OPINION: Substantial progress for women’s equality begins by removing machismo in the classroom


Courtesy of Wpcpey via Creative Commons

Many women and femme-presenting people feel uncomfortable speaking up in male dominated spaces such as college classrooms.

It’s Women’s History Month, and I think every month we should raise a glass to the women and women-supporters who helped us get to where we are today. Thank you for giving us a voice through our votes at the ballot boxes and for being the leaders we truly need in the world.

Thank you to the women who made it acceptable for me to say, “One day, I’ll be the editor-in chief at The Washington Post.” It doesn’t sound too crazy because of the ceilings they’ve shattered and barriers they’ve tackled. 

But it doesn’t stop there. And for the men reading this, I hope you know we aren’t complacent with the rights we have, and I hope you support us and fight with us every step of the way.

While there are many things as a young person I can’t change just yet, there are a few improvements we are capable of making. I’m talking about the classroom, or today, the classZoom. 

Throughout this past semester, I’ve noticed a prevalent issue in my Zoom classes. I think it has a lot to do with the idea of being protected by the screen and the ability to mute yourself and hide behind the off-screen. Although, the bigger issue is the machismo some men in the classroom have. 

The amount of times I’ve tried to participate in a class discussion and was interrupted by a man in the classroom is too many to count on my ten fingers. I’ve always had a lot to say, and once I got to St. Edward’s, I was more comfortable asking questions and raising my hand. Today, though, in our new virtual setting, getting the courage to say something during the awkward silence or jump into a conversation is fearful. Add a man to the mix, and you can bet my hand is shaking when I want to press unmute. 

Things haven’t changed in this area, but they need to. Our voices are just as important and valuable as our male counterparts. We have different experiences to share that, I believe, need to be shared with all to help bring understanding to the struggles and hardships of women, especially women of color. 

There are many assumptions that if women have a lot to say, it’s because we want to hear ourselves talk. No, what I want to hear are people other than men running conversations and allowing women a seat at the table. St. Edward’s should be a place where we can simply pull up a chair to the table, and for some classes, this is true. However, there are some classes when we try to pull this chair up, a man walks in and takes the chair from underneath us to share his opinion, which is usually the same as the guy’s before him.

Learning respect and making room for the voices of women has no correlation with political parties either. There seems to be a roaming idea here in Austin for some liberal, democratic men who believe they’re doing the right thing because they’re pro-choice, or think that no immigrant is illegal and that Black lives matter. However, when it comes to giving the women who deserve to make their own choices a voice, the immigrants who want to share their culture and journey a voice or those who want to tell their story of fearing their life in the US a voice, they fail to do so. 

It takes more than saying “I support you” to really make a substantial change in this world. It takes listening with your whole body and soul and truly trying to understand someone’s experience.

Quit believing that because a woman in your class raised her voice because she wanted to be heard, no, not heard, listened to, that she’s a b*tch. That because she debated with you, she’s a feisty little woman, or, as I’ve heard, “a spicy Latina.” Quit hiding behind your screen during the important conversations in class after you say something insensitive and rob a woman of the chance to share. 

If you’re a man, you may feel attacked by this. Those feelings are valid, but so are the experiences and journeys women have faced that some men shut down. 

We pulled a chair to the table, just don’t pull it from underneath us.