Sexist display was uncalled for

Originally published on on March 1, 2017 By Jodie Ortega.

Living in a patriarchal culture means that no one is exempt from the confines of sexism, even at a middle school.

Upon reading the story about the Pink Shirt Day presentation at Queensborough Middle School on the New Westminster School’s website, I need to call out the inaccurate and biased reporting of what was clearly a presentation that only reinforced gender stereotypes. I was in attendance. I was unimpressed. Four students from New Westminster Secondary School presented a skit and a tug-of-war contest for the Grades 5, 6, 7 and 8 students. All four high school students were on the football team. All four football players were male.

Do you see where I’m going with this? After the football players murmured their way through a skit that appeared hastily put together, one of the young men approached the microphone and told the younger students that if you have been a bully, “that’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Excuse me? Where is the accountability for your actions in that statement? Oh, and the tug-of-war contest? Only male students were picked to participate in the demonstration.

What kind of message was this sending out to the Grade 5, 6, 7, and 8 students when it comes to standing up to bullies, especially if you’re a girl? Well, you have to exude physical strength, it would help if you played football (a sport that is inherently patriarchal), but most importantly, you have to be male.

It’s 2017; are we still projecting the archaic and omnipresent societal trope that girls are fragile and weak little lambs? Didn’t Serena Williams just win her 23rd Grand Slam not too long ago?

With a school that prides itself on its stellar musical theatre program and a girls’ track and field team that has won provincial titles, this was the best that New Westminster Secondary School could send? Four football players that have been bullies? How about students who had actually been bullied because they preferred music to sports?

Do I think the students at Queensborough Middle School felt engaged in the boys’ presentation? Well, one of the first questions the younger students had for the high school students was, “Where did you get your Yeezy’s?” pointing at one of the presenter’s sneakers, a pair of (expensive) shoes from a sneaker line that was created in collaboration with Adidas and Hip Hop artist, Kanye West. Clearly this year’s Pink Shirt Day message of “make nice” was already lost before these students left the gymnasium.

With a high school that has impressive talent from both genders at their disposal, there was no excuse for the gender-biased presentation, and providing one to the future of New Westminster was a disservice to the community.

Jodie Ortega is a New Westminster parent.

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