By Rachel Gorman-Cooper
During my preparation for the Kol Isha “Gender Socialization and Inclusion” teach, I learned alot about why and how people are gendered in their work spaces, schools, families, and in the media. People are “gendered” based on their biological sex from a young age. For example, most parents already have clothing and a bedroom design set up to match a certain gender: pink or blue for girls or boys. However, this approach is inefficient and according to my group’s research, must be made more flexible to create a more inclusive society. When this idea is closely examined, colors are simply bundles of particles on a light spectrum. To the human eye, certain things are naturally deemed attractive, despite a person’s sexual orientation or gender identification. After examining studies done by psychologists, my group and I observed that these notions are still associated with certain genders, which we resolve to help change. We also noticed, from various articles, that because women are still seen as “underdogs” in the workplace, they feel as though they must work harder to obtain a higher reputation and respect, more so than men. Each person must understand that every employed person should work hard for the sake of maintaining a confident lifestyle and for the sake of basking in passion, not because they are seen as lower. I hope one day women and men will work hard to obtain respect, not because of discrimination, but because of passion.
My group studied the phenomenon of men receiving less paternity leave than that of women. Before participating in the Kol Isha fellowship, I had thought that this fact was simply because of the fact that because women physically carry their child, they should be able to connect with the child for health purposes such as breastfeeding. However, after watching a few youtube videos from various couples with reliable facts, I understood that women are assumed to deserve more time with their child because society thinks women have an obligation to be motherly. Both men and women are the parents to their child, so nurturing, familiarity, and education should come from both of them. “Motherly” can only exist if “fatherly”, too, exists.
Through researching and discussing how people are gendered and socialized, my group was inspired to explore our own gender identities. For instance, from inferring that colors are scientific and jobs are passionate, we realized that the way we present ourselves in our style and personality are indeed fluid. We were inspired to challenge what we wear such as introducing suits to our formal attire, cutting our hair short, and promoting our male friends to see jewelry for its beauty and makeup for its enhancement, not as feminine. It is pertinent that everyone pursues what makes them happy in their attractions, triggers for happiness, and simply finding one’s sense of self.
I am proud to say that by completing this project, I not only educated other Kol Isha fellows about why and how we are gendered, but I was able to inspire people to explore the idea of fluidity and arbitration. By doing so, I have made an impact. There are so many ways that people can create an inclusive society. One must respect others’ personal pronouns, keep an eye out for signs of gendering in our daily lives, speak up about issues that they care about, and work within their own individual communities to spread this awareness.
Rachel Gorman-Cooper is a fellow in Kol Isha, NFTY-NAR’s NY Teen Feminist Fellowship.