Hosted by Building Bridges, a program dedicated to bonding people with different cultural genders and ethnicities, the Tough Guise panel was an opportunity to let men express their perspective on gender inequality in class and in the workplace. The discussion was focused around micro-aggressions, standards women are held to and qualities found in good leadership.
The male faculty members focused on where micro-aggressions originate. “[My family] had a very strong religious background,” said Ron Holland, assistant director of TRiO, “there were very specific gender roles that were preached.”
Issues of chivalry were also brought up. “[Formal gestures] make me think, ‘Do I do it because it was what I was trained to do or respect?’ It was trained out of respect,” said Dave Rule, president of Bellevue College.
Panelists explained that social issues appear in a moral gray area. “With micro-aggressions one of the ways they play out is really on the perception, the way they’re perceived; not the intent,” said Yoshiko Harden, director of multicultural services and student development, “people are being well-intentioned but the way it’s perceived by individuals can differ.”
Faculty members also shared their own stories on gender inequality in the workplace. “A few years ago one of our faculty members proposed two new classes. One was Harlem Renaissance as a genre of American literature and black voice in American literature. I saw there was a lot of resistance from my colleagues,” elaborates David Lopez-Kopp, an English professor at Bellevue College, “The year after that, I taught a course called Latino-American Literature and I’m not even Latino. No one said anything.”
Speakers recounted how inaction hurts underrepresented groups. “In society there is a programming that comes with sexual identification. The speed of things has caused us to become blind to the needs of others,” states Eric Kong from network services and security, “basically, ‘if it doesn’t affect us, it doesn’t matter’ much like media covering overseas politics.”
Faculty members also shared what qualities they thought good leaders have. “Honesty, integrity; some level of consistency so people can understand where you are coming from,” listed Bellevue College President Dave Rule while explaining the qualities of a leader, “take your job seriously, not yourself. This job was here before I got here, and it will be here when I am gone.”
The discussion also led to issues beyond gender inequality but to culture difference as well. “Coming from different cultural backgrounds, we all communicate differently,” said Holland. “All have different ways of expressing themselves. When we start to communicate with other races it can be perceived differently.”
Professor Lopez-Kopp listed some personal guidelines for improving communication between people, “How much am I listening versus how much am I preparing a response versus how much am I reflecting what is being said and really trying to separate those [ideas],” he elaborates, explaining that in order to understand people’s ideas and avoid discussions turning into arguments, people need to consciously monitor their conversations.
Spectators and organizers alike were surprised by what the male faculty had to say. “They gave great insight,” said Alana Akpojovwo from the Office of Equity and Pluralism, “they were very aware of the differences of how women are treated in society.”
“When we were planning this there was a little bit of trepidation,” said Judy Woo from Bellevue College’s business management and administration. Panel organizers were a little worried that the speakers would be unprepared and wouldn’t know what to say but the presentation exceeded expectations. “I’m really proud of them participating,” added Woo.
For more information on gender and cultural equality contact the Office of Equity & Pluralism at A201.