“I think there’s this need to see that the gender roles created in our society don’t necessarily match up with what works for us.” — Andrea Love
“Even if you’re not sexually active right now, it’s information you’re going to need at some point in your life. You still need to know how to [have sex] and protect yourself.” — Jodi Nimmo
The statistics speak for themselves, while many of the people who make them up find they cannot, explained two members of the University of Arkansas group Students For Gender Equality.
That’s why providing a safe stage for local individuals wanting to speak out on experiences they’ve had in dealing with gender inequality is so important, they said, and will take place Oct. 19 at Nightbird Books.
“We’re really trying to get a night where people in our community can see how these issues affect their neighbors and how real it is,” said group member Andrea Love. “It’s not just some poverty-stricken area in New York City.”
With a lack of sex education and the prevalence of gender stereotypes creating agendas for parents and politicians, almost everyone has a story to tell, including our neighbors and friends, explained Jodi Nimmo, one of the founding members of the group.
“These are issues that everyone of us has to face at some point in our lives,” she said.
So little about sexuality or gender roles is discussed in our society that the group thinks the first steps of solving these problems is just learning to start the conversation. But gender inequality is complex, and there has to be a common denominator that brings people together. In this case, and many others, they said it’s acceptance and respect, and often times just to learn.
To respond to these needs, the group has also been working with Planned Parenthood in handing out information on sexuality and contraceptives, which has received mixed messages and many misconceptions from the variety of people they’ve encountered. While some are excited about being handed a condom and a brochure, others are frightened, and rightfully so with what they’ve been taught, or more likely not taught, said Nimmo.
“People want to learn about [sexuality] but they still only teach an abstinence-only curriculum in Arkansas schools. They want to find people they can talk to and can be open with and not be ridiculed or judged,” she explained.
Sometimes, Nimmo said the topics they discuss aren’t really controversial, but anything having to do with the body, sexuality or gender can make people feel uncomfortable. When so much of our lives is ruled by these social and human factors, a lack of knowledge and understanding has led to confusion and acceptance of harmful standards, they said.
“Before a baby is even born, if it has a vagina or a penis, we begin to form an opinion of what it should be like,” Love said.
They both believe that people are waking up to the realities of gender inequality, and hope that the event being held next Friday can once again jump start the conversation locally, before the upcoming November elections.
The event will take place Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street, with music, poetry and personal stories throughout the evening. The event is not just for students, but for the entire community, and anyone wanting to share must pre-register by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.