Women significantly outnumber men on campus, equality major topic of discussion
The feature photo was taken by Evan Davies as part of the International Day of the Girl event Soles for Souls.
Beyonce had it right. Girls really do run the world.
Or, at least they have overrun Belmont, according to statistics released earlier this semester by the university in its 2015 official enrollment report.
It revealed that Belmont’s student population is made up of 61 percent women, meaning only 39 percent of students—both undergrad and graduate—identify as men.
To put it a different way, there are 4578 women and 2773 men in the student body, a ratio of three men per every five women.
Looking at national statistics—as provided by the CIA World Factbook—the gender ratio for the population suggests that women slightly beat out men as a statistical majority.
And, when compared to a slew of universities of Belmont’s ilk, Belmont’s gender ratio falls squarely in what appears to be a national trend within higher education.
[Editor’s Note: If the infographic does not load initially, please refresh the page and it should appear.]
If this is case, then why is it that a student organization called the Gender Equality Movement held its first meeting earlier this month, or why an entire week of October was dedicated to an event called International Day of the Girl, or why there’s even a movement called feminism at all?
If there are more women than men on most college campuses across a woman-dominated nation—thereby making women a statistical majority—what purpose do these entities serve?
“People will look at the numbers and say, ‘A-ha! Equality has been achieved,” said Dr. Andi Stepnick, a sociology professor who specializes in gender and inequality. “And so, as sociologists, when we talk about ‘minority’ and ‘majority,’ we’re talking not in terms of numbers, but in terms of power and resources.”
Stepnick pointed to national issues such as the normalization of college rape culture, underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, inequality in pay, body image issues, and a variety of other, less tangible, modes of discrimination as means through which a woman’s resources can be diminished.
The newly-established Gender Equality Movement—or GEM for short—seeks to provide a space to discuss these issues openly and honestly.
“We’re mostly going to be focusing on issues of gender and sex, within the Belmont community and Nashville and globally. Our main mission right now is to just have meetings where we can openly discuss issues of equality,” said Khadija Ali Amghaiab, the event services contact for GEM.
There’s a need for organizations like GEM at a school which was once a woman’s college because there is “no way we can go on ignoring there is gender inequality,” she said.
In addition to the institution of GEM, Belmont hosted another event earlier this semester which discussed similar topics. A series of convocations in October was centered around International Day of the Girl, a day set aside four years ago by the United Nations to advocate for the advancement of women.
The panel from the International Day of the Girl event Real Talks, from left to right: Kayla Young, Samantha Dunmire, Sean Della Croce, Erica Rivero and Khadija Ali Amghaiab
All of these things fall ideologically within an overarching movement known as feminism, which is “a movement that prioritizes women’s equality,” said Dr. Stepnick. “That doesn’t mean hating men, or that men are bad, or that all men have power.”
And prioritizing women’s equality—or, really, equality in general—is exactly what GEM seeks to do.
While discussing topics concerning gender and sexuality, it is just as much about the upholding of women and women’s issues as it is about having “both genders and all genders present at the table,” Amghaiab said. “We decided that we would rather make a group that was not necessarily just for women but for gender equality, and in this day and age that entails women as being treated equally to men. By calling ourselves the Gender Equality Movement, we want to make sure we reach that equality core and bring men into the dialogue,” she said.
In uplifting women and creating a space for women’s voices to be heard, both genders are ideally benefitted, a fact to which male GEM member Tucker Dowell can attest.
“If we get in our heads that everyone is actually equal…I think that starts to break down gender roles in general and, if gender roles in general are broken down, then every person, regardless of gender, is going to be able to express themselves as more authentically themselves, because they’re not going to be constrained by what society puts on them,” Dowell said.
And in so doing, hopefully a better dialogue and a better culture will be created by people coming together and talking constructively, said Amghaiab. “If you don’t have men speaking alongside women, you can’t have effective dialogue.”
Feature photo by Evan Davies; story photos by Jaclyn Coleman.
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