On Thursday, Honors for Diversity (H4D) hosted the second installment of its “Let’s Talk About That” series, led by third-semester English major Camryn Johnson.
“The mission of our organization is to create an inclusive environment for the Honors community and beyond because we’re not exclusive to students in the Honors program,” Efua Koomson, a fifth-semester actuarial science major and president of H4D, said. “We try to do that through our three pillars which are activism, community and events. We create a space for underrepresented students.”
This week, their club led a discussion about women in America and the issues they face in the workplace and educational settings, along with their portrayal in the media.
“I just think it’s always important to talk about diversity and what makes us different because that’s how we learn about each other, how we debunk stereotypes and how we accept and tolerate people who are different from us,” Johnson said. “Especially now, for the past hundred years, women’s rights have been a hot topic and it continues to be a hot topic and for good reason. I always feel like it’s a good time to talk about the struggles that women face, the triumphs that they have and the history that has preceded the moment and time that we’re living in now.”
I always feel like it’s a good time to talk about the struggles that women face, the triumphs that they have and the history that has preceded the moment and time that we’re living in now. – Camryn Johnson
During the meeting, important topics such as the wage gap were discussed. Statistics show this year overall, women earned 81 cents for every dollar that men earned. In terms of women and men holding the same occupation and level of education, women earned 98 cents for every dollar that men earned. Although two cents may not seem like a drastic difference, it still shows that women and men are not equal in our society.
This inequality is extremely visible in the STEM field in particular. H4D cultivated a discussion around this topic, adding that discrimination against women in this field can even be seen in our institution. With gender roles still lurking in society today, women are seen as soft, people-oriented and incapable of grasping difficult mathematical and scientific concepts. This idea self-perpetuates and discourages women from entering the STEM field. The results of the anonymous surveys given at the beginning of the event further prove this statement, as most women there were majoring in humanities. These statistics are not meaningless numbers; they can be seen in our classrooms and our daily lives.
To conclude the event, the representation of women in media — specifically in superhero movies — was discussed. In both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Universe, women are either hypersexualized or act in minor roles. This was evident in Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn in “Suicide Squad,” which was directed by David Ayer. Robbie’s character donned clothes that were ripped in all the right places and pants that many people would consider underwear. It was clear the way she dressed and acted was created for the male gaze and that she merely served as the Joker’s sidepiece. On the other hand, “Birds of Prey,” Robbie’s second appearance in the DC Universe, was directed by a woman, Cathy Yan; here, Harley Quinn was portrayed as a person in her own right, instead of solely existing for men. This is just one example of why more representation is needed on and off-screen.
After centuries of inequality, change is needed. It is important to foster these conversations not only within clubs such as H4D, but also in our daily lives. Sexism and sexual harassment are insidious and it is necessary to take action when these instances are apparent both within and outside of our institution.