Why So Similar?

By Fran Trautmann ’16

The largest public high school in Lafayette, Louisiana is equipped with a total of zero women’s groups. Upon my arrival at Andover, I was looking forward to experiencing a significant improvement in the treatment of women and approach to feminism. I may have been too hopeful. Although I’m not frequently called a bitch at Andover, a common practice at Lafayette High, I’d prefer my old school’s open ignorance as opposed to the underlying inequality that exists here on our campus. Sexism’s subliminal nature at Andover makes it easier for us to ignore gender discrimination. Although the Lafayette campus was home to a culture of blatant sexism, it is disappointing to acknowledge just how similar these two campuses really are. If Andover wants to prove its claim of being a truly progressive and aware community, then we need to address the underlying sexism present in our everyday lives here.

After the faculty at Lafayette High decided to change the dress code to ensure girls’ shorts and skirts were to the knee, I remember my female teacher saying, “Imagine how a male teacher feels when a girl in his class has a short skirt on and bends down to get something out of her backpack. It’s so uncomfortable!”

Up to this point I had been unaware that males were cursed with a serious disorder in which they are physically unable to look away when a student bends down. I also had not realized that a school system should be tailored to suit a male teacher’s comfort levels while only around 1 in 7 teachers at the given school are male.

Even though we do not have a written dress code, I can say with confidence that stereotypical dress codes for female students are always in play. If a girl walks into class wearing sweatpants she, more often than not, will receive the “rough day?” comment from another student, both male and female. Conversely, boys can wear sweatpants, sweatshirts, and casual jerseys and still be acknowledged for their well-received efforts to get dressed that morning. Standards of dress, even without a dress code, are consistently higher for girls than they are for boys on a daily basis.

How are Andover’s unofficial dress standards better than Lafayette’s enforced ones? While my old school unfairly limits the dress choice of girls and not those of boys, Andover’s girls continue to face judgment for wearing a “lazy” outfit to class (i.e. sweatpants) which mirrors many daily outfits of other male students. If girls are going to be criticised for what they wear by their peers and, as a result, have those criticisms affect their decision making, we might as well have an official dress code.

Andover’s athletic culture also houses boatloads of subliminal sexism even though we are careful to avoid outright discrimination. Lafayette High School, in contrast to Andover, has separate gyms for each sex. The boys’ gym is just as big as ours, equipped with bleachers, a locker room, a trainer’s room, and vending machines. The girls’ gym, on the other hand, is about a third of the size, with no bleachers, no vending machines, and no trainer’s office. Additionally, for a boys’ football game, a ticket costs $7 and and draws in attendance upwards of a hundred students, while a girls’ volleyball game costs $1 and only draws in ten, on average.

Although Andover athletic events are free, I’ve still witnessed a sizeable margin in attendance between boys’ and girls’ athletic events. This imbalance exists not because women’s athletics are any less valuable than that of men’s, but rather because our culture dismisses female athletes as weaker, or lesser. To further prove this point, every member of the Andover varsity football team received team pants along with countless other equipment items while only three girls out of twelve on the varsity volleyball team were able to receive team spandex. While our varsity baseball team has been given both home and away jerseys since its formation, the Andover softball team received away jerseys for the first time only last year. At Andover, we often allow everyday sexism to persist in the background in cases such as dress and athletics.

My aim here is not to bash the efforts of people on the Andover campus to create change, but rather to bring to light the major issues we are still facing. The majority of people will continue to overlook the underlying inequality on campus unless they are directly affected by it. The majority of Lafayette High School may be ignorant to the issue of gender equality and the damaging nature of their actions, but Andover portrays itself as a socially aware campus. If we are to live up to our reputation, we need to acknowledge every last bit of sexism that exists in our community.

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