LAW Promotes Non-male Candidates Only, Provokes Debate

One+of+LAW%27s+posts+for+non-male+candidates%2C+promoting+junior+Olivia+Katz

Latin's Alliance for Women

One of LAW’s posts for non-male candidates, promoting junior Olivia Katz

Tej Bahri, Guest Writer

Over the past two weeks, Latin’s Alliance for Women (LAW) used its Instagram to promote non-male Student Government candidates, inciting debate among Latin students about the efficacy and fairness of their posts. The posts contained a picture of the candidate, the position they are running for, and information about who they are, their platform, and qualifications. 

LAW’s efforts with their Instagram promotions represent only a microcosm of the issues with gender underrepresentation at large. For example, in the top 20 global financial services firms, women only represent 18% of senior leadership. Companies like Goldman Sachs, one of the largest investment banks in the world, have vowed to take action to improve gender representation. The investment bank will no longer take a company public unless they have at least one diverse board member in terms of gender. In 2021, they plan on increasing that number to at least two board members. Similarly, IBM addresses issues of gender underrepresentation in the technology sector through a program where they specifically hire, train, and retain female employees.

Mike Kegler, Latin’s Innovation and Data Manager, provided some statistics highlighting the longstanding underrepresentation of girls in Student Government. Since Latin became co-ed in 1953, Student Government has been a male-dominated organization. In 1953, girls only represented 20% of the organization. During the 2019-2020 school year, when 54.4% of upper school students were girls, they still represented only 20% of Student Government. LAW took it upon itself to combat these gender imbalances. 

Senior Maya Passman, a LAW head and an active member of Student Government, believed the efforts to be effective as she saw lots of positive feedback on LAW’s Instagram page. She said, “there have been tons of comments on each post and they are our most liked posts. Our follower count has increased by 50 since posting them.” She was surprised by the demographic of her new followers. “A lot of the new followers are male students,” a sign, to her, that the boys in the community were also supporting LAW’s efforts and the non-male candidates. 

To junior and Social Chair candidate Olivia Katz, LAW’s promotions and aid were not only positive in spreading their campaigns but also were confidence boosters. Olivia said, “It’s nerve-racking to run for Student Government, especially when I know that the school’s voting patterns do not generally favor candidates like myself.” She appreciated LAW’s help. “They have been so supportive, and have done things like read over my speech, help me organize my campaign and platform, help edit my campaign video, and they even all texted me before the speeches to wish me good luck and calm my nerves.” 

Junior and Co-Curricular Chair candidate Freddi Mitchell agreed with Olivia. “I actually decided to run because my amazing LAW family convinced me to in one of our Saturday check-ins.” Without LAW’s campaign promotion and support, Freddi and Olivia wouldn’t have felt as confident in their campaigns.

Olivia also pointed out that LAW’s campaign promotions brought more attention to an overarching issue with Student Government. She said, “The promotion from LAW on their Instagram page and overall advertising of non-male candidates, myself included, helps us promote awareness of not only our campaigns but the issue of underrepresentation at large. I think this will have an impact in the long run, even if it doesn’t show up as much this year.” Olivia did not foresee a dramatic shift in voting this year, but she believed that the LAW’s promotions would highlight the gender underrepresentation so future generations are more mindful during elections.

Though they admired LAW’s intentions, some students believed that their Instagram promotions were ineffective or unfair.

To senior Dash Rierson, LAW’s promotions seemed like an act. “It feels as though little consideration is given to any policy or platform that those candidates are running on. This dynamic can make endorsements feel performative instead of substantive, which inevitably leads to a backlash among people who dislike rigid identity politics.” Dash felt that these promotions would only hurt LAW. “If someone doesn’t like LAW to begin with, constant promotions will only lead them to having more negative emotions towards the club.” 

Similarly, senior Aoife Reynolds felt that LAW members posting on their personal account in support of non-male candidates diminished a candidate’s merit. “LAW promoting a series of candidates regardless of their qualifications for office is contradictory to their aim of creating a Student Government based on efficacy rather than gender identity.” In addition, Aoife recognized that LAW’s promotions became annoying to a certain group of students. “It’s unfortunate and unfair that by overly promoting non-male candidates, they have pushed people to vote for men in spite.” 

11th-grader and Senior Prefect candidate Henry Coleman believed that LAW’s Instagram promotions hurt his chances as he ran for Student Government. “I appreciate the intention behind the promotion of female and non-binary candidates, but as a candidate myself, I worry that they’re getting too much exposure from a self-interest standpoint.”

In the same vein, senior Maddie Koo saw how LAW could have alienated male candidates. “After hearing how during prefect speeches LAW members only commented when girls spoke, I could imagine how it would feel to be a boy candidate and not see the same amount of comments and feel the same amount of support. They might feel like they are being ganged up on.”

After receiving feedback about what some Latin students saw as unfairness from LAW’s Instagram promotions for non-male candidates, Maya Passman shared her favorite quote on the matter: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” She says, “Male students have been in charge for all of Latin’s history, and men have many advantages in life. We are just trying to give candidates an equal chance of winning by promoting them, a chance male candidates have always had.”

From an ethical standpoint, do you support LAW's promotion of non-male candidates only?

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In the coming days, it will be interesting to see LAW’s impact on the elections and the approach they take in balancing gender representation in future years at Latin.

Note from the editors: According to Student Government candidates, two of the three Executive Board-elects so far are female-identifying: Olivia Katz won the Social Chair position, and Shreya Wojno won Junior Prefect.