Morgan State University’s Office of Diversity and Equal Employment Opportunity urges students to challenge not only the gender binary but the conflicts of white supremacy in society.
The office is determined to change the way Morgan students think about gender roles with their “Deliver” series, and the Title IX Forum did just that.
On March 29th, in a humid room on the second floor of the University Student Center, a series of diverse panelists, all involved in various projects within their professional careers yet united with a common interest in the abolition of gender roles, gave their insights on how we as students can challenge this system.
“Imagine we’re having the same conversation with one major difference, there is a uniform Baltimore police officer standing in the back of the room. You feel that little bit of tension that’s there? Now for the men I want you to realize that power dynamic is the same thing that we can exude toward women who are around us all the time” said Dominic Goodall, project coordinator at House of Ruth Maryland’s Training Institute.
Students were asked to list characteristics of men and women at the beginning of the conference. Words like “aggressive” and “provider” were used to describe men, while “pretty” and “quiet” were chosen for women. This led to the question of other stereotypes that labeling creates not only based on gender, but also race.
“There’s all of this pressure about not being too much as a woman and especially as a black woman and one thing that I constantly hear as a black woman is that we shouldn’t cry but we also can’t yell or get too mad because then people are going to think we’re like the ‘angry black woman’” said Saida Agostini, a queer-afro-Guyanese poet and chief operating officer at Force, an organization that promotes a culture of consent and eradicating rape culture.
When Tanyka Barber, Title IX coordinator, posed the question of whether gender roles influenced “relationships whether it is business, personal or romantic,” each of the panelists agreed simultaneously.
“I’ve come across a lot of phenomenal women that are well equipped to run corporations and businesses but yet they are in the shadow of a man who has no idea what they’re doing,” said Kurt Ragin, public health coordinator at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Students and teachers in the audience were encouraged to self-reflect on what it means to be a black man or woman in society.
“How do we create a space where we feel like we can be who we are regardless of what we have white supremacy telling us what we are supposed to be?” said Agostini.