine things we’ve been talking about,” College senior Connie Hua said. “Feminism is also good for men because it stops forcing them to act a certain way. It’s a very freeing thing for everyone.”

Following these series of questions, Alleyne and RDP Communications Chair Ally Del Canal, a Wharton junior, led the group in an activity where the participants had to role-play different genders in various scenarios.

“It’s important to have discussions to get at the root of what’s causing all these problems and why [all genders] are not being treated equally,” Alleyne said. “Gender especially holds a high candle because I feel like it’s so basic to human nature. I feel like out of all these constructed identities, this is the one that’s least given to you by society. Like this is the one you most take in yourself.”

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