Opinion

I am woman, hear me cheer

After homecoming week, I was inspired to tackle the topic of labels and how they enforce gender roles.

By Jamie Hudalla | Columnist

It’s story time, boys and girls. You’re about to hear a feminist rant.

I reached legal adulthood three years ago, but people still refer to me as girl. It’s a term that seems tattooed onto me until I produce wrinkles and children, yet the term boy conjures images of binkies and nursery rhymes, and would never be applied to a college-aged male.

This odd disparity came up once again during powderpuff practice.

“Did you see the email?” my friend asked.

I didn’t catch on at first. Then I checked the homecoming events update, and a few words stood out. Men’s dance. Girl’s powderpuff.

I’m not accusing Bethel of misogyny or sexism or any other key word that ignites flaming feminist torches. However, I am posing a question: Why do we accept these labels? Why do we make females seem meek and cute? This problem transcends Bethel — in fact, it originates with our language. For instance, there’s no female equivalent for the term “guy.”

“Sometimes even the limits of our language indicate an injustice,” said Carrie Peffley, a gender studies professor. “There’s this idea that injustice can actually be imbedded into our language and our customs and habits.”

These tiny word choices contribute to one large theme: We don’t take women seriously. I’ve started a lot of emails by writing, “I was just wondering…” I’ve apologized for and explained myself in this column multiple times. I’ve played into the role of timidity.

And I’ve played powderpuff. The name implies the frilliness of a tutu and the fragility of a pastry, and I willingly said sign me up. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite, or brainwashed, or a part of the problem. But here’s the thing—as long as these events break gender roles rather than enforce them, they’re a lot of fun.

It starts with this: call it women’s football, so we lose the cutesy connotation and gain respect. It ends with this: recognize men and women don’t fit cleanly into categories. Women can tackle. Men can shake their hips. We can laugh with one another when a kickline isn’t in sync or O-line misses a block, but we should never demean each other by expecting it.  

Otherwise, we spark hyper-feminization and toxic masculinity. We pressure women to remain eternally youthful and men to play protector. Our Bible study groups on campus are Rooted and Mighty Men. Women make up the majority of the nursing department while men flock to business.

“We have antiquated gender rituals that still exist and are holding a lot of young women and men back,” Peffley said.

While the disintegration of gender roles would make me more gleeful than a Christian front row at a Switchfoot concert, I’m not advocating for a women’s football team and a men’s dance team – though that would be rad. I’m advocating that we reconsider our labels. I’m advocating that we shouldn’t see females in footballs pads as silly. I’m advocating that we cheer each other on as equals — as women and men.

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