Promote action on International Women’s Day

HerSpace+asked+students+to+design+stickers+during+an+advisory+period+in+celebration+of+International+Women%27s+Day.

Jenny Ries

HerSpace asked students to design stickers during an advisory period in celebration of International Women's Day.

International Women’s Day(IWD) has been celebrated since 1911, and is about, “unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action” according to the International Women’s Day website. The IWD website noted that today the misconception that women have achieved gender equality is prevalent, with many believing that there is no work left to be done. The site acknowledged the progress that has been made, how women have much more access to education, and occupy some leadership roles, stating that in today, “women have real choices.” But it also noted that it would be shortsighted to think that no more work needs to be done, stating that “Many from a younger generation may feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy.” Women are represented less than men in politics and business, they do not always receive the same educational opportunities as men, and there is still a gender wage gap, it said. At SPA, IWD should be about acknowledging that the SPA community and society as a whole still has a long way to go in order to completely dismantle the patriarchy and achieve gender equality.

Trends at SPA mirror trends in the larger world. Looking at SPA’s own history, it would be easy to think that ‘all the battles have been won,’ as the IWD website put it. After all, in theory girls and boys have had access to the same educational opportunities here since the all-male Saint Paul Academy merged with the all-female Summit School in 1969 to create Saint Paul Academy and Summit School. But since then, the patriarchy has been alive and well within the SPA community. For example, a November 2018 article on RubicOnline noted that the noted that SPA’s Business Club, consisting of almost 60 students, had no female members. Remember how the IWD website stated that women lacked representation in business? This is only one example out of many at SPA. A sports story in the February 2019 issue of The Rubicon noted that there is only one sport at SPA with a female head coach, softball. In a February 2018 article on RubicOnline, a former captain of SPA’s Science Alliance noted how girls in the Advanced Scientific Research elective and on Science Alliance were “sometimes sidelined and talked over,” despite being just as competent, and sometimes more so, than their male peers on the subject matter. This article also explored how this trend carries over into the larger world, where “Overall, about 2.9% of Nobel Laureates in Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine were female.

The things that students learn at school shape the ideas and values that they will have as adults, which they will teach future generations. If the SPA community ignores these trends, and fools itself into believing that gender equality has been achieved, it will continue to perpetuate the patriarchy, in and outside of SPA. One aspect of International Women’s Day, as stated by the IWD website, was action. That is what celebrating IWD should be about at SPA: noticing places where women are not represented, or respected, and creating change.