The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

The Forum

The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

The Forum

The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

The Forum

Gathering Faux Pas Sparks New Debate on Gender Roles

Hedy Gutfreund

It seems like it’s the season for discussing gender issues. You can read in this issue about the Dove beauty video, the Phillips Andover gender debates, and you can read about prom askings—an issue that incites gender questions in and of itself. But I’d like to talk about a more subtle gender issue that began, in fact, just before the controversial prom asking The Forum covered.

Before gathering, it was a Thursday like any other in late April—one that didn’t seem like it would spark two separate debates about sexism and two subsequent Forum articles (the pinnacle of importance, as far as I’m concerned). Sophomore Julius Reiner got onstage to give one of his generally well-received Australian Handball Club announcements. In this announcement, he told us about an Australian Handball tournament, one that would include prizes for the first three finishers—and the best female.

The somewhat groggy crowd took a minute to process the implications of what Julius just said, and then the crowd erupted, in typical Latin-student fashion, in a combination of laughter and verbal disbelief. It was clear that Julius understood that there was something wrong with what he had just announced—just a few hours after the gathering, he posted an apology on his Facebook wall, saying, “Today at gathering, I said something I shouldn’t have. […] I now realize this comment was stereotypical towards women and also offensive.” He then announced that there would be also a best male prize at the tournament.

I got the chance to interview Julius about his gathering faux-pas, and, among other things, he reports that the award was actually the idea of a sophomore girl who said that “she felt she would be unable to win the tournament” and would be more likely to compete if there were a prize for best female. After Julius surveyed some friends, most female students said that they would be more likely to compete if said prize were available. Julius further explains, “Only on a handful of occasions have girls attended our clubs block open gyms. The purpose and intentions of this prize was to include, and definitely not exclude or offend, any females.”

But what about the bigger issue? Hollywood separates men and women in awards, but why? Feminism has helped us move away from sexist ideas, but why can’t women compete for Best Actor and just have one award? Gender, theoretically, should have no effect on the quality of one’s performance. So aside from the fact that Brangelina sweeping Best Actor/Actress in a year would be kind of cute, it might only lead to more subconscious discrimination. In Julius’s own words, “I do think that the reaction of the school brings up some interesting questions about stereotypes towards women regarding gender roles. These are tough questions—questions I’ve had to ask myself, and I was not too happy with my answers.”

Whether we can come up with answers or not, Julius brings up a new side to the gender debate—perhaps a reminder that even our best intentions can be iffy when looking at the bigger issue of sexism and discrimination against women. Regardless, best of luck to Julius and the Australian Handball Club in their upcoming tournament. Clearly, there’s a lot at stake.


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